Portfolio: The Tie Bar, Chicago

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Posted May 19, 2016

Online retailer TheTieBar.com had found success selling neckties, bowties, socks, pocket squares and various accessories, with a reputation for colorful, quality merchandise at a reasonable price. Following the trend of other e-tailers, it has experimented with pop-up locations in New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C.

Now, pursuing an even newer trend, it’s moving into permanent brick-and-mortar spaces.

Last year, The Tie Bar approached M Crown Productions (Long Island City, N.Y.) about turning its 2-year-old Chicago pop-up on trendy West Armitage Avenue in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood into a real store.

“Like a lot of pop-ups, the space didn’t have the right retail infrastructure – the fixtures, the lighting, the design, the flow,” says Gala Magriñá, M Crown’s founder and creative director.

She says the Tie Bar merchandise assortment presented certain challenges: Small items tend to get disorganized easily; colorful patterns and styles require high-concept visual displays; sufficient storage has to be built into fixtures so sales associates aren’t constantly running to the back room; and the fixtures need to be mobile for merchandising flexibility.

“There are more than 1000 ties in 1000 colors,” notes Magriñá. “We wanted all [of] the product on the floor so customers could see what they’re shopping for.”

So M Crown designed a fixture program that provided maximum merchandising in the 900-square-foot space.

Colorful socks are draped side by side across bars – not dumped into a basket on the floor or hung single-file on protruding hang rods. Ties are folded neatly into cubbyholes to increase the number of facings that can be seen at a glance.

“We thought about the best way to carry and display product,” says Magriñá, “then designed fixtures to be shoppable, but still fun.”

“Fun” is the watchword, and the focal point of the store is a custom chandelier featuring vintage liquor bottles, suspended over a table at the store’s center. Magriñá explains the bottles are a subtle reference to the “bar” in the store’s name.

The chandelier doesn’t provide illumination, but sunlight coming through the store windows creates sparkling reflections on the bottles. The shop windows are kept open, free of merchandise, signage or displays, which allows passersby on the street to see right into the store.

“Every good store has to have a ‘wow!’ moment in it,” says Magriñá. “For this store, it’s the element that elicits the comment, ‘Hey, that’s the store on the corner with that cool chandelier. Go take a look.’ ”