Sarah Sweet and Angela Lessman barely knew each other when they decided to go into business together. Both are artsy and free-spirited, yet decisive. When Lessman’s now-husband connected the two, it took them just one afternoon to fall into friendship. Four months later, in 2007, they opened i like you, an indie gift store featuring handcrafted goods by more than 250 local artists. From cards to jewelry, baby clothes to wall hangings, nothing in the store is mass-produced, and the owners share a distaste for anything that looks “too perfect.” In that vein, there are usually kids running around the store, which is decorated with AstroTurf for carpeting and a big swing in the front window.
What’s it like to work together?
Sweet: I don’t think we’d be in business if not for each other.
Lessman: You need someone to bounce off the bad stuff.
You’ve got five kids between you. Was bringing them to work part of the business plan?
Sweet: It was just a given. We’re not real rigid people. The only rule is that they can’t be on the swing when the store is open. That’s why we built the Child Containment Unit (playhouse).
Lessman: There are times when they interrupt us with customers, of course. You just say, “Mommy is talking.”
What is your partner’s greatest strength?
Sweet: Ang is great at making displays. She can work some magic. And she’s task-oriented.
Lessman: Sarah’s wheels are always turning. She’s thinking about what we should make, what we should do next.
Lessman: She likes stuff. A lot of it. If she finds a shirt she likes, she’ll buy six of them.
Sweet: She’s always saying to me, “Wouldn’t you feel better if this wasn’t around?” Lessman: Sometimes it takes a number of years, but she does always seem to use the stuff.
Do you agree on which artists to feature?
Lessman: The only time one of us takes in something the other doesn’t like, it’s because we got suckered into it.
Sweet: Ang is better at saying no than I am.
What would you gift your partner from the store?
Sweet: Something a little weird—like an animal head wall hanging. I’d hide it.
Lessman: One of these horseshoe coat racks for her new house. They’re one of our pricier items at $50, and she’s cheap, so she’d never buy it for herself.
Why do you do an I like you booth every year at the Minnesota State Fair?
Lessman: We’re gluttons for punishment.
Sweet: We didn’t negotiate much when we started the business—except for being closed every year on the first day of the fair. We bonded over our love of the fair.
Do you hang out after closing time?
Sweet: Sunday nights, we go to dinner together after work. We talk about business; sometimes we come back to the store to make stuff.
Lessman: And sometimes we play hooky and go to a movie.
501 1st Ave. NE, Mpls., 612-208-0249, ilikeyouonline.com
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