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Posts Tagged ‘excelsior’

Que Sera is Moving

Monday, January 9th, 2012

After 14 years at the Galleria in Edina, Que Sera is moving to downtown Excelsior. It’s not a move away from the Galleria as much as it is a move to Lake Minnetonka, which is home to owners Mary and Tom Lauer. Their successful Oh Baby! store will remain at Galleria, with an expanded design center.

“We’ve been looking at Excelsior for a long time,” said Chief Financial Officer Tom Lauer. “Excelsior hasn’t always had its retail act together, but it’s getting better and better all the time.”

Que Sera is taking over the Cynthia Rae storefront on Water Street. This is not the Lauers’ first lakeside storefront: They used to have an Oh Baby! store, which became an outlet, in downtown Wayzata. Rennovation is currently underway at 244 Water Street in Excelsior: the floor is being replaced with reclaimed hardwood, the tin ceiling is being refreshed, and the original brick walls will be revealed. The overall look, like the merchandise, will reflect designer Mary Lauer’s aesthetic: comfy, organic, handmade and luxurious. In Excelsior, Que Sera will continue to sell impulse items: jewelry, pillows, small accessories. But there will be more emphasis on design, and more space for larger pieces and textiles. Que Sera offers complete interior design services and handmakes much of the merchandise it sells, from window covers to furniture.

“I think the customers are here,” Tom Lauer said. “They just need a place to go.”

A floor sample sale is on now at the Galleria store–save 30 to 70 percent on all in-stock lighting and furniture through Jan. 28. Que Sera will re-open at 244 Water Street in Excelsior in early February. And–sorry, can’t resist–whatever will be, will be.

Cynthia Rae Closing

Monday, January 2nd, 2012

I suppose the writing was on the wall when Excelsior boutique Cynthia Rae opened its second location in Uptown a few months ago. Now, the veteran independent retailer is closing its original, decade-old lake shore shop. Owner and designer Cynthia Rae Magnuson says it wasn’t her plan to close the Excelsior store when she opened in Uptown, but her quick success on Hennepin Avenue opened her eyes to possibility.

“I honestly think there was a ‘bigger’ plan but I didn’t know it at the time…My own designs sell like wild (in Uptown), the customer is a bit more adventurous, and I love it!”

Closing the Excelsior store will give Manuson more time to focus on designing clothes and taking her Cynthia Rae label beyond her store. She also plans to launch a new website in February.

“I have had some wonderful years here in Excelsior,” Magnuson said. “It is a beautiful retail community with much to offer.  The customers here have been good to us and us to them.”

Cynthia Rae was a bright spot in Excelsior – always first to join the party and last to turn the lights…especially during the popular Excelsior Girls Night Out events. But the move makes sense: Cynthia Rae plays to a young, urban girl who is aware of trends but wants to dress like an individual…on a budget. That girl is shopping in Uptown year round. Excelsior, charming as it is, gets quiet in the winter. I hope Water Street powers through the freeze. Across the street from Cynthia Rae, tween retailer Zelaz is about to close. And judging by the pre-Christmas sale and empty back half of the store, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Zelaz neighbor La Petite Parfumerie had a similar announcement soon to come. (I hope I’m wrong.)

Still, there are so many reasons to shop Water Street, new and enduring: Brightwater, Omorphia, Meredian Ltd., Martin’s, Gray Gardens, Petunia’s–and the list goes on. Hope to see some new concepts fill the vacancies in this destination shopping town before boating season.

Meanwhile, the Cynthia Rae closing sale is on through Wednesday, Jan. 4 with 50 to 75 percent off everything, including clothes, jewelry, boots, and store furniture. 244 Water St., Excelsior, 952-401-4484

Zelaz is Closing

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

I’m hoping there won’t be as many store closings to report as this year draws to a close compared to the last couple years, but this one was long in coming: Zelaz, the teen/tween retailer has decided to call it quits in Excelsior.  Janet Polach, mother of a teen daughter, opened her store just before the market crashed in 2008. Her concept was a good one: clothes trendy enough to please young girls, but modest enough to win mom approval. She tried several locations, different types of merchandise and a whole lot of community outreach, but it just wasn’t enough. It’s hard enough to get women to small stores; mall-loving teens are an even tougher sell. And she just never had the money to fully see the vision through.

Polach issued this statement:

“It’s been a fascinating, challenging and rewarding ride these last three and a half years.  We love our Excelsior location, and while each month is a little better than the last, it’s not enough to meet the debt we acquired early on AND our ongoing monthly expenses.  A frustrating situation as nearly everyone who comes in the store raves about our unusual selection, quality and reasonable pricing.”

Think you could do it better? Polach is open to the idea of selling the trademarked Zelaz name and e-commerce site. Meanwhile, a closing sale is on now. Save 30 percent storewide. 287 Water St.,  Excelsior, 952-920-1044

The Bee Cottage

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

On a rainy day in downtown Excelsior, shoppers showed up for the opening of The Bee Cottage, a new occasional store in a quaint old home just off Water Street. It was easy to see why: owner Jennifer Finlay and partner Nancy Koch clearly have keen eyes for pretty objects of desire, old and new, and an ability to display them artfully, which adds to the appeal. Finlay also owns Jennifleur soy candles in repurposed wine bottles. Koch was a buyer for Dayton’s Paris Flea Market. The two met selling their goods at Guild in St. Louis Park. They’ve brought together some of the vendors who used to sell in this Excelsior space and found several new artists and unexpected lines to round out the mix of accessories, home decor and furniture with a vintage, romantic charm. Blink, and you’ll miss it: the store will be open the second Wednesday-Saturday of every month (additional dates between Thanksgiving and Christmas) and every month, Finlay and Koch plan to reinvent the two-level store with a new batch of lovely goods. 421 Second St., Excelsior

How Young is Too Young?

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

Tween/teen retailer Zelaz of Excelsior recently asked customers – parents and their daughters – what age is appropriate for girls to start wearing bikinis, short shorts, miniskirts and stilettos.

Girls thought 12 was appropriate for such potentially eyebrow-raising styles. Their moms felt more comfortable with 13. Dads said 15.

“No wonder there’s tension at home,” says Zelaz owner Janet Polach, who opened the store with her own teen daughter – who, lucky for Polach, prefers to wear cardigans over her tank tops).

Polach advises mothers and daughters to talk before they shop, and come to some compromises. Maybe daughter needs to find a longer skirt…and maybe mom needs to realize that showing bra straps isn’t suggestive, so much as common style for teens these days. Polach even suggests involving Dads – who rarely make appearances in the store – to avoid the “You’re not wearing that!” showdown the night of a school dance.

We talked about the issue on Shop Girls Saturday (June 18 podcast – hour 2) and heard from moms who’ve made the rules clear to their own daughters – like, leggings required beneath mini skirts and my favorite: No Bs allowed. That’s boobs, bellies or butts. “It’s definitely a family specific conversation,” says Polach, who walks that fine line of wanting to appeal to young girls, but still pass the mother test. “Set limits and hold the line,” she advises.

Need a mediator? Polach conducts fashion workshops for moms and daughters both in store and off site. Zelaz, 287 Water St., Excelsior, 952-920-1044,

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

Finding Joy

Sunday, February 13th, 2011 has created a platform for countless artists, but it has also inspired the selling of handmade goods, even beyond cyberspace. Enter: Finding Joy, the new Excelsior boutique created by Christie Larson to showcase her own glass mosaic art (pictured), along with the functional and decorative work of more than 50 local artists. Emphasis on local – most of the artists live within 10 miles of the store at the Tonka Bay Shopping Center. Considering this is the first foray into retail for many of the artists, the merchandise is encouraging – pillows, birdhouses, vases, woodwork, cards, jewelry, baby goods and more priced from $2 to $300. See something you wish you could make yourself? Just wait- the back room is being turned into a classroom where artists will teach their craft. 5619 Manitou Road, Excelsior, 612-250-7286

How Excelsior became the place to be

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Wow. Really, wow. I knew Excelsior was closing Water Street for tonight’s Exc & The City Fashion Show. But never did I expect the audience to fill Water Street. More than 400 people, from high school students to grandmas, came out to see the best of downtown Excelsior’s boutiques. There were sexy shorts and hot swimsuits and crazy Vikings-themed fur leg warmers and chic shades. Excelsior is no longer a place to go mainly for the scenery and ice cream – there are several stores with contemporary fashions, high end swimwear and bridal, men’s apparel, gifts, the best parfumerie in the Twin Cities (La Petite Parfumerie), jewelry, home furnishings, beauty salons and more. Once a sleepy little main street in the shadows of  nearby lakefront shopping district, Wayzata, Excelsior has become the bigger draw. Career retailer Bill Damberg, who opened casual apparel store Brightwater in Excelsior just a few weeks ago, said deciding where to locate was obvious. “I sat in coffee houses everywhere – Grand Avenue, Linden Hills, West End, Wayzata, and Excelsior was the one place where people were talking about what’s going on in town. There’s a sense of community here, and that’s the kind of community I want to be involved in.” It’s a good reminder that a town or shopping center can’t rest on its reputation. Rent is cheaper in Excelsior than Wayzata. Retailers say Excelsior’s local government minimizes the red tape. And the stores work together to promote their town. They’re extremely organized, with a calendar of events and a theme for each. During Girls Night Out every Thursday, you’ll find virtually every shop and restaurant participating with extended hours and great specials. There’s no attitude, just a whole lot of enthusiasm, and shoppers are responding in kind. 

Third spot’s the charm?

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

Zelaz is on the move again. Following stints at Ridgedale and the Wayzata Bay Center, the locally owned tween and teen retailer plans to settle down in Excelsior. The new location will open Thursday, May 20 at 287 Water St. Let’s hope the third spot’s the charm for this mother-daughter owned boutique – one of the very few independents that balances a look trendy enough for tweens but modest enough for their moms. Click here for details on the opening sale.

Botox in the street. Now that’s a party!

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

IMG_3437 Every independent shopping district has tried a Girls' Night Out event, but Excelsior, MN has really figured out how to draw a crowd week after week and here's why. Tonight, I witnessed a Botox injection on Water Street. Right there, in the heart of boutique row, with a crowd looking on, sidewalk diners peering over their menus and cars zipping past a doctor from a local clinic pumped the stuff into the forehead of a relaxed looking blond. People clapped. And then it was on to the '80s Diva Costume Contest. It's action every minute on Girls' Night in Excelsior. Seriously, other retail areas could learn a lot from this small lakefront town, which has parlayed its summer Girls' Night Out program into a real draw for local businesses. Here are some takeaways:

  • Be organized. Have a committee, put together a calendar, build a website. Put fliers and posters in every store window.
  • Get all the retailers on board. Just like mall retailers must keep mall hours, businesses in downtown Excelsior are unified about staying open until 9 p.m. on Thursdays between May and August. Power in numbers.
  • Theme it. When each Girls' Night is it's own event, customers are inspired to return.
  • Offer a real deal. Twenty percent store discounts, free chair massages, buy one, get one – stores and restaurants do what they can to make shopping on Thursday nights feel special. (A list of promos can be picked up in every store, but I'd argue stores should make their specific deals even more prominent.)
  • Karaoke in the street. It draws attention, involves the public and it's funny.
  • Prizes. Real prizes. People love prizes. The winner of tonight's costume contest received $400 worth of products at a local skin clinic. That will inspire the ladies to not only show up, but do so in neon spandex and lace. Like, totally. | Mpls.St.Paul Magazine © 2008 MSP Communications, Inc. All rights reserved