Photos by Jonathan Chapman
Founder Greg Walsh (right) and CFO Dana Swindler
They’re at it again. Expansions at MartinPatrick 3 seem to happen more frequently than suit styles change. The latest, scheduled to be complete in October, will add another 6,000 square feet to the store that has elevated merchandising to an art form and become the epicenter of the North Loop explosion. If Monte Carlo is the neighborhood’s old-school landmark, MartinPatrick 3 across the street is very much the new, attracting the Twin Cities’ most devoted luxury shoppers, and wowing everyone else—even those who typically wouldn’t look twice at menswear or contemporary furnishings—with its layered, theatrical approach to retail.
And retail wasn’t even owner Greg Walsh’s first professional passion. It’s easy to forget that Walsh was a successful interior designer long before MartinPatrick 3. He opened his first home furnishings store in the front of the old Walsh Design studio on North First Street in 2001. Adding men’s lifestyle products happened “by chance,” Walsh says. A flask, a fragrance, some watches, and Walsh quickly realized the men’s market was underserved. Interest in his elegant mix of men’s accessories and gifts grew—where else could you go for a masculine gift boutique experience that didn’t center on cigars or shaving? So Walsh spun off MartinPatrick 3 to a small space down the block.
The latest expansion of the current flagship on Third Avenue North will bring the store to 15,000 square feet of retail, plus devote another 2,000 for the interior design studio, now also under the MartinPatrick 3 name.
Much of the new space is intended to pamper MartinPatrick 3’s most elite customers—the ones who think nothing of racking up a bill with five zeros in one afternoon. Yes, they exist in the Twin Cities. They miss Neiman Marcus. And they’ve been welcomed here and encouraged by the store’s sales savant: Todd Fliginger, who dressed Minnesota’s upper echelon at Neiman Marcus, and is now drawing them in to MartinPatrick 3. His mastery of selling men’s luxury fashion is influencing the evolution of the store, from more top designer lines to the latest store expansion.
“We are not trying to replicate Neiman Marcus,” Walsh says. “But that caliber of clients has certain expectations of brands, and as you go higher up the food chain, you need more upscale aspects to the store.”
To that end, the store’s expansion will also feature an in-store tailoring service and a VIP lounge with private fitting rooms and a kitchen. “Todd’s days are filled with people who schedule appointments to shop with him,” Walsh says. “We need a place for those guys. An inner sanctum.”
At the same time, Walsh doesn’t want to alienate those who think of a Vince T-shirt as an indulgence. “We’re making an effort, as we retool the store, to take a good-better-best attitude,” he says. “If we’re doing blue linen blazers, there’s going to be a $350 one from Moods of Norway, a $3,800 option from Isaia, and something in between. We want people to grow up in the store—from aspirational to high end.”
“We’re making an effort, as we retool the store, to take a good-better-best attitude.” — Greg Walsh
And let’s not forget about furniture. The store is making room for Knoll, an upscale modern furniture line that hasn’t had a presence in the local market for several years (since Red Lure Red).
Next on Walsh’s to-do list: to get some help. “I spent four days at the Atlanta home and gift show, spun around and went to New York for the men’s market. We need a buying department,” he says. The store carries 450 vendors, and Walsh does the buying with the help of just a couple of key employees. He also oversees the interior design business. When it comes to big picture strategy and numbers, Walsh turns to partner Dana Swindler, chief financial officer for the entire operation.
While it’s gratifying to have his business succeed, Walsh says it’s exciting to be part of a bigger success story: the North Loop neighborhood. “There’s some good diversity showing up on the retail front. The more it becomes a draw for visitors outside of North Loop residents, the better it is. That’s part of our confidence: There are so many more people who’ve yet to discover us or our neighborhood.”