Photographs by Bob Rozycki.
You wouldn’t know it from appearances but North, Tammy Ehrenfeld’s year-old Bronxville boutique known for its singular approach to style, was born of frustration.
It was the frustration of being a Westchester woman tired of her commute to Manhattan and being far from her two young children.
It was the frustration of a 20-year career in advertising and marketing that was no longer fulfilling.
And it was the frustration of not being able to shop locally for the distinctive fashions found on lunchtime jaunts in SoHo, Greenwich Village and Tribeca.
“I was also frustrated because I live locally, and I saw all the empty storefronts, and it felt wrong,” Ehrenfeld says.
It all came to a head during one date-night dinner.
She was, she says, again expressing her frustration with her career when her music-producer husband Nathan — the pair had relocated from Los Angeles several years earlier for a better quality of life — urged her to take action.
“He said, ‘Just open your store. You’ve wanted to do it for years.’”
It would be the push she needed.
And it would be a return to her roots, as Ehrenfeld had studied fashion merchandising in college and went on to work for a Hollywood-based clothing company that outfitted rock bands such as Guns N’ Roses.
She had left that world for a job at Mattel, the start of some two decades in advertising and marketing that she resumed in Manhattan after the family settled in Bronxville.
“Advertising is advertising, so wherever you go it’s going to be the same structure — and stresses,” she says.
Fashion would give her a fresh start. Having a shop was an idea “in the back of my mind for quite some time.”
And Ehrenfeld says she knew she had made the right decision when settling into her Pondfield Road space in late summer of 2014.
“When I looked out my window, I could see the table I was sitting at” during that fateful meal at Scalini Osteria.
The name North, Ehrenfeld says, is a nod to the direction she brought the city fashions she was seeing.
But hers has become a store with a strong sense of direction, as well.
Having lived in Bronxville a few years then — it’s six years now — she had developed a sense of what would connect with what many told her was a “preppy” approach.
“Really, the women want to be original,” with styles that make them “feel good.”
Her customers, she adds, are women — not girls — who can appreciate the way she handpicks her offerings.
The designers she carries, she adds, have to have “attitude — absolutely.”
But they must also embrace a strong sense of design and a commitment to quality.
She mentions the way Gary Graham draws on his background in Broadway costume design to create fashions with drama and presence. She then points to the time-honored techniques in a coat from the German-based Annette Görtz.
“The craftsmanship is really excellent,” she says. “When a woman puts it on, they feel like a woman.”
She likes that items are not “cookie-cutter” styles found on every block but rather well-sourced pieces from Nili Lotan or tops from Raquel Allegra, handmade in California. The Japanese brand pas de calais is favored for its “really nice clean line, that whole Japanese aesthetic.” Haute Hippie might be better known, Ehrenfeld says, so “the pieces I get from them, I try to really edit it.”
Of course, she carries jeans, including styles from Current/Elliott, Robin’s Jeans and 6397, which she says offers skinny jeans “that I like to say have a ‘secret sauce.’ They take off 5 pounds just because of the way they’re cut.”
A strength of Ehrenfeld’s is her ability to look at a customer and know what silhouette will suit her best, a skill evidenced several times on a recent morning when she suggested options to women who were both surprised and delighted with a tunic or dress they would not have even considered. (For the at-home experience, Ehrenfeld offers closet consultations.)
“I want people to know that I will make them feel good.”
North’s offerings extend beyond clothes.
“I try to be really choosy with the accessories,” as well, she says.
Supplementing Ehrenfeld’s selections are those from nearby jewelry store Citrine, which has its own showcase to give gift-hunting husbands some fine-jewelry options.
“It speaks to the community, and it speaks to the husbands,” Ehrenfeld says with a laugh.
There is a compact selection of bags and plenty of shoes with a European sensibility.
Rounding it all out is a small section devoted to clothing for boys ages 5 to 12, or as Ehrenfeld says, “the age when moms could shop for the kids.”
North itself has a funky elegance — gilded and industrial accents seamlessly mixing together for a signature look — and a laid-back welcome.
Ehrenfeld wants women not only to shop but also to settle into the couches to flip through a fashion magazine, watch their kids play with the toys on hand or simply chat away.
For years, men would shoot the breeze at the barbershop, a practical place that became so much more.
As Ehrenfeld says of North, “This is our version of that.”
North is at 65 Pondfield Road in Bronxville. For more, visit North clothing store on Facebook, at northbxv.com or call 914-202-9608.