AN ICONIC 135 YEAR OLD JEWELRY RETAILER, LONG A FIXTURE ON KINGS HIGHWAY, CELEBRATES THE OPENING OF ITS NEWEST STOREFRONT IN MANHATTAN
BY AMANDA McCOY • PHOTOS BY AMANDA DOMENECH
It all began in 1884 on the corner of Lower Manhattan’s Broadway and Maiden Lane.
“That was the original jewelry district,” explained Jerry Natkin, the owner of William Barthman, a luxury jewelry retailer that has decorated the hands, wrists, napes, and ears of prominent businesspeople, celebrities, and socialites in Manhattan for 135 years. Natkin, who purchased the storefront from its original owners in the mid-1980s, took the concept across the East River to his home borough in 1998 when he opened a 5,000 square foot retail space on Kings Highway. When the lease on the Manhattan storefront was up for renewal in early 2018, the owner decided against it. He had his sights on somewhere new.
“We felt the Broadway location was just not upscale anymore,” he explained. “We decided to go somewhere where my neighbors would be Tiffany and Hermés.”
On December 20 of last year, less than 12 months after the Broadway location sold its last piece of jewelry, William Barthman’s new storefront opened on Broad Street in the Financial District. Spanning just over 1,100 square feet, the new operation is tucked inside the ground floor of a newly renovated luxury condo building adjacent, suitably enough, to the New York Stock Exchange.
“We looked around and felt that this was more in tune with what we were trying to find in a customer,” Natkin said.
The new store’s product line is different than what its sister location offers in South Brooklyn. While the Kings Highway store carries a variety of high end designers and brands, the Manhattan location focuses on watches from Rolex and diamonds from Hearts On Fire, with a few additional curios tucked inside its cases. And while the Brooklyn store caters to the borough’s full time residents, the new one sparks interest from a wider range of customers, from FiDi denizens to brokers to tourists. “Some live in the neighborhood, but most do not,” explained Natkin.
“It was an exciting project for us,” said Jacqueline Raffle, vice president of business development for Hearts On Fire, which essentially crafted its own storefront inside the Broad Street store. “It’s a different concept; many retailer jewelers are looking at how they can bring a more focused assortment to customers. Instead of offering a little bit of everything, Natkin focuses on two categories diamonds, and watches from Rolex, and theirs is the biggest assortment of Hearts On Fire in New York City.”
The two brands also utilize the space for new product launches and press events, as well as to house high end couture wearables not carried anywhere else.
“We wanted this to be the first place to get things even before they are officially on the market,” Raffi continued. “We bring in editors and influencers to get a preview of what is about to launch.”
The task of running day to day operations was entrusted to Caitlin Hausser, who came to William Barthman with decades of experience in the business. And, even though the store spent the first quarter of its existence underneath scaffolding from the building renovations, Hausser explained that this didn’t hinder sales in the least.
“Clients are eating, sleeping, and breathing the Rolex brand,” she said. “And I love being in a true family business. It’s such a nice balance working with two people who trust you. The Natkins [ Jerry, and his son and business partner, Steven] are so comfortable to talk to, and they let me do what I know I need to do. They are like, ‘Here’s your store…enjoy.’ It feels like my business inside their business. The doors are open and the registers ring. It’s a good sound.”
20 Broad Street / 212.732.0890 1118 Kings Highway / 718.375.1818