Treasure&Bond, New York

Treasure&Bond may be Nordstrom’s new, cool downtown retail experiment, but it’s running on a lean and mean budget, and donating all profits to charity
Posted December 20, 2011

To most New York shoppers, Treasure&Bond might seem like just another trendy SoHo retailer with a cool space and an eclectic assortment of merchandise – home, accessories, jewelry, books, stationery, men’s and women’s apparel, bedding, tabletop and furniture.

But unlike those neighboring boutiques and specialty shops, this store is a pet project of Nordstrom Inc. (Seattle), which has created the concept as an experiment.

“This was the result of a ‘what if?’ exercise Nordstrom does periodically,” says Paige Boggs, Treasure&Bond’s general manager (and formerly Nordstrom’s corporate visual director). “The company likes to gather small groups of employees and brainstorm new ideas, as a way to keep the creative juices flowing.”

About a year ago, she says, the subject on the table was, “If we were to put a store in New York, and it couldn’t be a full-line store, what would it be?”

As the ideas for a funky SoHo specialty store began to coalesce, executive vp Peter Nordstrom threw in a wild card: All of the profits from this store would go to charity.

“Giving is pretty ingrained in the Nordstrom DNA,” explains Boggs. “I think he was inspired by Merci, the store in Paris that donates all its profits to a women’s and children’s charity in Madagascar.”

Proceeds from Treasure&Bond, which opened in August, go to two partnering charities per quarter, as long as they’re New York-based and benefit children and young adults. The two recipients for this current quarter are the Children’s Health Fund and the Coalition for the Homeless. A sign on the wall lists all participating charities, and there are also small signs on the windows and in the store describing the Treasure&Bond philosophy.

What’s good for charity, though, presents a hurdle for Boggs, who was relocated from Seattle, thrust into the job of starting up the new store from scratch and given a shoestring of a budget. And that started with finding fixtures and other supplies for the two-story, 11,000-square-foot store on West Broadway.

“We’re sort of ‘retail experimental,’ ” she says. “Everything inside the store is movable within a day. We have no build-outs that prevent us from being reactive to new merchandise that comes in. What’s here today can change tomorrow.”

So she first looked around the chain at any Nord-strom stores getting remodels, seeking fixtures and supplies that might otherwise be liquidated.

She’s been able to put her hands on recycled Nordstrom fixtures, “everything from antique tables in the men’s departments to catering tables that we used at fashion events.” She did have some custom work done: straight hanging racks were fabricated from real plumbing pipes, an inexpensive purchase that was also consistent with the neighborhood’s industrial style.

Elsewhere, she used store merchandise, such as tables and chairs, for display purposes, though she knew there were potential problems there. “You hope somebody will buy that incredible table,” she says, “but when they do, you have to scramble for a new merchandising solution.”

But the problem-solving part is the most rewarding. “When you can’t throw money at a problem,” she says, “you learn how to throw thinking at it.”

Treasure&Bond doesn’t have the parent company’s deep pockets at its disposal. Boggs says it’s completely off the Nordstrom grid, not using the department store chain’s cash register or inventory system, nor taking Nordstrom credit cards nor using its supply chain to access fixtures, equipment or merchandise.

Neither, insists Boggs, is it a stalking horse for a bigger Manhattan footprint, which Nordstrom has been rumored to be seeking for years, or the first of a larger roll-out. “It’s purely an experiment in doing something new and different,” she says.