Biz buzz // Columbia opens

Columbia Sportswear opens this month in Uptown

Oregon-based Columbia Sportswear will open its new two-level store at 3014 Hennepin Ave. with a live-music event on April 8 at 6 p.m.

“We’re really excited about being there and making this our first state with two branded stores,” said Kerry Barnes, Columbia’s vice president of retail.

The new location joins the preexisting branded store in the Mall of America and the outlet located in Albertville’s Premium Outlets. Uptown’s store is unique, however, in both look and feel. It is the only stand-alone retailer in the state, two-stories tall and portraying the outdoors with natural wood, stone and lighting. And, according to Barnes, it aims to connect with shoppers on a level that other locations cannot.

“We’ll be reaching out to the community and interacting with it,” Barnes said. “In the Mall of America, it’s really a tourist destination. We see this as more of a community store to Minneapolis.”

Columbia kicks off its community interactions in its opening weekend, April 8–11, where there will be live local music everyday. According to corporate spokesperson Anna Sanford, there will also be prizes and drawings with a chance to win a $500 gift card on each day of the opening weekend. Additionally, the first 50 customers on opening night will receive a free high-tech Mobex backpack. Sanford noted 10% of all the sales over the weekend — at both the Uptown location and in the Mall of America — will go to the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness.

The store features Columbia’s high-performance outdoor apparel, footwear, accessories and equipment, as well as Sorel brand footwear. “There will be some rainwear, but we’ll mostly highlight our spring sportswear line,” Barnes said.

Columbia Sportswear joins a competing outdoor retailer, The North Face, at the intersection of Hennepin and Lake. “We looked at the street and area and felt that of all the places we could open in Minneapolis, it really hit our niche,” Barnes said. “It just so happened that it’s next door to North Face.”

Barnes said he does not foresee the adjacency presenting any threats to the new store. “I think there’s plenty of business to be had out there,” Barnes said. “We’re a very strong brand, and I think we’ll do very well in that location.”

Hours for the Columbia Sportswear are Monday–Saturday 10 a.m.–8 p.m., and Sunday 11 a.m.– 6 p.m.


Sweet Retreat opens on 50th & France

The one-stop-shop neighborhood of 50th & France just got a little sweeter this week. Sweet Retreat, a cupcake boutique offering specialty cakes and cupcakes made from scratch, celebrated its soft opening on April 1. The boutique is located in the heart of the area, on France between 50th and 51st streets..

“This is an area I personally come to when I go out and shop,” owner Robin Johnson said. “You can do everything right here. To me, it was just natural when this opened up.”

Johnson, who has worked as a travel agent for the past 20 years, decided she was ready for a career change once her children were grown and out of the house. The jump from travel agent to pastry shop owner may seem like a stretch, but for Johnson, it’s just a step back to her college roots. He degree is in human ecology with a concentration in food science.

While researching opportunities in cities such as San Francisco, Chicago and Nashville, Johnson discovered that a surprising amount of bakeries use a mix for their products.

“I didn’t want to do that,” she said. “Based on my grandma’s cakes and fudge recipes, I wanted to offer the best product I could possibly make.”

The products include cupcakes and cakes made from scratch, not mixes, on a daily basis. The baking is led by pastry chef Mark Hamre who has specialized for years in custom wedding cakes at the Majestic Oaks Golf Club in Ham Lake, Minn. Experienced cake decorators are also part of Johnson’s team.  Johnson, who will oversee the business, noted that the goods would never be refrigerated or kept overnight.

Cupcakes and cakes will be available in the store as well as by custom order. The boutique will offer wedding consultations and delivery. Johnson said the shop will also offer cupcake gift packages. Customers will be able to choose a message card and decorative ribbons to adorn a box of cupcakes that can then be delivered.

 “I wanted to do something that makes people happy,” Johnson said. “I wanted to be around smiling faces all day. I feel like I have a great product that can do that.”

Sweet Retreat will have a grand opening once the initial kinks have been worked out, Johnson said. Tentative hours are Tuesday–Sunday, 10 a.m.–6 p.m.


Jeans for every body

New denim retailer Dirty Denim Bar is expected to open in the Lyn-Lake building by the end of April.

Owner Sadana Panvaree says the denim bar will stand out from other denim retailers because of the variety of styles and sizes offered for both men and women. “I want everybody to be able to walk in, any shape or size, and be able to find a pair of jeans that fit them,” she said. “My target audience is every woman and every man.”

More than 25 styles of jeans will be offered in brands that range from well-know labels like Rock and Republic, Joe’s Jeans and Citizen of Humanity, to up-and-coming labels, Panvaree said. “We’ve gone everywhere to find the best quality jeans,” she said.

According to the owner, prices for jeans will range from roughly $90–$200. Additional merchandise will include T-shirts, dresses and accessories, the latter of which will come from some local designers.

Panvaree, of Des Moines, Iowa, was previously a buyer for Saks Fifth Avenue before she had the opportunity to open a Thai restaurant in her home state, which she still owns. Panvaree moved to Minneapolis to be with her fiancé and said she is excited to be back in retail doing what she loves.

Renovation of the store has been completed, but shelving and purchasing are still in the works, as are the smaller details like designing the shopping bags and price tags, Panvaree said. Hours have not been set yet.


Uptown Girl opens in Lyn-Lake building

West Franklin women’s shoe store Streetwalkerz opened about a year ago and offered the shoppers of Minneapolis trendy and sexy shoes for an affordable price: all $50 or less. When owner Dee Oates added some clothing to her merchandise, however, Streetwalkerz began to attract a different crowd.

“People would think that it was a clothing store for women’s oldest profession,” Oates said with a laugh. “I knew I had to change the name.”

Oates changed not only the name, but the location of her store as well. Uptown Girl — as it was named for its sophisticated merchandise and its new home — is one of the newest additions to the Lyn-Lake building at 615 W. Lake St. According to Oates, the store has not yet celebrated a grand opening, but is open to customers. A grand opening will be planned in the near future.

Uptown Girl caters to women with high-end style who may not have the disposable income to pay top-dollar for their clothing and accessories. “She’s the one who watches Sex and the City,” Oates said. “She reads Vogue and Cosmo. She’s the fashionista.”

For these fashionistas of the Twin Cities, Uptown Girl aims to please. “My tagline is ‘Fashions you could die for at prices you can live with,’” she said. “I really want to bring some of the things you see in major metropolitan areas, like New York and Chicago, to Minneapolis but leave the higher price point in those metropolitan areas.”

Dresses are all priced under $50 and blouses range from $14–$24. Accessories also fit the theme with every pair of earrings priced at $2.99. And, as was the case at Streetwalkerz, all shoes are $50 or less. “People have been literally knocking down the windows to get at the shoes,” Oates said.

She said the move to Lyn-Lake was a good decision; the response from pedestrian traffic and other business owners has been positive.

“This is where I should have been a year ago,” she said. “It took me a while to find this place, but this is home. This is where the store belongs.”

Hours are Monday–Friday, 12–8 p.m., Saturday 12–7 p.m. and Sunday, 12–5 p.m. For more information, visit


Uptown authors to write Lyn-Lake book

Siblings Thatcher Imboden and Cedar Phillips, authors of pictorial history book “Uptown Minneapolis,” are planning a new book, this time focused on the neighborhood and business district of Lyn-Lake.

The format will be the same for the new book, which will explore the history of the Lyndale Avenue corridor from 36th Street to Franklin Avenue and Lake Street from Colfax Avenue to Pleasant Avenue. The book will cover the 1800s through the 1990s.  

“We didn’t get to cover Lyn-Lake in the Uptown book and Cedar has always wanted to do Lyn-Lake,” Imboden said. “So I said I think it’s time to do it. We grew up exploring the area, so it just makes sense. And Lyn-Lake has a fascinating history.”

Imboden said a publisher was being finalized. The book is planned to be complete at the end of this year or early next year. Anyone with historical information about Lyn-Lake or photos of the area is encouraged to e-mail the authors at [email protected]


Jewelry designer opens shop in Kingfield

New business owner and jewelry designer Katy Vereide has opened a handmade jewelry store at 3920 Nicollet Ave. S.

Katy Schmaty Jewelry offers handmade precious stone jewelry, along with quirky and unique pieces created from vintage finds. Prices range from $6–$86. Additionally, Vereide offers custom design work for anyone with a specific vision in mind — whether it is personalization of an item or restoration of the old into something new. The store also has a small stock of consignment merchandise including glassware and wooden box bags.

Katy Schmaty is open Monday–Friday 12 p.m.–7 p.m. and weekends by appointment. Visit for more information.