Have you ever traveled on the M86 crosstown bus, as it passes through Central Park and then makes a left on Madison Avenue and 84th Street? If so, you’ll see Artbag, the retail leather accessories and restoration boutique, right there on the corner at 1130 Madison Avenue. It offers a unique shopping experience and old-world charm!
Artbag operates as an exclusive retail belt and handbag boutique, as well as a leather goods restoration salon. And Artbag is now a shoemaker, too! Owned and operated by an African American father-and-son team, Donald and Chris Moore, Artbag is the only Black-owned storefront establishment on NYC’s Madison Avenue from 57th to 86th Street.
In 1993, Donald Moore became the sole owner of Artbag, where he’d begun working as a porter in 1959 as a 17-year-old young man with a pregnant wife to support. From the ground up, he learned the leather goods restoration trade while working hard alongside the shop’s original owner, Hillet Tenenbaum. Back then, the elder Moore was able to purchase a share of the business and he eventually bought out his other partners.
Just as he took over the business in the early ’90s, his son Chris Moore, who had been born in Mt. Vernon, N.Y. in 1970, was graduating from Pace University. Chris had planned to open a Domino’s pizza franchise after graduation, but the early ’90s recession hit and jobs were scarce. So he joined his father at the shop, taking advantage of the knowledge he’d acquired while growing up there as a young boy, and realizing his dad had already taught him the business. Chris contributed more to the business side of Artbag, working the front end of the business, setting up the store’s website, www.artbag.com and extending Artbag’s online reach. Moving from 64th and Madison, they have been at the 84th and Madison Ave. location since 2001, right before 9/11.
During the height of the COVID pandemic, many businesses around the city closed. “There were so many moving vans on Madison Avenue for stores that were going out of business,” commented Chris during our interview. They, too, were also forced to close for three months in 2020. However, Artbag’s online and mail-order business grew tremendously. While the shop was shut down, both he and his father worked remotely. “I went to the shop at least once a week to collect mail and ship online orders,” remembered Chris. “Business owners today must be confident, give unparalleled service, be kind and personable.” The younger Moore is not fashion-minded, but he knows his clientele and merchandise.
For 90 years, Artbag has been the go-to shop where worldly clients bring their investment-worthy handbags, purses, and luggage. Expensive labels such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Hermes are often dropped off or mailed to the store from all over the world. While I was interviewing Chris, Artbag artisans were working away in the background, surrounded by the scent of the leather and the noise of sewing machines. Technicians expertly replaced the strap on a Chanel handbag in minutes while I was there. It was amazing to witness.
In the front boutique, there’s a sale going on. Every item in the store is on sale from 20-70% off the original price. Customers were excited coming and going. For materials, you can expect the finest quality leather, gold chains and various embellishments.
It can take approximately six weeks to repair a bag, wallet or purse (repair prices start at around $55). What’s in your closet? Artbag’s custom work is notable, too. They can recreate a too-small belt to make it fit; an old family leather heirloom can be restored; old shoes can be repaired.
Artbag has served well-known celebrities including the late actress Cicely Tyson and former First Lady Jackie Kennedy Onassis, plus numerous red-carpet celebrities. Added to their credits: Artbag created an elaborate brocade exterior for a jewel-encrusted Cartier handbag line.
Stop in and tell them you read about Artbag in the NY Amsterdam News. Store hours are Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5:15 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more info, visit www.artbag.com.