Last March, Brian Bolke—the cofounder and former president of Forty Five Ten—launched a chic concept store in New York City’s Hudson Yards. A departure from the buy-now-take-now retail model, The Conservatory blended brick-and-mortar shopping with online shopping, giving people a place to see and feel luxury goods before purchasing them for future home delivery.
And it worked. Sort of. People bought things, but an imperfect supply chain and a desire to control the customer journey prompted Bolke to pivot to a more traditional model a few months ago. Now, 70 percent of the wares available at the 7,000-square-foot Chelsea store can be carried right out the door.
In September, Bolke opened “a window into the brand” in Highland Park Village. Barely bigger than a walk-in closet, The Conservatory holds a collection so rigorously edited that it could cause heart palpitations in those who believe more is more. Tucked into its 400 square feet is an ever-changing mix of heritage and emerging luxury brands—from hand-poured French candles to the perfect pocket tee—and everything is available to take home immediately.
A return to the Dallas retail landscape was “not at all the plan,” Bolke says. “But I am a sentimental person, and when I found out that the address [of the available space] was 4 Highland Park Village, which was my original address in basically the same spot I opened Avant Garden 25 years ago, I thought it was a sign.”
A Chosen Few
Bolke shares the stories of five brands carried by The Conservatory.
“I read about actress Michelle Pfeiffer’s new fragrance line in WWD and was fascinated by how passionate Michelle was about this completely clean fragrance with transparent ingredients—something that had never been done before. I DM’d them on Instagram, we connected, and The Conservatory was the first store to launch them at retail.”
“You cannot buy this shoe anywhere in the world except from us. I have known Tamara for years, and we tried to work together a few times in the past, but then she changed her business model to [direct to consumer]. Her shoes are beautifully designed, made in Italy, comfortable, and priced about 40 percent below a comparable shoe at a department store.”
“I’m very interested in heritage brands—brands that people equate with their grandmothers. When you look at a Baccarat or a Lalique, these are brands that are made by multigenerational families in little towns in France. If we stop buying what they make, those little towns go away. This is where we, as consumers, need to consider more than just price.”
“I love candles, but not just any candles. If I put a candle in the store, there is a reason. I was approached by a young French man who was just starting out. He was a perfumer at amazing fragrance houses, and we talked and talked. He has so much passion about what he is doing, and that really came through. On each candle there are graphic words and place names, and the scents are stories about those destinations.”
“This denim line had a slow start because no one had heard of it and it’s not flashy, but now it is selling like crazy. There’s still a need for this kind of clean denim with the right stretch that people can wear every day.”