Bruce Ratner first met Richard Baker three years ago at a convention in Las Vegas.
Baker, governor and chief executive of the Hudson's Bay Company, told Ratner, chairman and chief executive of Forest City Ratner Companies, he might be interested in bringing a Lord & Taylor department store to Ridge Hill, one of 32 properties owned and operated by in the New York metro area by Forest City. Hudson's Bay Company owns .
Nine months after that, the two had an agreement that the department store would come to , and on Friday morning the store officially opened.
“That was in 2009, when the world was really in trouble and nobody really thought about making any deals of anything,” Ratner said. “But nine months later, we sat down in a restaurant in his other store in Eastchester and we made the deal. It took sort of one major sitting to come to basic terms.”
The 80,000-square foot store is the 11th Lord & Taylor in New York, but the first one opened in the state in 14 years. Baker said Lord & Taylor listens to their customers, and they heard from people that this area was underserved, which brought them to Yonkers.
Another reason for opening the location in Yonkers, Baker said, was because they saw what Forest was doing at the Ridge Hill mall and wanted to be a part of it. He praised the city council members in attendance for allowing Forest Hill to build up the shopping area.
“First you had the vision to work with Forest City and create somethings that’s going to be special and unique and important to your community, and that’s a spectacular accomplishment,” he said. “Additionally, you have an organization that allowed us to build this building in an efficient manner and an appropriate cost structure, and I want to tell you, there’s a lot of cities around the country that aren’t as efficient and easy to work with as Yonkers is.”
The outside of the building features large windows, and inside white diagonal bars run up against them, giving the store a modern look with triangles or diamonds. Baker said the store’s inside looks similar to the recently redone Fifth Avenue location in Manhattan.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a situation where a tenant before has put this kind of money and effort into a store to make it special,” Ratner said.
Speaking right before the ribbon cutting, Baker said it’s interesting to be at the opening of a new location of Lord & Taylor because it’s also the oldest department store in the country.
“Lord & Taylor is the oldest department store in the United States and here we are today all of us, and in a moment we’re going to walk over and cut the ribbon, here we are with the newest, most exciting department store in the United States,” he said.
The two-story location at Ridge Hill offers men’s and women’s clothes, jewelry, makeup and more. After the ribbon cutting, the doors were opened officially for the firs time as a large crowd that swarmed inside was met by the large staff. Beth Fitzgerald and Susan Blanchard, both from Yonkers, were two of the earliest people inside, both purchasing some clothing items.
“It looks beautiful inside and outside,” Fitzgerald said. “This is a great day for Yonkers.”
Mayor Mike Spano and many others in Yonkers are counting on Lord & Taylor, as well as Ridge Hill as a whole, to provide the city with many great days. The mall, which opened last October, is expected to create thousands of permanent jobs and bring in more than $20 million of annual sales tax.
“The Ridge Hill experience is certainly an experience we all appreciate here in Yonkers,” Spano said. “It’s been a monumental success for this city and for this county, frankly.”
Spano also thinks while the buildings might look similar, the Yonkers location will compete with the Manhattan one.
“Fifth Avenue has nothing on us,” he said. “We’ll take all of their customers and have them come to Yonkers. That’s what we want.”