WHERE: 2 Bond Street
New York, NY 10003
You know that indie band you love so much? The one whose music you discovered by accident, and whom none of your friends had ever heard of? Stumbling upon C.H.C.M., a small menswear shop in downtown Manhattan, feels much the same way.
Situated at the bottom of a small staircase along the cobbled expanse of Bond St., the shop isn’t terribly easy to find, but its loose, natural vibe radiates cool. The simple décor—exposed brick walls, racks made of metal pipes, and wooden crates—serves as the perfect showcase for an impeccably curated selection of hard-to-find heritage brands like Mackintosh and Borsalino, and newer independent labels like Monitaly and Sunny Sports.
“It’s kind of minimalist, but it’s more like normal,” owner Sweetu Patel says of the shop’s design. “Minimalist is something, but I didn’t want the shop to look too overthought. It’s all about the clothing, and the space kind of created its own energy.”
That insistence on naturalism is a crucial ingredient in Patel’s business model. C.H.C.M.—which stands for Clinton Hill Classic Menswear, in reference to the Brooklyn neighborhood where Patel lives—began life as an online store in early 2009. “I just let it out there without any real marketing,” Patel says of the website. “I told a few friends and let it grow through word-of-mouth.”
Within a few months, the shop had gained a cult following among menswear enthusiasts. “By law you have to write your address on the website, and I used to hide it away on a certain page,” Patel says. “Sometimes people would find it, and I used to have these Japanese kids turning up at my apartment. It was cool, though—they’d buy stuff.”
The physical store came about in an equally effortless way, when Patel’s friend, design consultant Josee Lepage, asked him if he’d like to share a space—Lepage’s studio is set up just behind C.H.C.M’s main area, adding to the shop’s casual ease.
Perhaps the one element of C.H.C.M. that Patel does plan out and consider carefully is the shop’s products. Rather than simply carrying whichever brands are getting the most online hype, Patel prefers to keep himself “quite blinkered,” focusing on the classic labels and items he admires. “There’s a lot of brands that I like,” he says, “but it’d be pointless for me to carry them when you can get them down the road. I don’t want to fall into that trap.”
As a result, C.H.C.M. houses an eclectic range that is always slightly ahead of the curve: handmade boots from French shoemaker Paraboot; braided belts from England’s Regent Belt Company; simple nautical-striped pullovers from Brussels-based Chauncey. It’s not uncommon, Patel says, for bigger retailers to drop in and buy up $1,200 worth of goods for “inspiration.”
While that band you discovered likely went on to become huge and sell out, the great thing about C.H.C.M. is that it seems like it never will.
“I kind of want to grow in here, rather than franchising or opening other stores,” Patel says. “I like the idea of keeping it small, compact, and in one place with the best brands there are.”