Did J.Crew Open a Liquor Store 2.0? It Sure Looks Like It

Menswear fans have fond memories of the late J.Crew Liquor Store. Can execs bring it back to life on the Bowery, where construction is underway on a new dedicated men's shop?

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Sean Davidson

When J.Crew's The Liquor Store first opened in 2008, it was the shop's first dedicated menswear store. There, J.Crew's basics, as well the stuff they'd call "J.Crew, but better," were sold alongside Red Wing and Alden Boots, Champion sweatshirts, Aesop soaps and skincare products and so on and so forth. At the time, it was cutting edge, especially for J.Crew.

From 2008 until March 2019, when the store officially closed its doors for the final time, the quality of its contents fluctuated. There were impressive peaks and a few month-long stretches of mediocrity. But, when it closed, menswear fans mourned the loss as a collective. It was more than a 960-square-foot bar-turned-bespoke-retail experiment. It represented an era, and it incubated a number of menswear's current stars: Todd Snyder and Blackstock and Weber's Chris Echevarria, for example.

The Liquor Store's closing was a major moment for the brand — a nail in the coffin, if you will, at least for that era. But then they hired Noah founder Brendon Babenzien to take over the men's department. Then he launched his first collection. Now, according to a J.Crew exec and a New York neighborhood blog, J.Crew is entering a new era of retail, too: one catered specifically to Babenzien's aesthetic.

But will 316 Bowery be as successful as the Liquor Store? Right now, it seems like a regular The Men's Shop, of which there are a few dozen across the US, albeit with some solid vintage sprinkled in throughout — think: old motorcycle helmets, antique oars, a canoe hanging from the ceiling and New York City-centric T-shirts on racks wrapped with rope. An employee at J.Crew officially confirmed to us on September 6th that the store would open on September 13th — and it did. On the Friday before, September 9th, J.Crew formally announced the store, too, via an Instagram story teasing a "new" men's concept store.

It's clearly an important opening, though, given the slow build. Inside the nearly 6,000 square foot space, the employee added, and we can now confirm, there is a coffee shop (by Urban Backyard Coffee), lots of leather couches and yellow mid-century modern lamps hanging from the ceiling — plus, plenty of well-oiled woodwork. It also looks like there is sidewalk patio seating, too, and a downstairs.

The address used to belong to Saxon and Parole, a bi-level New American restaurant that closed during the pandemic. Even if J.Crew doesn't use the basement, the ground level is still over 3,000 square feet, making this, at least to my knowledge, the biggest dedicated J.Crew Men's Shop in New York City, if not the US.

According to Racked, J.Crew's "men’s shops are also smaller and tend to be about 900 square feet," whereas "the average full-line store is about 6,200 square feet, according to the company’s financial records."

It's hard to say if 316 Bowery will be anything like The Liquor Store, in either energy or intent. The ceilings are higher; it's much brighter; and there's coffeeshop feel, not the buzz of a dark bar. But, the pieces are in place — we've all seen how well Aimé Leon Dore's coffee shop, Café Leon Dore (located just next door) does. For J.Crew, coffee might be the hook, but the Bowery is a busy street with lots of foot traffic and the new J.Crew should command plenty of attention. I mean, honestly, just look at it. It looks pretty good.

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