Galleria designer accessories boutique StyledLife—a standout among Twin Cities’ retailers— is closing at the end of May. Effective today, all merchandise, including spring arrivals from Alexis Bittar and MZ Wallace, is 50 to 80 percent off.
The decision to close was a personal one for owner Kevin Quinn—not driven by store sales, which he described as “flat, but not bad.”
“To be a successful company long term, you have to grow,” says Quinn, a former Nordstrom fashion director. Throughout the years, Quinn considered adding stores—for a short time he operated both downtown Minneapolis and at the Galleria—but the timing never was quite right for him personally to expand, and so he came to the difficult conclusion in just the past few weeks that the “24-7” demands of store ownership didn’t justify the return.
Stores come and go, but this loss hits hard. For seven years, Quinn and his top-notch staff including Tim Creagan and Allison Werthmann-Radnich worked tirelessly to raise the bar for boutique shopping. The store first opened at Gaviidae Center in downtown Minneapolis at a time when shoppers were beginning to grow weary of the “it bag,” but the fashion accessories category—that place between cheap and luxury—was underserved. Quinn focused on bags that were distinct for their design, rather than their logo, and fashion jewelry—anything from leather to semi-precious stones—by artists and designers, each with her own story. He introduced the Twin Cities to collections not available elsewhere in town. He also supported local designers, and celebrated shopping local at every opportunity. He was a strong advocate of Fashion’s Night Out. He broadened our appreciation of how accessories can make the outfit, and offered the kind of hands-on service and styling no longer typical of department stores. He gave men options beyond chain bracelets. He mixed in vintage pieces, too. And with his frequent in-store parties, music bar and endless supply of Laffy Taffy, he reminded shoppers what they can’t get by shopping online.
So much has changed in just the past seven years. “When I opened, I felt like I was on the forefront—I had a vision and a plan that no one else had,” Quinn says. “I had that advantage for three or four years.” While there still aren’t many other accessories-focused boutiques in town, more and more stores are going heavier into the accessories category because it’s an easier, one-size-fits-all impulse buy. The Internet has rendered exclusivity a near impossibility. As Quinn points out, he could be the only store in town with a certain brand, but it’s still available on Gilt.com or similar websites, often at a lower price. StyledLife started out with Nordstrom’s philosophy of discounting only rarely. But that twice-a-year sales strategy didn’t fly during the recession, and StyledLife has been unable to return to it, which is tough on an individually owned store.
“I don’t have a whole lot of conviction that a lot of one-off stores will be around in five years,” Quinn says. “Customers are there for great service and great brands. Younger customers are driven by the deal. I don’t know that a lot of local boutiques are in the position to remain relevant.”
Galleria’s new management has been gracious, Quinn says, and tried to convince him to stay before letting him out of a long lease. His large storefront is likely to be appealing to national brands, or could be divided for more than one new retailer.
Quinn is leaving open the possibility of a return to StyledLife, in one form or another, down the road. Short term, he plans to take some time off, and go back to retail consulting. But for the next month, you will find him in the store, with tunes thumping and drinks flowing, doing what he, and his staff, do so well: helping shoppers find the fun in fashion.