Retail News Breaks
The designers who helped Duane Reade create a hit
August 29th, 2011
NEW YORK – Before there is a dazzling store, there has to be a magnificent space. Duane Reade had such a space at 40 Wall Street, and it shows in the chain’s bold new drug store there.
The fantastic architectural detail at the lower Manhattan skyscraper — including archways, tall windows and David Rockefeller’s office fireplace — led to a drug store like no other, says Joe Bona, president of the retail division of New York-based CBX, which designed the 22,000-square-foot unit.
“One of the good things about doing work in the city is that every once in a while you come across spaces that are unique,” says Bona.
The 72-story financial district building dates to 1930, and it was the tallest in the world before being overtaken by the Chrysler Building while still being recognized as “the crown jewel of Wall Street.” Its dramatic use of space “made the project that much more fun to work on,” Bona says.
The former bank space also happened to have about 8,000 square feet more than a typical Duane Reade, affording the chain an opportunity to pioneer offerings such as a sushi bar, juice bar, fresh food section and “Up Market” dining area. While not a sit-down restaurant, Up Market does allow shoppers to “decompress” with a bite to eat, Bona says.
The idea of luxuriating with some gourmet food seems natural at a store with double-height ceilings and windows, he adds. “As you get off the escalator you’ve got this high, dramatic ceiling and four or five archways framing the colonnades both sides of the main space, and it’s just very, very dramatic.”
CBX filled the archways with white subway tile “that helped bridge old-world style with new age design in a way that felt seamless and purposeful,” says Bona.
While taking advantage of the details, CBX also adapted them for a 21st century drug store where necessary. To create a nail salon, for example, the fireplace’s heavy oak paneling was replaced with white marble around the mantle, to complement white walls. Recessed cove LED lights for a soft purple glow and a coffered ceiling with a modern crystal chandelier were also added.
The new look changed what had the feel of a men’s club to something more appropriate for women, Bona notes. “I would have loved to have kept it as it was, because it was a unique office of a famous person. But, in the end, we were able to transform this area into a modern, welcoming space while retaining the visual impact of the fireplace.”
On the other side of the mezzanine, three white marble archways were used to form the walls of a hair salon. Two of the archways occupy their original positions; a third, crafted of similar marble, was carefully removed and relocated to the area in its entirety.
Complementary faux marble panels were added to fill in where needed to vertically extend the archways and complete the visual story.
“While there aren’t many opportunities to work in spaces like 40 Wall Street, some of the store’s design components, programs and offerings could be rolled out in neighborhood locations where warranted,,” Bona says. As urban as the outlet seems, Bona sees potential for certain of its elements in the suburbs. He views it as “the convenience store for women,” saying features could work at Main and Main.
“From a design standpoint and also from an offer standpoint, I actually think it’s a perfect model for the industry. It redefines convenience, because it’s a store where you can get soda, beer, snacks and groceries, including fruits, vegetables and salads, and even some meats. Yet, it’s still a pharmacy and it has what women are looking for in a drug store — namely, the beauty component. You put those things together in a nice setting and if it were on every busy corner in the suburbs it would be a hard store to beat. Put gas pumps out front and who knows? I think it would work anywhere. I believe in Duane Reade as an urban retailer, but I think the idea certainly could reshape the chain drug industry.”
While the chain has become known for striking stores, including outlets designed by CBX on Spring Street in Manhattan and in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, Bona says there is a Duane Reade “brand standard” with a strict set of guidelines and rules for a consistent store look and feel.
“Part of our job is to not get so enamored of the different spaces we’re working with that we’re designing one-off stores. Our job is not to focus on design for the sake of design.” While the design and branding firm has localized outlets with such features as a growler bar in Williamsburg, “by and large what we try and do is maintain the integrity of the brand,” says Bona. A shopper walking into any Duane Reade “should feel almost the same experience,” he explains.
Even the 40 Wall Street store is divided into color-coded “How I Look,” “How I Feel” and “What I Need Now” sections for beauty, health and convenience products, he notes. ”We use the imagery and graphics in a consistent way no matter what the space.”
He credits Duane Reade president Joe Magnacca, who has overseen the chain’s overhaul with such launches as the Look Beauty boutique, with being a major inspiration for the unique offering in the new store.
CBX’s relationship with Duane Reade started with its work a couple of years back on the chain’s private label packaging design. The line, DR Delish, proved so successful that parent company Walgreen Co. adapted it for a chainwide rollout under the Good & Delish name. The store brand work led to store design work, resulting in CBX’s design of some 40 units last year. The firm is on track to design a similar number of units this year.
CBX partner Todd Maute, who directs the firm’s retail and private label business, credits the management of Duane Reade and Walgreens, where Magnacca is president of daily living products and solutions, as being “the most open-minded, quick to execute, and strategic” he has worked with in the industry.
“It’s unique for a retail organization to define itself based on the marketplace, and act on the dynamics and nuances on a neighborhood by neighborhood basis, as fast as they have,” he says. “Whether it was their private label, or 40 Wall Street, they pushed the envelope, made decisions and executed flawlessly. This store was designed in record time. From concept to completion, the process — including the creation and trademarking of logos and brands and the retrofitting of an extra-large space — took six months. It was a great experience.”
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