Men's shoe entrepreneurs Ariel Nelson and Lane Gerson are redefining the term "fitting room."
Two weeks ago, the pair opened a brick-and-mortar space on the cobblestoned Hubert Street in TriBeCa for their online men's shoe company Jack Erwin, just a year after launching online.
Customers can go into the storefront at 10 Hubert St., try on styles, order pairs they want on a tablet, and have the shoes delivered to their home door within 24 hours.
Their journey started a few years ago when Nelson was working in food and beverage distribution and needed a pair of shoes for a wedding.
His go-to designer was always Ferragamo, but Nelson had begun to feel that he was overpaying for dress shoes.
"I didn't think the price model made sense," he said. "If we could create a shoe for $100 and sell it for $200, that would make sense."
So he teamed up with an old pal, Gerson, and the pair set out to make an affordable men's dress shoe.
They enlisted the help of French shoe designer Bertrand Guillaume, who Nelson met by chance in a barbershop, and traveled to Europe to research leather and manufacturing options.
After developing their designs and brand -- thanks to the help of roughly $9 million in Series B investor funding -- the team launched jackerwin.com, an online men's shoe store offering 15 styles in three collections all crafted from 100% full-grain calf skin and manufactured in Spain.
Although the site's customer base grew unbelievably well in its first year, according to Nelson, he still wanted to offer his customers a physical store experience.
"It was very easy for us to start a business online because you can reach so many people in a short period of time," he explained. However, "people want to touch and feel the quality of the shoes."
In its first two weeks, the just under 600-square-foot space on Hubert Street experienced a 50% conversion rate -- meaning half of its customers left having bought a pair of shoes.
Their business model is so successful that Nelson thinks they may have tapped into the future of retail.
"It's definitely a lot more efficient and cost-effective," he said of the website-fitting room combo.
For example, stores don't have to hold thousands of pairs of shoes, and Jack Erwin doesn't need multiple warehouses.
And in an unexpected twist, hedge funds have rented out the space for holiday parties and paid to have their clients get complimentary pairs of shoes. Grooms have done the same with their bachelor parties.
"That was something that was completely unforeseen," Nelson said of the party bookings in the fitting room. "It's been opening up a lot of opportunities business-wise."