Plenty has changed in five years in LynLake. Cause Spirits & Soundbar became Iron Door Pub, Falafel King became Hasty Tasty, The Gray House became Emperor of India, Country Bar became Blue Door Pub, Tatters closed, and LynLake Brewery opened. So it’s noteworthy that Showroom is preparing to celebrate its fifth anniversary this spring at 615 W. Lake St.
In searching for the ideal retail space to showcase their collection Kindred Folk, Jen Chilstrom and Kimberly Jurek decided to create a store devoted to Minnesota makers.
They now work with about 20 designers, and several have stuck with Showroom since the launch. Showroom reports that it’s paid 90 Minnesota makers $750,362 since 2013.
“It’s more like a co-op,” said jewelry goldsmith Betty Jäger of 3 Jäg Design, who said she’s rarely in town and travels the country to attend art shows. Showroom gives her a home base.
“It’s a nice touchstone for people in the city to come find me and see what’s new in the Twin Cities,” she said.
Other galleries’ cuts can reach 50 percent, she said, and artists often have to choose between giving away half of their earnings or hustling their products. So she appreciates Showroom’s business model that charges rent and takes a smaller percentage of designer sales.
“I feel like their business model is set up right, and that’s important to me,” said Kaja Foat, who said the system works well for her as a seasoned designer.
She launched FOAT with her twin sister in 2001, designing eco-friendly clothing for dance and yoga, and Jurek was one of the first to buy their clothing. When Foat had her first baby, she wanted to work from home, and Showroom helped her make it happen.
“It was perfect timing,” she said. “I needed a place for my clothes to always be available, and a place to meet with people.”
She sees the shop as part of the “slow fashion” movement that treats fashion as an art form, focusing on craftsmanship and eco-friendly sourcing.
Pieces recently on display at Showroom included contemporary kimonos by Joeleen Torvick, leather goods and beaded accessories by Ixmukane, and apparel with reversible necklines by Tessa Louise. Scott J Lehmann designs gender-neutral clothing.
“There are not a lot of gender-neutral things presented to people,” Lehmann said. “There are a lot of crossover things that people miss out on. It’s fun seeing an older woman wearing the same thing as a young alternative guy. That’s kind of my goal.”
As Lehmann launched his clothing line, Showroom came up again and again in his search for resources.
“It’s really like a little community,” he said. “The more everyone puts into it, the more they get out of it.”
He occasionally works at the store, which reduces his rent. Lehmann said he enjoys the customer interaction and it helps him refine his clothing design.
Small Business Saturday is one of the biggest days of the year at Showroom, and the Women’s March last year generated lines of customers. Showroom collaborated with Minnesota organizers traveling to the Women’s March on Washington by selling locally printed and embroidered hats, t-shirts and hoodies in support of the march, donating $15,000 in proceeds to the efforts.
“Suddenly it felt not just like a place for retail business, it felt like a central location for something really special,” Chilstrom said.
The Showroom founders have spent time reaching out to people in new markets, including customers of the Minneapolis Craft Market and Linden Hills Farmers Market. They run a private page for designers to share information about everything from the best art shows to helpful video tutorials on Instagram algorithms. And they help designers land international wholesale orders.
“When we were opening the store, we aspired to eventually get to a place where we could rep some of our brands and acquire wholesale accounts for them,” Chilstrom said in an email. “Last year I was able to introduce three of our design brands to an international wholesale buyer who ordered and represented these brands at their Canadian boutiques.”
Jewelry artist Jeannie Trelles of Vikse Designs said she didn’t know anyone in the fashion community when she started out, and Showroom helped her make connections.
“It’s good to have people to bounce ideas off of,” she said.
She joined Showroom in its first year. The yearlong contract was daunting, she said, but she initially took advantage of the work for trade option and her sales have increased each year.
“It was a big, scary step for me, but I’m glad I went for it,” she said.
Showroom’s next art opening is the evening of Feb. 10, featuring a photographic series by Alex Butterfield Photographs in collaboration with Samantha Rei, a contestant on Project Runway.
Showroom is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m.-7 p.m.