New York Jewelry Brand Finds Success in 2020 Store Opening Amid COVID-19 Struggles for Small Businesses

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December 7, 2021

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(NEW YORK) —  The COVID-19 pandemic hit New York City’s small businesses hard, with more than 2,800 businesses permanently closing their doors by the time of August 2020, according to data from Yelp. Yet for Tarin Thomas, a New York City-based jewelry line, it proved to be a perfect time to expand from online to brick and mortar.

Kylie Nakao founded Tarin Thomas back in 2013 with hopes to fill a void in the market with high-quality jewelry designs at a moderate price point. Seven years later, in November 2020, pandemic-related vacancies and lowered rents gave her an opportunity to open the brand’s first stand-alone store on West Village’s desirable Perry Street.

Retail Coordinator, John Meredith (left) and Founder, Kylie Nakao (right) celebrate Tarin Thomas’s one-year store anniversary.
[Credit: Sophie Andreesen]

According to a Fall 2020 report  from the Real Estate Board of New York, the price per square foot (PPSF) rents in the West Village saw a four-percent decline in the average monthly asking year over year, while there was a seven-percent decline in the median monthly asking for PPSF rent year over year.

“It was a great time to take advantage of rent because there were so many different spaces available.” Nakao said. “Especially if you were in the position to jump on a space, or able to negotiate a great opportunity. That’s why it made sense for us.”

Today, with rents returning to pre-COVID levels or higher, a similarly sized storefront on the same block as Tarin Thomas is listed for $120 per square foot per year, amounting to over $90,000 in rent per year.

Along with a COVID-reduced rent, Nakao was able to save on opening costs by utilizing the original build-outs from the previous tenant, APC. 

“We did very minor, cosmetic things,” Nakao said. “It was literally in the height of COVID. I don’t think anyone knew what was going to happen; we didn’t want to invest money in tearing down and reworking a space, but luckily this space fit our aesthetic so well.”

The store’s wood and stainless steel shelving serve as a backdrop to a hand-curated selection of vintage decor, glassware and clothing displayed alongside Nakao’s sustainably-made jewelry. Every piece in the store feels closely in-tune with recent consumer trends.

Consumers are becoming more thoughtful in their purchases, resulting in an expected 153.5 percent increase in the resale industry by 2030, according to an October 2021 ‘Rescue Report’ from Mercai and GlobalData. While a January 2020 sustainability report conducted by FirstInsight found Gen Z and Millennial shoppers are most likely to make purchase decisions based on “values and principals.”

“I think people really like that it’s made in New York,” John Meredith, the store’s Retail Coordinator and only full-time employee to Nakao, said of the ethically-made pieces. “Then, having the vintage is fun because Kylie travels often and is always bringing in new stuff. It makes people want to come back and see [what’s new] each week.”

Layout from previous tenant APC, showcases a curation of vintage clothing and glassware.
[Credit: Sophie Andreesen]

The price point is also very attainable, with the most recent collection, titled “Lucky You,” ranging from $348 for the lariat necklace or mini bracelet, to $168 for the ‘Samuel’ mini-ring, which Meredith notes as one of their “most popular” pieces.

Though the store celebrated its first year on November 6, both Nakao and Meredith credit the business’s success to a strong online presence. “It’s probably 50-50.” Meredith said, comparing online and in-store sales. “It just depends on the time of the year.”

“We’ve always been an online business, which has been great, especially during COVID,” Nakao added. “We had such good support from loyal customers that have been around forever, but then also people who just wanted to support small businesses.”

Another factor driving sales is Tarin Thomas’s availability at other retailers across the country, like Simonette, a Miami-based boutique, or Garmentory, based nearby in New York.

“We have so many loyal New York clients they can finally come in person and discover things that they may have never discovered on Instagram or online,” Nakao said. “We also have people who have now been starting to travel in from LA, Miami, or Chicago who are visiting and just wanted to come into the store. It’s been such a great opportunity having a physical space to meet people and make a connection.”

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