When someone told David Alperin that his three-year-old Brooklyn shop, Goose Barnacle, had been mentioned in a New York magazine article among Odin, Nepenthes, and the Brooklyn Circus as New York trailblazers in menswear, he was elated. It was critical validation for Goose Barnacle and proof to Alperin that he was doing things right.
All photos by Ben Rosenzweig
Alperin, who had changed careers from finance to menswear, had timed the opening of Goose Barnacle perfectly: menswear was in an upswing and Brooklyn’s Atlantic Avenue was just becoming hot—a Barneys Coop opened down the street around the same time. The small shop focuses on new and unique brands and doubles as a gallery for emerging and under-represented artists.
His top brand is Svensson. “It’s two Argentine-Swedish brothers who live in the woods in Malmö, Sweden,” Alperin explains. “I randomly met them at a trade show in Paris three years ago. I was the first store in North America to carry them and we’ve since developed a really close relationship. They didn’t know the American market so they asked me to handle their U.S. sales. They started out as my main denim brand (jeans retail for $168) and have grown into shoes and sweaters (all made in Italy).”
Competition from major retailers like J. Crew (which is opening a location in his neighborhood) has forced Alperin to be creative. He’s adding e-commerce to give his store and its brands greater exposure, and he’s starting to make his own basics.
“J. Crew is a great store but it will affect my business,” he says. “I’m going to sell my own T-shirts and button-downs first, then khakis, all made in New York, under the Goose Barnacle name. That way I can focus my buying on the really special things.”
Another change for next year: adding women’s wear. “I’ve become known as a sort of gender-neutral store,” Alperin admits. “My brands are men’s but a lot of my customers are women buying small men’s sizes for themselves. I’ve decided to take that a step further and start carrying some women’s pieces for spring ’14. Initially I’m talking to my existing brands, the ones that also do women’s.”
One constant is Alperin’s dedication to the gallery side of his business. “I’m almost more passionate about the art! If I were independently wealthy, I might have my own separate art gallery. Having art exhibits makes the store look new every season. It gives us a surprise factor when people walk in. Plus, I end up selling about a third of the art by the end of each show, so it pays for itself.”
Alperin has no trouble finding great artists who need a venue. “When I first started approaching artists about exhibiting in my store I thought they’d say, no way, they’d rather show at a big white-walled gallery, but everyone was excited,” he says. “We do opening night parties that are sponsored by Brooklyn Gin and we have a young filmmaker who’s doing these short films about the artists. I get them when their prices are a little more reasonable (typically under $2,000), and then they go on to bigger galleries.”