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.