For almost 90 years, celebrities, generations of haute New Yorkers, and even former First Lady Jackie Kennedy serviced their investment-worthy bags and fine leather goods at ArtBag, the iconic handbag-restoration boutique on Madison Avenue. But last summer, owner Chris Moore made the difficult decision to not renew the store’s lease. The New York Times eulogized ArtBag’s closing with the headline, “Who Will Repair Their Birkins Now?”
But there’s no need for a eulogy—like so many New York institutions, there hasn’t been a death but rather a reincarnation (with a southern shift). Moore and his team of artisans are still hard at work repairing silk linings, restitching well-worn leather, and replacing the handles and zippers on Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Hermès, and other high-end handbags. The only difference is when you dial ArtBag (with its 212 area code), it rings at a storefront 1,200 miles away on University Drive in Coral Springs.
“Thankfully, we even were able to get the same 212 telephone number,” says Moore. “The way The New York Times article was written led people to believe we were actually going out of business, and customers were coming in with three, four, five bags at a time!”
Before the pandemic crippled the merchandise sales and foot traffic at Moore’s Madison Avenue store—the only Black-owned business on that upscale stretch between 57th and 86th streets—roughly a third of ArtBag’s profits were already coming via mail orders from customers as far away as Wisconsin, Idaho, and California. Considering the steep rise in rents on Madison Avenue since Moore took over ArtBag from his father, Donald Moore, in 1993, and how much Moore and his wife enjoyed vacationing in South Florida, they made the decision to shutter the New York store last July. On August 1, they opened in Coral Springs, positioning themselves to service clients in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Palm Beach.
Some of ArtBag’s past clients are snowbirds familiar with the store’s legacy. Others come to them through word of mouth. Though Moore is noticing less foot traffic for repair work given the car-centric nature of South Florida, he says Instagram (where he regularly posts before-and-after photos) has been a strong referral service.
“It’s been a blessing, and we couldn’t have hoped for anything better,” Moore says. “Whenever you provide a service like we do, which is rare, and you do it well, the word will get out.”