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Posts Tagged ‘Twin Cities retail’

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).

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.

Hot Mama Expansions

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

The mamas need more dressing rooms! Construction is underway to double the size of the Hot Mama store at Shops at West End in St. Louis Park. Work should be completed by the end of October. Meanwhile, at Shoppes at Arbor Lakes, Hot Mama is moving into the former Sharper Image space the first week of November. Expect a bigger selection and wider aisles. And one last update (today, anyway) on the rapidly growing Edina-based chain: the new store at Woodbury Lakes is now expected to open in September.

Drama is Open!

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

Drama opens today at 50th & France. I got a sneak peek last night and was really impressed. Courtney Smallbeck has streamlined her store’s look – the apparel is more modern and sophisticated, but still at affordable prices. And still aimed at that young professional woman who wants to look cool at work, and after hours: over-dyed shirt dresses, patterned blouses, silk dresses – all less than $150. The on-trend accessories are $50 or less; I saw some studded leather cuff bracelets for $20 and intricate silver earrings for $40.

It seems like Drama moved into the former BluePeg space at 4946 France Ave. S. in Edina practically overnight, but the truth is, Smallbeck had been planning the relocation from Uptown for nearly a year. So she had time to drop lines sold by some of her new neighbors, and picked up new, lesser known lines like Bella Dahl and Funktional. She continues to support local accessories and fashion lines including Rox Minneapolis by Robyne Robinson, kjurek couture and Amanda Christine.

Drama looks to be a perfect compliment to the 50th boutique scene.

Stay tuned for the next 50th & France development: Lights were on at the former Ann Taylor Loft spot on the corner and while the lease signs are still up, the paper is down from the windows. Meanwhile, Athleta, the Gap Inc. fitness brand, tells me they’re coming to town, but has yet to confirm the exact location. I’ve heard it’s 50th & France. Just doing the math…

Oh Baby! Outlet Closing

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

Oh no! Oh Baby! Outlet in Wayzata is closing. Saturday, Aug. 27 will be the final day to shop discounted luxury goods for children.

It ends the local retailer’s 10-year presence at 743 E. Lake St. in Wayzata. Originally, the Wayzata store was a second full-price Oh Baby! boutique. But when the flagship store at Galleria nearly quadrupled its size a couple of years ago, they turned the Wayzata location into an outlet.

The concept – 50 to 75 percent of high end clothes and nursery furnishings – was a good one, but Oh Baby! Chief Financial Officer Tom Lauer says the location just didn’t get enough traffic or draw the Galleria shopper. So when the lease was up, they did not renew.

In all likelihood, we haven’t seen the last of the deals from Oh Baby! The company maintains a warehouse in Edina that could be opened for occasional sales. Stay tuned!

Russell + Hazel Expansion

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011
Russell + Hazel is an addiction. You can’t buy just one bright orange notebook or chartreuse file folder; you need an entire collection of fantastically fashionable office supplies designed to make daily life just a little more fabulous. Well, take note: Russell + Hazel is taking over the rest of the first floor at its 44th and France flagship location. The “binder bar” that was such a hit last back to school season will become a permanent fixture – even bigger and better and stocked with classroom essentials (and treats for shoppers) year round. It is scheduled to open in mid-July.
4388 France Ave. S., Minneapolis, 952-279-1360

Hot at West End

Monday, June 13th, 2011

It’s a mystery why the Shops at West End is still struggling to fill its St. Louis Park lifestyle center when several of the businesses there are already expanding. The latest is Hot Mama, which plans to add space behind the current store. Founder/CEO Megan Tamte says she has been pleasantly surprised by the traffic at West End and the store needs more room to keep up.

Hot Mama joins Cooper, which is adding square footage to its dining room, Rojo, which took over its own pizza spot to add a party room, and Crave, which opened a second concept, Sopranos, at West End.

Meanwhile, there hasn’t been an announcement of a retail opening to fill one of the many lingering vacancies since White House/Black Market, which opened in May.

Hot Mama Eliminating Maternity

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

Sorry, mommies-to-be: You’ll have to wait until the bun is out of the oven to shop Hot Mama. The Edina-based chain is getting out of the maternity apparel business.

Maternity has always been a smaller part of the business in comparison to women’s contemporary fashion. But in the past five years, maternity dropped from 20 to 10 percent of company sales, says Hot Mama CFO/Chairman Mike Tamte. Meanwhile, non-maternity grew an impressive 40 percent annually during that same period. When Hot Mama quietly removed maternity from some stores last summer, sales actually surged, Tamte says. ”We were able to add faster-moving non-maternity apparel.”

Spring maternity is in stores now, but no orders were placed for fall. Hot Mama is consolidating what remains of maternity apparel – in the Twin Cities, you’ll still find a good assortment at the Edina, Maple Grove, St. Paul and Roseville locations as well as online.

Despite the store name, this decision is a return to Hot Mama’s roots, Tamte points out. When his wife Megan Tamte opened the first store in Edina six years ago, there was no maternity section (that confused me at first, I recall). “Only when we saw a lot of bellies walk through the door did we decide to bring in contemporary maternity lines,” Tamte says.

So what happened to all those bellies? I’m already hearing the desperate cries of pregnant women who feel like they have no boutiques to shop. Strikes me as being a bit like retail’s petite problem: Women complain about a lack of options, but tend not to buy what’s available. Hot Mama has noticed many pregnant women wearing non-maternity apparel as long as possible.

“There are very few maternity boutiques in the Twin Cities, and the nation, for that matter,” Tamte acknowledged. “We debated whether to keep maternity in one or two stores in each city, but decided that would be too confusing to the customer. There is plenty of maternity business for an independent maternity boutique, though.”

There’s your invitation, aspiring store owners. Meanwhile, Hot Mama will focus on what follows those nine short months of fashion challenges: Motherhood. Says Tamte, “The vast majority of our customers understand Hot Mama as a contemporary clothing store for moms who want to look and feel hot.”

Hot Mama currently has 19 stores in seven states with three under construction and plans for another 18 in the next two years.

Changes at Parc Boutique

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Men, you had your chance. Parc Boutique tried offering you something other than a chair to sit in while your girlfriends and spouses shopped. Owner Thao Nguyen wanted to help you look cool for the weekend in premium denim, Ben Sherman shirts and Alternative Apparel tees. But you didn’t buy enough – and interestingly, your gals were too busy shopping for themselves to worry about outfitting you, despite the convenience. Women will shop wherever there is stuff to buy. Men won’t bother – even if it’s right in front of them and they’re bored, waiting for you to decide if you look fat in those jeans. When they finally do muster up the energy to shop, guys tend to go somewhere that has everything they need, rather than a women’s boutique where they might find one shirt. So, like many women’s boutique owners who tried it before her, Nguyen is discontinuing men’s apparel. Everything remaining is now 50 percent off.

As one department closes, another opens: Getting men’s out of the way will give Parc Boutique space to add handbags and shoes. Like the apparel, expect smaller, contemporary lines, priced under $100. The goods will arrive in August!

Ini’s Capsule

Monday, April 25th, 2011

He’s baaaack. We knew it wouldn’t be long before former Ivy owner Ini Iyamba was stirring up Twin Cities style again. Join him Friday evening at June designer resale boutique for the launch of Capsule, a curated accessories collection with many one-of-a-kind pieces Iyamba commissioned from local designers including Stephanie Lake Design (above), SBG Designs (below), and Heidi Comfort. Iyamba challenged them to stay true to their look, with a liberal dose of Ini edge, and a price point of $100 or less.

“It’s indicative of the market right now,” says Iyamba, who has been carefully plotting next moves since closing his Uptown boutique last year. Although he’s one of the smoothest salesmen around, Iyamba says he doesn’t miss retail hours or being tied to the sales floor every day. What inspires him is the process of identifying new vendors and creating a cohesive story through product and merchandising. He came up with the idea for an accessories “capsule” while consulting for a local clothing store (all will be revealed soon). “There are so many talented artisans here,” Iyamba says. “I didn’t want to just get their goods; I wanted to challenge them to do something different.”

The Capsule launch party is 6 to 9 p.m. Friday. The collection will be available for 30 days exclusively at June, 3406 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis. But this is just the beginning. A second, more masculine Capsule is planned for the month of June at Elsworth, the downtown Minneapolis men’s store. By fall, Iyamba hopes finally to debut l a more permanent Capsule space featuring a broader group of accessories and gift designers from the Twin Cities and beyond. | Mpls.St.Paul Magazine © 2008 MSP Communications, Inc. All rights reserved