A brand new, shiny anomaly has opened its doors on Tompkins Avenue in Bed-Stuy, Sincerely, Tommy. And yes, the designer clothing and furniture boutique, which doubles as a coffee shop, is actually being quite sincere with a few price tags upwards of $1,000 and a slick minimal white, grey, and glass interior.
This stretch of Tompkins makes up a quieter corner of Bed-Stuy– it’s removed from both the chaos of Fulton Street and the bustle of Franklin Avenue– but one that’s also seen enormous growth in the past two years. Sincerely, Tommy joins Bed-Vyne (a wine bar), Saraghina (fancy wood-fired pizza), and Crocus Coffee as the very recent additions to the immediate area.
On sight, it would be easy to dismiss this place with an eye roll, and a little bit harder to hold back beads of sweat when you finger one of the price tags. But hold up, the store isn’t exactly the fever dream of a French couple who read an article in Le Monde and decided Bed-Stuy would be the cutest place to open up their petit boutique.
The shop, which opened its doors on September 20, is owned by Lisa deLeon and Kai Avent-deLeon. It carries a colorful variety of expertly tailored (but commensurately pricey) designer garments, leather bags, jewelry, and accessories. We dropped in on Tuesday, and Lisa (Kai’s mother) was sitting behind the cash register.
“She’s the brains and I’m the brawn,” Lisa explained. The deLeons have lived in the neighborhood since Lisa emigrated from Grenada as a child. Kai, 26, who also grew up in Bed-Stuy, has stuck around as well. “I’ve wanted to have a store of my own since I was 16,” she explained.
The shop is housed in a three-story brick building, which . The family gut renovated the building and cleaned up the remnants of a defunct hardware store. The place had been in business for almost 50 years, Kai’s mother estimated, before the owner, an elderly woman, closed up shop.
Kai admitted that she expected some criticism, particularly when it came to the price point of the products here. The more expensive items certainly have no match in the neighborhood. But she said that generally people get it when she explains them.
“The unique product process, and the fact that some of the garments are made in New York City, and most are one-of-a-kind, really justifies the pricing,” she said. After a thorough digging, we found a few items priced under $10 (nail decals and “art socks”) and one for $1,160, a lavender wool coat.
Despite the luxury environs, and a number of hefty price tags (a $250 pair of wool pants, one $960 mohair coat, and a black oversized blouse for $180), Kai has clearly made an effort to stock a decent selection of mid-range items as well. Granted, several $50 T-shirts hang on the racks, but there are also a number of more interesting mid-range items, many of which are from Sincerely, Tommy’s own in-house line.
“The line is a collaboration between me and a designer in Japan,” Kai explained. “It’s pretty basic, but still very unique. The items would make a good accent piece and range from $50-$100.”
A retail veteran who worked at Chanel and managed the floor at Aritzia SoHo, Kai said she learned a great deal about business logistics, customer service, and branding from her previous jobs. “At Chanel, you always remember shopping there because it’s not like anywhere else,” she said. “It’s almost like being in a museum.”
Kai’s has taken a similar approach here. The clothing is varied and many of the items and fabrics are really kind of out-there — I went back to a clear biker jacket ($197) twice because it was so rad.
Sincerely, Tommy also sells espresso drinks and small snacks, like croissants, which seems sort of curious. “Everyone loves coffee,” Kai explained. “It’s a way for people to come in and browse, hang out, and to talk to the staff.” This might sound kind of weird. Like, who would want to wander into an expensive shop and just– hang?
But the barista greeted us warmly when we walked in, and Kai’s mom was busy chatting up a customer. Benches and chairs are placed neatly between the clothing displays, and there’s even bar-stool seating close to the window.
That’s where Kai explained the store will soon implement occasional classes for area kids to get involved in art projects like T-shirt design (a collaborative effort along with Fort Makers). And eventually Sincerely, Tommy will host events to spotlight local artists, designers, and musicians. Kai said the idea of expanding the store beyond being simply a place to shop was inspired by a boutique in Fort Greene (Addy & Ferro, which is now closed) where she worked as a teenager. “I like the idea of a store that connects with the community, versus one that’s just about selling clothes,” she said.
As a shop owner, Kai is committed to showcasing “designers that either don’t have the money or the connections to get their stuff out there.” All of the labels at Sincerely, Tommy were unfamiliar, even though Kai stocks garments from local as well as international designers. “In some cases, we’re the first to carry it,” her mom, Lisa, explained.
Sincerely, Tommy is certainly the first of its kind in the neighborhood, and though the shop sticks out like a perfectly manicured thumb, Kai insists she’s getting positive feedback. That’s not hard to believe. Kai’s bubbly and has some community-oriented plans, and her shop really does feel wide open to anyone, even if you just want to buy a coffee. And hey, the clothes are really, really cool. But unfortunately you might only be able to afford a latte.