It’s a foggy Wednesday morning in June and the much anticipated July 4 opening of Nordstrom Rack is looming large for Empire Outlets’ developer Joe Ferrara.
There’s a VIP reception being finalized, fireworks displays being booked on the promenade and an array of red-white-and-blue pinwheels and florals being custom fit for the complex’s grand entrance and walkways.
“I thought about going traditional, but I think I’m taking it in a different direction, so be ready,” he playfully jabs at his PR manager Jaclyn Tacoronte while standing under the retail center’s impressively infamous 12-foot flower arches. Container ships are passing through the harbor in the background, Top 20 music is playing throughout the mall’s outdoor common area and even though it’s mid-week and only 9:30 in the morning, Empire Outlets is already buzzing with tourists and shoppers.
“There’s a lot of exciting stuff happening here,” Ferrara smiles.
After celebrating a partial opening on May 15, Ferrara is readying for the next phase of Empire Outlet’s development: In addition to the grand opening of anchor store Nordstrom Rack, several other shops will debut this month, including Crocs, Haagen-Dasz, Parfum Europa, iOptics, Royal Jewelers and a virtual reality suite. In August, shoppers will see the introduction of Converse, Lucky, Shake Shack and Verizon Wireless.
“We’re getting about 160,000 to 180,000 visitors per week and that’s with only about 20 shops currently open,” Ferrara said. “And the bulk of our traffic is coming from the big orange boat – statistics are showing that 63 percent of shoppers are arriving on the Ferry. And those statistics will only continue to grow as the rest of the center opens up.”
Dubbed New York City’s first outlet mall, Empire Outlets has been in the construction phase since 2015. When its opening is complete, the 350,000 square foot St. George complex will include 100 designer outlets.
Stores currently open include Nike, Starbucks, Levi Strauss & Co., Old Navy, Banana Republic Factory Store, U.S. Polo Assn, Samsonite, American Eagle Outfiters/Aerie, Lids, True Religion, Walgreens, H&M, Brooks Brothers Factory Store, Columbia Factory Store, Cotton On, Guess Factory Outlet, Gap Factory Store, Jockey, Francesca’s, Wetzel’s Pretzels and GNC.
“Our Food and Beverage level will be opening sometime in August, which will be a big milestone for us,” Ferrara said. He also reported that food trucks have been on the property daily since the center’s partial opening in May. “A lot of the people who work here in the courthouses and other small businesses have been frequenting those trucks for lunch and once our F&B services open there will be so many more options.”
“We’re extremely focused on being a good neighbor,” he explained. “Empire Outlets is having a major economic impact on the North Shore but we want to make sure that neighboring businesses also benefit. We support all of our surrounding local businesses because they are an important part of the fabric of the community.”