With one store each in suburban Pennsylvania and New Jersey, 7-year-old women’s multibrand jeans and jeans-friendly retailer, Denim Habit, opened its first New York City store, on West 14th Street in the Meatpacking District earlier this month. The 2,200 square foot (204sqm) space features the sales floor and dressing rooms on the street level plus a 500 square foot (46sqm) “guys’ lounge” in the basement complete with a pool table, a flat screen TV and video games. It is there to keep males entertained as their female companions browse and try on items upstairs. We caught up with Denim Habit’s COO and president, Wayne Shulick, Monday night, September 19, at the New York store’s first special event, a night of cocktails and shopping promoting Hudson Jeans. Interview by Christopher Blomquist

What is the story behind the store?
Denim Habit is a brand that’s out of the Philadelphia area and we are starting to launch the brand here in New York. We’ll also be announcing another major project in the tri-state area in the next couple weeks, which will be part of the Denim Habit brand. Our website will launch in about four weeks and we look forward to growing the brand in New York, which we look to do over the next 24 to 36 months in other areas.

Denim Habit window display
Denim Habit window display
Why is it so important to have a retail presence in New York City?
It’s pretty obvious. There’s really nowhere else you get the bang for the buck, the traffic, the amount of people, the PR that you can get…. We have a store right outside of Philadelphia and it’s just not the same. This is a world stage. And the other project that we are about to announce shortly purely came to us because we had a sign on the window that said “Coming Soon.” The “threat” of opening here got us that other project. So imagine what kind of reach opening here has.

Who is your typical customer?
The typical customer is 21 to 40-something and wants to be in the forefront of fashion but maybe not spend the money that other stores locally are charging. We try to be at a certain level of price point and we don’t like to exceed it. We know who our customer is, we are good at what we do and we don’t like to branch out too far from what we do.

What are some of Denim Habit’s key brands?
DL1961, J Brand, Henry and Belle, Hudson, Dylan Alexa, which is a sportswear top, and One by Dylan Alexa, which is a basic T-shirt line. Dylan Alexa and One by Dylan Alexa are exclusive to us.

Have you also been shopping the women’s trade shows that are taking place in New York this week?
I will go tomorrow; we were too busy getting ready for this party tonight. But my buyers were there.

Denim Habit's women's section
Denim Habit's women's section
What will you (and they) be looking for there?
Any newness. Just something new that we can develop. Like DL1961 and Henry and Belle–although other places have them we kind of developed them and we built a partnership with those two brands. Now people know we are the go-to store for those brands and that it was kind of built together. So, we are looking for brands like that that we can develop that don’t end up all over the place and we can build a relationship that is even on both sides…. But my buyers said there really wasn’t really anything that much new at the shows. But we’ll see.

How would you describe the state of the denim business today?
A lot of people were concerned because of cotton prices and stuff like that. We haven’t seen the effect at all. I don’t think the stock market in the past few weeks is any indication of the economy. We haven’t seen it. I think that maybe a couple of years ago people were a little freaked out but now everyone pretty much knows that it was the government that messed up and I don’t see the same mindset of people before. I still think everyone is optimistic. Our business has been really solid since the beginning of this year when all the snowstorms and everything else stopped so we are pretty happy with that.
Denim Habit's colored denim selection
Denim Habit's colored denim selection

What are the challenges of being a retailer today, especially a denim specialist?
It’s the same challenges for any small business. Obviously we’re affected by weather and the economy and the consumer changing. I’m affected by the customer getting older. But we try to be proactive and look six or nine down the road and be customer service-oriented and get feedback from our customers and our stores on an almost every day basis to make sure we are not missing anything.

Since the new store has a guys’ lounge do you think you might eventually add men’s apparel to your mix?
We’re not sure about that but we do know that even the first few days that we’ve had the men’s lounge open that guys have hung out down there. It’s been really kind of cool.