What started as a quirky retail concept, Caravan created some mild buzz in Spring 2005 when it launched the city’s first mobile boutique. Inspired by the pop-up stores saturating Soho retail, creator and owner Claudine Gumbel—one of the founders of Think PR—figured if retail could be temporary, it could also be mobile.
So she and her husband took a Winnebago, covered it in logos, added an AC and some contemporary clothing lines and just like that, Caravan was created.
The idea was that Caravan “brings the boutique to you,” parking in different neighborhoods throughout the city, or even, upon request, right outside your apartment.
Every Friday after work Caravan would be parked outside my office in Meatpacking, but I was never once tempted to crawl in. Maybe it’s because I get car-sick and suffer from slight claustrophobia, or maybe it’s because shopping in a trailer is just weird.
Either way, a year after the concept store’s inception, the Gumbels threw down some cash on actual rent and opened a second location in a storefront on Great Jones Street. Mobile no more, Caravan kept its name but lost its concept.
Just to make things even more blatantly amusing, Caravan recently opened a second stationary location on the Upper East Side. As if cross-over clientele from Great Jones Street to 91st & Lex wasn’t a contradiction enough, this outpost is attempting to capture the exclusivity of the neighborhood—or rather, the exclusivity that lives 20 blocks south and two avenues closer to the park—by setting up an “appointment only” shopping experience.
Wait, it gets better. You get an appointment by calling a secret phone number.
Are their Nieves Lavi or Rachel Pally dresses—which you can get at any Scoop or Intermix on any corner in this city—really so sought after? Even if they’re served up with complimentary Moet champagne and chocolates from Boule (that’s what they’ve listed as incentive to flock)?
I think not.
Note to self Claudine Gumbel, we know you were groomed in the world of PR where fickle fads rule supreme. But you can’t start with trailer trash chic is 2005 and decide you’re The Saks Club two years later.
Final Word: Caravan, 128 E. 91st Street. Secret phone number yet to be uncovered. And if you want a Shoshanna dress delivered to your doorstep, I hope you can wait til Spring since the orignal Caravan is in "hibernation" for the winter. Dang!