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Push, New York NY

OWNER: Push; ADDRESS: 240 Mulberry Street, New York NY 10012; PHONE: 212-965-9699; URL:

TUCKED AWAY IN NEW YORK ‘s Nolita (‘North of Little Italy’), Push is where designer Karen Karch lets her creative juices flow freely. The store has seen several incarnations, including one rumored to have played host to rebel James Dean.

How long have you been at this address, and how did you find out about it?

We opened Push in the summer of 1996. My husband and I witnessed daily the neighborhood transforming from an quiet family neighborhood to an area with its own uniquely stylish sensibility. When we opened, there were very few stores in the area other than delis. Since then, the area’s become an important retail destination for those looking to shop in small locally owned boutiques with their own point of view. Needless to say, it provides us with a great platform to promote my unique take on fine jewelry


What would you say is the most unique feature of the store?

Our storefront has a 110 year-old carved wood fa?ade that my husband painstakingly restored to its original glory. Back in the day, many storefronts looked like ours.
Currently large glass storefronts are in style and most of the old facades have been demolished.

Please describe the interior of the store.

Original features of the space are used with modern materials including many exotic hardwoods. We added pressed tin, usually seen on ceilings, to one of the walls, leaving it unpainted. We added copper to parts of another wall and a brass mesh to another, and cut a porthole to display an exposed pipe. Instead of glass we use metal grids as doors behind which we display jewelry. Three of our cases were made from old radios, setting up scenes with dollhouse furniture.

Were there any specific requirements when it came to converting the building into a jewelry store?

When we rented our space it’d been empty for 10 years. Prior to that it was an office complete with drywall and those lovely fluorescent lights. Under the drywall, we found beautiful, hand-painted wallpaper that we couldn’t save. We also were able to raise the ceiling at least a foot by uncovering the original wood ceiling.

How much did it cost to adapt the building?

My husband Frank and I collaborated on the design of the space, which saved a great deal of money, but we still blew our budget. We’re still making adjustments as our business evolves. All the changes we have made so far have been beneficial even though they’ve often been risky in their approach.


How do people usually react to the store?

As people come in for the first time they’re always captivated. When they return, they spot things they hadn’t previously noticed, and anticipate seeing our new ideas as they evolve. Men dragged in by their wives are entranced by the unique d?cor and surprised that they enjoyed their visit to a jewelry store. The entertainment value of their visit makes people stay longer, and strong word of mouth. helps sales and generates a good buzz as well as a good reputation.

What’s the history of the building itself?

It’s a 160-year-old tenement building in an early settlement area in downtown New York. We were told early on it was once a funeral parlor. Later it became a deli, and James Dean was rumored to have played poker in the back with its owner. Then it became an office space for the bakery next door, still operating when we first opened. In the basement is a very old large coal oven that’s unfortunately no longer in operation. Three years ago we took over the bakery’s lease, and opened New York’s only Australian restaurant called “Eight Mile Creek”. My husband is Australian and the story of that business is also very interesting… maybe for another column on ‘cool restaurants’!

Any ghosts??!

I’m not one to believe in ghosts, but I’ve often felt a presence when I’m alone. Luckily it’s friendly.

Do you have any plans to alter the store further?

Our product’s become more upscale as time goes on and our bridal jewelry has been making lots of waves so we’ve made adjustments accordingly. As I develop new collections, we try make our displays communicate a fresh point of view. We watch and listen to our customers closely and anticipate how to continue to captivate them, then make our moves. Even though it’s always been from the gut, we’ve never done anything that we regret.


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