After nearly 50 years in business, the last 42 of them at the Galleria in Edina, Epitome and Epitome Papers will close early next year. The lease for the adjoining spaces is up at the end of January, and owner Irene Cooperman, now 84, could not agree upon renewal terms with the shopping center, owned by Hines Global REIT.
"It has been a very stressful and emotional time for all of us, having to prepare to say goodbye to jobs that we all love, loyal customers, and fabulous vendors," says Nancy Nathanson, who manages Epitome Papers.
While Epitome has a loyal following, the stationery side in particular has struggled to remain relevant in recent years without a digital presence. So much of the invitation business has moved online. Still, the store is a popular resource for paper goods and a lively selection of gifts, frames, journals, and more. As for women's apparel, Epitome has maintained an updated, but not-too-trendy assortment of better ready-to-wear from Nicole Miller, Elie Tahari, Rebecca Taylor—lines that have broader appeal than many 30-something shoppers probably realized. But then, Epitome stumbled a bit in recent years with making its identity clear.
"It's sad for us to lose Irene and Epitome," Galleria general manager Jerry Cohen says. "Unfortunatly, we just couldn't make a deal work."
Since Hines bought Galleria from the Edina-based Gabbert & Beck in 2012, it's been a one way road out of the upscale center for independent stores, with other local notables such as Three Rooms leaving, while the incoming tenants have been national retailers including Kate Spade, lululemon, and the most recent, Robert Redford's Sundance lifestyle brand.
But new management has pushed local retailers to become even sharper, and many are rising to the challenge. Case in point: H.O.B.O., which just completed a renovation that is finally bringing some attention to its focused collection. Ampersand, Melly, Dugo, Scheherazade—all locally owned—renewed leases recently, Cohen says. Pumpz is coming up on a year since opening its brand new store at Galleria, and there are other longtime success stories such as Oh Baby! and Trail Mark.
It will be business as usual for Epitome and Epitome Papers through the end of the year. "Our stores are filled with beautiful clothes and acessories as well as fun and quirky gifts and paper goods," Nathanson says. "We are dressed up for the holidays and are looking forward to a great fourth quarter."
Galleria is close to signing a new tenant for the Epitome spaces, Cohen says. He couldn't name names, but acknowledged it's getting more difficult to bring in independent retailers.
"There may be a couple of individuals, but there just aren't as many new concepts out there as there were before the crash—even on a national level."
Galleria's priority remains attracting new to market and exclusive tenants.