New York is more than merely a big city or ”the world’s capital “. It’s a symbol, a melting pot and a place where new trends and cultures are born. Diversity is all around when walking these streets. It’s nearly impossible to think of hip-hop or basketball for example without considering New York’s contribution. Something similar can be said about movie culture. New York served as the stage for a virtually endless number of movie classics. It’s obvious why Martin Scorsese didn’t shoot Taxi Driver in LA or why Good Fellas belongs to the streets of Brooklyn, right?
Movie and sneaker culture merge in a very special place on the Lower East Side (LES). Yes, we’re speaking of Extra Butter, who just celebrated their 10th anniversary in the sneaker business. The guys at Extra Butter simply love kicks, but a big part of their hearts also belongs to movies (we can easily relate to this). And they are deeply rooted in their LES neighborhood. We try visit the store on Orchard Street at least once on every trip to New York. And thanks to their exclusive sneaker selection we have managed some nice pickups during all these years. Remember their Asics x Kill Bill collab? But during our visit this time around we had even higher expectations: The store has been remodeled and the first pics looked nothing short of awesome. The new design was also the trigger for this store guide as we immediately felt that the concept and its seamless implementation deserve an in-depth look.
It’s not coincidence if your brain makes intuitive associations to far east minimalism or if you compare the clean space to Japan’s Zen culture. Extra Butter hired famous Japanese architect and designer Nobuo Araki to do the remodeling. Although it was his first project in the US, he clearly understood Extra Butter’s LES heritage and their close connection to pop and movie culture. Araki substituted the old entrance with the movie wall, the historic projector and the iconic movie seats by a more open, spacious approach. Now you can enter the store also from Allen Street. If you do so, you will notice some very familiar movie theatre vibes thanks to the new concession stand, where you can treat yourself to candy, popcorn, coffee and soda. The red velvet curtains and an extendible movie screen for special screenings point into the same direction. The most obvious cinematic reference is still the set of old-fashioned movie seats that Arak placed in the center of the store. The seats are framed on both sides by an illuminated white sneaker and apparel wall.
Extra Butter stocks many high quality street wear labels like BBC, Daily Paper and Head Porter. They also sold the recent pinqponq x Sneaker Freaker collab as the only store in the US. Due to their strong community ties local brands like Freemans Sporting Club and Chinatown Market also get significant shelf space. When it comes to kicks, Extra Butter finds itself in the major league of sneaker boutiques with the best accounts from all the big brands. You name it, they have it (unless it’s already sold out, which could be the case nowadays). To have Jeff Staple on board is also a big factor: He is now working as creative director for Extra Butter’s parent company TGS. This man needs no introduction and it’s obvious how Extra Butter could benefit from him even more in the future. The pop-up store next door is another focus for the EB crew. After two months with The North Face the remodeling for the new partner adidas just started. We wouldn’t be surprised if Jeff Staple shows up again someday on Orchard Street. The rumors are out.
Finally we would like to thank the whole Extra Butter crew for their hospitality. We hope to be back sooner rather than later. For more insights into the Extra Butter story check our exclusive interview with Extra Butter’s creative director Bernie Gross:
As Extra Butter’s creative director, how would you summarize the store’s DNA?
Bernie: I think the Extra Butter DNA can be narrowed down to three elements: love for film, bred in NYC and looking to inspire the community. I think using film and pop culture provide an endless source of inspiration for our brand aesthetic and creativity. Being raised in New York and being able to grow up and experience the OG streetwear and sneaker culture first hand has a deep influence on wanting to be authentic and progress the culture. And our great community – both locally and now building a global audience – pushes us to continue looking for unique opportunities to tell stories and provide experiences.
There’s obviously a very close tie between NYC and EB. What’s the specific NYC influence? Is it the link to street/pop culture, is it the people?
Bernie: I can’t imagine having being raised in any other city. It provides so much culture and diversity, one that matches my own very eccentric upbringing being raised around multi-ethnic family and friends. I’ve been a bboy, a graf writer, a DJ, all of which originated in NYC, and I think each have significantly influenced my creative career. A lot of my years were on Long Island and although it doesn’t get its rightful credit not being an official “borough,” there’s so much history in hip hop there. It began there for me in the early 2000’s. I’d take a train into the city and have my circuit of usual spots to be introduced to streetwear. Reed Space, Union, Clientele, Classic Kicks, Nort, Recon. These spots are even around anymore but they laid the ground work of what we aspired EB to be. It’s an honor for our flagship to be in Lower East Side, it’s a part of a deeper history of NYC and especially streetwear. It puts tons of pressure on us to live up to the former legends but also it’s fuel for us to ensure we live amongst the best and be able to carry to the torch for the next generation. And our local audience provides the right energy. They’re so hungry to consume and interact with brands like us. It keeps us going.
You just celebrated your 10th anniversary. If you look back, how has the so called „sneaker game“ changed during that period?
Bernie: Where do I begin (laughs)? It’s all changed. Everything. What is relevant, how and why it comes relevant, how consumers obtain information, how consumers ultimately obtain product. On one end, it makes me feel old, but the silver lining is that it’s a great challenge to learn how to continuously adapt and evolve myself and the brand. Change is always needed.
Are consumers still loyal to a store or has the internet already destoyed old loyalties?
Bernie: The internet is a double edge sword. It helps us exponentially expand our reach and enables us to acquire an audience and share our product with those around the world. Something that we all ultimately dream of! But at the same time, it opens the level of competition. I’m not just competing with New York now, but rather boutiques from all countries. I think this has turned the consumer to become almost jaded, desensitized by the amount of product and information at their finger tips. Thus, it has drastically hastened the turnaround of what is relevant. Things become stale and then it forces brands and shops to provide new things faster and with a bigger and better form of presentation. It can be exhausting keeping pace.
Congrats on your new store design – we really like it! What’s the most important aspect of the new EB look?
Bernie: Thank you! It was a long road to getting here but we’re all really proud of the renovation. We worked with architect Nobuo Araki to meld a modern minimal boutique look with the warmth and nostalgia of a classic movie theatre environment. I think it hit it right on the head with the amount to mix both. The EB Concessions is the newest part of the Extra Butter retail experience. A new checkout area was built reinterpreting an elevated movie concession stand, providing a curated assortment of vintage and hard to find candies, colas and gourmet coffee. You can come to the store without the intent of even shopping for gear, but just to enjoy some snacks, sit in one of our vintage movie chairs, and kick it with the staff. I think its important to provide those points of difference outside of just shopping.
You always sold more than shoes and clothes. You guys are passionate about movies and also very clear when it comes to social/political issues. How important is such an attitude in today’s sterile retail environment?
Bernie: The internet makes the world so transparent and very privy to the current affairs happening each and every day. I think being a globally recognized entity almost forces you to have the social responsibility to have a voice and use it to provoke conscious dialogue with our followers. Maybe it’s hindered us to take sides on social and political views. I’ve grown with the people behind EB for years, some of them are like family to me and some of the social or political topics today directly affect them. For us not to take stance and be mindful to try guiding the youth in a moral direction we think is right, it’d be like turning our backs on one another.
Did you ever think of taking the EB story to a new location or even to a new city?
Bernie: After renovating the LES location, we decided that the original location of Rockville Centre, Long Island, may not have the capacity to tell the new story of EB for the next decade. We’re considering new locations in Brooklyn or Queens but have not committed to a specific neighborhood yet. We always get inquiries to move to LA, and I think it makes sense given the movie theme. But right now we want to focus on being the best New York retailer we can be. Believe me, I have my sights set on overseas, but I’m just taking one day at a time.
What can we expect from EB this year? Perhaps you can give us a glimpse of what’s to come.
Bernie: The end of 2017 was outstanding for us and we only intend on keeping the momentum up. We already have some fun collabs in the pipeline, as well as more exclusive partnership activations. I’m most excited about building the EB private label, getting our audience into more unique apparel pieces. The world wants to rep us, I must oblige (laughs).
Bernie, thanks for your time! We will definitely come back!