The Galleria in Edina is losing another of its longtime local tenants, Brass Handle decorative hardware. The store was to close Saturday and will relocate next month to the International Market Square in Minneapolis.
"We don't fit the Galleria's model anymore. We can't do the volume that they require," said David McElroy, Brass Handle's director of business. He said the Internet is destroying margins on hardware, making the retail store an outdated model. At IMS, McElroy won't be relying on retail business but rather a private client service in a network of 10 builders and design specialists who will go after affluent clientele.
McElroy said that he never began to feel unwelcome at the mall as a local retailer, but a few others have. Since around 2012, Three Rooms, Pappagallo, Que Será, Rocco Altobelli Salon and Schmitt Music have relocated elsewhere in the Twin Cities. Styled Life and Whymsy closed.
The departures have some retailers wondering if local is no longer as valued as bigger names with national recognition.
A few retailers have attributed the chilly reception to new nonlocal owners. In 2012, Gabbert Beck sold the Galleria to the Houston-based Hines Global REIT. Since then, two spaces vacated by local retailers were replaced with local businesses, Russell + Hazel and Lili Salon. National retailers that have been added to the mix include David Yurman, Allen Edmonds, Lululemon, North Face, Bluemercury, Kate Spade, Marmi, J. McLaughlin, Allure intimate apparel, PB Teen and Arhaus.
Carrie Fordahl, co-owner of Pappagallo boutique, closed her family's store in the Galleria last year after 40 years at the mall. The store is now in the Pamela Park neighborhood in Edina.
"We weren't limping along, but there's a point where the rent was unrealistic," she said. "Their [the mall's owners] vision was 'We don't need you.' It's a shame, but it's fine."
Fordahl is thrilled with the move.
"We have definitely gotten our lives back," she said. "We set our own hours now. If the weather is bad, we can close early, unlike in the Galleria."
The store still offers items not found on the Internet. Customers and the neighborhood have embraced the new location, she said.
Patty Burrets, co-owner of Three Rooms, moved her gift shop to 43rd and France last year after 33 years in the Galleria.
"I'm glad we're not there anymore," she said. "We're closed on Mondays now, and not having as much traffic allows us more time to spend with customers. There is definitely life after the Galleria."
Still, plenty of local stores remain at the Galleria. According to Hines, the Galleria's owner, 32 of the 65 tenants are local, including four restaurants and such local franchises as Bang & Olufsen, California Closets, Scandia Down and Sotheby's International Realty.
"It is very rare for any shopping center to have a 50 percent local-to-national ratio," said Jerry Cohen, Galleria general property manager.
Cohen said the emphasis is not on replacing local tenants with national ones. "We are trying to continue to bring unique and interesting stores to Edina and to maintain our position as the preferred upscale shopping destination for the Upper Midwest."
Some local stores, such as Ampersand and Pumpz, have expanded or remodeled.
Marlys Badzin, owner of Pumpz accessories and shoes, moved to a different storefront within the mall last year, locating in the center near Crate & Barrel and expanding her selling space by 25 percent.
"We're seeing great traffic and significant sales," she said of the move.
As a former vice president of leasing at the Galleria in the 1990s, Badzin said the center has never been about local vs. national tenants. "It's who can survive and support the image of the Galleria," she said.
Now that she's a tenant, she sees both sides — as tenant and landlord. "It's a business," she said, "and sometimes it doesn't feel very good, whether you're a local or a national tenant."
Even as a local owner, Badzin stresses the importance of national retailers. "Williams-Sonoma and Crate & Barrel, those names carry weight. It gives tourists a feeling of what they can expect at the Galleria."
After the move, Brass Handle will no longer carry faucets, shower heads, vanities and other bathroom fixtures. All are currently discounted 50 percent or more.
McElroy said the Brass Handle is leaving the Galleria on good terms.
"National retailers drive more traffic and make the center's owners more money. You can't blame them for that."