Schuler Shoes opened its 10th Twin Cities' location in St. Paul Wednesday. "We sold our first pair of shoes 10 minutes after we opened," said Schuler's marketing director Kari Palmer.
Schuler's continues to grow at a time when many other shoe stores are closing. Venerable retailers such as Roberts Shoes on Lake Street in Minneapolis and Bay Street Shoes in Uptown closed last year.
Schuler's has strengthened its niche by catering to an audience that wants good customer service, knowledgeable sales staff, a wide range of sizes, and relatively stylish but comfortable shoes. Most of its stores are located in the suburbs.
Co-owner John Schuler said only 3 percent of the retailer's sales are online, but the company is hoping to increase that this year. The website has been freshened and reflects current inventories. In the past, inventory was only updated three times a week.
No additional locations are in the pipeline, Palmer said, but the Roseville store is moving in the fall from Har Mar Mall to a new building in the Target parking lot across the street. Construction has begun at the new location.
Grand opening events are planned for March 26-29, but a men's event is in progress. Get $15 off any purchase of $75 or more in the men's department at any of the 10 locations through March 2.
As Highland Park shoppers know well, parking is tight in the neighborhood. Schuler's has its own parking lot with 14 dedicated spaces, next to Walgreens, which also has its own lot. The new shoe store is located at 2081 Ford Parkway in St. Paul.
Even a mediocre movie is more enjoyable if it features locales you've visited or people you know. Let me expand that to things with a local angle. The owners of George's Shoes in Arden Hills contacted me to say that one of their products is featured in "50 Shades of Grey," released last Friday.
It's the Walnut Hinge Shoe Shine Kit ($85) made for George's and sold in the Arden Hills store and online at Georgesshoes.com. But don't blame Ron George for shameless product placement. He didn't ask to have the product in the movie. The movie's people came to him. The shoebox kit doesn't even have his family's name embossed on the outside.
The owner of the venerable shoe store, which has been around in the Twin Cities since the 1940s, received an email from the product placement managers back in September to feature the shoe valet after they discovered it online. "We have the biggest selection of shoe shine boxes on the Internet," George said.
Here's the email from the movie's product placement manager: "I am writing you in regards to Fifty Shades of Grey, starring Dakota Johnson (Social Network, 21 Jump Street) and Jamie Dornan (Marie Antoinette). I am interested in using the "Walnut Hinge Shine Box" in the film. There is a scene in the film where Christian goes to his wardrobe and pulls several items out. The "Walnut Hinge Shine Box" would be one of those items."
George said he hasn't read the book so he has no idea if a shoeshine kit is mentioned in it too. "The 50 Shades people paid to have us ship it to Canada and they shipped it back after filming," he said..
I went to a media screening of the film but didn't see the kit. I was yakking with one of my colleagues as the film began, even though I had been told the scene with the walnut box occurs early when Christian's bedroom closet is shown.
One movie goer who knew to look for the shoe shine kit said that he saw the box in Christian's closet but only for a second before the scene shifts.
If you'd like to see a Twin Cities' connection in the movie, arrive early. It's in the first minute or two of the movie during the opening credits.
I drove to Nebraska last Thursday afternoon for a funeral on Friday. Airfares to Lincoln and Omaha with a one-day advance were worse than expected--about $1,100 each. I didn't bother checking bereavement rates since most airlines only discount 5-15% if at all for bereavement. According to experts in a USA Today article last year, most consumers can find lower fares on Priceline than via an airline's bereavement discount.
What surprised me is that some hotels offer bereavement discounts too. I've never asked for one until now. I phoned the front desk at two hotels, said that I would be in town for a funeral, and asked if they might have a room under $100.
I called the front desk instead of the 800 number because I've always been told that local desk agents offer a more competitive price. At a Marriott hotel that I've stayed at before I've paid $99 to $125 per night before tax. So I was genuinely thankful to be given a rate of $74 per night after mentioning being in town for a funeral. I don't think it hurt that it was a Thursday night in winter in Nebraska.
In previous stays at a Best Western Plus in Nebraska, I've paid $95 to $110 per night. After I mentioned the funeral, the desk clerk that the best she could do was $99. I thanked her for the rate and after a pause she said that she could give me the government rate of $84 a night. (I am not a govt. employee.)
I don't know if I'd have been turned down if the funeral were in high season in Orlando or San Francisco, but the next time you're heading to an out-of-town funeral, ask for a bereavement rate at the hotel. It will probably save you more money than bereavement airfare.
As the historic snowstorm threatened the Northeast Monday, Mike Frattallone of Frattallone Hardware stores was hoping for a call from Bloomington-based Toro.
"I’d love it they asked me if I wanted to get rid of a couple hundred snowblowers," he said.
The law of supply and demand at work, snowblower manufacturers such as Toro and Ariens sometimes call up their dealers in areas of low or no snow to transfer to areas hit by heavy snowfall. Frattallone got the call a few years ago, although last year dealers around the country were shipping units to Minnesota instead of the other way around.
Toro said the transfers from retailers don’t happen every year, according to snow marketing manager Christine Cheng. This year the company has enough inventory of their own. "We’re moving more than 1,000 units to the East Coast so they can replenish," she said.
Frattallone didn’t get the call this year, but he said it happens with Toro with some regularity.
Some Ariens dealers in Wisconsin got the call last year. Regional sales manager Mark Swift said the Brillion, Wis.-based company pulled 200 snowblowers from Wisconsin retailers and shipped them to Canada.
But thrower manufacturing is changing. After last winter Ariens started manufacturing snow throwers year round to better keep up with demand, Smith said. "It’s not full-time but we build up in the summer so we have plenty of inventory for the preseason," he said.
"A good snow year is followed by strong preseason sales the following year," he said.
Toro doesn’t have a typical stop date to quit manufacturing throwers, Cheng said. "We don’t have production right now, but that could change based on customer needs," she said. It was very good preseason for snowblower sales in fall 2014, partly due to consumers remembering the snowy winter of 2013-14 and early snowfall nationwide. But sales tapered off in December and January with little new snow.
That’s likely to bring an overstock situation in the Twin Cities unless weather patterns change soon. And that will bring markdowns, although Frattallone said snowblower profit margins are very tiny. "Even $20 off is worth considering," he said.
In Monday's article about Chuck & Don's new pet food and supplies delivery, I focused on a local business, but there is plenty of competition offering it locally and nationally.
I should have included a mention of Fetch Delivers. The Minneapolis-based company has been doing online delivery since 2006. It delivers to the west metro on Thursdays and the east metro on Fridays as long as the order is placed online or by phone at midnight on Mondays. Delivery is free for orders of $40 or more in Minneapolis/St. Paul and first ring suburbs. In outlying areas, delivery is still free but the minimum order jumps to $100. Customers can find out the minimum order needed with their ZIP code. There are no weight restrictions. For phone orders call 612-338-2433.
Lunds Byerly's stores offer delivery and drive through service. The delivery fee is $9.95 regardless of size. The drive-through service (at Byerly's stores only) is $4.95. Pet owners who want a larger selection may want to choose the St. Louis Park store, which has a Bone Marche store a couple of doors down that is owned by Byerly's.
Urban Tails Pet Supply in Uptown offers free delivery with only a $25 minimum and no weight restrictions. Most of the Twin Cities is included.
Some Meals on Wheels recipients can also request delivery of pet food. The 35 Twin Cities Meals on Wheels Programs accepts pet food donations to interested meal recipients. Some cash donations can also be directed to pet food programs, according to Grant Boelter, communications specialist for Metro Meals on Wheels.
If you have a favorite pet store close by and they don't have a formal delivery policy, ask them. Pet Supplies Plus on Hiawatha Av. in Minneapolis will deliver to seniors and others who are less mobile, as long as they live within a couple miles of the store.
The article also goes on to mention that Target offers rush, same day delivery for $10. Target and Wal-Mart and many other websites also offer free delivery on orders over $50 although some have weight restrictions.
Historic Studio Interiors in St. Louis Park starts its 50% of everything sale Monday, Jan. 12. Many items were already marked down previously as Historic limits its warehouse space to add staff and office space. "We are expanding the interior design offerings to do both residential and commercial and also developing a product development arm to the business, which requires liquidating the warehouse space," said co-owner Robb Whittlef.
Furniture, lighting, antiques, art, and objects are available at the sale, which will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each weekday until approximately 4,000 square feet of selling space is empty.
The sale is at 4950 West 35th Street, St. Louis Park, MN 55416, 952-933-9924.