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An inside look at top retailers and the consumers they covet

New Prince store at MSP airport reels in fandom

A first-of-a-kind Prince merch store opened quietly at the MSP Airport Monday, but fans sniffed it out.

Prince fans were lined up and so eager to get inside a new retail store at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, they persuaded the staff to open doors 45 minutes early on opening day Monday.

The store, located in the main mall area at Terminal 1 near the south checkpoint, opened quietly this week and is the first of its kind. It offers an expanded line of merchandise beyond the gift shop at Paisley Park, which had been the only brick-and-mortar site with a full offering of official Prince merchandise.

Branded simply as Prince, the store sells T-shirts, concert paraphernalia, albums, books, CDs and movies as well as keychains, magnets, stickers and other trinkets. There are Minnesota-themed items, such as a Twins baseball mug with the Prince love symbol.

The store also provides fans a way to buy tickets to Paisley Park, Prince’s private estate and production complex in Chanhassen that is now open to the public for guided tours.

“Prince's story is a uniquely Minnesota story,” said Audrey Johnson, director of business development for Airport Retail Group, which operates the store in conjunction with the Prince estate and Bravado licensing. “We want our store to reflect and tell his journey."

Eventually the store plans to stock travel accessories and other collections that Bravado is developing specifically for the airport location. A grand opening is being planned for July.

The idea had been in the works for several years. When lease ran out on a sports store in that location, Airport Retail Group jumped at the chance to create a Prince-themed store. It will occupy that space for several years.

Famous Dave's converting Uptown location to smaller counter-service model

More Americans are eating out, but they aren’t dining in as often. Delivery and pick-up options have restaurants scrambling to accommodate Americans on the go. Sixty percent of Americans order delivery or takeout once a week, according to Upserve Restaurant Insider, a restaurant management software platform.

Minnetonka-based Famous Dave’s is no exception. The barbecue chain is revamping its Calhoun Square location in Uptown to make it a counter-service and delivery model. 

“We’re going from a full-service model to a small model,” said Al Hank, senior director of company operations at Famous Dave’s. “We’ll go from seating about 250 to about 90 guests.”

It will be Famous Dave’s first conversion to the smaller model in the Twin Cities. Earlier this year the company closed a 6,000 square feet location in Tucson and opened a 2,000 square feet restaurant in a new location in the city. With a smaller kitchen, several items were dropped from the Tucson menu, but Hank said the Calhoun Square menu won’t be downsized.

The Uptown restaurant remains open during the conversion but only takeout, delivery and patio sit-down service is available. Patrons are being directed to the outside entrance next to the parking ramp since the mall entrance is closed. The dining room is expected to be reopen in two weeks with a project completion in eight to 12 weeks.

All of the Famous Dave’s restaurants in the Twin Cities are company-owned, allowing the chain to test more concepts than franchisees may be willing to try. In 2018, the company tested a new look and menu items from founder Dave Anderson in its Coon Rapids store. The test bumped sales up by more than 15%.

Famous Dave’s and other restaurants are expected to embrace the smaller, takeout/deliver footprint store when building new stores and continue to downsize underperforming dining rooms. Since 2014 digital ordering and delivery has tripled, according to Upside. 

The company operates 28 corporate-owned stores and 105 franchise units. It recently acquired five franchises in Colorado and six more in Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin.