The 2017 brought with it another round of retail openings and closings. Among the biggest local retail stories of the year were a major expansion at the Galleria, the closing of Macy’s downtown Minneapolis store, and the news that the site of that store would become The Dayton’s Project, a new mixed-use development making its debut in 2018.
But it’s the unique, smaller boutiques that truly make shopping in the Twin Cities a personal, inspiring experience. Here are my picks for the best additions to the local retail landscape, and several that I was truly sad to see go.
After she opened her luxury resale boutique One Posh Closet four years ago, Nicole Jennings knew she wanted to open a second store. When her beloved grandmother passed away last May, she was inspired to found Queen Anna in her honor. The North Loop boutique sells effortlessly chic women’s clothing and accessories with an emphasis on quality materials that are on-trend without being overly trendy, such as silk joggers, velvet tuxedo blazers, and cashmere sweaters from cult indie fashion brands that include L.A.-based designer Chan Luu, Montreal’s LaMarque, and Calgary-based label Bano eeMee. While quality is key, attainable prices are also important to Jennings (who’s also the wife of retired Vikings player, Greg Jennings). She stocks the store with items ranging from about $100 for sweaters to $500 for luxe leather jackets. True to her grandmother’s legacy of philanthropy and building on her decade of experience as the president of the educational nonprofit Greg Jennings Foundation, Nicole’s boutique donates a portion of proceeds to local charities, such as Tubman’s shelters for women and families suffering from domestic violence. • 109 N. Second St., Minneapolis, 612-888-5153, queenanna.co
Over the summer, a new lifestyle boutique quietly opened its doors near the corner of Central and Lowry avenues in Northeast Minneapolis. Named for the two owners’ fathers, Duke Albert offers a casual-chic mix of home goods, apothecary items, leather goods, jewelry, coffee table books and magazines, greeting cards, and vintage clothing. The new store rose from the ashes of Arrow, the beloved North Loop designer clothing store that closed last summer after a four-year run. The new concept was founded by two Arrow alums, co-owner Sarah Dwyer (also of the shuttered Minneapolis designer clothing retailer, Intoto) and creative director Christopher Drees (known for his spectacular window displays). Unlike Intoto and Arrow, which emphasized designer clothing and accessories, Duke Albert is stocked with unique gifts and home goods from independent designers and artists from Minnesota and all over the world, such as leather skulls by Brooklyn design studio Heavy Eyes and luxe candles in porcelain vessels rimmed in 22k gold. • 2516 Central Ave. NE., Minneapolis, dukealbert.com
Scandinavian design fans would be smart to check out Åªmei Boutique, a new Minneapolis retailer that combines minimalist Japanese style with an eclectic, global vibe. Tucked away on an unassuming corner of North 5th Street in the North Loop, the boutique stocks a mix of Japanese-made goods alongside other home products culled from all over the globe as well as several from Minnesota makers with an emphasis on handcrafted, minimalist design. Åªmei—pronounced “you-may” and phonetic for “dream” in Japanese—was founded by Susan Brouillett, a Mattel Inc. retail development executive whose job led her to spend a lot of time in Japan. She would bring home little dishes and other treasures from her travels, and got hooked. Åªmei’s selection includes ceramic tableware and vessels, linen towels and napkins, hand-painted zodiac rice bowls, throw pillows made from cruelty-free silk, and modern brass home objects from ancient Japanese brass foundry, Futagami. • 903 N. Fifth St., Minneapolis, shopumei.com
Ace General Store
Solid Manufacturing Co. has become known for its handcrafted stools with signature paint-dipped legs, pour-over coffee stands, and leather accessories. Now, the brand’s husband-and-wife owners, Dan and Alex Cordell, are expanding with Ace General Store, a new retail storefront in Excelsior dedicated to the outdoor spirit of Minnesota and the maker movement. The shop’s offerings focus on artisan-made, practical clothing, accessories, and gear inspired by Minnesota’s tradition of enjoying the outdoors all year round. Brands include St. Paul’s own Lanona Shoe Company, Omaha’s Artifact Bag Co., San Diego bag maker Bradley Mountain, Tennessee-based workwear brand L.C. King Co., archival sport–inspired brand Ebbets Field Flannels, the masculine-scented Olo Fragrance, and heritage eyewear brand American Optical Company. Of course, Ace carries Solid Manufacturing Co.’s pour-over coffee stands, iPhone stands, stools, and a selection of leather goods along with a rotating selection from guest artisans and makers. • 356 Water St., Excelsior, facebook.com/acegeneralstore
Uptown has just gotten a little more Instagram-worthy with the opening of Aura Boutique this past spring. The new store sells some of the hottest labels and styles found on the coasts—especially those seen in the feeds of Instagram stars such as the Kardashians, the Jenners, and the Hadids. The look is body-conscious, low-key glam in neutral tones. While some of Aura’s offerings skew toward a younger clientele, many of the sleek styles hold appeal for a variety of ages, such as body-con evening gowns with sculpted shoulder pads, luxe loungewear, high-waisted jeans, fashion-forward athleisure wear, and super-soft tees, plus delicate jewelry by Mottla Grace, a mother-daughter duo from Edina. The store also has incorporated a floral backdrop to encourage shoppers to take selfies—giving the store an appearance that is truly Instagram-worthy. • 2447 Hennepin Ave. S., Minneapolis, auraboutiquempls.com
Luya Shoes & Other Fine Things
Luya Shoes And Other Fine Things has tempted shoppers to make the pilgrimage to Zumbrota since it opened in 2014, thanks to its unique selection of shoes. Earlier this year, the store opened a second store at one of the Twin Cities’ hottest shopping destinations, 50th & France in Edina. Luya is known for its unique selection of footwear and emphasis on handcrafted goods by socially responsible brands. While the Zumbrota store carries shoes for women and kids, the Edina location will focus on women’s shoes, with a selection of shoes for men. “We try to look for artisan, handmade, unique, top-notch, seriously wearable shoes,” says co-owner Connie Hawley, who owns the store with her son, Travis. “You won’t find ridiculous heel heights or poor, cheap quality.” In addition to shoes, Luya also carries local art, handbags, and other unique accessories. • Luya Shoes and Other Fine Things, 4944 France Ave. S., Edina, shopluya.com
Cake Plus-Size Resale
From curve models walking the runway for Michael Kors and Christian Siriano at New York Fashion Week to the release of plus-size collections designed by Prabal Gurung and social media influencer Gabi Fresh, 2017 has been the year of the size-inclusive movement. But locally, stylish shopping options for sizes 14-plus have been hard to find. Enter Cake Plus-Size Resale, a new resale store that fills that void. It’s the brainchild of plus-size fashion blogger Cat Polivoda, who previously ran plus-size online shop, Cat’s Closet, for the past three years. Cake Plus-Size emphasizes body positivity and radical inclusivity. In addition to previously owned merchandise, the store also carries new accessories, jewelry, art, books, gifts, and body-positive and activism-inspired merchandise from local makers. • 5155 Bloomington Ave., Minneapolis, cakeplussize.com
Eyebobs has developed a cult following for its stylish, colorful reading glasses geared toward the “irreverent and slightly jaded” since its 2001 debut. Now, local shoppers looking to get their Eyebobs fix can shop at its first branded store. The company opened a “retail lab” earlier this fall in the lower level of its Minneapolis headquarters, where it is also offering prescription eyeglasses and polarized sunglasses for the first time. The brand launches between 100 to 150 new styles and colors every year. Those constant additions are part of what drive the Eyebobs customer, which typically owns four to ten pairs of Eyebobs frames. Stay tuned: The store has plans for additional retail locations in the works. • 1401 Glenwood Ave., Minneapolis, 612-822-0717, eyebobs.com
La Petite Parfumerie
After 14 years, La Petite Parfumerie closed its doors at its Southdale storefront this past January—seemingly for good. (It even sold its fixtures and displays.) But the boutique made a surprising return this past summer in Wayzata, where owner Diane Wissink first debuted the business in 2003. The boutique is known for its high-end collection of perfume and candles from elite labels, such as candle maker Cire Trudon (the oldest candle manufacturer in the world, it was founded in 1643 and was an official provider to the royal court of Louis XIV) and fragrance houses Frédéric Malle, Santa Maria Novella, Bond #9, and Diptyque. At $125 to $250 a bottle, these fragrances aren’t cheap–but they’re pricey for a reason: Unlike commercial fragrances, luxury perfumes are made with real ingredients, such as plant and flower extracts, rather than synthetic ones. Best of all, the new storefront is located on the same block as Gavin Kaysen’s new French restaurant and cafe, Bellecour, so you can get an authentic croissant with your French perfume. • 755 Lake St. E., Wayzata, 952-475-2212, lapetiteparfumerie.com
Michelle LeBlanc had been delivering her signature “luxe hippie” style long before her south Minneapolis shop Mille opened in 2012. The store, originally named Pretty Mommy, began online as an e-commerce shop, where it gained a national following thanks to its unique blend of apparel, jewelry, fragrance, screen prints, and home goods from under-the-radar luxury brands such as No.6, Clare V., and Maryam Nassir Zadeh. The selection has a hand-crafted vibe coupled with a decidedly modern eye. Recently, LeBlanc moved into a nearby corner storefront. “We’ve needed more space to devote to the e-commerce side of our business for a while,” she says, “but still wanted to stay in the same neighborhood, so when this corner space opened up it was a natural fit.” The larger new storefront features custom-made fixtures by local designer Marvin Freitas—and at double the size of its previous space, much more space to shop. • 4760 Grand Ave. S., Minneapolis, shopmille.com
After a dozen years in the Highland Park neighborhood of St. Paul, women’s clothing boutique Stephanie’s made a move earlier this year—across the street. The store has taken up residence at the Finn, a new boutique-style apartment building that will have tenants including Agra Culture Kitchen & Press, exercise studio Alchemy, and a to-be-announced salon on its first level. Stephanie Morrissey, a St. Paul native, founded the store to provide a go-to place to find classic looks from brands such as DVF, Nicole Miller, Ecru, and Shoshanna that are appropriate for any age, and wearable from day to night. The 2.0 location has brought in some new designers, including alice + olivia by Stacey Bendet and Rebecca Minkoff, plus after long last, footwear. • 735 Cleveland Ave. S., St. Paul, stephaniesshop.com
Roe Wolfe first opened in fall 2011 in the St. Paul suburb, Mendota Heights inside of a strip mall with a mix trendy clothing geared toward the Free People loving 20-something, as well as cosmetics—a nod to owner Ashley Kilcher’s former life as a makeup artist. Two years later, the boutique leveled-up with a storefront in the North Loop, right around the time the area was developing a reputation as a hip, up-and-coming food and retail destination. From there, it hopped to another space in the North Loop before making a move to Galleria, a move that has been a game changer for the boutique. Since then, the store has taken a more upscale turn in its selection, with slightly higher price points, better quality fabrics, and higher-style looks, including rich velvet and jewel tones, fur and fuzzy textures, cozy knits, structured shoulders, and embellished details that go from the workplace to evening with aplomb. After several months in a temporary location within the shopping center, the store recently landed in a permanent home in Galleria’s new wing, a space that perfectly matches Roe Wolfe’s sophisticated evolution. • 3175 Galleria, Edina, roewolfeboutique.com
Nearly a year after first opening at the Mall of America, local retailer Mona Williams found a permanent home within the megamall. The store got its start as a designer consignment boutique in Northeast Minneapolis in 2013. Since then, owner Patric Richardson has evolved the store to focus on new collections by hard-to-find designer labels such as Danish line Baum und Pferdgarten and Majestic Filatures, an in-house Stephanie Lake Design jewelry salon, a vintage Hermès silk scarf collection, and vintage designer handbags from Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and others. Over the years, Richardson has also developed a reputation as something of a Laundry Evangelist, and his store has long carried high-end laundry products by the Laundress. With the new location, he added Pineapple Apothecary, a store-within-a-store featuring high-end laundry products by the Laundress, small-batch maker Farmhouse, Minnesota’s own Illume, and Richardson’s own handcrafted laundry products, plus regular Laundry Camps. • Mall of America, 132 West Market, Bloomington, monawilliams.com
Honorable mentions: The White Room’s new bridal showroom; 14 Hill Gift Shop; Big Island Swim & Surf’s new Galleria store; Willa June Apparel + Home, Winnie Lu, and White Birch House in Victoria; New Gild Jewelers in Linden Hills; Lovegood & Co.; 44 North Boutique in Wayzata; Gathered Goods Company, Homespun Decor & Gifts, and Bean + Ro’s new location; and the Foundry Home Goods’ new location in North Loop.
One of the most shocking, high-profile closings of the year was Len Druskin, which had a major presence in the Twin Cities retail scene for the past 40-plus years. The company was founded by Len Druskin in 1976 with a store at 50th & France that focused on special occasion dreses and stylish career wear. In the early ’90s, the store moved to the Galleria and shifted to a denim focus, just as the premium denim category was gaining traction. The store swiftly expanded from there: In 2012, Len Druskin had as many as 10 outlets, including LD Len Druskin (women’s professional and dress apparel), LD Blues (casual clothes for women), LD Men, and Len (lower-priced, trendy merchandise for men and women), and even a store in suburban Chicago. The business began to contract in 2013 when it closed its City Center store, and in 2014, it closed three stores in Gaviidae Common. Last year came the biggest blow when it moved its flagship store from Galleria to Southdale Center after 24 years, only to close the location months afterward. The company finally shuttered its remaining Len stores earlier this year and sold the business to reality star Marcus Lemonis, who rebranded its City Center Len store as fast-fashion concept, Union 73.
New Ulm boutique Semblance was not your typical small-town Minnesota shop. Nestled amidst the historic town’s German gift shops, the design-oriented boutique looked it would have been more at home in the North Loop, or even Brooklyn. Despite being located nearly two hours southwest of the Twin Cities, the shop developed a reputation for having quality specialty pieces that couldn’t be found anywhere else in the state, with a selection that focused on chic, minimalist clothing from independent designers, artful handcrafted jewelry and accessories, and modern lifestyle magazines. A second location opened in Mankato in 2015, which closed about a year later. Then earlier this year after five years of business, shop owner Bobbi Barron announced she was closing up shop and moving to Minneapolis. The good news: She’s brought her keen design eye and minimalist sensibilities to Northeast Minneapolis ethical fashion boutique, Hazel & Rose, where she’s joined owner Emma Olson as a partner.
After just two years of business, AlwaysMod closed its doors earlier this year. The modern home store, which has operated as an e-commerce site since 2007, opened when the brand’s parent company, Our World Shops, moved its headquarters from Glenwood Avenue in Minneapolis to Golden Valley, closing its longtime FinnStyle storefront in the process. At double FinnStyle’s size, AlwaysMod expanded on its predecessor’s assortment of Finnish home goods while expanding its selection to include a range of products from the broader world of modern design, including furniture, lighting, bedding, and tabletop goods by names such as Alessi, Viskaform, Fritz Hansen, Georg Jensen, and two of FinnStyle’s most popular brands, Marimekko and Iittala. Owner Ben Horn had hoped that FinnStyle’s loyal customers would shop the new store, but it appears that a combination of the name change and its move from Minneapolis to Golden Valley proved to be more of a challenge than he anticipated. Our World Shops’ biggest site, FinnStyle.com—one of the biggest sellers of Finnish home goods in the U.S., including Marimekko—has continued to operate, and will also maintain its two smaller, older sites, GlassBirds.com (dedicated to iittala’s mouth-blown glass collectible birds) and Aalto.com (a complete collection of home goods from famed architect and modern design master Alvar Aalto).
AGG Art + Home | Glick Gallery
In late 2016, Annalise Glick decided to build on the retail experience she learned from her mother, owner of Wayzata’s now-shuttered House of 365, and opened her own shop, AGG Art + Home | Glick Gallery. Sadly, the boutique closed earlier this year after less than a year of business. One part furniture showroom, one part retail store, and one part art gallery, the Glenwood Avenue shop was unlike any retailer in the Twin Cities—and possibly proved to be too challenging of a concept for Minnesota shoppers. Much of the artwork and clothing in her store came from contacts she made in the music and art scenes while living on the coasts, including works by screen-printer (and longtime Andy Warhol collaborator) Louis Waldon and acclaimed photographer (and Beatles offspring) Julian Lennon; custom leather jackets, oversized knits, and edgy accessories by cult fashion designers; minimalist lighting fixtures, resin sculptures and bookcases, and woven rubber chairs; exclusive furniture designs by Tandem Made and Stangler Works; and local goods including Louise Gray’s modern quilts and Waam Industries’ wooden milk crate–style storage units. Here’s hoping this isn’t the last we see from Glick.
The My Sister Store
One year after launching its debut collection of t-shirts and tanks in 2015, Minneapolis-based brand My Sister opened a storefront in Uptown. The store offered shoppers the opportunity to try on the brand’s super-soft tees, which are designed to spark serious conversations about sex trafficking with sassy, empowering messages such as “Stop Traffic,” “You Don’t Own Me,” and “You’re Not the Boss of Me.” The store also sold goods by other brands—including nail polish, jewelry, leather good, handmade soaps, and skincare—that shared in its mission. Sadly, the store quietly closed its doors in mid-December. But the brand is showing no signs of slowing—it recently launched a headline-making, empowering line of shirts in collaboration with actress/activist Amber Tamblyn, which has been donned by Chelsea Handler, Amy Poehler, and other celeb ladies. 1612 ½ W. Lake St., Minneapolis, 612-400-1194, mysister.org
After debuting her line of wooden spoons with brightly colored rubber detailing, Araya Jensen found a hit on her hands, and quickly expanded into making wood bowls and other home goods under the label Wind & Willow. Three years ago, she opened a retail store and workspace in the Tangletown neighborhood of Minneapolis to showcase her wares, eventually rebranding the business as Willful. Its product line has since expanded to include handwoven wool rugs, throw pillows, tea towels, and cast-resin kitchen utensils—all featuring Jensen’s signature bright colors. Recently, the designer shuttered that location, but you can still shop the brand’s line of goods online at willfulgoods.com.
Valentine Wood Interiors
Last year, Valentine Wood Antique & Home opened within a small storefront in the Northrup neighborhood of Minneapolis. Founded by Carrie Charest Valentine and Jessica Wood, the business was modeled as a modern antique store specializing in home goods that are as useful as they are beautiful. The store’s aesthetic was a mix of rustic-Victorian, early Americana and equestrian iconography, and Vermeer still life paintings. The thoughtfully curated blend of merchandise was styled more like a high-end , modern home store than a typically cluttered antique store, with ornate objects—gold razors, marble busts, and sterling silver tea urns—merchandised alongside organic touches such as bamboo toothbrushes, cast-iron serving forks, woven baskets, and a neat stack of wood mid-century bowls. Recently, the store (since renamed Valentine Wood Interiors) announced that for 2018, it will evolve into a gallery focused on interiors and objets d’art, open by appointment only and during public receptions, but with the same mission: “to elevate aesthetics in the everyday household.”
Over the past couple of years, curvy girls have more stylish options available to them than ever as the slow-to-adapt fashion industry has begun to embrace the size-inclusive movement, but the Twin Cities still has a dearth of options when it comes to plus-size shopping. Earlier this fall, local plus-size shoppers have lost yet another option with the closing of plus-size indie boutique, Bombshell. Since 2010, the Grand Avenue shop carried brands such as Tadashi Shoji, Lafayette 148, Elena Mirò, Cabiria, James Jeans in sizes 14 to 24, with an emphasis on dressing for day-to-night, date night, and holiday parties. (Fortunately, shoppers gained an option with the opening of Cake Plus-Size Resale—more on that above.)