Spring has sprung at Brightwater!

5 Retailers Thinking Outside the Box

It’s no secret that Thao Nguyen’s North Loop storefront is a true haven for lovers of high-quality, minimalist pieces with a trend-forward edge. She and her social media–savvy team have spent more than a decade connecting fashionistas with cult-following indie labels from the coasts, plus apothecary, jewelry, and gifts that fit the shop’s signature modern aesthetic. Last June, Nguyen was also among the first of many local shopkeepers to pledge 15 percent of shelf space to Black-owned businesses by summer 2021 as part of the national #PullUpOrShutUp initiative dedicated to standing against racism and injustice and amplifying BIPOC voices. 212 N. 2nd St., Mpls., 612-353-4966

2) Serge and Jane

Husband-and-wife retail veterans Jamie and Casey Carl know a thing or two about the importance of experience when it comes to brick-and-mortar. Shoppers are hooked on the couple’s undeniably cool Cali aesthetic in both women’s and men’s fashion, but it’s the the surprises and delights that keep them coming back to the Linden Hills storefront: an extensive vinyl collection (if you’re lucky, Casey may just let you guest DJ!), cheeky drinkware, pop-ups with local artists and brands, and themed gift boxes and sets for everyone on your list. Serge and Jane’s hidden gem? A colorful alley mural of the shop’s muses—Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin—created by local artist Dandy Lyonne. 4532 France Ave. S., Edina, 612-315-4638

3) Roe Wolfe

Last spring, Ashley Kilcher started hosting virtual shopping events inside her Galleria boutique as a way to navigate a new retail landscape, highlight new arrivals, and provide styling tips and tricks for customers looking to shop at a distance. Customers responded enthusiastically, so Kilcher co-created a new side hustle in tandem with local stylist and producer Grant Whittaker. Enter: The Virtualist Co.—a virtual boutique-shopping and consultation service designed to support locally owned boutiques and meet the customers where they are, which to Kilcher is key to running a successful brick-and-mortar in today’s climate. “As customers become more accustomed to services that are delivered straight to their smartphones, virtual services in all areas of our lives will continue out of convenience, not just necessity,” says Kilcher. Galleria, Edina, 952-595-5691

4) Jaxon Grey

Unable to hit the shops? Jaxon Grey’s Michael Druskin has you covered. Druskin has pivoted in more ways than we thought were possible, somehow managing to raise his customer service game in the middle of a global pandemic. He’s added doorstep deliveries, local “try before you buy” drop-off programs, and even socially distanced cul-de-sac pop-ups. “Before deliveries, we didn’t get to talk to our customers as much,” says Druskin, who’s noticed a shift in connectivity with his JG family in addition to a spike in followers on Instagram, a platform he heavily leans on to engage and sell. Now more than ever, he’s texting with customers, dropping packages, and building personalized boxes for men who favor the brand’s selection of comfortable athleisure-inspired gear. “We want people to feel connected to more than just clothing—we are seeing exactly that happening.” 219 N. 2nd St., Mpls., 612-399-9973 

5) Brightwater Clothing and Gear

This Excelsior boutique puts a fashion spin on everyday basics and active- and outdoor-lifestyle sportswear. We love how shop owner Bill Damberg doesn’t hide behind the cash wrap—or screen. He’s all about engaging with customers and other neighborhood businesses. Damberg regularly collaborates with shop owners from the Lake Minnetonka chamber to crack the retail code. In the dark days of March, he created the Shopkeeper's Journal to stay in touch with customers during a time of social distancing in physical storefronts. 256 Water St., Excelsior, 952-474-0256 

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