Forty Five Ten on Main as illustrated by artist Donald Robertson
Brian Bolke photographed by Molly Dickson
What is he thinking?
A champagne bar. Barcelona chairs made just for Texas. Lines you can’t get anywhere else. In a roller-coaster time for brick-and-mortar stores, Forty Five Ten, the high-luxe lifestyle boutique opened in Dallas in 2000, is unveiling four new ones in about as many months: its new flagship in downtown Dallas, five times larger than the original store on McKinney Avenue, which opens today; a spinoff women’s boutique, TTH Forty Five Ten, in Highland Park Village; the reinvented original building, now Forty Five Ten for Home; and its first out-of-town outpost, a glassy, glossy, full-line store in Houston’s River Oaks District.
Here, inside the head of Brian Bolke, the president and co-founder of Forty Five Ten, on what he thinks makes his stores different, who he thinks his new customers are, and what he is most nervous about.
Edited from an interview by Rob Brinkley…
Describe Forty Five Ten as a concept — a lifestyle — to someone who wouldn’t know about it.
Brian Bolke: We have translated the name to four seasons, five senses, and edits of 10. This permeates everything. For example, when you come in, you should know that it is fall — it should look, sound, smell, taste, and feel like it — and we should show you the 10 boots you simply must have. That’s the concept.
Describe Forty Five Ten on Main — the new store — to someone who wouldn’t know the original.
I hope that 10 different people can experience it in 10 different ways. There are no right answers. Someone will love the restaurant, someone the art, someone the beauty department, someone the books. I used to go to Takashimaya in New York and wander endlessly and be in awe of the flowers.
It should be transporting. It’s big enough that it can have something for everyone. I want a feeling of discovery.
What specific visions did you have for the new store?
Number one was light. The floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides of the building and a four-story, sky-lit atrium in the middle have created something that feels very open. There are French doors that open onto the street — imagine fresh air in a store! Well, and a lot of air conditioning, too.
The fitting rooms have natural light. I wanted [the store] familiar to our loyal clients, as the size of the spaces are very intimate and there are cues from the original, but for someone who really cares about design and has never been in, I think they will be obsessed with the details. If we can’t make something compelling enough to drive 10 extra minutes to downtown, we’ve failed.
Who do you envision as the downtown store’s female customer?
I don’t — because I don’t want to have a narrow store for a select few. If they appreciate fashion or art or cappuccinos with a friend — or someone who simply needs to be cheered up — that is who I hope to please. My mother shopped because it made her feel good. I think she would have loved it here.
How about the male customers?
I hope they have open minds. Guys can get really lazy when it comes to shopping. I simply want a guy who thinks a little out of the box and will maybe step out of his comfort zone.
What fashion lines are you particularly excited about, and why?
For men, Berluti — and now that Haider Ackermann is artistic director, I see myself in a lot of it. For women, I’m really obsessed with Marc Jacobs. He truly is at the top of his game. And I’m thrilled to have Fred Leighton in our jewelry salon. I could go on — and on and on.
What home lines are you particularly excited about, and why?
Without a doubt, our deep assortment of china, crystal, and silver. We are bringing a completely modern take on how to set the table. Baccarat, Christofle, Georg Jensen, Hermès, Saint-Louis, and Richard Ginori — Gucci’s Alessandro Michele is creative director — but mixed in a new way. I hope it will inspire people to love this whole category again.
Describe Forty Five Ten’s online customer now.
They are 50-percent men and 50-percent women. Fifty percent are from the U.S. and the rest are international. We send so much to New York, you would think there are no stores there. We work with Farfetch and they are really selective as to who they partner with — and they really support us in so many ways. We are proud to say their one-millionth customer came from Forty Five Ten. [The purchase was] Common Projects sneakers — which was nice because it’s all I wear.
What are Forty Five Ten’s key points of differentiation when it comes to Dallas retail?
The three words we want to be known for are uncommon, unconventional, and extraordinary. I have applied it to everything we do. Service, product, atmosphere. I feel lucky we live in a town where the retail is exceptional across the board. It keeps the bar very high. Our customers are really amazing and they appreciate what we do.
What’s next for Forty Five Ten: more locations? New spinoffs? New states?
With four stores in four months, we have a lot to absorb. But we have also assembled an amazing team that I’m so grateful for, and, with them, the sky’s the limit. I do know this: What we are doing on Main Street can never be duplicated. It is a once-in-a-lifetime project.
Brian, what are you most nervous about?
Meeting expectations. Mostly my own.