Universal Gear Rebrands Itself in Hell’s Kitchen
New York, NY - While many retailers (Talbots, Betsey Johnson, Tilly's, Metro Park) have been in the news in recent weeks for shuttering stores, Washington DC-based men's fashion retailer Universal Gear is bucking the trend, and will be opening a flagship store in Hell's Kitchen, it's second location in Manhattan, on May 19.
Universal Gear's first store in Manhattan, in Chelsea, opened in November, 2001, in the midst of another economic crisis. The store created a dynamic, pulsating shopping environment with 24-foot high ceilings, dance music listening stations, aluminum and polycarbonate fixtures and a mezzanine level and it became instantly popular among the gay community.
"The gay community has been incredibly resilient throughout the economic crises of the past decade and has helped position our store for enormous growth," said David Franco, co-founder and owner of Universal Gear.
"But perhaps most surprisingly, the non-gay customer also makes up about 30% of our sales. Straight men are increasingly feeling more comfortable wearing cool, city gear and sportswear and buying in a traditionally gay area.
Chelsea, as well as Hell’s Kitchen, are widely considered the gay neighborhoods of New York City.
The new store, with 2,700 of retail space, in a former speakeasy during the 1920’s, will be undergoing a brand makeover. It will be more sophisticated, with an industrial, vintage look, playing off the word "gear" and evoking the look of the industrial revolution.
"Each piece of fixture is as unique and diverse as each customer and their style - from a torpedo cart used to arm ships in Pearl Harbor, now used to display the military styles of G-Star, to the beverage carts of the 1960’s used to bring Coca Cola bottles to five and dimes and gas stations, now used to display vintage "Coke is It" tees," said Franco. As the flagship store of the chain, the Hells Kitchen store will be the first to show off the new look, which will be followed later by a makeover of the Chelsea store.
Universal Gear, founded in 1993, is a premier retailer of clothing and accessories for the fashion-conscious man and whatever it is he may be doing. "It’s for the man with the universal lifestyle," said Franco.
The store’s top brands include G-Star, Diesel, Scotch & Soda, Levi’s, Ben Sherman, ES Collection, Penguin, 2(x)ist, Andrew Christian, Anthony Morato and many more. They also market a private label line of t-shirts, athletic wear, cashmere sweaters and board shorts under the Universal Gear label.
The new Universal Gear store is located at 715 Ninth Avenue, near the corner of 49th St. and Ninth Avenue.
The closest subway station is 50th Street station on the C and E lines. Phone number is 212-757-2927.
Hours of operation are 11AM to 10PM Sunday to Thursday & 11 AM to 12 midnight Friday & Saturday.