by KEISHEL A. WILLIAMS
Regardless of where you are in the U.S., it’s a well-known fact that Brooklyn is going through some changes. The word ‘gentrification’ is being strewn around and the effects are swift and noticeable. Crown Heights has been experiencing an influx of people and culture that has both added to and disrupted the order of things – depending on who you ask. A few months ago one such disruption took place, much to the delight of many people in the neighborhood. Almost overnight Haute Breukelen Boutique – which got its spelling from the original Dutch spelling of Brooklyn – sprung up on a dreary block on Schenectady giving life to an area that felt more like a comfortable old shoe. Everyone wants to know where it came from, who is the mastermind behind it and more importantly – why is it there?
As I walk into the quaint boutique, the owner and one assistant stylist sat awaiting my arrival. They are both warm and friendly, although at first glance you may think otherwise when approaching the dreadlocked man next to his miniature assistant. Pleasantries and housekeeping are exchanged before Trinisha – the assistant – heads out. It is not only polite to sit back and take in the craftsmanship of the items adorning the boutique, but it’s almost a sin not to appreciate the subtle details that went into each part of the store. Jason Dillon, a subcontractor by trade, was meticulous with his work and the end result was heavenly. Every detail of this new wonder has been carefully orchestrated: each curated piece, every accent furniture, every stroke of design on the wall. Dillon has poured his very essence into this boutique.
We sit down and it’s hard not to notice the parallelism at play: the boutique is a reflection of its owner and he’s a reflection of his masterpiece: well dressed, wearing carefully selected pieces with his signature baseball cap crowning his flowing dreads – a pleasantly eclectic mix of uptown and downtown chic. Everything there is an experience. The experience of walking into the boutique is synonymous with going into an opulent walk-in closet. Pretty much any woman’s dream closet. The boutique’s tone is one of luxury but accessibility with price points tethering in the middle to appeal to both the affluent and those in the lower income market. It’s a place for people who just want to look good whether on a budget or have an exorbitant amount of money to spend. Before long a client walks in, a mature woman who knew exactly what she wanted as she made a beeline for the white mules on the shoe rack. Dillon’s demeanor with the client is assiduous and genuine.
“Where’re you going tonight?” he asks as he retrieves the right size shoe for her. She forms a low chuckle. Dillon is charming. There’s light banter between them and she leaves with a comfortable purchase of white mules. She works in one of the stores close by and would always come by to show support, he explained to me a bit later. That type of solidarity is the heart of the boutique, a recent gentrified addition to the Schenectady and St. John’s block in Crown Heights Brooklyn. Only two months old the venture is still in its early stages, but seems to be making a strong mark in the neighborhood.
“Why not here? How are you expecting to get your neighborhood to where you want it to be when you not involved in the actual growth of the neighborhood, you’re not making any investments”
Haute Breukelen Boutique is like an unexpected rose that grew out of the concrete sidewalks of this area. Buried in a sea of drab apartments and antiquated stores, the boutique catches the eye of everyone who passes by. The layout of the store is a culmination of what Dillon sees as interesting aspects of the city and city life. The idea was to bring part of that Manhattan look to this part of Brooklyn – the Manhattan finish. The difference is, Haute Breukelen aims to give a sense of familiarity to customers in the area – something they won’t get in the boutiques out in the city. The idea of being able to come out of one’s home and shop attainable, luxurious pieces right on your block has seemed to peak the interests of the many clients who have supported the business. When asked why he chose to open such an affluent-looking establishment in Crown Heights:
“Why not here? How are you expecting to get your neighborhood to where you want it to be when you not involved in the actual growth of the neighborhood, you’re not making any investments,” he said categorically. “It’s just the connection to the community,” Dillon continued referring to his desire to open here in Brooklyn as opposed to Manhattan where he draws most of his inspiration. He explained all the people who have their businesses in the area are not from there. They leave and come back daily. He wants to inspire the neighborhood to change this.
As if an affirmation of the boutique’s place in the neighborhood, ever so often someone would pass by and call out to him. In a few short months, Haute Breukelen Boutique has become a prominent fixture in the community. There have been naysayers who lamented that the boutique doesn’t belong and would more than likely close in a few weeks like many other businesses that has tried to open their doors in the neighborhood for the past two years. But two months later, Haute Breukelen is still here with a purpose. Understanding it’s not always an easy feat getting that final polished look, especially for affordable prices, Haute Breukelen Boutique offers a one-stop closet for women to move seamlessly between professional and fashionably casual in one full sweep. Dillon’s mother, Sandra Dillon, was the inspiration for this type of boutique as he saw and admired her professional style from a young age. His admiration for a well-dressed woman influences the curated pieces stocked in the boutique which includes items from both well-known and independent designers. Indie designers are given center stage as Haute Breukelen will consistently feature new independent designers, at no cost to the designer, as a springboard to helping launch their careers. The boutique currently carries designer Evelyn Lambert’s collections, which was launched at the end of New York Fashion Week this past September. A new holiday collection will be released in November.
The boutique is a catalyst for an immaculate business district in the area as it has now increased the value of the block and has shown the potential of the neighborhood, to the point where it has recently been included in real estate listings as a selling point for the neighborhood. The uniqueness of being a “pleasant surprise” is what the store thrives on at the moment and Dillon intends to keep it that way to ensure the longevity of Haute Breukelen Boutique. The business’ collaborative nature, working with neighboring businesses, is also another part of its charm assistant stylists Trinisha and Jennifer would later corroborate. There’s plenty of cross-promotion between the boutique, the neighboring nail salon, and the neighboring hair salon. Haute Breukelen intends to bloom widely and take everyone they can with them. The holiday season will bring more joy to the neighborhood as Dillon and his team intends to close the year out with more surprises.
And of course, Dillon is always thinking about the people: “I just want the public to know that I appreciate them, how they embraced the store. It’s been mostly positive.”
Visit the boutique for their Mary Kay pop-up shopping event on October 28th.
Images: Haute Breukelen Boutique