“Shopping is a form of self-expression,” says Ann Benedetto, whose A Uno clothing boutique has been at the corner of W. Broadway and Duane for 14 years. “Walking into a store that matches how you feel inside is fabulous. Shopping online is sterile by comparison.”
What are you known for?
Women’s clothing with a particular attitude—usually downtown, with a bit of a European twist.
How did you get started in this business?
I’ve been in fashion since the beginning of time. I started in manufacturing/importing, and after one of our designers opened a store, he suggested I open one. So I opened A Uno on Spring Street in 1992. Then I left manufacturing/importing to focus on the retail business. I was in Soho for 12 years. We had a premiere line, Marithé + François Girbaud, that was doing so well they decided to open their own store. So I opened a second store in Tribeca in 2002. It was a daring move considering what was happening in the area.
What’s the most satisfying part of what you do?
To hear from customers how they appreciate the concept of our store. It makes me feel it’s worth it.
Jewelry. We carry Maria Calderara, Monica Castigilioni. They become more expensive because of the materials. As for clothing, fall/winter coats.
Your very favorite item right now?
Our most fun item is hats! We try to carry hats that make you smile on a cold winter day. It gives you a lift to wear a quirky hat. And in summer we have hats that shade your face but with a bit more personality.
Where do you source stuff?
Showrooms, trade shows…. I went to Paris this year. We try to find interesting designers, pieces that suit our customers’ lifestyles, body types—but without being investment dressing.
Tribeca has obviously changed a lot. Any changes that have surprised you?
The economy has made everyone so cautious. The stores that used to be around me aren’t there anymore. People used to come by before or after dinner, but the neighborhood has changed. Tribeca is supposed to be neat stores, wonderful things; you have a great brunch and stroll around. There’s nowhere to go after your great brunch now. And because it’s so expensive in Tribeca, you need stores with corporate backing. They did it to Soho, they did it to the Meatpacking District, now they’re doing it to Tribeca.
What percentage of your business is local?
We feel the people who live here don’t shop here. Every Halloween, there are so many families walking around and trick-or-treating—those people don’t shop in my store.
Tell me a crazy customer story.
Our store was very busy and we had a lovely woman from Canada trying on shoes—several different styles. She finally decided on a pair and, of course, she was in a hurry. We checked her out and got her name, but she didn’t want to fill out a customer card. She paid and was on her way, happy she found a pair of shoes she loved. After the rush, we started to tidy up the store, putting away the mountain of shoes she had tried on. That’s when we realized that we had two right shoes in the style she had bought. She must have walked out with two left shoes! We tried to contact her, with no success, and we never heard a word from her. The takeaway from this story is to always fill out that customer card!
What didn’t I ask?
You didn’t ask about my dog, Niki. He gets as much attention as any product! People come in just to see him, especially kids. You know, we don’t consider ourselves poo-poo-chi-chi. We’re not unfriendly to anyone—children, animals, husbands. We welcome them all!
Photographs by Claudine Williams, who specializes in head shots for actors, business professionals, or anyone looking to be photographed.