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Last Minute Shopping Advice

Friday, December 16th, 2011
Oh, really? You’re going to the mall today? You and the rest of America. The Saturday before Christmas is, historically, even crazier day than Black Friday. This year is a little different, since Christmas Eve is also a Saturday. Malls will be open until 5 or 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve, but crowds are sure to thin out by afternoon. Which brings us back to this weekend, when everyone will be shopping. The National Retail Federation reported this week that the average person has completed less than half her shopping.
In lieu of a personal elf, here’s some advice:
  • Go early, stay late. Most malls are open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. this week (Rosedale will be open until 11 p.m. on Friday) and 8 a.m. to 5 or 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve. The Rosedale Macy’s will be open for 83 hours straight starting Wednesday at 7 a.m. Weeknights, even this week before Christmas, will be a lot more manageable than Saturday at the mall.
  • Make a list, and check it online. Do your price comparisons and check inventory in advance to cut down on in-store hassles.
  • Get crafty. On Saturday, Dec. 17, Calhoun Square will host 20 artists selling everything from jewelry to pottery. On Monday, Dec. 19, there’s a craft market happening at Modern Times Café. More event details here.
  • Get out of the mall. Victory in Linden Hills is all decked out for the holidays, and even if you don’t find the right gift, you’ll leave inspired rather than stressed. The Bee Cottage in Excelsior is nice for festive candles (and Santa matchboxes) and vintage Christmas décor. General Store of Minnetonka is a tried and true stop for everything from toys to gourmet gift baskets, and there’s a café.
  • Think beauty. Pampering is always appreciated, and spas have some great deals going: Get a $25 gift card when you buy one worth $150 at Spalon Montage. Get a spa gift set when you purchase a gift card for $50 or more at Rocco Altobelli. At Sanctuary SalonSpa, get the gift card purchase out of the way so you can take advantage of specials this week only, like a 50 minute massage for $50 or 10 percent off hair extensions.
  • Get it wrapped. StyledLife has its top eight gifts wrapped and ready to go. russell + hazel has all sorts of gift combos at the ready, and will also create one just for you.
  • Stock up on memorable hostess gifts. The hot chocolate and gourmet marshmallows at Williams-Sonoma are one of my favorites. Crate & Barrel is a great place for lasting gifts: mugs, candles, frames—and many are on sale. Make a CD mix—it gets the party started, and shows you put some thought into it.
  • Distract the kids! They’re on break; you need to shop. St. Louis Park toy/art store Kiddywampus is offering in-store classes and art projects all week.
  • Place online orders by the beginning of the week. Some sites will guarantee Christmas Eve delivery through Dec. 19 or 20. After that, it’s going to cost you extra.
  • Take note of what you want for yourself. Because what you don’t receive will probably be on sale next week.

Local Produce

Friday, December 9th, 2011
There’s no excuse for a generic card or gift wrapped in newspaper (claim eco-consciousness, at least) what with the Twin Cities’ deep pool of design talent. Local Produce is a new collaborative of experienced designers who have worked for major brands including Mara-Mi, Target and Anthropologie. The mission is simple: “create art that delights.” Experience that first hand Saturday at Corazon. Shop Local Produce gift wrap and tags, ribbons and package accents. Then shop the rest of the store (I had a hard time editing down all the great Corzon gifts for our Dec. gift guide in Mpls.St.Paul Magazine), and members of Local Product will wrap your packages in their paper (for a fee). Enjoy cookies and cider while you shop. 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday. 4646 E. Lake St., Mpls., 612-276-0198

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.

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.

While Kim Kardashian was busy tending to wedding details, I got to hang out with her then-fiance, NBA player Kris Humphries, at his home on Lake Minnetonka, where we shot the cover of the September issue of Mpls.St.Paul Magazine. You can see pics of the house where Kim has been chilling on frequent visits to the Twin Cities, and read about Humphries’ design vision (hint: Hitch) and hometown pastimes in the September issue – on newsstands next week. But here are some of the topics we discussed during our five hour photo shoot (the guy insisted on changing his shirt for every shot…).

Marrying Kim. “You get that feeling you’ve never felt about anyone before – that you’re so excited to be with someone.”

His parents’ reaction to the proposal. “My parents got married within a year of meeting each other. I’m at an age where I have to live my life. They raised me well.”

Kids. “Isn’t that what everyone wants?”

Life with a reality star. “I’m still who I was before. I enjoy life.” As for the cameras? “That’s just the nature of being with Kim.”

Where they’ll live. “We haven’t focused on that.”

Reality TV. “In my experience, it’s very authentic.”

Hidden talent. A ping pong table is the centerpiece of Humphries’ dining room – and he’s not messing around. “I’m the best ping pong player that hasn’t played in any league,” he said modestly.

In the fridge. Lots of fresh fruit, carrots, and Kim’s Ritual Cleanse organic juice. (Humphries did let our one of our crew members take a bottle, but jokingly warned she better not waste it – or “Kim will be mad.”)

Master bath. The counter is so high, Kim might need a stool. Custom made for the 6-foot-9 baller? “No, it just came that way,” Humphries marveled. The home, which he bought new about five years ago, was built on spec.

In the garage. A white Mercedes S550. (His Twin Cities Mercedes dealer attended Humphries’ Fourth of July bash on the rooftop of Seven.)

Viewing habits. Before meeting Kim, Humphries says he’d only seen snippets of her show. His favorites include The Office and Seinfeld.

Average off-season day - pre-wedding. When the NBA season ends, Humphries waits out the end of winter at his condo in South Beach. “I like Miami – the ocean, I’ve got a lot of friends there.” When it gets warm, he heads to Minnesota where he usually starts the day with an early morning workout at Lifetime Fitness in Chanhassen (he enjoys working out with former NBA players Chris Carr and Trent Tucker when possible, and also likes to mix in martial arts). Summer afternoons are usually spent at home or out on his boat, fishing with his dad or napping. Evenings are for poker. “I surround myself with pretty legitimate people.”

Mr. Fashionista. Kim’s got him trained: Humphries immediately zeroed in on the Louboutins on the cover of the Mpls.St.Paul Magazine July issue, which he flipped through at our cover shoot. We also discussed his new-found preference for wearing a suit without a belt. “It’s much sexier.” For that perfectly exquisite slim fit, Humphries orders custom suits by Scott Hill Bespoke Designs in Los Angeles. “I’ve definitely had more reasons to wear suits lately,” he said. “That’s what happens when you’re engaged to a fashion icon.”

Free agent = Timberwolves? “There’s more to the sport than, ‘I’m from Minnesota; I want to play there.’ The best fit isn’t always where you’re from. You really have to look at the team – situation and fit. It’s a business.”

St. Cloud. Really? Visiting one of his Five Guys franchises isn’t the only reason Humphries brought Kim to St. Cloud, about an hour outside of the Twin Cities. His grandparents live there. He often stops by, with burgers.

Hometown pride. No matter where he lives or who he plays for, Humphries said he’ll always root for the Vikings and Twins.

Red Hot: Nordstrom Fall Designer Preview

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

So much to love about fall fashion 2011. Nordstrom brought its Designer Preview to the Mall of America store tonight – one of just five nationwide to be treated to this super slick show, featuring 11 top collections including Chanel, Gucci, Marc Jacobs and Givenchy. Tweed, fur, leather and geometric prints were among the key trends. And where there’s color for fall, it will be red. Now. To pick just one look for the cover of the August Shop + Style section of MplsSt.Paul Magazine – oh, the torture!

See the collections up close before they fly back to New York: Nordstrom Mall of America hosts a post Designer Preview trunk show from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, June 24.

Corset Reopening

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

Corset boutique reopens in Hopkins today. New owner Jodi Mayers, a former sales and marketing executive specializing in customer service training, plans to continue focusing on women 30 to 65, offering professional, contemporary and casual apparel, sizes 0 to 20. She tells me she’ll carry many of the same brands, but also intends to add European and Canadian lines, and develop relationships with local designers. She’s adding more denim as well as evening options – all at a range of price points. Mayer plans to relaunch Corset’s personal styling membership program in the fall – the transition should be smooth with original owner Carrie Leum consulting.

Designer Arrivals for MOA

Monday, March 28th, 2011
Put in white marble floors and the designer stores will follow. Mall of America is getting Armani A|X, Michael Kors and Stuart Weitzman. All three have signed leases to open sizable stores in the remodeled south wing, where Burberry has undoubtedly been a bit lonely.
“We are continuing to lure luxury retailers to Mall of America after the South Avenue renovation,” said Maureen Bausch, MOA’s executive vice president of business development, in a statement today. East Broadway will get a makeover this summer, with a Soho vibe.
Meanwhile, Armani Exchange plans to open this summer, with its street-chic mix for women and men. Michael Kors will follow in the fall, offering the full range of accessories and shoes from the Michael Kors, KORS Michael Kors and MICHAEL Michael Kors collections, as well as ready to wear, fragrance, watches and eyewear. The Stuart Weitzman store will feature shoes and handbags. All three are firsts for the Twin Cities.
Other newcomers announced today: two international retailers, Barcelona-based clothing chain Desigual and Superdry, a British chain; Bettie Page, a retro shop featuring timeless pieces (think pencil skirts and circle dresses), retro accessories and lingerie from sizes XS to 4X; See’s Candies first year-round store in Minnesota and finally something new (again) for the fourth floor, Sky Deck Sports Grille and Lanes, which promises “Minnesota’s most unique bowling experience,” video games, sports viewing, burgers and pizza.
Meanwhile, Merrell Shoes plans to open this month on the north side and Naartjie Kids is now scheduled to open on the south side in May.

Cool boots – now, and later

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Love these Sigerson Morrison suede peep toe ankle boots from Pumpz & Co – shown today on Twin Cities Live: That’s Sharon Allemong – when she’s not modeling on TV, she runs Insite Interiors and the Sale Room @ IMS. She made a Classiques Entier dress from Nordstrom look hip and season-appropriate by layering a thin turtleneck underneath and adding a belted jacket by the same brand on top. Peel it apart and she can take the pieces into spring. Even the boots (which are $350), which would look great without tights too. Sharon led off the show today – see the other models and their boots here: – Boots.

Talking fashion with Nick Verreos

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

Shop Girls co-hosts Alexis Walsko and Ali Kaplan with Nick Verreos on myTalk107.1

An October visit to the Twin Cities was supposed to give “Project Runway” alum and L.A.-based TV personality/fashion critic Nick Verreos an opportunity to layer, so the weekend’s unexpectedly balmy weather threw him. He ditched the coat and scarf, but stuck with his Top Shop jacket, H&M shirt and Zara white jeans as planned for his Macy’s appearance…with the YSL boots and Gucci belt that cost more than the entire ensemble (several times over).

We covered a ton of ground during Nick’s appearance on Shop Girls, myTalk 107.1: red carpet critiques, stylist Jen Rade’s run-in with Fergie, his new TV Guide Network show, “Project Runway” dish- listen to the whole interview here. One of the more interesting topics was fame and the role it’s played in his career. Back when he was on Project Runway in Season 2, Nick says he didn’t do it for celebrity; he did it hoping to drum up orders for his line, Nikolaki. He’s gotten more TV jobs than dress orders, but every bit helps. “This is not the path I planned out,” he said, “But I’m still getting the calls to do fashion – a prom dress line, appearances at Macy’s, celebrity orders. I’m pinching myself every day.”

No longer being able to shop or walk through an airport without getting hit up for advice is a price he’s willing to pay. But if you run into the caffeinated designer and he compliments your ensemble, don’t get too cocky. “I’m really thinking you should not have worn those Crocs, honey.” Nick didn’t hold back with our radio engineer Paul Black (better known as producer of the Ian & Margery Show on myTalk 107.1). “That is a really long crotch,” he said of Black’s light wash jeans. See for yourself:

After Paul got over the surprise and sting, he agreed. You’ve got to be prepared when you work with the Shop Girls. Can’t wait to see if Paul finds himself the prescribed dark wash low rise denim before our next live broadcast. | Mpls.St.Paul Magazine © 2008 MSP Communications, Inc. All rights reserved