I was in The Westchester running some errands last week when I noticed that Restoration Hardware was empty — and I don’t just mean of people. There were no French country-style sofas or sprawling farm tables in sight. No antique framed British flags or belgian linen curtains. Just a large cavernous (and albeit) depressing space.
Why did the retailer known for their large-scale, hand-crafted furnishings close in Westchester?
I reached out to Les Morris, the director of public relations for Simon Property Group, the company that manages The Westchester, and asked why Restoration Hardware’s White Plains location closed. “Thanks for your interest,” Morris wrote me, “but your question is something that the retailer will have to answer directly. We can’t answer for them.”
So I asked Restoration Hardware why they left. They didn’t return my call or email, so I’m left trying to figure out why the store closed. It turns out that the Westchester location is just one of many stores the retailer is shuttering. In an effort to reorganize the brand and become profitable, many mall locations are being axed so the retailer can focus more on stand-alone stores. According to the Wall Street Journal, the retailer has been struggling since 2001 and nearly went bankrupt in 2008. In recent years, CEO Gray Friedman has tried to shift the retailer’s image, from a shop selling vintage oddities (like hand warmers and antique Jack in the Box) to high end furnishings.
The White Plains location was full of interesting pieces. Think: an antique-inspired French-style six arm chandelier, armchairs made of supple leather, antique framed maps of London or Paris. Still, Restoration Hardware’s new strategy didn’t seem to take off in Westchester, and that says a lot since this is one of the wealthiest counties in the nation.
Closing the store may be part of the retailer’s plans to launch a comeback. Restoration Hardware recently opened the largest Restoration Hardware ever in the former Museum of Natural History building in Boston; it will even feature a full-service restaurant inside. Other stand-alone locations will feature rooftop gardens, a tea atelier, bibliotheque or floral boutique. Friedman sees these stores as “galleries” or “showrooms” of high end furnishings, rather than mall stores. He actually calls them “Design Galleries,” and they’ve opened in five locations so far this year: Atlanta, Boston, San Francisco, LA and Houston. The point is to offer shoppers a design experience, what one writer has compared to a magical walk through an estate.
Sounds pretty cool.
I’m curious if this approach will take off though. I’ve often wondered if the store is too moody for these economically challenging times. No matter where the Restoration Hardware is, it always seems a silvery gray inside and its so dim that it can feel like you’ve stepped into a medieval castle in the Loire Valley, rather than an inspiring home design store.
No word if Westchester or NYC will be getting a “Design Gallery” anytime soon, but if you need your Restoration Hardware fix there are still locations in Greenwich and Nyack.