For those unfamiliar, J.Crew's Liquor Store was the brand's stab at downtown cool. It lived from 2008 until 2019 in the bones of a former bar on W Broadway, in New York's Tribeca neighborhood. Everything inside signaled a serious departure from the brand's up-avenue stores: It wasn't nearly as bright as the 5th Avenue location, nor quite as overrun by tourists as the operation in Rockefeller Center. Opened by then Menswear Director Todd Snyder, with help from marketing executive Andy Spade and one-time J.Crew CEO Mickey Drexler, its differences proved paramount to the store's success.
There, J.Crew, for the first time in its history, focused exclusively on its menswear, which, for a long time came second to its women's collections. When you arrived at the Liquor Store, J.Crew's run-of-the-mill menswear seemed transformed into cutting edge stuff, or at least classic things done well: J.Crew staples done in new colors and materials; one-off collaborations from Britain-based brands; timeless styles from labels shoppers already knew in a new context, rendering them cooler than they remembered; and plenty of pieces from designers they'd definitely never heard of before. This mix made the Liquor Store the spot, where you could discover a new brand, whether on the shelves or from an employee who knew their shit (Blackstock & Weber's Chris Echevarria included), in the metaphorical home of another — and one, for that matter, people didn't typically associate with insider fashion.
But the Liquor Store also gave J.Crew room to be its best self, separated from the demands of your usual retail floor. This retail venture paved the way for now-iconic J.Crew designs like the Ludlow Suit (once called the Tribeca Suit); Todd Snyder's long-term relationship with both Champion and Timex (now a foundational part of his own brand); J.Crew's successor shops (commonly called the Men's Shop); and all of the relic-turned-new-retail concepts that came after it — you know, the barbershops housed in old butcheries, tailors in old coffee or tea shops and vintage sellers inside old bakeries.
Obviously, as I spoiled earlier, the Liquor Store has long been dead. (Sure, 2019 was only two years ago, but it feels far like longer.) In its place, ironically, now lives Todd Snyder's take on the bygone institution. He made tweaks and left tips of the cap to the past, all while hammering home his lens, which I'd call "J.Crew, but better." J.Crew doesn't live there anymore, clearly, but the initiative — to offer space for the brand's in-house designs and designs done by others to coexist — isn't dead, just reincarnated as an e-commerce effort called "Brands We Love."
They're casting a wider net nowadays, considering the Internet shopper can't quite handle as much abstraction as in vogue downtown New Yorkers can, but it's a place for discovery nonetheless — especially for those that only venture to J.Crew's site when A.) there's a massive sale, B.) they need to re-up on chinos or classic crewnecks, C.) they've been targeted by an ad on Instagram. But fashion-minded folks are crawling back en masse in hopes of scoring on one of the Crew's exclusive collabs with Blackstock & Weber or New Balance, Grundens or Marathon Watch Company. But there's more to shop there — from Barbour, Alden, Birkenstock, CB Sports, American Trench, Pendleton, Ebbets Field Flannels, Epperson Mountaineering and so many others. Plus, there's pretty much always something on sale.