The Elizabeth Taylor of Retail
Faith Hope Consolo had already made herself crystal clear by the time she finally strode into the lush, sofa-lined conference room on Madison Avenue. Like the lag between lightning and thunder, the so-called retail queen’s New Yawkese streaks through the halls of Prudential Douglas Elliman’s third-floor office seconds before her arrival.
“I hope we’re going to take a fresh view!” Ms. Consolo squeals, singsong-like, as she marches through a hallway decorated with a half-dozen or so painted retail scenes, all of them intended as paeans to the boldface broker’s myriad commercial deals. Cartier, Christian Louboutin and Longchamp are all accounted for and span from the front reception desk to the long narrow hallway and back.
“Where are you guuuyyyysss?!” she calls out, shattering the silence.
If there was ever doubt about her pivotal role at Douglas Elliman, a real estate firm bubbling over with big names and bigger egos—think Dolly Lenz and Jacky Teplitzky, to name two—Ms. Consolo was all but declaring her position at the top of the pile on a recent rain-swept Monday afternoon.
“You know what, Hollywood has their stars, but New York has real estate and everybody in real estate in New York thinks they’re a star,” said Ms. Consolo, confirming a fact that exactly nobody in the industry hadn’t already figured out. “Whether they are or they aren’t, this is our Hollywood.”
Depending on whom you ask, Ms. Consolo may, in fact, be the Elizabeth Taylor of the real estate set: brash but focused, prolific if a bit unhinged. That isn’t to say that her critics would necessarily agree with the depiction.
“She’s a queen in her own mind,” sniffed one real estate insider, who criticized Ms. Consolo’s legendary self-promotion, a skill that, like it or not, has led to reality TV and book offers as well as myriad on-air appearances.
But however divisive she may be, Ms. Consolo has managed to deliver year after year, pulling in upscale tenants like Versace, Salvatore Ferragamo, Yves Saint Laurent, Fendi and Bond No. 9, just to name a small fraction of her retail conquests. Since joining Douglas Elliman in 2005 as chairwoman of the firm’s retail leasing and sales division, she has carved out a reputation as the go-to for luxury stores and emerged as a sharp branding expert. Indeed, it was she who positioned Au Bon Pain as a designer establishment by placing the ubiquitous fast-food spot at the city’s best addresses. In all, she inked 48 deals for the company.
Last month she signed a coveted deal with Kimaya, an India-based haute couture clothier that will open its first U.S. store on Madison Avenue across from Longchamp, in a 4,500-square-foot space near 63rd Street formerly occupied by E. Braun and Joseph Martin. “From Mumbai to Madison,” the press release announced.
In all, Ms. Consolo claims to have inked 67 deals this year—or about six transactions a month—despite a crippling recession that may have hit the country’s retailers the hardest. That isn’t to say that it came easy.
“It was a hush,” said Ms. Consolo of the first-quarter paralysis that struck many of her clients. “I kept checking my phone to see if it was out of order. I drove our IT people crazy because I get an average of, like, 400 to 600 emails an hour, and I was getting 40.”