Bye, By Robert James: Steep Rent Hike Forces Boutique from Orchard Street

Posted on: January 16th, 2019 at 5:00 am by

By Robert James is saying bye to Orchard Street after just over ten years in business. Like so much local retail, the upscale clothier fell victim to a sizable rent hike.

Truth be told, the proverbial writing was on the wall last August when the eponymous owner led a successful crowdfunding campaign to keep the lights on. We learned at the time that the boutique is on a Net Lease at 74 Orchard Street, which means the tenant is responsible not only for monthly rent, but property taxes and insurance costs.

“A few months back things came to a point where it looked like I would be forced out, but you came to our aid,” James noted in a recent emailer. “We would rebound and finish the year strong. But a few weeks back I spoke with my landlords and they told me they wanted to meet with me because my lease was coming to an end.”

The rent at 74 Orchard effectively doubled, and staying in the black was no longer possible. He admits, though, that affordability is in the fine print of the aforementioned Net Lease. It’s an old building that’s costly to operate.

Getting by isn’t easy in this block. Other boutiques have come and gone over the years with rapidity. It’s rather paradoxical that, in an area allegedly buoyed by the Tenement Museum and popular restaurants, foot traffic doesn’t trickle over.

“This neighborhood has pain points in the summer months and winter months,” James also noted. “It’s not uncommon for retail to have slower summer months, but that really has come to a head down here. Without a wealth of local residents that would bring weekday traffic and everyone out of town on the weekends, it is a wasteland.”

By Robert James opened at 72 Orchard Street in 2008. Three years later, it upsized to the larger location next door, in what was previously the Hyper Island digital media school. The Great Frog rock-n-roll jewelry store later took its place.

Moving forward, the brand will live online.

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