The Demise of Dean and Deluca…and Barneys

I read about Dean and Deluca not paying their bills and having some financial problems. I still remember the first store on Prince St. They then moved to the larger space on Broadway. The concept of this incredibly well curated food store that also recreated the neighborhood intimacy that stores had in the past. Over time they tried new things from restaurants to pop-up take-away lunch spots. So smart, so new, so creative.

I walked in to their Soho shop this week which confirmed what I had read. The shelves were mostly empty. There was no fruit, no sushi, no bread, basically nothing but some cheese left in the case. They were still serving food that was made to buy that day like farro salads and pieces of chicken but otherwise it was obvious that their days were numbered.

One one hand it made me sad but on the other hand there has been no real change there in a long time. The food is ridiculously overpriced and just meh. The curation of the products had always been good but if they drilled down on their numbers it is more than likely the pre-made food is outselling everything else. Places like Whole Foods are seeing that too.

Just like all the other brick and mortar retailers, digging into the data, and seeing the future is key or least testing some new concepts. There are other closings or bankruptcies coming like Barneys. Blaming it on the cost of rent is not an answer particularly in the case of Barneys. There is zero innovation at that store. The same merchandise they carry is carried everywhere else. The store has been redesigned to look like something from the 80’s. Nothing is inspiring. A store that I was so awed by when I first got to NYC that sat on 7th Avenue and 17th street to a store that I shake my head when I go into now.

When we got to the city in the early 80’s I was so inspired by the street and the stores. No longer. It is time for change and if you can’t change then you go under. Unfortunately Dean and Deluca and Barneys will not be alone in the next roll of closings. And the reality is they don’t deserve to survive.

Comments (Archived):

  1. pointsnfigures

    Dean and Deluca had such a great brand. But, the service was easily copied. I am not smart enough to know how they could have created a moat for themselves, but it seems like they got satisfied and didn’t grow.

    1. Gotham Gal

      The founders are also not involved anymore which does make a big difference.

    2. awaldstein

      They had value in a different era, pre Whole Foods.Few things except The Odeon and Lucky Strike never changed in downtown and still are great for what they are.

      1. Gotham Gal

        Was at Lucky Strike the other day

        1. awaldstein

          Damn–haven’t been in a bit.I lived around the corner in the early days and that was my place for all night, good food.McNally at this best is honestly really genius.Unfathomable that he opened The Odeon in 1980! when there was literally nothing there, trains were broken, cabs wouldn’t go there and yet-Warhol and crew hung out. Took a client there for drinks to kill time and it was still packed.

      2. pointsnfigures

        I remember getting their catalogue and thinking, if we only had this here. Was so cool. Then, catalogues went away and it was easy to copycat. Food is such a tough business. I love to eat but can’t figure out how to invest in it since I just am not smart enough in that area to give myself an edge. I am invested in, by virtue of a friend’s recommendation not by any market acuity of my own-although I did speak with the entrepreneur who started the company and she is simply amazing. If you haven’t tried their gluten free crackers you have to give them a try. Her gluten free doughs are great too. It’s the pumpkin and chocolate muffins that got me hooked.

        1. awaldstein

          Yeah–food is tough. A wonder when it works.

  2. William Mougayar

    Agreed totally and had a similar impression walking out of Barney’s a couple of months ago soon after I walked in, thinking they were stuck in the 80’s too. D&D lost themselves as they expanded the brand and footprint, and Barney’s has been complacent as you pointed out.Contrast to walking into Jeffrey which keeps changing itself. And there are so many other interesting boutiques in SoHo.

  3. awaldstein

    I lived in Soho when they were the only game in neighborhood along with Gourmet Garage.Few years ago, i negotiated a contract, well tried to, moving some products into their stores. 4x as prohibitive and costly as Whole Foods.I agree, it was time, overdue.

  4. steve ganis

    Getting away from issue of men shopping at joints like Barney’s (nee Boys Town) and Jeffrey, wasn’t the GG *awestruck* by staircase and selection while shopping at downtown Barney’s with daughter not too long ago? Or have I got the wrong blog in mind…

    1. Gotham Gal

      You got it right. That staircase was the original Barneys staircase from decades ago. I was not excited about anything else. I believe I wrote that the gorgeous staircase deserves so much more.

  5. JLM

    .D & D is symptomatic of a problem you don’t address: It is hard for genius to survive its founders. Impossible.D & D opened its first store in 1977. In 2014, it was bought by Pace Development, a Thai company that focuses on luxury products and concepts.Pace is a real estate development company that cannot possibly continue the flair of Joel Dean and Girogio DeLuca. They think they can, but they can’t.They are, however, all over the world through exclusive licensing agreements — Japan, Thailand, Singapore, Phillippines, Middle East, Korea.In the real world — not that Whole Foods is the real world — their prices are nuts.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. Tracey Jackson

      I agree. The original was something new to America at that time. It was like the great food halls of Europe. It was always pricey. Then many food stores opened. Eli Zabar hasn’t changed one iota in all these decades except he’s gotten worse, yet he thrives. So not sure the original D&D concept was broken. I know the loss of the one on 85th has the neighborhood very upset. Same with Georgetown. They were local establishments that could be relied on for anything from good meat to a cupcake or quick ice coffee. I read the new owner expanded too fast and too far and that’s what took it down. And he didn’t have the style of the original owners. I personally think it’s nice to have some old standbys to rely on while the world changes around us at a breakneck speed. I will miss it and Barney’s terribly if it closes.

      1. JLM

        .One of the blessings of local knowledge is knowing the good joints. There is a place in Austin By God Texas — my home — that has been around for a million years and serves the best shrimp and crawfish ettouffe. We got a lot of good cooks coming to Austin from the last New Orleans hurricane.Nobody I ever speak to knows about it.Likewise, I spend a lot of time in Savannah — an up and coming foodie town (like Charleston another favorite of mine, but people know about Charleston) and there is a 30 + year old Italian restaurant that is way off the tourist beaten path that is superb. Nobody knows about it. My century and a half native relatives put me onto it.Then, of course, there is the famous Crystal Beer Parlor in Savannah which has been around since 1933. Not a tourist joint.You have to know the good places.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  6. LE

    Very generally and not specific to either Barney’s or Dean and Deluca the following applies.1) My saying ‘business is about taking advantage of the low hanging fruit of opportunity. This applies to both traditional businesses but also startups. There are so many businesses that work because they correctly exploit some niche or need and do so with little competition.Take even malls. What they did was simply execute on the low hanging fruit of opportunity. Ditto for newspapers. When that opportunity was no longer there all the sudden they are left like any other idiot trying to get business and (importantly) are not used to work hard for it. I know of someone who used to curse out the mall owners for the advertising vig they used to charge him in addition to rent. They did that because they could. That is fine also. That is business. It’s called ‘make hay when the sun shines’. No need to be nice after all it will all end one day.2) People running businesses get old and fat and lazy. If there is no new and motivated blood, and there is no low hanging fruit anymore, they then follow the predictable route. I say this as someone who has been observing traditional business since I was a kid. This is my hobby you could say. We can start with the strip center photo shop that ended up losing it’s profitable developing business when a Fotomat was placed in the parking lot. Boy was the owner pissed off about that. This was early 70’s iirc.3) If things are to easy then of course the owners or managers will not develop the skills or the drive to constantly keep things going. Very rare. Sure it happens. But in a way it’s like a guy who has an easy time getting girls or a girl who has an easy time getting guys. That is not me. I had to work really hard to market myself. In the end it means I never took things for granted and ended up in a great place. If things are to easy that is not good (no adversity not good).4) If you take businesses that have to work hard all the time generally they tend to stay engaged and survived. Because they are used to having to work hard in order to keep things going. An example might be someone in the movie business (you are only as good as your last hit) vs. say a recording artist who scores it big and gets ‘fat and lazy because they can live off residuals and be happy’.Suits? Who wears suits anymore? Who wears good suits anymore? Definitely not the 80’s with this. Sure they are sold but geez amazing they can keep an expensive store going with such a drop in business until now. Of course people wear them but a vastly smaller market.