Love when national brands celebrate their hometown. Stillwater-based Gartner Studios, which makes stationery and invitations sold everywhere from Target and Wal-Mart to Anthropologie and independent boutiques, has closed its Pulp Fashion paper shop in downtown Stillwater to build a bigger store, cafe and studio across the street under the name of one of the brand’s higher end lines, Mara-Mi. The flagship store will feature the entire Mara-Mi line plus Russell + Hazel, which Gartner acquired last year, and custom invitations. And hoping to fill the void left by Starbucks, the store will include a cafe with light lunch fare and cupcakes (yes, brides, they can be custom ordered for events.) If it’s a hit, the cafe could expand to evening hours and perhaps even serve wine. Gartner Studios will be located upstairs. Sounds extremely promising. The opening is scheduled for mid July.

The only surprise about today’s announcement that Extrados plans to close its original brow waxing shop at 50th and Xerxes in South Minneapolis is that it didn’t happen three years ago, when the Extrados Salon and Spa opened nearby in Linden Hills. Owner Leah Simon-Clarke says the time has come to merge the two and reemerge as a destination for “total beauty,” including personal growth seminars and fitness classes. June 26 is the final day for Extrados at 50th & Xerxes. Look for discounts on products and services at the Linden Hills location throughout July.

There’s nothing glamorous about running a store – even in a charmed neighborhood like Linden Hills; even selling darling high end baby apparel and bedding that’s organic to boot. Oscar & Belle plans to close its retail space by June 24 – after just a year of business. The local company is going back to focusing on what it does best: design and manufacturing. The line is sold at 75 boutiques nationwide and online. In a statement released today, owner Anna Gustafson said, “Our wholesale business is growing with some new opportunities on the horizon and I am unable to effectively do it all.” Gustafson and her husband are also expecting their first baby in August – and having one baby to pour all your time and energy into is more than enough.
See closing sale details here.

Organic cotton tees just aren’t enough anymore. Veteran Twin Cities gift and clothing store Bibelot is getting into the used clothing business. Rewear will open on the second floor of the Como store in mid-July. Fall and winter women’s apparel, size 4 to 14, in “like new” condition is now being collected. When selected items have been priced, customers will receive 50 percent of the resale value on a Bibelot gift card. If it seems an unlikely choice for an independent shop that makes itself a draw with high-quality, unique items that aren’t always the cheapest, Bibelot says its customers want to recycle and refresh their wardrobes at the same time.

Shellac Day 1I’ve been Shellacked. It’s the latest hybrid between color and gel from Creative Nail Design and is said to last two weeks without chipping.  At $50, it’s less expensive than gel nails, and said to be less work. Shellac goes on just like polish, but dries literally in seconds under a UV lamp. First impressions: My nails look perfect, and I mean perfect. Generally, by the time I leave the salon, I’ve already smudged at least a pinky. These shiny, hard, but normal feeling nails seem utterly resistant to my abuse. Rhonda Hansford at Uptown’s Jason Deavalon Salon is one of the first in town to offer the service. The one added step is polish removal, which is more of a process since the color is cured to the nails. It’s $10 to have Hansford take off the polish, but the charge is waived with reapplication. Take-home “Shellac Remover Wraps” are available. But before we get to that, let’s see if it really survives a weekend filled with t-ball, not tea parties.

Motherhood could be the launch point for your modeling career: Hot Mama is looking for a mom over the age of 35 with a daughter over the age of 5 to appear in a print advertising campaign. The casting call takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, June 12 at Hot Mama’s 50th & France flagship. Top finalists will be voted for on Shopmama.com. It’s a smart way for this fast growing mini-chain with 16 boutiques in the Twin Cities and beyond to connect with its core customers and get them invested in the brand.

Just announced: Luxury brand Mulberry is doing a handbag collection for Target – ninth in the retailer’s series of limited-time-only designer accessories collaborations. Mulberry for Target is scheduled to hit stores Oct. 10, 2010.

Happy little feet

Great resource for grown up girls with petite feet: Thelittleshoestore.com, specializing in women’s sizes 4 to 5 1/2. The site features vintage shoes  (smaller feet, back in the 20’s) and new shoes are coming soon.

Iron Mike Ditka stopped by the myTalk 107.1 studio for a live chat with the Shop Girls on Saturday. We think he got lost on his way out of sportsville am1500, but decided to take full advantage. He looked sharp in a black shirt, jeans, boots and aviator glasses. His hair was perfect (I asked about it, but he didn’t give away trade secrets). When we admired his shades, he recounted an amusing tale about wearing them to Whole Foods (he’s so fancy), buying his groceries, paying (no reusable bags), getting in his car to go home – and reading about the entire episode, sunglasses and all, in the gossip columns the next day. “Why is that news?” he asked. Probably because we’d have to think about things like oil spills and the economy if it wasn’t.
Hear the whole conversation – including his thoughts on Brett Farve and Bud Selig and skinny jeans here.
Okay, not skinny jeans.

The death of appointment shopping?

The newest Fun Sisters boutique at 216 S. Main St. in Stillwater is open regular hours, seven days a week. Anyone who started shopping this store at its original location at 42nd and Nicollet in South Minneapolis, knows that schedule indicates a significant shift: Fun Sisters was one of the early “occasional” stores, open just one weekend a month years before it was trendy. The philosophy of occasional stores is to build excitement and condition shoppers to show up and buy on specific dates – or risk missing out. “No one is that desperate for trinkets anymore,” the manager of the Stillwater Fun Sisters told me when I stopped by today – a Thursday, just after noon, when at least a half dozen women were ogling the inexpensive bags and accessories. Interesting. Did the recession kill event shopping? Has being less needy, or at least more self-conscious about wanting stuff, made shoppers less likely to pencil in a special trip to a store open just a couple of days a month? Or are there just so many of these stores now that the thrill has waned? And can being available all the time compensate for the frenzy that limited hours can create? Thanks to Fun Sister’s evolving strategy, we’ll find out.