What's Missing in the Twin Cities Style Scene

photo by 2nd truth photography

America’s major shopping meccas include Beverly Hills’ Rodeo Drive, New York City’s Madison Avenue, Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, and Minnesota’s own Mall of America. Since its 1992 debut, the megamall has drawn 40 million visitors annually. Had Travel + Leisure included shopping malls in its 2014 list of the world’s most-visited tourist attractions, it would have ranked no. 4.

Unfortunately, few tourists who flock to the sprawling mall make it beyond Bloomington. Not that the MOA isn’t great—the recently expanded shopping complex is a boon to our economy and continually reinvents itself. But Minneapolis and its surrounding suburbs have also been enjoying retail growth not seen since before the recession. The North Loop in particular has established itself as a retail hotspot, with no fewer than a dozen store openings in the past five years (Kit and Ace, Filson, and Shinola to name a few), while Nordstrom is expanding its Minnesota presence with a new store at Ridgedale opening this October. And thanks to its wealth of heritage brands such as Red Wing, Faribault Woolen Mill, and J.W. Hulme Co., Minnesota has cemented its reputation as a hub for American-made manufacturing.

At the same time, downtown Minneapolis shopping has taken a significant hit in recent years with the closings of Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue, while Macy’s has shelved its long-running Glamorama fashion show.

With the international spotlight on the Twin Cities now more than ever, thanks to glowing write-ups on our food scene (Saveur magazine recently dubbed Minneapolis “America’s next great food city”) and New York Times articles on our boundary-pushing art institutions (Walker Art Center, the Northern Spark festival), here’s what I think we need—beyond the Mall of America—to be a real contender in the national shopping scene.

1. More high-end department stores.
With Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Bloomingdale’s gone, it’s been left to Nordstrom to pick up the slack with its Mall of America store and forthcoming Ridgedale location. Downtown dwellers, workers, and travelers now have to trek out to the suburbs in order to get to these one-stop shops. We need a few to be centrally located.

2. More buzz about independent boutiques.
Arm hotel concierges, travel agencies, and restaurants with curated shopping maps to point travelers toward areas rich in independent shops, such as the North Loop and Lyn-Lake neighborhoods in Minneapolis, 50th & France and Galleria in Edina. Or better yet, provide a free shuttle—funded by neighborhood business associations or the tourism board—to help travelers gain access to shopping areas.

3. More opportunities for independent fashion designers.
While the Twin Cities seems to have more jewelers, ceramicists, leatherworkers, and woodworkers per capita than any other U.S. city, it is sorely lacking in independent clothing designers. Many promising locals eventually head to the coasts where design jobs and potential investors are more accessible. An established, sustainable local fashion industry would retain design talent—and give Minnesotans a more unique look when we “wear local.”