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Neighborhood favorite Fine and Dandy has been a stylish addition to Hell’s Kitchen for a decade. As the shop celebrates its 10th anniversary, co-owner Matt Fox shares his memories.
This month we celebrate the 10 year anniversary of opening our storefront shop in Hell’s Kitchen. 10 years! How is that possible?
We never planned to open a shop. In the Spring of 2008, while on vacation driving down the coast of California, we day-dreamed about starting a creative side project. We both had other careers: Matt, managing Broadway theatres; Enrique in fashion retail management. We landed on creating our own line of ties, bow ties and pocket squares, and selling them online. That summer we went to some trade shows and found a few manufacturers who would work with our tiny fledgling company.
The website launched October 31, 2008.
Two years later, Matt decided to leave Broadway and focus on Fine and Dandy full time. We started doing popup shops throughout the city. In December, 2011 we were part of the holiday fair at Chelsea Market and that was a pivotal moment. We decided it was time to look for a more permanent retail space.
We’d lived in Hell’s Kitchen for years and really loved the idea of it being in the neighborhood but we had a hard time finding the right spot. Every day, Matt walked up and down each block looking for vacant spaces and he noticed a storefront on 49th Street which would eventually become our shop. It appeared vacant but there were no For Rent signs. He made a point of walking past every day and several months later the super was sweeping the sidewalk. They began chatting and the super pointed to a man a few doors down and indicated that he was the building owner. Success! Matt learned that the space wasn’t really available. Although it appeared empty, there was a current tenant. They shared contact info in the event something changed.
Back to the search. We eventually found a space in Chelsea. We came to a deal and hired an attorney to assist in the lease process. Meanwhile the owner of the 49th Street space contacted us: that space was now available. We thanked him but said we had found another space. Somewhere in the process of negotiating the Chelsea lease, the landlord just stopped communicating. So we went back to the owner of the 49th Street space and a couple of weeks later we had a signed lease!
Opening in time for the holidays was critical so we worked around the clock. In fact we were working in the shop, setting up overnight, during Hurricane Sandy!
The shop opened the end of October 2012. In December we received a rave review in The New York Times.
We celebrated some personal milestones along the way. Enrique (who is Canadian) received his green card in April 2013. We were married at City Hall in October 2013 and enjoyed cake and champagne in the shop with a few friends afterwards. In January 2014 Enrique left his job and joined Fine and Dandy full time.
In the Spring of 2014, Pharrell Williams filmed his segment for CBS Sunday Morning in the shop, which led to dozens of calls asking if we sold the green hat. (We do not.).
Our landlord contacted us in February 2020 because the retail space a few doors down had become available. It was significantly bigger (and more expensive) but we decided to go for it! Matt signed the lease on March 11, 2020. Five days later, the pandemic forced us to close.
Like many other small businesses, the pandemic was devastating for our business. As folks were working from home on zoom calls, dressed is sweat pants THEY WERE NOT BUYING BOW TIES. Like every other small business, we pivoted. Our bow tie manufacturer’s orders had all been canceled so she agreed to make us masks from some of our scrap fabric. Once we put those initial masks online they sold out in an hour. We focused on improving our web shop and selling through social media. One month into quarantine, it became clear we wouldn’t survive if we moved to the larger space. Happily our landlord permitted us to stay where we were.
Enrique took quarantine particularly hard. There were weeks when he never stepped outside of our apartment. In the midst of his doom scrolling he found himself involved in a community of vintage T-shirt collectors. Several of them were auctioning off their collections on Instagram Live. Eventually Enrique gave it a try and ultimately had a weekly auction on Monday nights. Fine and Dandy Throwback was born! He knew he had something there. Vintage clothing has been particularly popular among younger people. Enrique’s side business began taking over our apartment!
In the spring of 2021 our landlord approached us because the commercial space directly next door became available. Were we interested? Although business had improved we were still far from recovering, so we turned it down. But as the Fall came around, something shifted. Broadway began reopening; all of these postponed weddings and events were finally happening. Our sales were approaching pre-pandemic levels. We crunched the numbers and decided to do it. Less than a week later, we had a signed lease. A week after that the Fine and Dandy Throwback showroom was open!
It’s a great time for reflection and to think about how thankful we are for the many wonderful moments we’ve experienced in the shop. There are so many people we’ve met along the way who we feel privileged to consider as friends. Thank you so much for being part of our history. We look forward to the next 10 years!