Sallyann Russo could’ve opened her ‘pop-up’ contemporary women’s clothing boutique anywhere.
But having observed Huntington for a quarter of a century while visiting family in town, she knew what to expect. And looked forward to it.
“I’ve watched this town grow over the years,” said Russo, who had a shop called Threadz in Bay Ridge for 17 years, and then was a contemporary fashion buyer for Lesters prior to jumping back into retail. I’m hoping that Huntington will like my fashion sense.”
To put that proposition to the test, Russo has opened up her pop-up store for women’s clothing on Main Street, near Mundays.
With the help of family members in the area, she converted the space she’s renting into an ‘industrial’ style retail operation, similar to what one might find in downtown Manhattan. That means exposed vents and piping, clothing racks custom-made from pipe and fittings, and a no-nonsense backdrop that provides a perfect canvas for the contemporary fashions she’s bringing to the region.
As a contemporary clothing shop eager to ‘build its brand,’ items for sale are trendy, but with a twist -- because it is an all-private label operation, the prices are surprisingly low. “People look at the prices, and they can‘t believe it,’ she says. “Everything here retails under $100, but it looks like it should be triple that.”
Russo’s journey to Huntington reveals a businesswoman with a restless passion for her product line. After seventeen years in the Bay Ridge section, a very nice upscale community, she closed up shop and became a contemporary buyer for Lesters. “I had had a great run, but at that point, I just wanted a paycheck -- no headaches,” she recalls.
But after a few years hitting every trade show she could find, and generally keeping up with trends, she had a hankering to get back into retail.
Having chosen Main Street Huntington for a 2 ½ month lease, she jumped into the effort -- with her family to support her. “My boyfriend laid the floor in the back,” said Russo. “My brother in law drove back and forth to Ikea. My whole family rallied around me, unpacking boxes, writing up tags, tagging items.”
Not even the hurricane could stop Sallyann and her family. “Sandy was a little bit of a monkey wrench, but New Yorkers need to persevere -- and I‘m a New Yorker,” she says. “Anyhow we were lucky, we got power back quickly.“
While Towne is a popup operation for now, Russo is hopeful that her fashion ideas will catch on during the holiday season, and she’ll be able to make a decision to sign a long term lease and become more of a fixture in the Huntington downtown commercial world. If things work out, she says, she’ll redo the store -- expose bricks walls, redo the ceiling, fitting rooms, the outside façade, and more.
“At this point, I’m going to try this til Jan 15,” said Russo. “That allows for gift certificates, returns, that sort of thing. It’s like a test. I know I like Huntington. If Huntington likes me, I’ll sign a long term lease.”