Retailer Henri Bendel opens at Walt Whitman

Shoppers browse merchandise in the newly opened Henri

Shoppers browse merchandise in the newly opened Henri Bendel store at the Walt Whitman Shops in Huntington Station. (June 7, 2012) (Credit: Steven Sunshine)

Henri Bendel, the famed Manhattan retailer, opened a store at the Walt Whitman Shops in Huntington Station Thursday, part of a planned $40-million renovation of the mall.

The 2,200-square-foot store is the 22nd in a rollout bringing the legendary brown-and-white striped logo to shopping centers across the country.

"Bendel's!" shouted Laura Vogelsberg, a 40-something from Smithtown, throwing her arms in the air with glee. Vogelsberg, who has shopped at the Fifth Avenue store for decades, bought striped flip flops Thursday.

Joan Kelly, 51, of Dix Hills, shopped for her wedding dress at Bendel in Manhattan back in the day and said of the merchandise, "You know you're going to get something chic, classy and up-to-the-minute."

Strategists at the company, owned by Limited Brands since 1985, are betting on Bendel's fabled cache and powerful retail oomph. Milliner and fashion retailer Henri Bendel opened his eponymous department store in Manhattan in 1895.

"I think one of the reasons Long Island is attractive to Bendel's is that the brand resonates so strongly with Long Island customers," said Chris Fiore, Bendel's president. "They know Henri Bendel as a fashion icon, and some of them were taken to the New York store by their mothers and grandmothers."

Fiore said the move to Walt Whitman came about because the mall's owner, Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group, Inc., "is making a major investment in the center and spending a substantial amount of money on renovation. They're repositioning the model to attract the very best customer on the North Shore and they came to us and said we want you as part of the repositioning."

Bendel's flagship store, which stopped selling clothing in 2009, focuses on cosmetics, handbags, accessories and gifts, and the same will hold true on Long Island, except products will be exclusively Bendel's private label. The offerings range from $14 for a trio of nail polishes to $550 for a quilted leather and calf-hair tote.

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