How do you have Brooklyn Charm without a Brooklyn location? That’s a question Brooklyn Charm (145 Bedford Ave.) owner and founder Tracie Campbell has been asking herself after making the tough decision to shut down her New York City locations amidst the pandemic. The biggest reason: New York rent is just too high.
Brooklyn Charm started in 2007 as an online store, soon becoming a brick-and-mortar fixture on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg, a space to take jewelry-making classes and shop for jewelry supplies. The popular brand continued selling online, and opened stores in Japan, Copenhagen, Manhattan and Ventura, California, the home of Brooklyn Charm’s new headquarters.
“Things are quasi normal here,” Campbell says of the conditions that allow her business to thrive on the West Coast. The entire street her shop is on is shut down, so vendors and restaurants can display wares outside, and attract the type of foot traffic Brooklyn Charm thrives on.
Before the pandemic, sales at Brooklyn Charm’s Manhattan location in Chelsea Market were helping keep both New York stores afloat, but now, the multi-use shopping space is nearly empty of shoppers. “We had to close the Chelsea Market location because they weren’t offering a deal. We had pay more money for less time to be there. It’s a joke, paying rent in a city with no customers,” Campbell says. She notes that she knows of other businesses “shelling out hundreds a day” for space at the market, who are “barely making a single sale.”
“I didn’t want to put money in something I didn’t have faith would do well,” Campbell says. With Brooklyn’s slow decline in sales over the past few years, reopening the Bedford location would “financially destroy the business.” They could close, sell online and prioritize the Venture store, or file Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. The sunny West Coast seemed like the best option. She says that her landlord in Williamsburg had always given her a good market rate for the shop, and she felt well taken care of, but would need a 75% rent reduction to stay, way too low a price to ask for.
“There’s no future in the next year for small business to survive in New York City,” Campbell says. “We need customers.” Brooklyn Charm’s Manhattan inventory will go into storage, and the current manager of the Brooklyn store will sell it at markets in the tristate area, once they reopen. In a year or two, Brooklyn Charm may reopen a physical store in its namesake borough, but with all the current restrictions, changes and economic devastation in the city, it’s hard for Campbell to predict the future for her business.
Internationally, Brooklyn Charm’s stores are still in business, and online sales for over 3,000 products have increased, similar to what Campbell saw during the 2008 crash. When people stay home, they like to craft.
Before Brooklyn Charm closes its doors in Williamsburg on August 2, almost everything in the store is on sale for 25% off, or more. Lines outside are common, as only a few shoppers are allowed in the store at a time. The funds will help Campbell ship over 20,000 pounds of “stuff” like custom furniture she’s had in the shop for years, to California.