Interior photos: Colby Edwards
Life is a journey. And if any year could truly encapsulate how life is full of ups and downs, 2020 might just be it. So we think you’ll understand us when we say that these are not the circumstances we had imagined when we signed the lease to our New York store. But the situation we’re all in doesn’t change the reasons why we wanted to open a shop in New York. In fact, as we start to grasp the ways in which the city is being transformed by the pandemic, we feel a renewed sense of purpose. But right now, we’re just glad it’s open. And we’re really proud of it.
When we started to look for a storefront, we wanted to be located where we felt we could be part of an active community - where we could be close to other establishments that we relate to, and part of a history we could connect with and bring forward. The city has always had shops that inspired us, brought people together, and served their community in ways that weren’t just selling things. And we wanted to be part of that.
In late 2019, we found our place. It’s on a block of Elizabeth Street in downtown Manhattan in a section of Little Italy called Nolita, close to Chinatown. The street is old; it existed before the United States was a country. And it’s tied to the story of the Italian and Chinese immigrant populations that have been part of the city’s history since before the Civil War - the Americans who played a large role in defining the cultural fabric of the Lower East Side.
We love that we’re across the street from the Elizabeth Street Garden, a community sculpture garden that’s open to the public. And we’re around the corner from the Candle Building, whose facade has an unofficial history as a canvas for street artists who came from around the world to put their art on view to anyone who walked by. While we’re really close to some busier streets with restaurants and shops, our block itself is quiet enough to think of as our home.
From the floor to the ceiling, and beyond
The quiet is important. New York can have a bustling energy, so we wanted to create a space where things could slow down a bit, that allowed for a moment to be mindful. We wanted the store feel connected to the one in LA, yet also reflect its New York location. Much like people’s mood and behavior adapt to different places, we think spaces should, too. A lot of those ties are reflected in small details ranging from the floor to the ceiling - so let’s go on a virtual tour.
Just as you enter the shop, you might notice a little nook off to one side - it’s actually easier to see from the street, and it’s how we give passersby a hint at what’s inside. If you looked right now, you’d see a couple of new releases nestled in among some modern wood furniture, a sculpture, and some cut flowers.
As you come in the door, you’ll enter a long space with wooden racks and shelves to your left and right where you can browse our offerings. These were custom-made for us by our friends at Arrowhead in North Carolina, under the direction of our interior designer, Anton Anger. Their instant rapport helped ease the complexity of Arrowhead working remotely, even as the fixtures themselves were fabricated in New York. You might notice the way the jeans are suspended, creating a sensation of solidity and weightlessness that’s almost like magic.
As you look past the fixtures, you’ll notice an arched portal with wood trim at the back - separating the shop from a private area in the back, with changing rooms on either side. Its shape was inspired by the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which connects Staten Island to Brooklyn. When we think of one word to describe the bridge, it’s “soaring.” If you’re driving on it, it’s almost like you’re flying above the water below. And when you see it from the side, you see its curved arch with so much sky underneath it that it can feel like it’s in the clouds.
Not only does the portal bring a skyward energy to the space, it’s where everything comes together. It connects the baseboard to the ceiling, and all of the spaces to one another. But beyond that, it’s something everyone involved in the buildout had a hand in - from its design, through to its fabrication, building, and framing.
While the portal might be the heart of the space, the floor is its quiet soul. It’s made from salvaged old-growth Douglas Fir, which produces a timber prized for its structural qualities especially suitable for shipmasts and factory buildings. Which is how this wood came to us - via a Brooklyn company, Tri-Lox, that specializes in reclaimed lumber. It had originally been brought out from the West, and served for more than a century in an industrial structure near New York City. Tri-Lox salvaged the wood, crafted it into floor planks, and finished it by hand to complement the interior of the space.
The opportunity to make use of this incredible flooring really struck a chord with us. It embodies our principle that quality material and construction is made to last. It’s a way to incorporate tradition and heritage into what we do without feeling rustic or old-fashioned. And the idea of embracing re-use is one that every company needs to not just think about, but put into practice.
Speaking of re-use, much of the shop decor was foraged from antique shops in the Hudson Valley north of the city, which is a place close to our hearts. And there, we found some pieces that caught Anton’s attention.
“Andrew sent me a photo of these tables - small desks crafted in the early 1900's but then carved into by some teenagers in the early nineties. They had etched their nicknames into these really old pieces. That felt like a perfect summary of NYC to me, taking something old and classical and carving graffiti into it. Both aspects can live in harmony and make a beautiful tapestry that stretches across time and space.”
Now and the future
The desks also remind us of how time passes while objects endure, a sentiment that really resonates with us right now. With all the uncertainty about our future, it’s a strange time to be opening a store for sure. As the city locked itself down during our buildout, we considered the value of moving forward - not because we weren’t committed to the store, but to make sure the reasoning still made sense given everything that had transpired.
And what we realized was this: what we love about New York City comes from its communities and the people who stay here because it’s where they belong. And we, without a doubt, belong here. And more than that - we want to be part of how the city bounces back. We take our role in the community seriously, and we want to be in the best possible position to make a positive contribution.
Almost two years ago, we wrote about 3sixteen’s journey as we took a look back at our first fifteen years. Our approach has always been rooted in long-term thinking: creating products that people would want to wear for a long time and making them in a way they would hold up for years. And we believe, regardless of our opening date, that our New York store reflects those values.
We’ve overcome challenges before, so why stop now? We’re in it for the long haul. We weren’t able to celebrate our opening the way we normally would - a party with our customers, friends, and new neighbors. But once we get through this and it’s safe to do so, it’s going to feel great to host them all in the way we usually do. Needless to say, you’re all invited.
We’re especially grateful for those of you have already stopped by. You’re quite literally the reason we opened in the first place.
Getting a store ready to open is never an easy feat, but this one happened under particularly challenging circumstances. We wanted to take a moment to thank a few people for their efforts. The first is Anton Anger, who led the design for the space, and his design firm Studio Meadow. Anton was part of the team responsible for the LA store, and we worked closely enough that he felt like family. We’ve always felt sync with his approach and appreciate the way that he challenged himself - and us - to see the potential of a space and make the most of it. While it’s our name on the shop, it’s at least as much his creation as ours.
While we’ve known the Arrowhead folks for years, we weren’t able to work with them for our LA store buildout due to logistical reasons - so it took a while to finally be able to have their incredible craftsmanship in our stores. It was worth the wait. Thank you to Justin Johnson and his team for working so tirelessly under challenging circumstances - even as far as getting close friends to drive the fixtures up to us. We hope you get a chance to see the store soon. If you haven’t read our Singularities feature on Arrowhead, we definitely recommend taking some time to check it out.
We’ve been able to watch Ryden and Lanette Rizzo and the entire team at Allied Maker grow by leaps and bounds over the years. Ryden tells us that he was wearing a pair of 3sixteen jeans during his first year of business, crafting light fixtures in his parents’ garage. The kind of work they are putting out now never ceases to amaze us, and each time we built a store out - first in LA and then in NY - they shared their work with us in generous ways. We love being able to tell customers that the standout light fixtures in both our stores were made by friends. We’ve also written a Singularities feature on Ryden which you can read here.