Upscale retailer Nordstrom has acquired a majority interest in Jeffrey, which runs a pair of luxury specialty retailers in Atlanta and New...

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Upscale retailer Nordstrom has acquired a majority interest in Jeffrey, which runs a pair of luxury specialty retailers in Atlanta and New York.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Nordstrom rarely acquires other companies. It bought its last company, French apparel retailer Façonnable, in fall 2000. But yesterday’s purchase was less about the stores and more about its purveyor, Jeffrey Kalinsky.

Nordstrom used the purchase as a way to bring Kalinsky — and his eye for cutting-edge, designer fashion — into its fold. It created a position — director of designer merchandising — for him.

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While Nordstrom’s designer merchandise represents a small part of its overall business, its influence is growing. Nordstrom’s second-quarter income rose 43.2 percent to $148.9 million, partly due to the strong, steady rise in luxury sales.

Designer goods also have created a halo effect for Nordstrom customers who want to shop in a place that carries brands such as Prada and Dolce & Gabanna, even if it’s to buy designer sunglasses or makeup.

Pete Nordstrom said the company plans to increase the luxury-merchandise category as “an additive thing.”

“We’re not looking to grow at the expense of anything else.”

While Kalinsky will help drive the luxury business, he will still run the Jeffrey New York and Jeffrey Atlanta stores.

Kalinsky has been widely credited as the first high-end retailer to open up in Manhattan’s meatpacking district, a bold move followed by high-end designers such as Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen and Carlos Miele.

Gansevoort Market, the district’s official name, is now considered one of New York’s most fashionable neighborhoods, an eclectic mix of meat packers, high-end boutiques, chic restaurants and exclusive clubs.

“In 1975, my parents took me to Barneys on 17th [Street] and Seventh [Avenue in New York] to buy my bar-mitzvah outfits,” Kalinsky said. “I figured in 1999, people could come to [the meatpacking district] if I gave them something good.”

If Kalinsky has been branded as offering the latest cutting-edge designer fashions, he considers himself a classic retailer, molded in the image of his father.

Morris Kalinsky bought the Bob Ellis designer shoe store, inventory and name in Charleston, S.C., in 1950. (In those days, it was much better for business to have a name like Bob Ellis on your shingle.)

Kalinsky grew up working in the shoe store after school. His father’s business is still a mainstay in Charleston.

“[My dad] always sold what he wanted people to have,” Kalinsky said. “He never sold what he thought people wanted.”

Kalinsky went on to work for Donna Karan and as a shoe buyer at Barneys New York. He moved to Atlanta in 1990, where he opened an offshoot of his father’s store, followed by Jeffrey Atlanta and then a Jil Sander boutique.

Kalinsky said there wasn’t demand then for the Jil Sander brand, but he thought her finely tailored clothing would fit well on his clients. He had to first educate them that the brand was not only for size 4s.

“I have a lot of size 14s in my life, and I made a business with Jil almost right out of the gates,” Kalinsky said.

The first year, the boutique sold $1.4 million, he said.

Nordstrom is not known for bringing employees in from the outside. Most of its upper ranks started on the sales floor and worked their way up.

Pete Nordstrom said Kalinsky came up through the business almost the same way he and his brothers did.

“From that point of view, his cultural orientation is almost identical, which I think is going to make this work,” he said.

Monica Soto Ouchi: 206-515-5632 or msoto@seattletimes.com