For the last several years, men’s retail has really raised the bar for Twin Cities boutiques with MartinPatrick 3 and Askov Finlayson receiving national accolades and many others, including BlackBlue, Brightwater Clothing & Gear and Heimie’s Haberdashery solidifying Minnesota’s claim on heritage wear. There’s just one problem: a lot of men that appreciate these fine stores can’t always afford to shop them. What’s the local alternative to Banana Republic or J.Crew, I’m frequently asked. What we need is the male version of Primp, I’ve often thought—affordable men’s fashion in a local boutique setting.
Here it comes: John Henry. The founders of Minneapolis-based fast fashion chain Primp, along with Primp co-owner Michele Henry’s brother Mike Henry and business partner John Vadnais, are getting ready to open a men’s store in White Bear Lake that offers “casual and classic” men’s apparel at approachable prices. But they won’t call it fast fashion.
“Women love ‘cheap-chic.’ Men do not,” Michele Henry says. “We’ve talked to lots and lots of men (about shopping) and it always comes back to quality and value.”
Primp, which has seven locations in the Twin Cities and Rochester, has very deliberately kept prices under $100. John Henry will break that ceiling, but thoughtfully, says Michele Henry. There will be $125 dress shirts, she says, adding that they’ll be wrinkle-free with four-way stretch. “A shirt that you never have to dry clean? That’s luxurious, but there’s also value in that.”
John Vadnais and Mike Henry, co-founders of John Henry men's store
Mike Henry is a former Golden Gophers football player. Vadnais played hockey for Bemidji State University. Both spent their athletic careers unable to squeeze into most off-the-rack men’s clothes, and uncomfortable paying higher prices for better fits. Like Primp, John Henry is working directly with Los Angeles manufacturers to develop apparel for the store, including men’s versions of Primp’s popular Minnesota t-shirts. John Henry will carry a men’s dress shirt line based in Texas and a few other lesser-know brands. Like at Primp, the emphasis will be on style, not brand. And atmosphere—Henry says the store will be decorated with leather chairs and subtle nods to local athletics.
“We want men to feel comfortable shopping here,” she says. “We want to give an experience, but also some shirts that are less than $60. There has to be an in between.”
John Henry will open in late March next door to Primp in White Bear Lake. Negotiations are underway for a second location in St. Paul.