When Chris Jennings and Alex Hage-Boutros moved into their new store a few weeks ago, one of their many challenges was cleaning out menorahs and other items left by the previous tenant, a Judaica store that closed this spring after calling Essex Street home for six decades.
“It looked like a Jewish museum in here,” Hage-Boutros said in an interview this week.
These days, the space boasts a whole different vibe: that of the young, the hip, the modern-day urban male. The two young partners, who graduated from Pace University this May, opened Ethik Clothing Company at 23 Essex St. earlier this month after experimenting with pop-ups.
Their trial runs, one in the Financial District last year, and one this spring just a couple of blocks north of their new store, at 243 Broome St., convinced them there was demand for their product line. They had looked fruitlessly for another temporary space, and the difficulty of scoring a short-term lease led them to leap into their first permanent store instead.
“We originally just wanted to do a summer pop-up,” Hage-Boutros said. “This was kind of a hail-Mary pass.”
Ethik was born in the partners’ apartment in 2010, when the two designed six T-shirts and began screenprinting them by hand. Friends and friends of friends wanted more, so they kept expanding, eventually branching into hoodies and headwear to stock the pop-ups. Their streetwear collection includes one graphic design that pays homage to their new home, featuring the words “El Y Es” superimposed on an outline of Manhattan.
Here’s how the pair describes their vision:
Ethik is a New York City based clothing company providing garments and ideas for the new age culture while keeping the clothes on their backs clean and fresh. The Ethik brand is about building a reputation and following for skaters, photographers, street dwellers alike, high level associates, promoters, businessmen of all walks of life and all others who understand and agree with our vision and lifestyle.
Jennings is the primary designer; Hage-Boutros handles the business side. Since opening in early August, the two have gotten to know their neighbors on the block, such as the folks at Frank’s Chop Shop and the newcomers next door 21 Essex St. who plan to open a new bar.
“When we first signed our lease, there were empty spaces, but now there’s all these great new stores, bars and art galleries moving in,” said Hage-Boutros, who hails from East Brunswick, N.J.
The partners renovated the space, adding new shelving and new hardwood floors and redoing the overhead lighting. So far, they are thrilled with the welcome they’ve received on the LES, Hage-Bourtros says.
Their next challenge: moving the screenpress out of their apartment.