The Real Deal New York

Q & A with two new Crown Retail principals

Brokers challenged by lack of space in Soho, Plaza District
By Adam Pincus | June 07, 2011 04:33PM

Virginia Pittarelli and Stephen Stephanou

Manhattan’s retail brokers are in transition with a large number of shifts in the past few months. In May, Joe Sitt’s Thor Equities announced the creation of retail specialist division Thor High Street Advisory Group, picking up brokers from various firms including Robert K. Futterman & Associates. Last week, CB Richard Ellis announced Lon Rubackin was leaving GFI Retail Group, which he founded, to join CBRE’s New York office.

Then on June 1, the Chera family’s Crown Retail Services, an affiliate of Crown Acquisition, hired Virginia Pittarelli and Stephen Stephanou as principals and Christine Jorge as a vice president, from the New York office of Madison Retail Group, an affiliate of Washington, D.C.-based real estate investment firm Madison Marquette. Another broker from that firm, Christopher DeCrosta, joined Thor High Street in April.

The Real Deal sat down with Pittarelli and Stephanou this week to discuss their move to Crown, the state of the market and British retailer Jack Wills.

Pittarelli and Stephanou are now part of Crown’s 12-person team managed by COO Brittany Bragg. They brought with them a number of clients which they represent in different territories such as Nordstrom Rack in New York City, Liz Claiborne nationally in their non-mall, street locations, Sephora in the tri-state area, and Vitamin Shoppe in Westchester, Connecticut, and the outer boroughs.

Why did you leave Madison Retail Group, and why did you move to Crown and not a larger firm?

Pittarelli: We have been suited by many of the large firms and quite frankly we come from a small boutique and we have a much more entrepreneurial and creative spirit. Some of those companies are wonderful, but it’s just not an environment that we were interested in.
Stephanou: It wasn’t as much a question of size. It was culture and a book of business. Our focus is high street retail and Crown’s focus is high street retail.

What are some of your newer accounts?

Pittarelli: Jack Wills. That is the new British [clothing] retailer that is coming [to Manhattan] for the first time. Pretty exciting… We have certain things on the drawing board. Their flagship right now is in Boston.

What is your newest client?

Pittarelli: Vitamin Shoppe would probably be the most recent because we just literally signed them up — in the last month.

What are some of the challenges in opening a store in Manhattan now, following the recession.

Pittarelli: Because of what’s happened in the last three years, quite frankly [retailers] have become more conservative, which is the prudent approach, with respect to their performance, so it is a difficult hurdle to overcome.
Stephanou: [In The Plaza District or Soho] there simply are not a lot of spaces, if any spaces. And certainly if you’ve got a size category you can’t take a 6,000-square-foot concept and squeeze it down to 1,500 square feet.

Were your commission splits changed in the move to Crown?

Pittarelli: We are not going to talk about our financials. How much do you make?

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