Kleinfeld quits Bay Ridge

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Say it ain’t so — first the Dodgers and now Kleinfeld.

The giant bridal emporium, a Brooklyn mainstay since 1941, announced Wednesday it would move to Manhattan this summer.

Kleinfeld, the country’s largest outlet for designer wedding dresses, has outfitted generations of brides who have perused selections — by appointment only, of course — at its Fifth Avenue and 82nd Street flagship in Bay Ridge.

Its new location will be at West 20th Street and Sixth Avenue in Manhattan’s fashionable Chelsea neighborhood, co-owner Ronald Rothstein announced. Kleinfeld’s 185 employees will move with the store.

The decision to move was based partly on the fact that about 80 percent of the store’s customers work in Manhattan, Rothstein said. The new location would also allow a “grander, more theatrical environment” and 35,000 square feet of floor space — about twice as much as the Bay Ridge store, he said.

Built from an initial $600 investment in 1941, the business grew to encompass three storefronts and become a mecca for brides-to-be and their entourages. After the store was sold to a French investor, in December 1990, it suffered a decline, but its resurgence came in 1997, when Gordon Brothers Capitol, a Manhattan investment firm that buys failing businesses, rights them and then sells them saved the shop from bankruptcy.

The firm sold Kleinfeld in 1999 to a partnership that included Rothstein, Mara Urshel and savvy investor Wayne Rogers, the actor who played Trapper John on the 1970s television series “M.A.S.H.”

“I was not familiar with the wedding dress business when I first entered into this partnership, but over the last six years I have learned that absolutely everyone comes to Kleinfeld,” Rogers said this week.

In a 1999 interview with The Brooklyn Papers, Hedda Kleinfeld Schacter, who founded the store with her father and her husband, Jack Schacter, credited the artisans she employed with the store’s success.

“People would say, ‘Why did you stay in Bay Ridge?’” she recalled. “It is because we had the best working staff. It was a classy labor market. The seamstresses and the sales people had very high standards but didn’t like the idea of traveling to the city everyday, so they came here and they had an outlet for their talents, and it was very good for the reputation of the store.”
That staff will now be bused into Manhattan, Rothstein said in a statement Wednesday.

The Kleinfield store opened at 8206 Fifth Ave. in 1941, a year after Hedda emigrated from Vienna with her family.

“It was a labor of love,” said Hedda. “I used to love fashion. Since I was a little girl in Vienna I would get the American fashion magazines and just eat them up. It was a love. It was an art and it was a craft.”

Her father, an engineer in Vienna, went back to his father’s business when he arrived in America and became a furrier.

Hedda’s family worked in the store but Hedda’s father, who wanted her to spend some time out of the city, allowed her to take a job watching dogs for a family in Connecticut. The family needed an extra person to work in the store.

“A cousin of mine recommended Jack as a very hard-working and ambitious young man to work in the store,” said Hedda. “He started on Memorial Day and I was already gone but he saw a picture of me and said he liked what he saw. He said he didn’t even really like the job but stuck around so he could meet the girl in the picture.”

“I came home at Labor Day and we were engaged by Thanksgiving and we got our marriage license on Dec. 6, the day before Pearl Harbor,” she recalled.

The business began as a partnership between the newlyweds and Hedda’s parents. It was originally a furrier with a millinery department. Jack, who served in Okinawa during World War II, was absent for some of the business’ infancy.

“[Jack] came home on St. Patrick’s, 1946, and by then the business had progressed quite well,” said Hedda. “We moved into also carrying cloth coats and suits — eventually dresses — but it was all very high-priced clothing, which was unusual for the area but we felt that it was needed so we continued giving the service.”

“Then so many people came in for white dresses and we realized that we could go more bridal,” said Jack.

The couple lived above their store, raising two children there. Both kids attended Poly Prep and worked in the store after school.
After selling the business, Hedda and Jack moved from their apartment above the store to a Fifth Avenue apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

Rothstein said this week that the company had been looking for larger quarters in order to accommodate its expanding business, and to continue its tradition of individualized attention that is Kleinfeld’s signature. “After an exhaustive search throughout Brooklyn and the greater New York area, we at last found the perfect space in Manhattan,” said Rothstein.

“The new Kleinfeld location will be dramatically more spacious and elegant, but one thing that will not change is our focus on our customer, which is the magic behind Kleinfeld.”

“We’re delighted to be building a one-of-a-kind retail destination in Manhattan, and we are extremely proud of the fact that it has been designed from the ground up with the needs of our brides and our staff in mind, in true Kleinfeld style,” commented Urshel.

In making the move, Kleinfeld is also building upon recent business success in Manhattan. In February, the company established an initial presence there with the opening of Kleinfeld Bridesmaids’ Loft, a 4,000-square-foot loft space in the garment center, at 270 W. 38th St., which has already surpassed expectations for customer appointments and sales.

The news of the move came just a day after a freak accident sent a man hurtling through the shop’s display window.

The Connecticut man, 57, was struck at 7:38 pm on Tuesday by a 2006 Infiniti that flew onto the sidewalk after colliding with a 1991 Ford Thunderbird.

The man was thrust feet-first into the window with glass shards hanging precariously above him, according to witnesses, but suffered only minor injuries.

— with Associated Press

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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Reasonable discourse

Maria from Park slope says:
I was an employee in kleinfeld I remember some
Of the sales consultant a couple of them were nice to me but I remember this one manger she was mean to me May God forgive her I was there to do a job not to be treated messed up
June 15, 2017, 10:12 pm
Maria from Park slope says:
When you work in kleinfeld store in Brooklyn it doesn't where you from like ethic race you gotta be treated fairly more if you are a good worker it's sad that some ethics group don't want to accept like Spanish people like from Puerto Rico in the job place our race we are really helpful to others even people that are new in America
June 15, 2017, 10:19 pm
Sandra from Sunset park says:
I remember a manager name starts with j she wasso mean to certain people in the klienfeld bridal store she should become a police woman instead
God forgive dos people who don't people fairly
July 16, 2017, 2:32 am

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