Midtown furriers get creative to stay in business



Inside Konstantine Furs, located at 210 W. 29th St. Photo by Klara Bauters

The Fur District in Midtown, once teeming with manufacturers and fur salons, is now home to only a few stores.

And they are easy to miss.

The remaining furriers, hidden behind discreet storefronts draped in curtains, are grappling with reduced demand, lackluster sales, and milder winters that have transformed the market.

But some long-standing salons in the fur district refuse to give up.

Konstantine Dologlou, owner of Konstantine Furs on West 29th Street, says 90% of his business relies on longtime customers, referrals, or the result of word-of-mouth marketing.

“I founded this store in 1983, so I’ve built a strong base,” said Dologlou. “But I have seen many furriers going out of business.”

He is wistful about the Fur District of the past when competition was good.

“When you have six blocks full of furriers and a lot of people are coming, you know there’s a demand,” he said. “Now there’s few of us left.”

Changing fashion preferences have also taken a toll on the local fur business.

“Years back a classic mink coat was timeless,” said Nicholas Sekas, a second-generation New York furrier whose father founded Sekas International in 1961, a store specializing in minks. Today, half of his revenue comes from repairing and redesigning worn coats. Sales of new mink coats, once the mainstay of the business, now accounts for only 50% of company revenue.

The manufacturing of mink pelt—the animal’s skin and fur— dropped by 15% in 2022 to 1.3 million pelts compared to 2021, according to a report this summer from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Being in the fur business means pivoting with the times, said Sekas. After the 1987 stock market crash, his store saw a continuous decline in mink coat sales and expanded into other high-end products, such as fur-trimmed cashmere coats, in order to survive.

Now, Sekas says he’s had to pivot again by focusing more on customer service.

“I survived the coronavirus pandemic because people at home wanted me to store their coats in my cooled storage area,” said Sekas. He also designed a fur rug for someone who wanted his background to look luxurious when having online meetings. “People kept calling me during that period for alterations, so I knew I had to switch to a more customer-oriented business.”

But larger department stores have stopped trying to sell fur altogether.

Saks Fifth Avenue closed its fur salons last winter, as part of a broader trend by U.S. department stores, including Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom, to stop selling fur products. Saks is currently selling off the last of its coats on its website.

Ingrid Lewis-Martin, chief advisor to Mayor Adams, said she buys all her fur coats at Konstantine Furs and wears them with pride.

“I don’t care what people think of me. I love fur and I even gift fur and leather coats to my friends,” Lewis-Martin said. “Konstantine is my guy because his workers deliver high quality.”

But animal rights activists believe fur coats have lost their appeal.

Tracy Reiman, chief executive vice-president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said in an email statement that PETA’s lively protests and storefront takeovers against fur are over, claiming fur coats have become passé across the board.

While a growing number of brands have announced fur-free policies for ethical reasons, the use of faux fur has been gaining momentum in the fashion industry, according to Bloomberg.

But Nicholas Sekas says he will never be in the faux fur business.

“Fur coats are sustainable, biodegradable and environmentally friendly,” said Sekas. “Faux fur is made of plastic sourced from fossil fuels. Plastic is already a big problem for the earth we live on, so I won’t go against my belief.”