Historic Tribeca Townhouse Will Be Home to 4-Story Men's Store

Alan Maleh will be moving Man of the World, now an online retail business, into this townhouse at White Street and West Broadway. On the roof is a Landmarks Commission-required mockup of proposed additions to the building. "I love the warmth and the coziness of this part of town," Maleh said. "For what I could afford to spend per square foot and the quality of the person who lives here, it just felt right." Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Posted
Nov. 20, 2014

“I find there’s a gaping hole in the world when it comes to men’s luxury and I aim to fill it,” says Alan Maleh.  Towards that end, the retailing entrepreneur is taking over the 207-year-old, four-story townhouse at 1 White St. and putting his taste for luxury on display.

Maleh is the founder and CEO of Man of the World, an online seller of high-end men’s clothing and accessories. He is also the publisher of a $20, 200-plus page quarterly magazine of the same name that features his products in glossy, macho style. (Here’s quarterback Tom Brady in a suede biker jacket; there’s Formula One driver Max Chilton sporting a vintage Rolex.)

Maleh, 49, refrains from calling his new place a store, though most everything in it will be for sale. One White Street, vacant since 2010, “will be like my home without bedrooms,” he said in an interview this week as he sipped an espresso next door at Cafe Clementine.

Working with architect David Mann on the design of the now gutted interior of the 15-foot-wide building, Maleh envisions coffee and juices being sold from the “kitchen” on the first floor and, on the second floor, a small “den” and a “living room” that features furniture and home furnishings.

“I have enough furniture to fill the building about four times,” said Maleh, a collector of vintage watches and cars and mid-20th century furniture.

For the third floor, Maleh plans a two-chair barber shop and an outpost of his “concierge service,” which he describes as “super low-key, super discreet” for well-heeled clients.'

“We purely take care of what people need in their social life,” Maleh said.

The top floor will offer tailoring services in what he is calling a “salon” (“No ready to wear!”), with more furniture for sale as well such objects as vintage watches and American Indian jewelry.

The Man of the World townhouse is expected to open next April.

The 1807 building, at White and West Broadway, had been a longtime family home. It was made famous in 1973, when John Lennon and Yoko Ono, who never lived there, named it their “Nutopian Embassy” as part of a whimsical scheme by Lennon to be granted diplomatic immunity from deportation. 

“Once I had heard Nutopian Em­bassy, that’s when I said this place is for me,” Maleh said. “I get an adrenaline rush just saying it as we’re talking.”

Maleh first tried to rent a space at nearby 140 Franklin Street, where he wanted to the building’s garage to display some of his vintage cars. He lost out to a gym that failed to open after the condo board went to court to stop it.

This evangelist of classy machismo and savoir faire dropped out of James Madison High School in Brooklyn after the ninth grade. He suspects attention deficit disorder did him in, but he also believes the condition may have helped get him to where he is today. “My disabilities are my blessings,” he said. “I have a lot of energy.”

Maleh cut his retail teeth as a teenager, working in his father’s midtown jewelry store, which they moved  to Nassau Street. By age 21 he had opened two more stores on the street.

Maleh eventually sold the business and used the cash to start wholesaling children’s wear. Years later, starting as a hobby, he put together a catalogue of his watch and car collection. By 2012 that idea had morphed into Man of the World as a magazine and online business, more draining of funds than he had imagined.

“When the water was just about here financially,” he said, holding his hand at nose level, “I sold a clothing brand [to a competitor] for $38 million.”

That was last year. Since then, he said, the e-commerce business has taken off. “I have two watches in my briefcase that we sold in the last two days–one for $15,000 and one for $12,000.”

Now it’s not customers he needs to win over, but the Landmarks Preser­vation Commission. The townhouse lies in the Tribeca East Historic District and proposed changes to its exterior were opposed last month by Community Board 1.

In a presentation to the board's Land­marks Committee, architect Steph­en Chin showed a plan that, in some cases, put windows where there is now a door and doors where there are now windows. A single pane window on West Broadway would replace what had been a door and two window bays.

“This committee would not be disposed to punching out sheet glass windows and doors,” said committee co-chair Bruce Ehrmann. “Take what exists in incredible original fabric. There’s plenty to work with.”