After four decades on Madison Avenue, the antique and art nouveau dealer Macklowe Gallery is poised to open its doors on the corner of Park Avenue and 57th Street.
Benjamin Macklowe, whose parents started the business in 1971, said he hoped to open the 6,000-square-foot gallery’s doors during the first week in November.
“I sort of keep pinching myself,” said Macklowe, 46. “Space is always such a constraint, regardless of where you are in the pecking order, and so to be able to have found a space that feels so incredibly luxurious and open makes me feel like I can spread my wings.”
Concerned about rising rents and fewer shoppers patronizing the luxury stores that once lined Madison Avenue, Macklowe spent years scouring central Manhattan for a new location.
As the second generation at the helm of what he believed was the longest continually run family business on Madison Avenue, Macklowe said he has seen the strip’s ups and downs.
“The Madison Avenue of my youth had a mix of art galleries and book shops and restaurants and fine jewelry purveyors, and everybody was able to work within that ecosystem,” he said. “Madison Avenue has become more like a show horse than a working horse.”
In 1971, Macklowe’s parents opened a 240-square-foot space at 1088 Madison Ave. after years of collecting and selling decorative art pieces. They became interested in these artifacts when Macklowe’s mother, a schoolteacher, went to a colleague’s home for dinner and was floored by their Tiffany chandelier and a second piece of decorative glass.
In 1976, the gallery sold its lease and moved to another location on Madison Avenue.
Macklowe Gallery then settled in at 667 Madison Ave. at East 61st Street in 1987, where the business remained for decades.
“[The location] was a bold move because, at the time, there was really no retail down there — it was all office buildings,” Macklowe said.
Macklowe joined the family business in 1994. By the late 1990s, he noticed a dip in the “casual, well-to-do shoppers,” who planned trips to the city to get their hair done and shop at Bergdorf’s and Hermes. These consumers no longer needed to travel to the city, where they might wander into Macklowe, because luxury brands began opening shops closer to their homes in the suburbs.
At the same time, online shopping began to change retail and rents rose at a “breakneck” pace along Madison Avenue, Macklowe said.
He began hunting around when the gallery’s lease ended in 2007, visiting dozens of locations and beginning lease negotiations at a few of them.
One day, he wandered into a nearly empty Chase Bank branch at 57th Street and Park Avenue, where Macklowe appreciated the nearby foot and car traffic as well as the proximity to the Four Seasons Hotel and the Phillips and Heritage auction houses.
He called a broker for Chase, who had previously mentioned the bank was overleveraged in the area, and negotiated a 20-year lease for the bank’s space.
In late August, Macklowe Gallery put its decorative arts in storage and began operating an office and jewelry showroom above the new space, where renovations were underway recently for the upcoming opening.