Market Forces

Snowgrade entices reluctant male shoppers with hot shaves and hotter toddies

SnowGrade organizers Mark and Katherine MicMillan, Jen Guarino, and Larry Felitto

On the surface, a pop-up retail event flies in the face of everything we know about male shoppers.

Men like to get in and out. Pop-ups, with refreshments and revelry, invite lingering. Men shop alone. Pop-ups turn shopping into a social event. Men shop with purpose. Pop-ups thrive on impulse buys and browsing.

And yet 1,500 people turned out for the NorthernGrade men’s market in Minneapolis last fall–more than 65 percent of them male. Attendance was up nearly 60 percent over the first NorthernGrade in 2010. And enthusiasts have been asking for more—with enough insistence that organizers decided to create a winter market. The first SnowGrade will take place Feb. 25 at Architectural Antiques in Minneapolis.

“I think pop-ups are only just getting going in Minnesota,” says Katherine McMillan of Minneapolis-based men’s neckwear brand Pierrepont Hicks. She and her partner/husband Mark “Mac” McMillan produce NorthernGrade, and now SnowGrade, with Jen Guarino and Larry Felitto of St. Paul–based bagmaker J.W. Hulme Co.

Their goal was to bring together the many American-made men’s brands based in Minnesota and the Midwest, including venerable brands such as Red Wing Shoe Co. and Faribault Woolen Mill Co. SnowGrade will continue the focus on heritage brands, including notable newcomers Best Made Axe Co. and Northern Brewer. “It can be a rewarding and intimate experience for consumers to meet and directly interact with the people behind the brands,” says Mark McMillan.

SnowGrade will have an interactive component, with brand experts offering mini-workshops (over beers) on topics such as how to tie a bow tie, buff a leather bag, mix a drink, or groom a mustache. “It makes it easier for a guy to justify going shopping if you have hot shaves going on, hot toddies being poured, and cigars being smoked,” Felitto says. “It’s not a guy going ‘Hey, Jim, want to go shopping?’ You’re going to an event.