Monday, March 16, 2009
Last Sunday I attended the final day of the Armory Show at Piers 92 and 94 on the west side of town. A week earlier, I'd gone to the Works on Paper show at the Park Avenue Armory. Both events showcased modern and contemporary artists (established and rising...as well as a few old masters) represented by international galleries. Both events also showcased the rudest mongrels who were more concerned with eating their limp sandwiches and chatting with fellow gallerists than saying a quick "hello" to anyone who entered their lame cubicles.
You don't have to attend art fairs to be on the receiving end of this colossal level of incivility. There are enough shops around town with bad-mannered staff to fill a horn of plenty. Sometimes it seems the higher the quality and/or price tag, the clearer the view up the nostrils. But this isn't the case with everyone. I want to take this opportunity to offer some shoutouts and biggups to the ones who don't assume the naughty haughty attitude some feel they have to project when working within rarefied realms...there's a Duane Reade bonus shoutout, too!
1. The Armory Show: Garth and Sunny of Gary Snyder Project Space were the only ones out of all of those white cubes in both piers to say what's up. In this economy? In this bloody art market?! One?
2. Works on Paper: Hal Katzen of Hal Katzen Gallery. He not only said hello, but he spoke at length about the artists he represented and offered to negotiate the prices.
3. Jeffrey: Some times the staff can be a little hungry for their commission, but they're never to the point of breathing down your neck or following you around the store like a lost puppy. They seem genuinely warm. Perhaps some southern hospitality brought up north by Atlanta native Jeffrey Kalinsky? An early occupant of really far-West 14th Street (at no. 449), Jeffrey made it chic to go west. Before them, anyone headed in that area was most likely paying a visit to the Liberty Inn hourly motel.
4. Maison Martin Margiela: Located on the southern end of the Meatpacking at 803 Greenwich Street, I've never purchased a piece there. I get all of my Margiela at Century 21 for now. Shhh! This has never deterred this dedicated staff from helping me and thoroughly discussing the history of the Margiela's design philosophy and each season's collection. By far, the sincerest sales associates in all of New York City!
5. Zero Maria Cornejo: Located down the block from MMM at 807 Greenwich Street, unlike the Margiela outpost, I have dropped a few dollars here. Again, a knowledgeable, unaggressive staff more interested in ensuring a pleasurable shopping experience, as opposed to making sales.
6. Shelley Steffee: Around the corner at 34 Gansevoort Street is this marvelous boutique with truly beautiful pieces that are sculptural and cerebral without making you look like a damn fool. The space is gorgeous and the small staff is always willing to help without being pushy or impatient.
7. Theory: A couple of doors away at 38 Gansevoort Street is my old stomping ground. It's not because I used to work in the corporate headquarters upstairs; the sales staff in the flagship don't know who EVERYBODY is. Like the aforementioned shops above, the Theory crew was always warm, knowledgeable about the merchandise, and interested in creating a relationship with clients.
8. Comme des Garçons: Situated in the middle of the Chelsea gallery ghetto at 520 W. 22nd Street is this architectural masterpiece and discriminating shopper's emporium. Good luck getting that rather heavy-a** door open; but once you do, you'll be welcomed in. Like Martin Margiela, Kawakubo is a designer's designer. This mindset undoubtedly trickles down to the sales floor. When the clothes speak for themselves, there's really no need to put on airs. N'est pas?
9. Balenciaga: At 542 W. 22nd St, just down the block from Comme des Garçons, is this cavernous cache of high end goodies with a lovely sales staff.
10. Yohji Yamamoto: This brick and glass building at 1 Gansevoort Street, shaped like a slice of cheese, is anything but. Not only does it house some pretty pricey socks, but my boy Mauricio holds the fort down with his hooked mustached and shiny, bald head. The best thing about this Venezuelan transport isn't the fact that his business card says "entertainer" as his occupation, but that he wants to buy a goat. That being said, someone with such a colorful presence could never harbor the boorish and graceless demeanor of the gallerists at the shows and sales staff at some other designer boutiques.
**Duane Reade and Walgreens**: While not perched on the highest rung of the retail ladder, I have to give a special shoutout to the Duane Reade located on the corner of Third Avenue and 10th Street and the Walgreens at 20 Astor Place. The other day, at the Duane Reade, one of the associates at the register patiently listened to an older woman complain to him about how some young chick had referred to her Labrador Retriever as a beast. "No one calls my dog a beast!" She assured the young man as he nodded in agreement. The line was building up a little, but he never rushed her and she talked about how great her dog was. This may have not been the most efficient thing to do, but she was clearly a frequent customer and he gave her the respect he thought she deserved. Hats off to you, young man with the cornrows and winning smile!
The folks further down at the Walgreens are by far the most professional sales associates out of all the pharmacies in town. The other day I needed to purchase some products that every woman has to purchase throughout the year. When I reached over the young man restocking these items, I made a silly joke and we both had a bit of a laugh. At some other store, my business may have been put over the PA system. You know how they do.
In conclusion, I'd like to stress that an affected superior air will win you no friends, and certainly no sales. When my pockets start bursting at the seams with dollars, I'll remember kindness and return the favor.