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Archive for the ‘Twin Cities retail’ Category

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How Retailers Are Making It Work

Monday, October 17th, 2011

I hear the unemployment numbers, feel the stock market swing and see the Wall Street protesters. Then I go to the mall and can’t help but think, “What recession?” Clearly, retailers have suffered these past few years. Some more than others. I talk to some that feel like they’re hanging on by a string. Others count their blessings because business is actually quite strong. Usually they tell me in a whisper, as if saying it out loud could somehow jinx the recovery.

Tuesday evening, Galleria retailers will be speaking out loud, and you are invited. Fashion Group International Minneapolis & St. Paul hosts “Lifestyle in this Economy,” a panel discussion featuring representatives from local boutiques dugo, Hammer Made, Three Rooms and Rocco Altobelli salon and day spa. With yours truly moderating. We’ll discuss how customer habits and attitudes have changed, how retailers have had to change and the outlook this holiday season and beyond. The event is free and should be interesting, whether you’re a business owner, a shopper, or both. Join us at dugo from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. (discussion starts at 7).

Lululemon Hits St. Paul

Monday, October 17th, 2011

Lululemon Athletica opens its first St. Paul store Friday, Oct. 21 at Grand and Victoria. The fast growing Canadian company also has stores at West End in St. Louis Park and Mall of America. Lulu has already named its St. Paul “ambassadors;” they are six local fitness instructors, including Amelia Ruth (pictured) of CorePower Yoga. At lululemon, selling lifestyle is as important as each pair of essential black yoga pants. This store, like the others, will offer complimentary in store classes and host a running group led by the local ambassadors. Click here for upcoming events. 870 Grand Ave., St. Paul

Finding More Joy

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Christie Larson has found joy again. The glass mosaic artist, who opened Finding Joy in Excelsior just this past January, is opening a second Finding Joy today in Chanhassen. The new store, in Market Square Shopping Center (near Cub Foods), will feature the works of more than 60 local artists–most of whom live within 20 miles of the store. Find jewelry, pottery, glass, woodworking, baby gifts and more, priced from $2 to $300. Larson plans to host classes, art demos and kid craft activities at the store. “There’s so much joy to be found in art,” says Larson, “And even more if you know that the artists are, in essence, your neighbors.” Grand opening festivities today, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. will include refreshments, drawings, artist visits and children’s activities. 7838 Market Blvd., Chanhassen, 612-250-7286

Askov Finlayson

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Photo by Katherine Harris

If you can’t get in to Marvel Bar, buy a shirt at Askov Finlayson to better your odds. The achingly hip new store completes a trifecta for the Brothers Dayton, Eric and Andrew, who also own and operate The Bachelor Farmer restaurant and uber-hot Marvel Bar in the same historic North Loop building. Named for neighboring Northern Minnesota towns that share an exit on Highway 35, Askov Finlayson caters to the classically styled (emphasis on styled) man as well as contemporary design enthusiasts with apparel, jewelry, gifts, and home accessories from quality brands both local and international, including Barbour and Wm. J. Mills & Co. North Loop shopping just keeps getting cooler. 200 N. 1st St., Mpls., 612-206-3925

Southdale Ready to Fix Itself

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

A press release has been issued, renderings have been released. This time, it’s more than talk: Southdale is finally, and I mean, finally, ready for the Big Fix. Or at least, first steps to restore the relevancy of nation’s first enclosed shopping center. Simon Property Group has got to put some money into modernizing the center if it is to attract prime stores. (You can be sure Michael Kors and Herberger’s–both opening in November–knew improvements were coming when they signed on.) These renovations are scheduled to begin in January:

  • Redesigned Food Court: The food court is moving to the second floor JC Penney wing. Southdale promises new vendors, new seating, sky lights and new restrooms. (The mall says the current third floor food court will remain open during construction, which is startling news, considering most shoppers assumed it closed years ago.)
  • New corridor. They’re busting through the wall that has closed off the JC Penney wing for better access and flow.
  • Remodeled mall entrance between JC Penney and Macy’s with a covered area, sliding doors and more modern look.
  • New play area. Now we’re talking. Southdale is planning an indoor/outdoor play area for kids near the remodeled entrance. It’s one of the simplest improvements that goes a long way toward being a community gathering spot…as I pointed out way back on Feb. 23, 2007 in the St. Paul Pioneer Press:


To whom it may concern at Simon Property Group, Inc.:

I’m really glad to hear you guys are buying Southdale Center. The place is a mess.

While other malls have found new anchors, the old Mervyn’s space remains vacant at Southdale. The food court is a ghost town, as is the JC Penney’s wing. One of the few new stores to open in recent months — Image — turned out to be a front for a drug operation. The latest blow came this week: Crate & Barrel — one of the few remaining draws — announced plans to move next door to the Galleria.

Understanding how things got this bad is difficult. Not to diminish the expertise it takes to run a successful shopping center, but managing Southdale seems like a no-brainer. The mall is located in affluent Edina, which has long been known as a regional shopping destination. It has one of the best Macy’s stores in town, plus premium retailers like J. Crew, Apple, Coach and Aveda. There’s a megaplex with stadium seating and the best row of upscale restaurant chains in town, including Minnesota’s only Cheesecake Factory, where it seems the wait is always an hour and a half. And I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, Simon, that Southdale has a national reputation as the country’s first enclosed mall.

What the mall needs now is a loving, monogamous relationship. Southdale has been bounced from owner to owner to owner in the past five years, and each has been too consumed with its own financial woes to give this mall the attention it needs. Do I sound emotional? Well, Southdale is my mall. It’s where I got my first hair cut, my first bra, my first job. It’s where I met up with boys (OK, watched them pass by) and tried on prom dresses with friends. It’s where I took my own baby on his first outing because I knew where all the bathrooms were located.

It’s sad to watch your hometown mall fall apart like this. Southdale was once the premiere Twin Cities shopping center. Now, there’s no compelling reason to visit — beyond the restaurants and movie theaters. And you don’t even need to walk through the rest of the mall to get to them. What a dumb design.

Something must be done to save Southdale.

I’m counting on you, Simon, to bring some much-needed stability to this local shopping institution. You did a competent job running Mall of America. (Until those renegade Ghermezian brothers snatched it back. Sorry to bring that up.) And Maplewood Mall, which you continue to operate, seems to be thriving. So I know you’re quite familiar with this market and our sophisticated taste. Living in the tundra doesn’t prevent us from being fashionable. We want the newest, the latest, the best.

Still, swooping in to heal the damage of neglect must seem a monumental task, even for an enormous retail real estate conglomerate like you. I’ve prepared a to-do list to get you started.

– Woo a high-end department store. We’ve all heard the rumors that Neiman Marcus is interested in Southdale. Jump on that! Or see if you can talk Saks Fifth Avenue into giving the Twin Cities another go. We’re drowning in moderate stores. Southdale built its reputation on distinction. It’s time to regain that crown.

– Gut the remains of that pathetic third-floor food court. Bring in vendors more appetizing than Sbarro and create an inviting space. For guidance, take a look at Eden Prairie Center, where a fireplace and leather sofas give the food court some actual atmosphere.

– Treat the gaping spaces throughout the center as an opportunity to once again create a unique tenant mix. Bring in some of the new retail chains that are looking for real estate at other upscale malls across the country. Forth & Towne, Gap’s new concept for women over 35, ought to be a great fit. An A/X Armani Exchange would certainly boost Southdale’s — and the Twin Cities’ — shopping image. Even a French Connection would help. Lacoste, which is hot once again on the coasts, would fit in perfectly in this preppy part of town.

– Find a way to open up that cavernous JC Penney wing, or at least make shoppers a little less scared to venture down there. No, I don’t have specifics — you’re the experts. Aren’t you?

– Add a free children’s play area. During the winter in Minnesota, malls become a substitute for parks. Parents go out of their way to frequent places where their children can burn off energy in a designated space. Rosedale, Ridgedale and Eden Prairie Center have figured this out. Time to catch up.

– While we’re on the subject of kids, some clean new family bathrooms would be a big improvement as well.

I’ve been told that even with competent management, it could take years to turn things around at Southdale in any meaningful way, so I’ll try to be patient. But be aware that Martin & Osa is just the latest hot new concept to open at Mall of America, Rosedale has that new lifestyle wing, Ridgedale just started a major renovation and the cozy cabin-like atmosphere at Eden Prairie Center is a compelling draw even without a ton of A-list stores. I’ll give you a fair chance to return Southdale to its former glory, but if you don’t do right by my mall, Simon, know that I’ve got options.

Chic on Selby

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

Allee Metro Chic seems like it just got out of jail. Technically, it was a hidden alley, which in retail, is sort of the same thing. The new storefront is bright, welcoming and spacious–a new situation for the store that crammed its dresses and shoes into a matchbox space. Right now, there are a lot of smart sweaters and jackets from familiar brands like French Connection and Free People. But more from the small, European lines that make this boutique tres enchante is on the way, co-owner Kelissa Stempski promises.

One of the best surprises is Assez Bon, the new home furnishings and accessories store on the lower level of Allee’s space. Owner Rebecca Schissel, who used to have a store in Mankato, offers a mix of new and used pieces with a romantic, vintage feel sure to suit the Allee shopper. 493 Selby Ave., St. Paul, 651-414-0274

Poppy Togs and Clogs

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

Jill Henderson’s dream is one many a working mom can appreciate: To run her own business in order to have the flexibility to spend more time with her family. I’m always dubious when moms think opening a store is going to enhance their quality of life, but Henderson, who has years of retail/merchandising experience, seems to be setting boundaries right out of the gate. Poppy Togs and Clogs, in the former Peapods space at Snelling and St. Clair, is open just Thursday-Sunday. She tells other moms why, and hopes they’ll understand. Now she just needs to make those four days a week count.

Poppy is stocked with baby and toddler apparel as well as colorful clothes for moms from pattern-happy brands like Desigual. Find print cotton dresses, statement coats, jewelry and clogs in every color. Beyond gift-friendly baby goods like sock monkey pajamas and St. Paul shirts, Poppy targets practical moms with a rack of “recycled” kids clothes she’s collected (items are not being accepted for resale at this time). The store is a work in progress–something any mother can appreciate. 251 Snelling Ave. S., St. Paul, 612-236-3660

Out of the Allee

Monday, September 19th, 2011

Charm only gets you so far. And apparently, it doesn’t get you down the European-inspired alley at Selby & Snelling in St. Paul to shop Allee Metro Chic. The boutique is planning to move to the former L’atelier Couture space at 493 Selby Ave. That’s closer to co-owner June Berkowitz’s coffee house, Nina’s Cafe. But mostly, it’s out of the alley and visible from the street. Allee hopes to reopen in its new space by Oct. 1.

Oh yes, you caught that part about L’atelier Couture? Here’s a peek at the bridal salon’s fantastic new North Loop space:

Photo by Liz Banfield

Doesn’t it just make you want to be a bride?

L’atelier Couture, 219 N. Second St., Suite 404, Mpls

Timberland at Calhoun Square

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

Timberland is opening at Calhoun Square – the brand’s first stand-alone store in Minnesota. The 2,000-square-foot store on the first floor of the Uptown shopping center, overlooking Hennepin Avenue, will showcase much more than those sturdy yellow work boots. Expect the full Timberland brand experience, including footwear, clothing and outdoor accessories for men, women and children. Calhoun Square general manager Ken Seifert says the store will have a “unique design seen in few locations nationally.” Timberland’s projected opening is Nov. 1.

Meanwhile, massage and bodywork clinic Euphoric Ambiance is now open on the second floor of Calhoun square specializing in deep tissue massage and offering sound therapy and heated bamboo massage.

Patina Goes Suburban!

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

Patina is taking over the former Hollywood Video space at Highway 55 and Winnetka Avenue in Golden Valley.

What a delightfully unexpected follow-up to Patina’s last expansion, at the up and coming, but still rough-around-the-edges corner of Selby & Snelling in St. Paul. Patina has five Twin Cities locations – all urban. And like the hipster couple that vows to stay in the city after having the first kid, only to head west once the second one comes along, having a parking lot out front is starting to sound appealing to Patina’s husband and wife owners Rick Haase and Christine Ward, who have friends that have migrated to Golden Valley.

“It feels right,” Ward says. Situated right off of Highway 55, visible to daily commuters, downtown Golden Valley is a convenient meeting spot between Plymouth and Minneapolis. The well-manicured retail area, with a fountain and outdoor seating, offers plenty of dining choices, including D’amico, Doolittles, Noodles & Co. and Starbucks, but zero shopping–unless you count the local hardware store. The real surprise is that it took this long for a gift shop to claim the corner.

Patina will open in Golden Valley in time for the holidays. But first, Haase and Ward are focused on re-opening the 50th & Bryant store that burned down last year. The target date for the South Minneapolis opening is Sept. 26.

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