Founded on the Lower East Side in 2009, Assembly New York is one of the most highly regarded men’s and women’s multibrand designer boutiques in New York City. Owner Greg Armas, who formerly operated the now shuttered LA boutique Scout, stocks his more than 2,000-sq.-foot (186-sq.-meter) shop with a global mix of designer and hard-to-find labels. His shop is also home to a critically acclaimed in-house collection of the same name that he launched in 2010. Here, he discusses his bestsellers, his rules for selling and the challenges of being a retailer, especially in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Interview by Christopher Blomquist

What are your current bestselling brands and items?
Our own label does very well, with the full-length coats for him and her being popular. Christophe Lemaire’s trousers are popular in fall and an independent favorite brand called 69 is killing it with their stonewash denim pieces. Our designer vintage is always a quick item–we just brought in some amazing original Celine & YSL.

Who is your “typical” customer?
An informed consumer with a penchant for craft and attention to detail. Our average is men and women ages 25 to 55: Professionals, art directors, other designers….

How do you keep in touch with your customers and get them to return to the store?
We’re always working to keep our website, Tumblr, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram relevant to our aesthetic interests and collections. Our in-store experience is always first priority though and we maintain the shop environment to be interesting and curious: playing good music, selecting fragrances, friendly vibes.
Assembly New York was founded in 2009
Assembly New York was founded in 2009

Please discuss the in-house line. Why did you decide to launch it and how has being a designer affected your approach to retail and vice versa?
I had always wanted to contribute a collection but waited until I had something valid to share. I started as a buyer and shopkeeper first so the end-product selling at full price and client usability are important to me. The collection is a range of future vintage designs, pieces that can integrate and elevate into a current wardrobe without losing effect after trends change. I appreciate other designers’ actual production and finishing now more than ever from having to manage my own production.

What effect did Hurricane Sandy have on the business and how did you cope with it?
We were closed for a week. That’s obviously bad for business! Fortunately, we had minimal damage so we are counting our blessings. We utilized our website to communicate our status with our clientele and offered promos until the power came back on. Now we are looking forward rebuilding and have formed a partnership with Green Thumb and will donate a percentage off all sales, in-store and online, to help rebuild school gardens in Lower Manhattan.

What percentage of your business do you do online and how does that leg of the business differ from selling in a brick-and-mortar environment?
They’re two different animals. Our website is indicative of our shop but hardly echoes the experience of walking through the doors. We are expanding our Web presence to be as easy and informative as possible but it cannot be compared the time spent in a shop. Currently 12% of our sales come through the Internet and we are just beginning to use it as a real sales tool.

Fashion store Assembly New York sells men’s and women’s wear
Fashion store Assembly New York sells men’s and women’s wear
How would you describe the overall state of retail in downtown New York today?
It’s not easy but the best pieces always sell out before markdown. We cater to a lot of returning international customers as well. It’s important to expose your shop beyond your location with word of mouth and online, obviously, so we can reach beyond our neighborhood.

What are your top two or three rules to being a successful retailer?
1. Stay personal, an authentic story is important; 2. Appeal to your clientele's highest common denominator; 3. Constantly evolve.

What fashion trend do you think will be the most influential in the next few seasons?
I think menswear will continue to drive forward women’s design. Decorative and ornamental fashions have probably influenced themselves quiet for a bit.

If you were not a retailer, what job would you like to do and why?
It’s not a job, but I love playing drums and music for people. It’s purely visceral.

Store's address:
Assembly New York
170 Ludlow Street
New York NY 10002
+1 212 253 5393