Shopify grabs Soho retail space vacated by Google

Canadian e-commerce firm does the brick-and-mortar thing

TRD New York /
Sep.September 11, 2020 12:00 PM
131 Greene Street and Shopify CEO Tobi Lutke (Google Maps; Getty)

131 Greene Street and Shopify CEO Tobi Lutke (Google Maps; Getty)

Shopify is taking over a Soho storefront in a sublease from Google.

Google had leased the space at 131 Greene Street in 2014 but abandoned it after spending a reported $6 million on structural renovations and running a pop-up holiday store in 2018.

The now 8,200-square-foot store is mid-block between Houston and Prince streets and includes a sunken half-level in the rear.

Sources said Michael O’Neill, Jason Greenstone and Taylor Reynolds of Cushman & Wakefield represented Shopify in the sublease, which runs through August 2024, while Google was represented by Annette Healey of CBRE.

Building owner Ascot Properties and the firms either did not respond to requests for comment or declined to comment.
Shopify, a Canadian e-commerce firm, also has a temporarily closed store in Los Angeles where it supports its online merchant customers with classes and other events.

Its lease signing in April for a brick-and-mortar location in New York came just after the pandemic hit. At the time, it also announced partnerships with Google so its merchant customers could more easily list products and accept payments through the online-search giant.

On May 21, its billionaire founder and CEO Tobi Lutke announced on Twitter: “As of today, Shopify is a digital by default company. We will keep our offices closed until 2021 so that we can rework them for this new reality. And after that, most will permanently work remotely. Office centricity is over.”

In further tweets, Lutke noted that on the same day in 2015, the company had gone public and always had a few people working remotely “as a bridge to the office.”

“This will reverse now,” Lutke continued. “The future of the office is to act as an on-ramp to the same digital workplace that you can access from your #WFH setup.”

Because many of its merchants are remote, he noted, “It will be good for us to have more empathy in building Shopify in this way and preparing it for the new requirements.”

Shopify also leased two floors with 24,630 square-feet at 148 Lafayette Street in June for its offices but is yet to move in and still lists 627 Broadway as its local office.

Based in Ottawa, Shopify is used by 1 million businesses in more than 175 countries.

According to Crain’s, Google had leased the Green Street location on a short-term basis in 2014. Department of Buildings records show it took years to make the structural changes needed to switch the ground and lower level from storage into a proper store.

Changes included removing a rear portion of the ground floor to incorporate it with the lower level, thus creating a double-height ceiling, large windows and skylights. It also exposed the brick, added structural columns and tweaked the entrance to make it level with the street.

By 2015, Google was ready to jump ship. It tried to sublease through Sinvin Real Estate for $2.25 million, Crain’s reported. But Google had a change of heart in 2018 when it installed a holiday pop-up experience to show off its Chromebook, phones and other electronics. That pop-up included a temporary Gingerbread tree house by pastry chef Dominique Ansel.

To do the temporary store, Google skipped its option to terminate, leaving it with an empty space — until now.
“Shopify was looking all over and they absolutely loved the space and loved the big central opening down to the lower level,” said a broker who was not involved with the transaction but is familiar with Shopify’s thinking. “They wanted to be in a well-regarded esteemed community of merchants, so situating in Soho sends a message that they are in the middle of these retailers and can support them with their products.”

Still, with the coronavirus limiting the number of people allowed in a store, it is unclear when Shopify will open.


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