West Elm is not only building one of its first hotels in the North Loop, but is also looking to locate its second furniture store in Minnesota in the trendy neighborhood.
"It's won't be connected" to the hotel, Peter Fowler, head of West Elm's hospitality division, said this week at Shoptalk, a next-generation retail conference in Las Vegas. But the store would be nearby.
The store would add to the growing roster of hip boutiques and internet-based retailers — such as Bonobos, Warby Parker, Shinola, Cooks of Crocus Hill and Martin Patrick 3 — that have begun proliferating in the North Loop in recent years. The only other West Elm store in the area is in Edina.
Fowler said West Elm was drawn to Minneapolis for the hotel and the store because it has a lot of customers here who were craving another location to touch and feel its products.
"There was a lot pulling us there," he said.
The West Elm hotel in Minneapolis will likely open in late 2018 or early 2019, Fowler said. It is among the first crop of hotels the retailer is opening as it looks to expand its brand and find alternative sources of revenue. The first West Elm hotel will open in Detroit in late 2018, followed by the location in Minneapolis and then Indianapolis, Charlotte, N.C., and Savannah, Ga.
The company has purposefully chosen to open its first hotels not in places like New York and Los Angeles, but rather in interesting, distinctive spots where the brand can connect with the local community, Fowler said. The Indianapolis hotel, for example, will be built in an old bottling factory.
Fowler did not say where the North Loop hotel will be located, but said it will have a look that fits with the neighborhood's past and present.
"I love the history of that area — it's so fascinating," he said, adding that he recently stayed at Hewing Hotel, another newcomer to the North Loop, and was impressed by all of the bustling activity he witnessed. "We're going back to the industrial narrative. … It will be a mix of old and new."
During his presentation at the conference, Fowler said one of the ideas behind the hotels was to create a "360-degree, 24-hour experience" of West Elm. Most of the items in the hotel rooms will be available for sale.
But beyond that, he said, it's about giving the company another way to connect with people and to give guests a different way to experience the brand. After all, people don't go shopping for sofas as often as they do for clothes.
"Not everyone wants to buy furniture all of the time," he said.