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Hippie Deluxe

How big is New York’s appetite for pretty, bohemian things? As it turns out, enormous.

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Celle, center, in the Calypso Home store on Lafayette Street. (Photomontage by Caroline Shepard)  

“People are very lazy,” says Christiane Celle, proprietor of the Calypso boutique chain, as an explanation of her retail strategy, which seems to have more in common with Duane Reade or Starbucks than it does with similarly fragrant and trendy fashion boutiques. In ten years, Celle has opened eleven Calypsos in Manhattan, often within blocks—sometimes feet— of each other. There are two Calypsos on Mott Street, three on Broome, and two on Lafayette Street. There is one on Hudson Street in the meatpacking district, and the newest one just opened in Tribeca. A five-floor Madison Avenue “flagship” opened in February, six blocks south of another, smaller store. With the opening of a Montauk location in May, the South Fork now has five Calypsos (including one in Southampton, one in Westhampton, and two in East Hampton). “I see a space, and I just fall in love” is about the extent of Celle’s strategy, but it seems to work: The smaller Madison Avenue store, for example, does $3,000 a square foot annually. Even the pros are a little mystified, but impressed. “So many locations suggests they’re doing well,” says William Susman, president and COO of the retail investment firm Financo. “They have a long way to go before they reach saturation.”

A French former stylist, Celle opened her first boutique on St. Barts in 1992, stocked with Eres swimsuits and cotton tunics and pareos imported from Rajasthan. When love (and childbirth) drew her to New York in 1996, she brought the concept with her. A decade later, Calypso has evolved into a year-round business, with cashmere cable knits, fragrances, candles, a home store, and a children’s line. Celle is even thinking about hiring a CEO, she says one afternoon in one of the Madison Avenue shops, as she simultaneously folds a stack of coral cashmere hoodies, helps three customers, and directs the remerchandising of the entire shop. “Do you think maybe I need one?”


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