The shuttered Pearl River Soho location (Courtesy Pearl River Mart)
Pearl River Mart, the Asian home goods emporium, has been riding the New York City retail waves in recent years. In April 2015, fans feared the hub for carp flags and cotton Mary Janes was going the way of so many Vanishing New York headlines: a massive rent hike forced the SoHo flagship to shutter. Then, about a year ago, the daughter-in-law of Pearl River founders Ming Yi Chen and Ching Yeh announced a “modernized” and substantially downsized 2.0 location in Tribeca. And today, the company confirmed reports of an expansion into Chelsea Market this November.
The company has signed a 12-year-lease on the new 3,500-square-foot space, about half the size of the Canal Street outpost, as first reported by the Wall Street Journal. They’ve declined to divulge their rent on the space.
“Pearl River has been a number one pursuit the whole time we’ve owned the building, because it is fundamentally a New York business, a local business, a second-generation business,” Michael Phillips, president of the company Jamestown that owns Chelsea Market, told WSJ.
According to Pearl River President Joanne Kwong—previously a communications counsel for Barnard College—the new location is part of her larger plan to turn Pearl River into a “boutique brand.” She plans to cater to the tourists who stomp through Chelsea Market, as well as employees at nearby Google, the Food Network, and Major League Baseball.
The “lucky cats and the buddhas and the parasols and those types of things” will still be in stock, she told Gothamist Wednesday. But the shop will also feature a “more curated selection,” including a section of the store set aside for rotating Asian American designers at a higher price point: silk-screened totes and T-shirts, small leather goods, plush toys.
“Chelsea Market is renowned for its food focus,” Kwong added. “We’re going to lead with foodie-type items and snacks and interesting Asian drinks and possibly dry ingredients. We’ll also bring over our tableware.”
Pearl River Mart was co-founded in 1971, under the name Chinese Native Products, by the Chens and a group of student activists from China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Ming Yi Chen’s first shipment of products for the shop, which arrived in New York City by cargo ship, coincided with President Nixon lifting trade embargoes and marked the first delivery of Chinese products to American shores in more than twenty years.
The Chens continue to be involved in Pearl River in an advisory role.
“They have been tickled to see the evolution of the store,” Kwong said.