As I type this, it’s a blustery winter day in the Twin Cities. There are inches of fresh, fluffy snow on the ground, and tree branches hang heavy under its weight. Welcome to a November Minnesota morning, friends.
Folks, allow us to introduce you to Anna Hillegass of The Foundry Home Goods, Thao Nguyen of Parc Boutique, Amanda Baumann of Tandem Vintage, and Michelle LeBlanc of Mille. These four women have built their businesses from the ground up, and today they’re sharing their stories with you—from what they were doing before they became local business owners to the nitty-gritty details of how they opened their shops. In celebration of the holiday season that’s upon us, they’re also sharing their favorite holiday traditions and the ideal gifts to get for that one person in our lives who’s hardest to shop for (you know the one!). They’re discussing why it’s important to shop local and support the storefronts on your nearest street corner.
As we head into that oh-so-busy time before the end of the year, we hope you’ll remember your favorite local shops. And if you’re in the Twin Cities, we hope you’ll pop in to one of these stores (or visit them online!), both on Small Business Saturday (Saturday, November 30) and every day. Cheers to the holiday season, and to the friendly faces that make up the fabric of our communities.
Address: 322 W 48th St, Minneapolis, MN 55419
Hours: Monday – Saturday: 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Sunday: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Closed on Thanksgiving & Christmas
Website: The Foundry Home Goods
When I started to make-believe the concept for the shop in my head, I was living in New York, working for Holly Hunt, which was an amazing, high-end, perfectly executed design showroom open only to the trade. We worked with architects and interior designers and it was this very elevated environment complete with a lot of polish a lot of glamour. It was so much fun and I learned so much while I was there—that was my school.
If you just keep moving and have trust, it will stick. It will happen. If you don’t get too attached to the outcome, things will happen. I couldn’t have learned that at a better time. – Anna Hillegass, The Foundry Home Goods
I moved back to Minneapolis in January 2012 to get my bearings and try to save some more money and I got an amazing intermediate position working with Brenda Scherping, who has this really cool design showroom at International Market Square. She’s a mom to two kids and she has this incredibly positive attitude and she never stops moving. She has this force where it’s like, “Let’s try this, let’s figure it out, let’s just do it and see what happens!” I can get stuck creatively sometimes, really wanting everything to be perfect, and I learned from her that if you just keep moving and have trust, it will stick. It will happen. If you don’t get too attached to the outcome, things will happen. I couldn’t have learned that at a better time.
I had the idea that I wanted to make this space for people to get beautiful things that they’d use every day. My dad owned the Foundry building—a beautiful, historic space in downtown Minneapolis (learn more about the history of the space here!)—and when I heard the shop was coming up for rent, I called my dad. He told me that the lease started in the fall and that he’d give me two months grace period after the lease started to pay the rent. I had everything I’d saved in New York (which was literally only a few thousand dollars) and basically six months to make the whole shop happen. It felt like, now is the time—if not now, when?
Everything seemed to fall into place in this weird way. I found a bunch of paint at family members’ houses and mixed them together to get the grey for the door and the white for the shop. I found a bunch of sheet rocking mud and I just kept playing with it until I got this stucco plaster look for the walls, which was so much more in tune with the vibe of what I wanted the shop to be—a more natural and lived-in-feeling.
It was this amazing time of just trying to be scrappy and make the most of what I had access to, because I wanted every last dollar to go to products.
We’re nestled into the sweet little Tangletown neighborhood in South Minneapolis. It’s so nice to be in a quiet spot where real life is unfolding on our corner. We get to be a part of everyone’s’ routines, from dog walks and school bus pickup to picking out wedding gifts or helping with last-minute cocktail napkins and beeswax before a dinner party. The Foundry is filled with well-designed essentials from Minneapolis and far beyond. Everything we carry is meant to be used and loved for a lifetime.
We love gifting to “those” people. The hard-to-shop-for are often the most important people in our lives. Versatility and creativity is the name of the game. A fresh loaf of crusty bread wrapped in a beautiful tea towel along with a jar of local honey or something savory from the pantry. We also just filled the shelves with June Taylor’s incredible jams and syrups. Everything is made in small batches (I still handwrite the labels!) and the flavor pairings change seasonally.
Of course, you can never go wrong with beeswax. Our dear friend Kate makes these with the wax from her family’s farm and uses vintage molds, like this classic pinecone. Beeswax burns cleaner, healthier, and longer than standard candles. And the smell? There is nothing more perfect than the scent of fresh beeswax.
I love getting the shop’s greenery prepared each year—filling vases and building garland for the big pine hutch and windows. Hand making garland is quite a production, and the shop floor gets covered in pine needles, but it’s absolutely worth it.
Shopping local is so vital in every community. It’s scary to imagine a world without local businesses, and I hope that never happens. When you choose to shop local, of course you’re supporting the faces you see every day in the shop, but we also, in turn, spend our dollars on artists and vendors we believe in. At small shops like The Foundry we’re also filling our shelves with things that answer your needs and requests. Some of our best ideas come from conversations with clients and we wouldn’t have it any other way! We’re a direct reflection of our community and so proud to be a part of it as we all grow!
I studied retail merchandising and business management at the University of Minnesota and my first job out of college was with Gap Inc, in San Francisco. While living in San Francisco, I really fell in love with the local shopping scene and wanted to bring that sense of community and small shop vibe to Minneapolis, and that’s when the idea of Parc started! After a few years, I left my corporate job and moved back to Minneapolis and started to work on Parc.
Way back in 2008 (wow that seems so long ago!), I saw a void for effortless and understated brands that were thoughtful about their design process and quality of materials and fabrics. I wanted to curate a collection that reflected all of those things that were important to me—and that’s how Parc all began. All of that vision had to be put to practical work in order to happen instead of remaining just an idea, so I did my research, visited all the shops around town, and wrote a business plan. The rest is history!
We have definitely changed quite a bit in the last eleven years though—we’ve moved two times, closed one location, and our shoppers have thankfully grown with us throughout those changes. Although our brands and style have evolved as the years have gone by, our philosophy has always stayed the same. We still strive to be a thoughtfully curated shop of simple, minimalistic pieces and unique goods from independent designers + makers.
We are now located in the heart of the North Loop neighborhood in Minneapolis as well as online! We moved here last year so we’re new to the neighborhood, and we had so much fun creating a new brick-and-mortar that feels even more “Parc” than before. We are in a newly renovated historical building and our space has amazing original brickwork and we get the best light shining in; I still pinch myself and have to remind myself how lucky I am.
Our goal has been to make Parc feel like your “home away from home,” so we always have one of our candles burning, a friendly “hello” from our shop girls when you walk in, beautiful antique rugs from our friend Ellary from Henslin, spacious fitting rooms, and even some dried plants I’ve picked on my daily walk from my daughter’s bus stop!
Brand-wise, this fall season we got sweaters in from Revisited, a Barcelona based label that work closely with the Spanish shepherds and knitters and they are committed to sustainability and ethical manufacturing. Paloma Wool is another brand based in Spain and we love their whole collection—all her pieces are colorful, fun, and it’s basically like wearing a piece of art. We also carry some super stunning jewelry—one of our shop faves is Wolf Circus. All their jewelry is thoughtfully designed and handmade in Vancouver, BC. and created by, run by, and powered by women. I think my favorite pieces from their collection are the femme woman body rings and necklaces and all of the large bulb rings as a statement piece.
We have so many unique, handmade, quality gifts! For a parent—our go-to is from local maker Scarf Shop. They hand dye these Wool Cloud scarves that are amazingly soft and fluffy in the prettiest shades and tones. For a friend, our Boy Smells limited holiday candles look and smell so good and they come in great packaging, so they’re gift-ready. They’re created by two men (hence “Boy Smells”) which always is a fun conversation starter. For a colleague, we have a lot of options for under $20 that are still thoughtful and made with care. We have reusable grocery bags in fun colors and prints from Baggu, or Le Bon Shoppe socks in colors you won’t find at a place like Target. We also have Italian acetate combs and barrettes handmade in France. I’d say all of these would make great, meaningful gifts!
Yes actually! We just started this tradition at Parc where every holiday season we get the team together for a fun team night to make wreaths and garlands to decorate the shop, and also something to take home. It’s seriously so fun to see everyone’s creation at the end of the night. We turn on the holiday music, have treats and sips, laugh, and get creative!
Once you start buying local, you won’t want to go back! It’s more than a transaction; it’s a connection. And that’s something worth celebrating and supporting. – Thao Nguyen, Parc Boutique
It is so important to shop local not just now but all year round, especially if you care about the well being of your community and its future. Not only does it create local jobs but the money you spend stays in the community and gets donated back to local non-profits. Buying something from a small, local shop means you get to vote with your dollar and feel good knowing you purchased something really unique and special, and something that not everyone else will have. Minneapolis truly has such a great small business community which is growing, and I swear once you start buying local, you won’t want to go back! It’s more than a transaction; it’s a connection. And that’s something worth celebrating and supporting.
Address: 13 5th St NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413 (located in findfurnish)
Hours: Sunday and Monday: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Wednesday – Saturday: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Second Saturday of the month: Open early 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Website: Tandem Vintage
My house is filled almost entirely with pieces I’ve found secondhand: dishes, couches, tables, patio furniture, coffee mugs, picture frames, books, records, record cabinet, planters, curtains, coat hooks, lamps, and rugs. Even my closet is filled to the brim with secondhand clothing. I’ve always loved vintage clothes for their history, quality, affordability, and sustainability. I love wandering the aisles of a thrift store, hunting for treasures. For some people, thrift stores can be overwhelming. I actually hear that a lot. For me, I walk in the door and leave the stress of bills, to-do lists, traffic, and chaos outside and find calm in the ordered aisles and the organization. It’s its own form of meditation. I focus on the patterns, colors, and textures right in front of me. I get lost in the rows and out of my head.
I walk in the door and leave the stress of bills, to-do lists, traffic, and chaos outside and find calm in the ordered aisles and the organization. It’s its own form of meditation. I focus on the patterns, colors, and textures right in front of me. – Amanda Baumann, Tandem Vintage
While I’ve always loved thrifting for vintage, editing is how I always paid my bills. I worked for almost a decade in communications and publishing. As a bookworm with a master’s in literature, it seemed like the perfect fit. What I didn’t love about my job was being in a cube glued to a computer all day. It was gray and lonely. I was feeling uninspired and I knew I needed to make a change. During this time, vintage was my “side hustle.” I’d do all of my buying after work and on the weekends and started selling at vintage pop-ups. I loved it. But I was also starting to accumulate a hefty inventory that began to take over our house! (Let’s be honest, I still have a rack of clothes in my dining room. There’s always a rack somewhere. It just kind of creeps its way in.)
With the support and encouragement of my wife and a giant leap of faith, I left my full-time, bill-paying job at that time—writing about applied math. If it didn’t work out, I could always find another editing job, right? I didn’t know what was going to happen or how I was going to grow my business, but I knew I was ready for something more. I needed a home.
As luck would have it, around that time findfurnish in northeast Minneapolis contacted me about joining their team. I remember that very first meeting and how over-the-moon excited I was to possibly have my own little space! That was six years ago! My space since then has doubled and so has my joy. I found my home.
I am grateful to have a lot of local regulars and people who shop my pieces from all over the country through my Instagram sales. I get to hunt for vintage, connect with supportive, vintage-loving women, and help to find a new life for all of these garments that would otherwise probably end up in the landfill. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t take for granted how lucky I am to be doing my dream job.
Folks can find me at findfurnish. I have racks and racks (and racks!) full of colorful, modern-inspired pieces from the ‘50s through the ‘90s. I also have shoes, accessories, and a rack of kids’ vintage. I work at the shop and do buying every Wednesday. The rest of the week I am sourcing items around town and going on as many road trips as I can to keep the shop full of really fun, one-of-a-kind pieces. In addition to findfurnish, you can find me at pop-ups around the Twin Cities.
First of all, I love, love, love giving gifts. Nothing makes me happier than putting together a gift basket of goodies for someone’s birthday or Christmas! I love finding that perfect piece for someone, whether it’s secondhand or locally made or a little of both. For that person on your list who is hard to buy for—just think about what they love. What brings them joy?
If your friend is outdoorsy, put together a camp kit with vintage games, s’mores ingredients, a book of ghost stories for around the campfire, and a cozy vintage throw. Find a cute vintage frame and include a photo of a happy memory or trip. Pack a vintage picnic basket with local wine, chocolate, cheese, and a blanket. Buy a plant or cactus and put it in a secondhand basket or planter. Fill a basket with locally made bath salts, yummy soap, a candle, and a journal for someone who deserves some self-care. Buy art for someone colorful! Find your foodie friend a stack of like-new cookbooks from a local used book store (and if you can find local authors, even better!) and wrap them up with some locally sourced spices, vintage recipe cards, and a wood cutting board made by someone local—even include a few of your favorite recipes!
I think giving gifts is such a beautiful opportunity to shower someone with love and to really think about what would make them smile. If you can spread joy and shop locally and sustainably at the same time, it’s a win-win.
I actually love watching holiday movies with my wife. Every year, we watch Home Alone, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and White Christmas. (I actually could go on and on—we love Christmas movies!) Even when we went to tropical Costa Rica for our honeymoon, waking up on December 25 to sunshine, blue skies, and a pool outside our door, we stayed in our jammies and streamed Home Alone to get in the holiday spirit. (And then we floated in a pool with rum cocktails in our hands and monkeys swinging in the trees above us. It was magic and we didn’t miss the snow at all.)
Yes, it is absolutely so important to shop local: buy your greeting cards at a local boutique; get your veggies, honey, and flowers at the Farmer’s Market; and stay warm and cozy in a knitted hat made here in town! We should all be striving to be more thoughtful of our choices and truly think about where our dollars are being spent.
It is especially important for me to support women when I can. Buy from that woman whipping up colorful and tasty macarons, making delicious organic bath products, fermenting her own pickles, knitting hats and mittens, making jewelry, writing poetry, painting watercolors, or crocheting fruit-shaped Christmas ornaments. Support the local folks making, crafting, doing, building, growing, and creating! In addition to buying from women, you can also support them with your encouragement, kind words, “likes” on social media, and spreading the word about (and going to!) local events.
Address: 4760 Grand Avenue S, Minneapolis, MN 55419
Hours: Monday – Wednesday: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Thursday: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Friday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Saturday: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Before I started Mille, I worked in small boutiques both throughout college and after moving to Minneapolis. I then started doing high-end consignment online, which segued into a blog, which Mille grew out of.
Mille started as an e-commerce business ten years ago out of my house with just a handful of designers and home goods. I’ve been really lucky to work with two amazing women, Kelsee Loiselle and Emily Freitas, for most of Mille’s history. What we sell is really reflective of the things the three of us love and want to wear and surround ourselves with. This spring we launched our own collection and really pivoted into becoming our own brand instead of a multi-label boutique. The response has been incredible and we are so excited about the future. It feels like the past ten years have just been leading up to doing our own thing and that is exhilarating!
We are located at 48th & Grand in Minneapolis, across from The Foundry Home Goods and close to Black Blue, so it’s a fun corner to shop! We currently sell our own collection, plus vintage jewelry and denim.
Can I confess that I’m a terrible gift giver and get really stressed about it? I like being generous throughout the year when the mood strikes or when I have a good idea.
My daughters and I go to see the Nutcracker every year and I love getting dressed up with them. Working in retail during the holidays can be a bit of a slog to the finish so it’s good to pause and do something really festive. This year we are going to New York to see it at Lincoln Center which feels extra magical—I was hugely obsessed with the book A Very Young Dancer as a kid, so seeing the Balanchine version is pretty special to me and so fun to share with my girls.
Local businesses are what makes your city special and cool. They give your city life, personality, and bring other interesting creative people to town. . . . The only way for them to thrive and continue to stay in your city is for you to patronize them. – Michelle LeBlanc, Mille
Local businesses are what makes your city special and cool. They give your city life, personality, and bring other interesting creative people to town. I think being from Austin, TX, I learned firsthand how small shops and restaurants can infuse and grow the creative fabric of a place. And honestly, the only way for them to thrive and continue to stay in your city is for you to patronize them. It’s a pretty simple equation!
BY Jackie Saffert - November 27, 2019
Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.