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Practically speaking, New Englanders are living in boots half of the year. You need a sturdy shoe, and Frye has delivered that necessity since 1863, when John A. Frye first launched the original family-run shop in Marlboro, MA. That is exactly why the opening of the company's second flagship store, right on Newbury Street, is kind of like a homecoming. Modeled similarly to Frye's signature space in New York's SoHo neigborhood, the former Charley's restaurant building (all 9,000 square feet of it) is rustic and industrial while honoring the original worn-in townhouse design of this corner property. Jamie Laycock, VP of Marketing, walked us through the various rooms—a library, bay window shoe shine bench, and a parlor included—to inspect each striking nook.
Entering the front room off Newbury, shoppers will encounter the core collection, a riding boot selection, and seasonal items such as women's sandals. 9,000 hand-hung harness rings are suspended from the ceiling as a living installation, enhancing the display area. Ahead of you lies the accessory wall, where hand-woven tote bags sit among small leather goods. To the right, original windows frame the "Raw Room," consisting of all raw materials, 10" wide oak stained in black wax throughout, with raw steel and raw walnut details. From there you can stroll into the "Library," where a working fireplace, large flat screen TV suited for Sox and Pats broadcasts, and historic photographs are peppered throughout for a lounge-style men's room. Outside the store, a garden space wraps the building, punctuated by a cypress tree at the entrance.
After acquainting ourselves with the store's interior, we appreciated picking the brain of Creative Director Michael Petry. Let's talk Boston and boots, shall we?
Tell us a bit about why you selected Boston for expansion.
Boston is two-fold for us: we design all our products in NY, and we then identify places to expand. Boston just seemed like the next best step with the aesthetic and Frye was founded right down the street in Marlboro in 1863. So it was a natural step from us. Also from an architecture standpoint, the space fits with the brand. It's almost exactly like SoHo. It's more challenging in the layout with little pockets and areas, but it's really a fantastic space. We're thrilled to be in here. Each space creates its own environment—one of the things that attracted us to the building. We also want this to be a place to sit, hang out, relax. We're not super pushy with our salespeople.
What style do you think is the shoe incarnation of the Boston spirit?
The Frye customer is so broad and each person has their own style, whether it be moto or a dusty bohemian feel. Boston is one of our top three cities for Frye. Even within the men's selection, it's much more than harness and engineer. They see the wingtips and the sneaker. In the store we're hovering around 800 styles at any given time.
Anything exciting about spring?
Spring is almost a palate cleanser for us, but also an opportunity to make sandals, boat shoes, wedges and heels. We've made some great strides in terms of women's oxfords, flats. We're a leather company, and when people get in and feel the shoes they see that we offer an enduring product. People aren't used to that in certain categories. Look at the ballet flat, where we use a buffalo leather that stands up. We've heard people say theirs lasted three years, that's unheard of. It's really been good for us. It was in SoHo that people started to understand we are more than just boots.
How much do you pull from the archives when designing?
Before the term organic was huge, we considered ourselves an organic design team. We're always looking into the archives when we start designing. The shoes are made the same way they were in 1863—Goodyear welted, made by hand. We're gearing up to launch our 150th anniversary book in October and pieces of the book are already in here.
Do people still buy Frye for workwear purposes?
For sure. By and large we've transitioned to a lifestyle kind of wear, with the majority of business coming from an urban business. But you'd be shocked at how many people still wear them for their original purpose: riding horses, motorcycles, manual work. Our construction hasn't changed. It's like a Levi's jean.
We try to make as many goods in the US as we possibly can. There is a renaissance of being an American brand. Hypebeast asked if we see this as a trend or if we see it long term, and we said we've been doing this 150 years. We keep everything based on an American theme, and some people think that's limiting, but traveling the country it's shocking what you can find. We like people who make things. For example, people making music in Nashville is inspirational.
How knowledgable is your staff on the company and the production?
You'd be surprised just how much they know. The style isn't relevant—it's how it's made and the materials we're using. Our staff can answer all those questions. It's our foundation. We are building Frye to be an heirloom. The more you wear them, the better they look. We have people who show us their boots after ten, twenty years and they're the best looking boots we've ever seen. You have your go-to jeans, we want Frye to be your go-to shoes.
Want to try on a pair? Swing by the store and ask the staff how many steps go into the manufacturing of each shoe. (Hint: it's 190. Yup, that many.)
· The Frye Company [Official Site]