High-quality lingerie is available in Minneapolis' North Loop, just in time for the holidays. And Thursday evening, the boyfriends and husbands are invited.
Jessica Gerard's store, Flirt Boutique, is hosting one of its popular guys' night out events at its North Loop and St. Paul stores from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday. Men are invited to pick up gifts for their ladies, stick around for a beer and bourbon tasting and leave with a cigar.
The red-hot North Loop shopping district seems a natural fit for Flirt, which recently opened its second location in the historic Colonial Warehouse at 212 3rd Av. N., alongside designer boutique Grethen House and men's store MartinPatrick3. "I'd been looking for two years at North Loop," Gerard said. "This just seemed like the place I needed to be. When my broker called to say, 'I think I found your space,' I immediately said, 'Let's do it!' "
Flirt opened in 2008 on Grand Avenue in St. Paul, then moved to Snelling and Selby avenues the next year. (A third location will open at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in early 2017.) The boutique has become a destination for luxury lingerie and loungewear, much of it unique to the Twin Cities. Brands include Italian line La Perla and French label Lise Charmel — both locally exclusive to Flirt — as well as Zimmerli of Switzerland, the U.K.'s Mimi Holliday and German brand Fraulein Annie.
"I like very pretty things," Gerard said of her merchandise. "But at the same time, if it's not going to fit properly, there's no point. It has to be a marriage of form and function."
While Gerard was thrilled to find her dream location, Flirt's new space — the former home of Allen Christian's art studio House of Balls — wasn't exactly love at first sight. After painting the walls robin's-egg blue and pink and installing a chandelier and new brass railings, the space was reborn.
Dressed recently in a sleek cashmere sweater with a fur collar, Gerard looked every inch a francophile. Likewise, her store features delicate lingerie from European designers and eclectic, ornate Parisian styling. Silk pajamas and cashmere robes line the raw-brick walls of the North Loop shop, and lace bra-and-panty sets in romantic hues are carefully stacked on antique wood tables. Brass étagères are stocked with luxurious giftables: bath soaps and salts, delicate-wash laundry soap and bags, silk lingerie travel bags, scented drawer liners, perfume and high-end hosiery.
Gerard also stocks bras in fun colors, such as mint green and melon, to keep her regular customers coming back.
"I have people who have been shopping with me since the beginning," she said, "so variety is key."
At the same time, Gerard is sure to carry items that are attractive for first-time shoppers, such as sexy black bras, with prices ranging from $45 to $140.
Flirt recently introduced custom lingerie, courtesy of Minneapolis-based Jagress Intimates. Clients can make an appointment at the North Loop store to sit down with designer Sarah Patros, who will sketch out ideas on the spot. Custom prices start at roughly $500.
Gerard said gifts make up about half of her business throughout the year, including the holidays, Valentine's Day and bridal and bachelorette season. So Flirt has its own gift registry, which lets customers have their measurements taken and recorded along with their preferences and favorite items. Significant others can swing by to pick up items at their convenience or during one of the guys' night out events.
"It makes everyone's lives easier," she said. "He doesn't have to figure out sizes, and she doesn't get something that doesn't fit."
For Flirt's loyal clients, the packaging is almost as important as the gift itself. Gerard said most guys prefer to leave them, unwrapped, in the store's signature pink box, tied with a black ribbon.
Gerard said, "You've got to have the pink little box under the tree."
Jahna Peloquin is the style editor of Minnesota Monthly and has worked as a freelance writer and stylist in the Twin Cities for 10 years.