The Game Changers

The McLaughlin brothers return to Westport with a dramatic new look

 

We wanted to have fun with it,” said Jay McLaughlin, pointing to the façade of the new store that he and his brother Kevin opened in Westport last month.

For the McLaughlins, the store is like a homecoming of sorts. For 25 years they had a shop on Main Street in downtown Westport. Though they closed it in 2008, they have always had a strong connection to the area and knew they would return if the right opportunity came along.

That opportunity arrived in the form of the onetime home to the Hay Day grocery store and most recently Leonard’s furniture store. “We always loved this space,” said Kevin. “It has so much presence. We loved the ambience of the barn setting.”

It was the perfect location to fulfill their dream of combining two great passions—collecting antiques and fashion. Working with their longtime architect, Doug Larson, they drew inspiration from the “Avenue of Shops” in the original Henri Bendel in Manahatan. They divided the space into separate sections, each with a specific theme. Those themes will change, said Jay, depending on customer demand. “It allows us to showcase the goods more theatrically. We want our customers to come in and see the unexpected.”

Like the 1930s-style sofas done in plaid thornproof wool and orange corduroy (the same material used in the men’s trousers) in the Living Room. Or the French Garden area with a patio and trelliage on the walls, the Workshop area with walls splotched like painter’s pants, and the Cabana area with blue-and-white striped awnings. There’s an area devoted to “urban casual,” even an entire section of the brand’s best-selling Catalina print tees and scarves.

Incorporated throughout are pieces from the McLaughlins’ private collection: oars on one wall, old-fashioned leather ice skates on another. Tarnished silver trophies, wicker baskets with leather handles, French leather library chairs, vintage workbenches, an old English display cabinet from a men’s haberdashery and, in the parking lot,  a 1950s silver Airstream trailer.

“We think people are ready for a change,” said Kevin. “It’s been a tough three years. We want the shopping experience to be more about fun and not just about selling clothes.” J. McLaughlin, 1026 Post Rd. East, Westport, (203) 557-9275, jmclaughlin.com.