A Grand (Avenue) Holiday
As unique new retailers join time-honored favorites, St. Paul's charming retail strip remains the capital city's best holiday shopping destination
Shoppers outside Bibelot during the Grand Meander festival
Photo by Kristine Erickson
Grand Avenue has long been known as St. Paul’s leading shopping destination. Spanning the Mac-Groveland and Summit Hill neighborhoods, the charming storefronts and cafés dotting Grand’s 25-block expanse parallel St. Paul’s historic Summit Avenue mansions just a block north. One of the reasons Grand attracts so many retailers is the unique experience it offers shoppers who can pop in and out of the trendy and quaint shops—a mix of national retailers, local chains, and one-of-a-kind specialty shops spanning clothing, toys, home, kitchenware, and more.
Grand promises something for everyone on your holiday shopping list—and many of its stores have been gifting mainstays for years. For the cigar smoker, there’s Stogies on Grand, which carries a broad selection of rare cigars and pipes. For the arts enthusiast, there’s the Grand Hand Gallery, which features a selection of fine art, ceramics, glassware, and sculpture by American artists. Local chain Bibelot has become synonymous with gifts for good reason: Between its women’s clothing, jewelry, stationery, and home goods, it’s next to impossible to leave empty handed. And of course, St. Paul wouldn’t be complete without an Irish gift shop, the longstanding Irish on Grand.
During the holiday season, Grand Avenue is awash in twinkling white lights and festive displays, especially during the annual Grand Meander festival (Dec. 3), when shoppers can hear carolers as they stroll from store to store, meet Santa, take in holiday-themed activities and an art fair, and ride a classic trolley.
If you haven’t shopped Grand in awhile, new retail businesses have livened up the avenue in recent years. Among the additions, Atelier957 is one of the city’s most interesting modern women’s boutiques. It sells clothing and accessories by lesser-known designers from around the world, including a selection of easy-to-wear jackets, dresses, and knitwear—primarily in a black-and-white palette—and handmade statement jewelry ideal for gifts.
Also notable: natural skincare store Garden of Eden recently moved from its longtime home tucked inside Victoria Crossing to a larger storefront on Grand. After four decades in business, it still stocks luxury candles and natural plant oil soaps wrapped in pretty papers, and also offers a fragrance and aromatherapy bar where shoppers can blend their own custom scents.
Thanks to stores such as Red Balloon Bookshop, Baby Grand, and Creative Kidstuff, Grand Avenue has also developed a kid-friendly reputation. Mischief Toy Store opened earlier this year with unusual, screen-free gifts for hard-to-shop-for teens and young-at-heart adults, such as Japanese sodas and kinetic toys.
For outdoorsy types, the North Face and Patagonia were recently joined by Swedish outdoor brand Fjällräven, best known for those rainbow-colored Kånken backpacks you’ve probably seen worn by all sorts of stylish Twin Citians.
Photo by Tj Turner
For foodies, artisanal pantry goods make great stocking stuffers and hostess gifts. Golden Fig Fine Foods is known for its gourmet food products, such as dried soup mixes, gourmet olive oil, and local maple syrup, plus house-made cocktail mixes. In addition to its selection of high-end kitchenware, Cooks of Crocus Hill also carries beautifully packaged, handcrafted food products, such as spicy honey, apple caramel preserves, and aromatic bitters. And don’t forget the trimmings: Stop by the new Paper Source for luxe wrapping paper and cards.
If you’re headed to (or hosting) a holiday party, picking up a few wedges of cut-to-order fromage from St. Paul Cheese Shop or one of Café Latté’s famous three-layer turtle cakes is an easy way to wow revelers. And if you’d like to look your best at that fête, take a break from shopping at the Wow Bar, a hair salon that exclusively offers blowouts and styling, or Gent Cuts and Grooming, an upscale, new-school barbershop. You’ll be in Grand form, indeed.
Café Latté's turtle cake
Photo by Terry Brennan, Food Styling by Lara Miklasevics
Where to Dine: Best New Restaurants on Grand
Popular Uptown eatery French Meadow Bakery & Café—known for its organic, gluten-free, vegan, and yeast-free selection of baked goods, breakfast, and lunch—opened its second location on Grand Avenue in 2014.
Located a few doors down from French Meadow, the stylish Grand Central Café serves pastries from Patisserie 46, Dogwood Coffee, a variety of craft beers, plus soups, salads, and sandwiches.
From the owners of St. Paul Cheese Shop comes St. Paul Meat Shop, a modern butcher shop that sells meat from local farmers as well as made-to-order sandwiches, including its thick-cut, house-cured pastrami slathered with whole-grain mustard on rye.
While larger than its original, shoebox-sized Minneapolis location, Colossal Café on Grand Avenue boasts the same made-from-scratch menu featuring fresh, local ingredients.
Uptown’s longtime bubble tea destination, the Tea Garden, recently rebranded as Sencha Tea Bar and expanded to six locations, including Grand Avenue. It features more than 30 exotic fruit flavor shots to pair with iced tea and tapioca pearls as well as a large selection of loose-leaf teas.
Kiss Me, I’m Irish
Tucked into a back room at Dixie’s on Grand, Emmett’s Public House is a traditional Irish pub with a French twist—think bangers and croquettes and curried beer-and-whiskey mussels—plus the requisite fish and chips, as well as an extensive selection of Irish whiskeys and beers.
Navigating Grand Avenue
Map by Mandy Finders
1. Sencha Tea Bar 2. French Meadow Bakery & Café, Grand Central Café, Patagonia, St. Paul Meat Shop 3. St. Paul Cheese Shop 4. Colossal Café 5. Baby Grand 6. Irish on Grand, The Wow Bar 7. Bibelot, Creative Kidstuff 8. Atelier957, Stogies on Grand 9. Cooks of Crocus Hill, Gent Cuts and Grooming, Red Balloon Bookshop 10. Paper Source 11. Fjällräven, The North Face 12. Café Latté 13. Mischief Toy Store 14. Garden of Eden, Golden Fig Fine Food 15. Emmett’s Public House 16. Grand Hand Gallery
A Grand Avenue Local’s Favorite Place: Café Latté
Realtor, Edina Realty
“There are few places as ‘St. Paul’ as Café Latté. Each time I go, I’m reminded of what a treasure it is. It sometimes follows the trends but is just as likely to have menu items that they have featured for decades. And of course, the cakes! They’re the reason this place has become an institution.”