AlwaysMod, a Finnish home decor store in Golden Valley styled as “a museum for modern design in the Twin Cities,” is closing.
For 17 years, AlwaysMod was a go-to spot for European home decor such as Iittala crystal, Marimekko fabric, Alessi Italian kitchenware and Chilewich tableware.
Owner Ben Horn is quitting bricks and mortar but will stay in business with FinnStyle.com, a website that uses the company’s original name and already produces up to 90 percent of its $3 million in annual revenue.
FinnStyle relocated several times to N. Washington Avenue, Gaviidae Common and Glenwood Avenue in Minneapolis before moving to Golden Valley in 2015 to combine its retail, customer service and warehouse under one roof.
“In hindsight, maybe we set the stage for retail difficulty when we moved from Minneapolis to Golden Valley and changed our name at the same time,” Horn said.
Many retailers are downsizing to internet-only enterprises to compete with Amazon and other online specialists. Horn sees the move as his best option for survival. The store now has nearly everything discounted by 40 to 60 percent, including Alessi, Blomus, Bodum, Riedel, Chilewich, Georg Jensen and Tom Dixon. Most items sell for less than $100 after the discounts. The closeouts are expected to last two weeks.
The firm’s retail employees, all of them part-time, will be laid off. Eight full-time employees will remain, Horn said.
Most of the company’s 40 home decor lines are Danish or Finnish with smaller amounts from Sweden and Norway. Horn said high prices charged by some of the European brands have more to do with soft sales than a lack of interest in Scandinavian style.
“As generations change, people have less of an attachment to the heritage brands,” Horn said. “But a lot of it had to do with price. People would say ‘I like the look but it’s too expensive.’ ”
Too few buyers are willing to pay $195 for an Alessi toilet brush, for example, when Ikea sells similar sleekness for less than $10.
Crate & Barrel, which used to feature many products from Finland, has dropped many of them in favor of less expensive items made in other countries. Ikea sells many similar items at a fraction of the price of high-end European goods. Last year, Target partnered with Finnish design house Marimekko. The limited-time collaboration was successful, but Horn said it didn’t translate into a bump in business for the full-priced line at his store.
Many local retailers selling contemporary home decor have closed in the last several years such as Jonathan Adler, Vogue, Design Within Reach, Three Rooms and Scandinavian Marketplace, but local experts don’t think the Twin Cities has gone soft on contemporary or Scandinavian design.
“All retail is having a tough time,” said Janet Martin, who owned Scandinavian Marketplace in Hastings. “Ingebretson’s still has lines out the door, but people are buying more stuff online.”
Pat Fleetham, who owned ReFurnish in Bloomington, thinks contemporary is still strong here. “A lot of it is being sold by private interior designers because it’s a higher investment,” he said.