Three years since it opened a mini-showroom in the back of the men’s shop Askov Finlayson, hip eyeglass purveyor Warby Parker is planning a move into a bigger space of its own.
It will remain in the North Loop, relocating just two blocks away to Washington Avenue.
“We’ve enjoyed the past three years in Minneapolis so much that we’ve decided to open a full-sized Warby Parker retail store,” the company said in a statement. “We couldn’t have asked for better partners than our friends at Askov Finlayson for our very first retail presence in the city.”
A spokeswoman did not give a date for when Warby Parker will make the move but said it will be sometime later this year.
Eric Dayton, owner of Askov Finlayson who is also friends with the founders of Warby Parker, said the mini-shop was never intended to be a permanent arrangement, but it was a way for Warby Parker to test the local market while also giving Askov Finlayson a chance to grow into its new space — which it moved into around the same time and was almost twice the size of its previous location next door.
“It had always been the plan that if things go well, they would have a stand-alone store in Minneapolis and we would hope to keep them as a neighbor,” Dayton said. “It was really successful. We were thrilled with the partnership — so were they.”
The Warby Parker mini-shop takes up roughly 250 square feet of Askov’s 1,800-square-foot store.
Warby Parker, which is based in New York and started off as an online-only retailer, has been rapidly growing its retail shops. It currently has more than 70 stores in the U.S. and Canada, with plans to open nearly 20 more by the end of the year.
Askov was also looking for more space, Dayton said, as it grows its roster of products and looks to grow his own business. Askov recently hired Chris Windham from Under Armour to be its lead designer as it looks to create and sell outdoor-related apparel and gear in more categories. Askov, which is most well known for its “North” hats, currently designs some of its own products, such as men’s sweaters, pants and swim trunks, as well as items from other brands.
While the Warby Parker mini-shop was often the most heavily trafficked part of the store, drawing customers from around the region and state, Dayton said he hopes Askov and other shops and restaurants will continue to benefit from its halo since it’s moving nearby.
“It’s a really good indicator for Minneapolis and retail in the city that Warby has had the success they’ve had — and a great indicator for the neighborhood,” he said. “It’s exciting to see those signs of momentum.”
In recent years, the North Loop has become a hotbed for posh restaurants, up-and-coming boutiques and trendy retailers that started online. It’s also had some turnover with watch retailer Shinola and outdoor-apparel company Filson, which shared a store in the neighborhood, relocating to the Galleria in Edina earlier this year. Love Your Melon, the charitable-focused Minneapolis-based maker of stocking hats and other apparel, has since moved into that space.
Warby’s new location will be at 113 N. Washington Av., in a building that formerly housed the now online-only Kit and Ace athleisure brand. In its new location, it will also be next door to men’s clothing shop Bonobos, which also originated online but now has a number of showrooms and was acquired last year by Walmart.