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All of the merchandise at the 3,000-square-foot store was selected by one person: 24-year-old Alexis Haeg-Vang, a recent U graduate in retail merchandising. She keeps an eye on what her generation is wearing on the street, in magazines, blogs, Facebook feeds and other store windows.
Instead of stocking in a linear fashion with aisles of jeans and tops, she displays goods by how they look — black and white separates, neon colors, embellished basics, sheer delicates, plaids or florals.
“Most everything sells for $2.99 to $14.99,” she said. “It’s trend-focused, not brand-focused.”
Nothing in the place gives off even a whiff of “thrift store.” That’s a phrase Goodwill wishes could be retired from the lexicon, Seifert said. It’s been trying with its regular stores for the past decade to look more polished with better lighting, colorful signage and, most important, cleaner merchandise.
And with Target Corp. having recently opened its first Target Express store across the street, the pressure for Gina + Will to be at the top of the game is even greater.
Goodwill wasn’t aware of Target’s intentions when it chose the site in Dinkytown’s Venue complex, complete with 150 upscale student apartments, but it got a lucky break when Target chose not to offer clothing in its downsized store.
As U students return for the Sept. 2 start of fall classes, the Gina + Will store doubles the number of clothing retailers in Dinkytown.
Only the venerable Goldy’s Locker Room, which sells Gophers merchandise, has remained in the campus village after Ragstock closed more than 10 years ago and Everyday People Clothing Exchange left in 2010.
“Dinkytown is a great place to come for a meal or entertainment, but most people don’t seek it out as a shopping destination anymore,” said Skott Johnson, former president of the Dinkytown Business Association.
Kitty Van Hofwegan, co-owner of an Everyday People store in St. Paul and former owner of the Dinkytown location that closed, said it’s difficult for retail because the area doesn’t come to life until nighttime. “People think of Dinkytown as a neighborhood for restaurants and bars,” she said. “It’s harder for businesses that close by 9 p.m.,” she said.
Johnson said many students on campus now are more mobile than they were 30 or more years ago when clothing, shoe, music and hardware stores filled the neighborhood. “Now they can drive to the Quarry, Uptown or Mall of America, but it’s all cyclical. The new stores may attract others,” he said.
That’s the way that Seifert sees it. “We know there is little competition now,” he said. “That’s why we picked it.”
John Ewoldt • 612-673-7633