The Boutique Dilemma

Will you drive out of your way to shop?

Honeyshine in Linden Hills
Photo by Stephanie Colgan
Honeyshine is moving next door to Wild Rumpus in Linden Hills.

If you can’t draw shoppers to Bryn Mawr, then move the store to Linden Hills. Honeyshine—the year-old home and design store that earned raves from me (and others) for its sharp merchandising and singular point of view—is packing up its antlers and squirrels (they’re resin, don’t worry) and moving in May from Penn Avenue to 43rd and Upton.

Owners Adam Braun and Daisy Mitchell adored Bryn Mawr—its proximity to downtown Minneapolis and the lakes, the ease of access to I-394. All the ingredients for success seemed to be there: the corner coffee shop, Cuppa Java, Sparks restaurant, Fast Freddies pizza, Studio 411 Salonspa, and Cockadoodledo gifts. But that wasn’t enough to lure shoppers from beyond the neighborhood. It seems silly, but some people simply don’t want to go north on Penn Avenue—even just two blocks past the highway. It’s unfortunate.

“If we had enough capital to take several years to get to a critical mass, maybe we could get there in this location,” Mitchell says. The reality is she and Braun are trying to make an actual living for two households, so they decided to move instead. (Yes, it helps that Braun’s father owns the building they’re moving to, but they will still have to pay the higher rent.)

I talk to a lot of small retailers who have created something good but feel hindered by location. Amy Backman owns Spruce Flowers & Home, a standout shop that you would definitely frequent, as much for its gifts as for its beautiful arrangements, were it at 50th & France or Grand and Victoria. But Spruce is at 48th and Chicago, and so it survives on phone orders and wedding clients. That corner is home to Turtle Bread, Pepito’s, Pumphouse Creamery, Rewind Vintage, and Shop in the City. I visited almost every week when I lived in the neighborhood. Now I have to make a point to go.

Backman thinks about moving or opening a second store. It’s the where that stops her: Uptown feels too national, 50th is too expensive, and the North Loop is emerging but still unproven. We have so many charming shopping corners in Minneapolis and St. Paul, but the cities are too spread out to walk from one retail district to the next, which is isolating and limiting for even the most delightful shop.

Backman fantasizes that all these little corners—from 50th and Bryant to Hamline and Randolph—could come together to form one compelling Twin Cities shopping district. I know what she means: it would be convenient if some of our favorite neighborhood boutiques converged. But then, that’s a mall.

Our neighborhoods need their unique stores, just like they need their dry cleaners and bakeries and cafes. It gives them character and allows independent boutiques an opportunity to shine. So it’s on us, the shoppers, to push ourselves to get out of the car more often. All across town, devoted storeowners are waiting to dazzle you.