The owners of the Askov Finlayson men’s shop in downtown Minneapolis are often told that they should have named it “Dayton’s.” But Eric and Andrew Dayton, sons of Gov. Mark Dayton and heirs to the beloved department store, shrug it off.
“That might have raised expectations too high,” Eric Dayton says.
Their mom suggested they instead take the name from a highway exit sign for neighboring northern Minnesota towns Askov and Finlayson, on the way to the family’s cabin on Lake Vermilion.
In October 2011, the brothers opened their store in a historic North Loop building. Their Bachelor Farmer restaurant and Marvel Bar opened several months earlier in a space behind the men’s store.
Today, the store, restaurant and bar have flourished to such a degree that each will be significantly expanded.
Askov Finlayson will be moving next door to the former Hennepin Hotel building at 204 N. 1st St., taking a 2,000-square-foot space that is twice its current size.
Bachelor Farmer will then take over the Askov space with a grab-and-go breakfast and lunch cafe, serving baked goods, pastries and sandwiches to complement the restaurant’s dinner and Sunday brunch menus. Second-floor private dining rooms will get their own dedicated kitchen in the expansion.
The alley between the two buildings will become a rare neighborhood green space with tables for anyone to enjoy. Eric Dayton described the space as a “pocket park” to catch a cup of coffee and small bite. The expansion is expected to be completed next summer.
“Having all three of our small businesses under one roof was valuable in the beginning,” Dayton said. “But with the momentum of the store and our own label, the time is right to give Askov Finlayson a proper home of its own.”
The restaurant/bar and men’s store have gathered noteworthy buzz and awards. Bachelor Farmer chef Paul Berglund was nominated for Best Chef Midwest by the James Beard Awards this year, along with nods in Food & Wine magazine and the New York Times, not to mention the acclaim for putting his own Nordic spin on a meatball entree, no easy feat in the land of Swedish meatballs.
The new cafe will give newly hired pastry chef Khanh Tran, formerly of Cosmos, a chance to work with Berglund in developing a menu for the new space. The cafe will feature Tran’s baked goods. Beverage director Pip Hanson will develop a coffee and tea program for the cafe to complement the Marvel Bar’s cocktail program.
Askov Finlayson was named one of the 11 best men’s stores in the country in the September issue of Esquire. It was the only store in Minnesota to be named to the list, although stores with much longer histories, such as Hubert White, have been named to Esquire’s “gold standard” list on several occasions.
The magazine praised Askov Finlayson as one of only a few in the country where guys can find “Boglioli jackets, rugged Barbour coats, and trendy Unis chinos under one roof.” It went on to note that the store also happens to have a vegetable garden on that roof to supply Bachelor Farmer.
When the Daytons first opened the store, its severely edited selection was meant to be a showcase of brands from Minnesota and the region. It was sparse, filled mostly with “stuff we liked,” according to Dayton. Now the store has expanded to more than 40 brands including their own Explorer Pant ($218). With the expansion, it will venture beyond the casual to more tailored clothing such as blazers and suits.
The brothers, who do most of the buying, were careful to avoid poaching brands from other retailers, Dayton said. “We would have a conversation if there might be an overlap,” he said.
Bob White, owner of the Hubert White men’s shop in the IDS Center, agrees that the two have been very respectful not to do a lot of brand duplication. “And that’s not always the case with the competition,” White said. He describes Askov Finlayson as “a very focused, tight presentation.”
While the store selection has bloomed in color, variety, and brands, its core has always been menswear and will remain so even after the expansion. Dayton believed the store made a rare misstep when it started selling women’s jewelry, mostly as a gift item that male customers could purchase for wives or girlfriends.
“We thought we may have been confusing our customers,” he said. He describes the store’s zeitgeist as trying to satisfy three groups — the classic traditionalist, the outdoors enthusiast and the artistic creative design community.
Twin Cities stylist Gwen Leeds described the store in its early years as “Brooks Brothers meets Lands’ End at a higher price point.” Dayton wouldn’t confirm sales figures but said the store’s sales doubled from the first to second year and have grown 50 percent this year.
James Dayton Design will complete the expansion project. The firm, run by a second cousin of the brothers, also designed the building now housing their three businesses. The project also includes moving all of the offices of North Corp., the brothers’ real estate development company, from the original building to the Hennepin Hotel building. Construction will begin early next year.