Last Monday, while le tout New York was transfixed by the fireworks celebrating the birth of Tina Brown’s new baby, another birth – one likely to have a rather more lasting and personal impact on the Prada set – was trumpeted in a former factory on West 14th Street.
Jeffrey Kalinsky, the disarmingly charming force behind the upscale department store Jeffrey’s of Atlanta, opened his New York flagship with a ceremony that made onlookers wonder if the art gallery-ish emporium already thought of as a baby Barneys might be more aptly labeled the anti-Barneys: Surrounded by staff members, architects, investors, well-wishers, and racks stocked with the likes of Jil Sander, Gucci, Helmut Lang, and Alexander McQueen, Kalinsky offered tearful tributes to his designers, his parents, and even his customers, and then actually got down on his knees and thanked his Atlanta staff for making him a success. (Hard to picture Gene Pressman in such a pose, isn’t it?) A rabbi hung a mezuzah over the door, intoning the hopes that Kalinsky’s suppliers would be reliable and his accounts-payable favorable, and concluding, “May he be able to say that his staff in New York is as good as Atlanta.”
A disorienting hybrid of hipness and southern hospitality, the 37-year-old Kalinsky (last Monday was also his birthday) is known in Atlanta for stopping stylish women in the supermarket, asking them where they got their shoes, and offering, “If you give me your phone number, I’ll take care of you.”
Jeffrey’s, a retail pioneer in a district still best known for meat markets and sex clubs, will open its doors from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., though one fashion insider confides that she tried to persuade Kalinsky to open from noon to 10. “The neighborhood,” she explains delicately, “smells a lot better in the afternoon.”