Photo by Caitlin Abrams
A rack of clothing at Primp in Woodbury
Nearly 10 years after the opening of the Woodbury Lakes lifestyle center, which failed to make Woodbury a shopping destination, the ultimate east metro bedroom community is finally finding its retail mojo.
As proof, I give you: Patina. It’s not nearly as big as the Costco that is supposed to open in Woodbury this year, but it is perhaps even more significant that the Minneapolis-based gift retailer chose Woodbury for its seventh Twin Cities location—only its second in the suburbs. And while Patina is not the first, nor the only purveyor of candles and cards east of St. Paul, its presence at Valley Creek Road and Radio Drive does give Woodbury a certain boutique credibility that had been sorely missing among the big-box stores and endless strip centers. If the seemingly fail-proof upscale boutique retailer wants to do business in Woodbury, well, others will too.
To that end, recent openings by local companies include Merriment, a home furnishings store and design studio, Sisu women’s boutique, Blast Blow Dry Bar, and fast-growing fast-fashion retailer Primp, which opened its sixth Twin Cities location at Woodbury Lakes.
“It’s been on our radar since we opened our first store at Selby and Dale,” says Michele Henry Gudmundson, co-owner of Primp. “We knew a lot of our customers were coming from Woodbury, but until recently the timing wasn’t right.”
So what changed? The ownership of Woodbury Lakes, for one. After a string of management companies tossed the flailing center around like a hot potato—losing major retailers (remember when we had Z. Gallerie for five minutes?) and failing to attract needed restaurants—a new owner gives reason for optimism. Ramco-Gershenson Properties Trust runs 83 shopping centers around the country. Woodbury Lakes is its first in Minnesota, and RGPT is determined to make it a hit. A coffee house, local bakery, upscale restaurants, and more indie boutiques are on the wish list. But even more importantly, RGPT also purchased two pieces of land just west of Woodbury Lakes with plans to add something big: an anchor store, a movie theater, or possibly a restaurant.
When Woodbury Lakes first opened, the east side of town was still sparsely populated with a dearth of daytime traffic. Turns out: Stay at home moms and teenagers can’t support a shopping center alone. But the population has continued to grow, and daytime traffic will get an enormous boost from redevelopment of the old State Farm campus. The eagerly anticipated City Place complex will include a hotel, Whole Foods, and restaurants, as well as two medical office buildings that could house more than 2,000 employees.
Woodbury is never going to have the charm of a downtown Stillwater or Grand Avenue. But it may finally have the right equation to support retail beyond the basics. Let’s just hope for more Patinas and Primps sprinkled among the chains.