Fred Flare, a 10-year Internet wholesale success story, has made the plunge into storefront retail, and its intensely devoted customers couldn’t be happier.
“I’ve been buying form Fred Flare for four years,” customer Johanna Beyenbach, who works in marketing, said. “I like cute novelties. I don’t know where else I could buy a Charlie Brown piano scarf.”
Barely two weeks removed from its Oct. 24 grand opening, the store, located at 131 Meserole Avenue, has seen a steady stream of traffic of Greenpoint residents and fans from throughout the city who can’t wait to sift through novelty accessories, note cards, clothing, bags, stuffed animals and a number of other items not available on the website, www.fredflare.com.
Its opening attracted customers from Brooklyn and throughout the country, with families driving from as far away as Texas, Ohio and Louisiana to celebrate the shop’s foray into retail. More than 500 people swarmed the store for much of the night. General Manager Jen Koehl said the store was shoulder-to-shoulder crowded and she could barely see the floor for five hours.
“We had moms and grandmothers, 15 year olds whose dads drove them here,” said Koehl. “It’s really moving to meet our customers in person.”
The store started as a wholesale boutique in 1998, selling quirky greeting cards and handmade household goods. They have since grown to occupy a warehouse in Greenpoint, down the street from the store, signing contracts for goods with up and coming individual designers and launching a popular blog tracking new items available at the store.
“We’ve fallen in love with the neighborhood,” Keith Carollo, a buyer with Fred Flare, said. “When we were looking for spaces to open, we walked by the spot and thought it was cute. By far, it was the cutest store we had seen. The corner has great windows and we wanted something with a vintage feel. It’s so cute I want to hug it.”
Carollo finds goods for the store through word of mouth, submissions from designers and companies, and working with artists who have created items for the store in the past.
“We try to be cheap and cheerful,” Carollo said. “We do really well with novelty. Anything that looks like food sells like crazy.”
Some of the highlights in the store include a knit cupcake beanie, hamburger phones from the movie Juno, record players, iPod headphones, bow earrings, and clothing from WESC, Junk Food t-shirts, Scrap Book and B.B. Dakota.
“I had a customer who came in over the weekend who was carrying a handbag that she bought from our store over five years ago,” said Koehl. “It’s amazing to me that we have long-term customers like that and we get to meet them.”
Over the next two weeks, Fred Flare employees will be converting the store into a Christmas lodge with lots of lights and holiday decorations. Some Christmas and Hanukkah inventory has already arrived, including a small Peanuts Christmas Tree with one red ornament, Peanuts hot chocolate, candy cane shot glasses that dissolve after you use them, Christmas cards of reindeer driving a sports car, an LCD Menorah, and a cork menorah that you can stick into a bottle of wine.
Beyenbach has been to the store several times since its opening, and vows to return for the upcoming holiday season.
“Their buyer is awesome,” Beyenbach said. “These goods come from all different places but they manage to work together somehow. I don’t know how they do it.”
Fred Flare is located at 131 Meserole Avenue in Greenpoint and is open Wednesday to Saturday from noon to 7 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. For more information, call 718-599-9221 or visit www.fredflare.com.