Yes, the State Fair is an eating mecca. But judging from the crop of new retailers at the fair, it is becoming a shopping destination as well. Hip merchandise such as screen-printed posters and T-shirts by local designers is bringing a modern edge to this year’s retail choices.
Vendors are spread throughout the fair’s acreage, but most are found in a dozen buildings or markets. One of the top destinations is the West End Market, which showcases handmade goods from local artisans.
Among the handful of local retailers and brands at the fair is Uptown MN, which sells Minnesota-made goods from clothing and jewelry to gifts, poster art and housewares at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, the Mall of America and Ridgedale Center.
For its inaugural year at the State Fair grandstand, the store will sell some of its Minnesota-themed T-shirts, pint glasses and poster prints, as well as handmade jewelry, cheeky greeting cards by Muddy Mouth, and StormSisters vegan lipstick.
An exclusive series of prints, T-shirts and pint glasses features the art of celebrated screenprinter Adam Turman, who’s behind the fair’s 2015 commemorative poster. The new series celebrates Minnesota iconography and landmarks, such as the Minnesota North Stars logo and the Foshay Tower. Also sure to be hot: posters and T-shirts with Sharpie artist Mark Rivard’s iconic “Spoonbridge and Cherry” illustration.
Andra Ziebol, product developer and buyer for parent company St. Croix Promotions & Retail, said the company decided to bring Uptown MN to the fair this year after a successful run for the company’s Local Brew gift shop last year. “Uptown MN’s blend of Minnesota artists and vendors and Minnesota-themed merchandise should be a perfect fit for the fair,” she said.
I Like You
For Sarah Sweet and Angela Lessman, owners of northeast Minneapolis shop I Like You, being a vendor at the fair is about more than just the bottom line. “We’re both really big fair fans,” Lessman said. “This way, we get to be there every single day — we love it!”
Marking its sixth year at the fair and now in the West End Market, the shop will sell mostly Minnesota-themed goods such as key chains, koozies, pint glasses, T-shirts and posters with quirky themes and designs.
Lessman predicts that one of this year’s bestselling items will be a new T-shirt design by artist Brent Schoonover dubbed “When Centaurs Cry,” depicting Prince as a guitar-playing man-horse. And old-school wrestling fans will snatch up the “Wrestling Legends of Minneapolis” T-shirt by design studio Burlesque of North America that pays tribute to classic wrestlers — including Baron von Raschke, Verne Gagne, Hulk Hogan, Mad Dog Vachon, Jesse Ventura and others.
Forage Modern Workshop
Although it isn’t selling at the fair this year, Minneapolis design store Forage Modern Workshop is showing some of Minnesota’s best furniture designers in “The Midwest Vernacular in Modern Design” in the Creative Activities Building. The exhibit challenges four local designers to create modern home design objects inspired by famed Minnesota architects such as Ralph Rapson and Carl Graffunder.
The heritage outdoor brand is returning to the fair for its 10th year (in the Dairy Building) with some of its top items, including hand-sewn duffel bags, handbags, small leather goods, day packs and canoe packs. The 133-year-old company has experienced a renaissance thanks to the surge in popularity for tradition-bearing brands.
“We feel it’s a great fit being at the State Fair,” said general manager Kyle Radich. “The State Fair is a true Minnesota get-together and Duluth Pack’s historic story and reputation perfectly fit the venue.”