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Ali Shops Blog

Archive for February, 2011

Haven Maven

Monday, February 28th, 2011

Garage sale shoppers, take note: Haven Maven opens Thursday in a small, second level suite in downtown Excelsior offering home décor resale – up to 90 percent off retail. No digging required – the mix is quite manageable and consists mainly of small accessories – vases, pillows, decorative pieces. Perfect for those who don’t want to put in the time bargain hunting, but want the deals. Owner Nancy Muller calls herself the “thrifty” interior designer. She has over 25 years experience. 436 Second St., #204 (upstairs), Excelsior

Oscars Red Carpet

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

It was an evening of sheer fabrics, glittery neutrals, dynamic reds, feathers and boobs – from Mila Kunis’ lace that looked more like an accidental peekaboo to Jennifer Hudson’s va-va-voom to Cate Blanchett’s target on her chest. Or was it a frame? On to the highlights…

You go, Jennifer Hudson. Celebrate that svelte figure. Love that tangerine Versace – and love knowing the shoes were purple, even if we couldn’t see them.

Anyone who criticizes Gwyneth Paltrow in this liquid Calvin Klein sheath, with perfectly straight hair to match is just jealous.

Unexpected, Mandy Moore! This crystal encrusted Monique Lhuillier gown is exquisite.

So much pressure on La Portman. And that’s just her bladder. I think she aced it. This Rodarte dress was so flattering and soft and pretty. Just pretty. Liked that she let her hair down, too.

Reese Witherspoon looked classic and glamorous in Armani Prive. Up close, the high pony was a bit southern belle, but she is a southern belle! I like it.

Most stunningly age appropriate? Toss up between Hailee Steinfeld in Marchesa and…

…the amazing Helen Mirren.

Now then.

First reaction: Am I seeing areolas??? Never quite recovered. You’re a fox, Mila Kunis, but this is not my fave.

Didn’t think it was possible for Nicole Kidman’s hips to look big. Congratulations. One bright spot: the red shoes.

Oh, of course she’s gorgeous and movie star glam (and outshines James Franco). Love the red. Generally not a fan of the pooping fabric effect.

Ahhh, I thought, on first glance from waist up. Ohhh, I said when I saw that cascade of tulle at the bottom. I don’t hate it, but feel like it would have been better without the fussiness at the bottom. Still, she’s Halle and she’s gorgeous and nobody wears spiky hair as well.

Now that’s a dress. It is growing on me. But I just can’t stop seeing the target on Cate Blanchett’s chest. Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing.

Personal Shoppers

Friday, February 25th, 2011

There aren’t many services you can count on being free, so you really ought to take advantage of professional shoppers who will do all the heavy lifting for you at better department stores and some specialty stores like J.Crew and Anthropologie. There’s no obligation to buy, and no requirement that you shop for expensive merchandise. Call ahead, be specific about your wants and needs, and feel free to say no if it’s not for you. Of course, often, it is exactly what you need – and what you didn’t even know you wanted.

So who are the Twin Cities’ best personal shoppers? Shop Girls listeners weighed in last week with their recommendations:

  • Mary Sickel at Nordstrom, Mall of America. “She will pull things ahead of time, but also, once she gets a feel for what you like she keeps pulling things as you are in the dressing room. She’s also great with accessories!” – Cori
  • Meg at Nordstrom, MOA. “She does an outstanding job,” – Jen
  • Hot Mama, seven Twin Cities locations. ”Not necessarily personal shoppers, but they do a good job of helping you pull looks together.” – Jen
  • Heidi Melena at the Armani counter at Nordstrom. “She loves to help with gifts on top of being a tremendous makeup artist.” – Nia
  • Who is your favorite?

Watermark on the Move…Again

Friday, February 25th, 2011
It was just two and a half years ago that Wayzata’s premier stationery store, Watermark, moved off scenic Lake Street for a bigger, sparkling new space on the more heavily trafficked Wayzata Boulevard. Turns out, visibility isn’t everything. Watermark is heading back to Lake Street and downsizing, due to shifting customer demands.
“Watermark was founded on Lake Street in 1990, and while people loved the pretty decor of our new spot, we heard our patrons telling us they missed us on Lake Street,” says manager Alexis Harsh. “I just had a customer say ‘Oh! You’re heading back to Wayzata.’ Even though we’ve been just a few streets away.”
Watermark is taking the spot between D’Amico and Graham Jewelers at 810 E. Lake St.  The new design studio/store opening April 4 will be more focused on custom invitations  - by far the fastest growing part of the business. The grab-and-go paper goods and gifts, which Watermark beefed up when it moved to Wayzata Boulevard, have proven a tougher sell.
“Admittedly, the big box companies make it very difficult for boutiques like ours to compete,” Harsh says. “Vendors we have carried for years are landing huge contracts with Target to design a line just for them – very similar to what they design for their dealers like us, yet at a third of the cost.”
Watermark will continue to offer some paper goods and monogrammed gifts. Meanwhile, a moving sale is on now at the 1160 Wayzata Blvd. E. store: 50 to 75 percent off cards, boxed invitations for all occasion, frames, baby gifts, candles, pens and more from Russel + Hazel, Jellycat, Filofax and other brands.

Catching Up with Evan Lysacek

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Bumped into my shopping buddy, Olympic gold medalist and Dancing with the Stars finalist Evan Lysacek at Kare11 Today. It was Evan, me and an armadillo on the show (click here for my designer discount shopping segment). Evan was in town to promote the 2011 Smuckers Stars on Ice tour, which will bring him to the Xcel Energy Center March 13. A couple of years ago when he was in town for the same tour, we hit Len Druskin Man, where I didn’t exactly have to twist Evan’s arm to get him to model skinny jeans. So of course I took note of his outfit in the green room: polar fleece (that he swapped after the TV shoot for a puffy black jacket with gold stripes down the sleeves), shirt, tie, slim black pants and old-school Woolrich lace-up boots. “I tried wearing dress shoes,” he told me, “But I kept slipping.” If the champion figure skater can’t walk our streets, where does that leave the rest of us?

Between the DWTS tour and skating tours, it’s been non-stop travel for Lysacek. Within a year, he says, he’ll have to make a decision about whether or not to compete in the 2014 Olympics. All I know is, when he returns to the Twin Cities in March, he promised I could come backstage to see his skating costumes!

Blown. Away.

The new ID/Inside Design and martinpatrick3 are, quite simply, stunning. This is just the urban lifestyle laboratory Minneapolis has needed to finally make the Warehouse District a shopping destination. You won’t just want to buy the furniture and menswear, you’ll want to soak it in – to become this effortlessly cool human who wears Fred Perry shirts and Naked & Famous jeans, carries a bright blue Marc Jacobs messenger bag and flips through photography books on a Ligne Roset chair. At least the store invites  lingering. There’s even a manly bar.

Owner Greg Walsh of Walsh Design Group has always been respected for his interior design work, but these stores reveal his true talent, which goes beyond pairing the right chair and lamp to cultivating a mood at once luxurious and laid back; modern and timeless. And then, having all the brands and objects needed for those who aspire to aesthetic. “It feels like Soho,” I heard shoppers gushing on Saturday. Who needs Soho? Walsh has raised the bar for Twin Cities retail – let’s hope others join him.

Visit ID/Inside Design and martinpatrick3 at 212 Third Ave. N., Mpls. (across the street from the Monte Carlo).

Coming to 50th & France…

Friday, February 18th, 2011

More pretty underpinnings could be coming soon to 50th & France. Two former Hot Mama employees are in final negotiations to lease the vacant space at 4948 France Ave., between Bluepeg and Beaujos. The lingerie and loungewear boutique will be called Room No. 3. The owners are jetting to New York next week for a buying trip. They hope to open by June.

Meanwhile, there’s zero buzz about the gaping hole at the southeast corner of 50th & France. (Ann Taylor Loft abruptly – or at least it seemed – vacated the space a few months ago and moved to Southdale Center.) That’s got to be an expensive piece of real estate, so a local boutique is unlikely. I’d like to see something contemporary, complimentary to the upscale local retail, and not over-exposed in this market – like Club Monaco, which has just one store at Mall of America. Or wouldn’t you love to see Zara swoop in? (MOA would have a fit!) Or Intermix? Or a Barney’s Co-Op? A MN shopper can dream.

Just please – not another restaurant.

My New Friends: George, Gina & Lucy

Friday, February 18th, 2011

My radio co-host Alexis Walsko showed up for Shop Girls last Saturday toting a bold new bag by George, Gina & Lucy. The hunter green canvas with leather trim and outrageously large hardware details made for a quirky-cool look for everyday wear. No one would dare mess with that handcuff-sized clasp. It’s not often that Alexis and I covet the same items. Her last bag made an entirely different statement, with the word “BOY” emblazoned, white on black, along the side. Took three months to convince her it was a diaper bag, not a date catcher.

I couldn’t have met George, Gina & Lucy at a better time: Maha! Inspired Activewear in Wayzata is receiving a big shipment of the bags this week – just in time to take advantage of Maha’s Swag Deal of the Week: 25 percent off regular priced merchandise! The bags, in myriad colors and shapes, sell for around $200. Print the coupon here and I’ll see you there!

Getting in Touch

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Hazard of an “intimate accessories” shop in the suburbs: Busy moms like to multitask. Since we were already in Eden Prairie for gymnastics class, I figured I could check out the brand new Touch Boutique at Town Square Shopping Center (just south of Eden Prairie Center)… 2 year old in tow. He ran straight for the condoms and asked “Is that a treat?” Well, kind of, yes, but not for you! Hershey kisses at the counter provided momentary distraction.

Moral of the story: leave the kids at home. While there’s nothing vulgar about the merchandise – no movies or hard-core gear – the battery operated accessories are not behind beaded curtain, either. But the hockey mom crowd is sure to love this tasteful boutique, which takes the awkwardness and inconvenience out of shopping for bedroom toys, games and books. High-end lingerie adds credibility and a touch of class.

574 Prairie Center Drive, Eden Prairie, 952-944-6128

The Many Faces of Len Druskin

Monday, February 14th, 2011

Len Druskin is going to need more names at the rate his son, president of his local retail empire, Michael Druskin is opening stores. The latest: Len Druskin Outlet is scheduled debut March 10 at City Center. It will replace the Len Druskin Clearance Experience, which has been temporarily located at Bonaventure in Minnetonka. New markdowns will be taken on Friday, Feb. 18, and the Minnetonka outlet will close March 6.

The new downtown Minneapolis Len Druskin Outlet will be the clearinghouse for markdowns from the full price stores (Len Druskin at the Galleria and Len Druskin Man and L.D. Len Druskin at Gaviidae Common), and will also feature some designer discount apparel purchased especially for the store.

This gets the retailer back to the concept of the original Len Druskin Outlet at Southdale Center, which now is Len, a fast fashion version of trendy contemporary apparel for women and men. Len stores, which have no connection to Len Druskin merchandise other than in name, are also located at City Center and Rosedale Center.

Meanwhile, the clearance center next to the Len store at Southdale will remain…for the time being. And while Minnetonka will be left without any Lens, don’t be surprised if one of them reappears soon.

You follow?

Michael Druskin acknowledges the various formats and names could be somewhat confusing to shoppers, but he’s not concerned. “Over time, it will become clearer, simplified,” Druskin says. “We just want to provide the best product possible at each location. As long as we do that, with good service, people will figure it out eventually.” | Mpls.St.Paul Magazine © 2008 MSP Communications, Inc. All rights reserved