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ACS 2004 7th Place: The Crystal Shoppe

Paradise for shopaholics provides a Caribbean touch.

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The Crystal Shoppe, US Virgin Islands

OWNER: The Crystal Shoppe; ADDRESS: 37 Main Street; AH Riise Mall; St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands; LOCATION TYPE: Open-air luxury shopping center; STORE AREA: 3,200 square-feet (within a 25,000 sq. ft. shopping destination which includes duty-free watches and jewelry; china and crystal); STAFF: 30, 1 part-time; SALES IN 2003: N/A


THE CHALLENGE for the five-store Crystal Shoppe in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands was to display its wide selection of branded crystal and china in a space identifiable as one shop. “Naturally all the brands wanted me to display their name and use their visual merchandising fixtures but I had to resist, since I wanted the store to be generically beautiful and identifiable as The Crystal Shoppe,” said owner Selwyn Puig. From north to south, the stores are organized according to brand name (Waterford, Swarovski, Lladro) and merchandise.

Continuity between the buildings in the complex, all converted old warehouses, is provided by a light cream and gray ceramic tile floor, which flows throughout the five-building complex, brick arches and rubble construction walls. The tile is resistant to floods, which comes in handy in a hurricane-prone area. Rubble construction walls, made from coral and other stones used as shipsʼ ballast in the 1800s, have been cleaned and restored, to provide an element of traditional St. Thomas architecture, throughout the store.

Eighteen-foot ceilings and open doors, large enough to fit 10 people through the entrance, pose organizational and lighting challenges. Some rooms have four such arches. Recessed low-voltage lighting is set into some ceiling timbers; a low voltage cable system is used in several parts of the store. The large arched entrances, opening onto AH Riise Alley, contribute significant Caribbean daylight.

Puig favors open shelving because she expects customers to handle the goods. “Itʼs part of impulse buying, satisfying the senses and revealing the real beauty of a piece,” she says.

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Architects Brand + Allen were challenged to retain the original rubble wall construction and open timber beams of the old warehouses, combining them with these very modern interior fixtures. Amazingly, the blend creates a romantic Caribbean setting. They also utilized some local architectural elements, like the squared open “x” in the Lladro boutique.

Visiting cruise ships bring 1.8 million visitors, out of a total of 2.4 million visitors yearly. Many are regulars. Puig keeps in touch with her customers through a chatty quarterly newsletter, written by her father and her and mailed across the world. Eighty-five percent of the storeʼs customers are North American.

Customers are intrigued by the authentic Caribbean-adventurer feeling in the new Crystal Shoppe. “Iʼve worked hard to make it pretty and inviting,” says Puig. “Most customers love it.”

STORE REVIEWS

  • The store owner on hER cool store: “Itʼs a dream location for my huge selection of luxury branded goods.” — Manager-owner Selwyn Puig
  • Deborah Yonick: “Itʼs not what youʼd think a mall store would look like. There are great architectural elements that draw you into the store, if not for curiosity sake. Then you see that thereʼs interesting jewelry and giftware as well. From the floors, ceiling and walls to the lighting, woodwork and showcases — the gallery image portrayed makes you want to see whatʼs on display. I love the mixture of textures in brick, stone, wood and tiling; individual areas of interest like the crystal and table wear rooms. The decor reflects its structure, as well as the products sold.”
  • Greg Gorman: “The architectural detailing and materials used in the main portion of the walls and ceiling have great personality. Love the use of mixed and combinations of materials, colors in the flooring. Lighting could be a better scale fit to the space. It gets lost. Display fixtures designs do not complement the space/architecture. Although nicely done, just not in this store.”
  • Linda Cahan: “The mix of stone, wood, ceramic and glass is highly appealing in this space. I am very impressed with how the new elements integrate so well with the existing stone wall. The overall feeling is of spaciousness combined with warmth — a tough combination that succeeds in this store.”
  • Karen Karch: “Gorgeous and grand. I usually prefer intimate, but it seems to work. Love the arched doorways and the cave-like feel of the rock walls. The crystal chandeliers add a bit of glamour to the warehouse feel. Exposed wood beams are also nice.”
  • Mark & Monika Clodius: “Wonderful use of existing space. I like the displays, and the layout is interesting. The lighting seems a little un-integrated that knocks it back a notch.”

PHOTO GALLERY (3 IMAGES)

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