Archive for the ‘Perfect Places’ Category

Florida For The 14th Time

Monday, June 4th, 2012

There was a wedding in Sarasota last weekend I initially attempted to weasel out of attending. When that didn’t seem to be working, I bartered with Hurlyburt for a post-wedding splurge of a sidetrip to Miami as my reward for smiling politely through the sweatiest marriage ceremony ever endured.

Florida is like my own personal mob. Every time I try and get out for good, something sneaky always pulls me back in. If nothing else, the sunshine state’s one enormous set for the photo shoot that my life basically is.

I mean, even the airport elevators and same lame chain drug stores that we have in Minnesota tend to be more beautiful in Florida.

Also working in Florida’s favor is the presence of Krispy Kreme donuts/shops – completely extinct in my state since about 2006.

Shopping-wise, this trip was a bummery bust. I bopped optimistically to Zara, and Armani Home, and 1111 Lincoln Road, and, last but not least, The Webster Miami, and didn’t snag even a single souvenir during my six day vaycay.

I left with something a little better, though, I think. A serene and cinematic stay in my favorite hotel ever, The Tides South Beach, that I’d say was sorta life changing.

An entire Tides post is obviously in order (and on its way).

Preview: SnowGRADE Men’s Market

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

It speaks volumes about Minnesotan style and values that the state’s quickly become home to arguably the most beloved men’s pop-up market in America, September’s annual NorthernGRADE.

Event founders Larry Felitto of J.W. Hulme Co. and Kat MacMillan of Pierrepont Hicks and @mrsphicks Shoes are at it again, launching NorthernGRADE’s cooler, if not frostier, spin-off SnowGRADE on Saturday Feb. 25th. Here they share the story behind their new pop-up, and tip us off on which American-made goods they’re aiming to take home.

Why did you decide to spin-off NorthernGRADE into SnowGRADE?
Larry: The response for the last NorthernGRADE event was overwhelming and more and more I kept hearing from attendees and vendors alike that we should do more of these throughout the year. People really had a great time.

SnowGRADE is adding workshops into the mix. What can people expect to see and learn?
Larry: There will be an axe restoration workshop, a home brewing 101, leather care workshop, leather tooling workshop and the fellas at Marvel Bar are talking about doing a cocktail workshop. I’ll be front row for this one!

Kat: Peter Geye is a local author, who wrote a book called Safe From the Sea. He’ll be there talking about his book and signing copies. His book is about a man and his father, an old sea captain, coming to grips with their relationship… it takes place outside Duluth. It is such an appropriate book for SnowGRADE. And Peter is quite a guy.

Tell me about some of the new vendors who’ve come on board for SnowGRADE.
Larry: Best Made Axe Co. and Northern Brewer are two that I’m most excited about seeing. Both companies, although not menswear, exemplify the heart and soul of SnowGRADE; the idea of American made, craft, durable and quality.

Kat: I am so excited to welcome Byrd and Belle’s modern and gorgeous iPad covers. Moonshine Coffee is providing the coffee, which is so delicious I will probably be highly caffeinated all day long.

Kat: Rancourt and Co. is coming in from Maine. They make traditional handsewn shoes and boots. Frost River is coming. Their bags are awesome! We’ve got a great crew.

How have you tempted out-of-towners to brave the Minnesota winter and attend the event?
Kat: I think folks from elsewhere feel Minnesota in February is something they have to do at least once in their lives. It’s about character building. Or something.

Is there anything you’re hoping to bag at the event for your own wardrobe?
Kat: A Cause and Effect belt. A Byrd and Belle iPhone case. There is a pen at Askov Finlayson that I have to have. It’s apparently used by the State Department and it’s very heavy and can write upside down or underwater, since I am always writing notes while scuba diving I have to have it!

Larry: Fairbault Woolen Mills just launched a line of beautiful new scarves in a variety of colors, I’ve got my eye on one of those.

Larry: I’m also a little disappointed I didn’t pick up a hat from Ball & Buck at NorthernGRADE so I might have to spring for it this time around.

- – -

And there you have it. Better pad your wallets and bundle up, boys. SnowGRADE’s gonna be ice hot!

‘Tis The Season For Fleet Farm

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

Tough guys nearby stomp into Mills Fleet Farm for macho-man basics like jerky, deer bait, and cordless chainsaws. I, on the other hand, tend to trot on in when I need strange boxes of ginger snaps or silly chocolate rabbits for the girls in my films to snack on as period-perfect props.

But I am particularly drawn to the timeless charms of The Farm this time of year when stocking stuffer season comes ’round.

Fleet Farm’s somewhat random, retro-tinged merchandise offers up everything from suspenders to saskatoon jam, and 1980s board games to Brokeback-ready wrangling shirts.

So while you may stop by in full-on Santa mode to scope out rugged, all-weather gifts for the dudes and Dads and dunces in your life…

It’s likely you’ll end up leaving with some marshmallow fluff, Carhartt carpenter pants, or bubbling Christmas tree lights for your own greedy life.

I mean, maybe it’s better “to give than to receive”, but what’s totally best is shopping someplace where you can do both at once.

I mean how could you seriously be expected to pick up a quirky-cool can of saskatoon jam for your divorced Aunt LuAnn, and not snatch some up for your own amazing self?

A Downside to Upgrading?

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Next week I’m eligible to upgrade my phone, which I’m only partially excited about because the subpar camera on my iPhone 3GS has taken some really above-par images the past year that it’s been stashed in my pocket. The fuzzed up photos it captures I’ve found to be rather dreamy and almost Polaroid-like. (With or without post-effects apps.)

I’m crossing my fingers that the three extra megapixels, better optics, and built-in flash that’ll be heading into my hand next week won’t perfect away all the awesome imperfections I’ve gotten so used to.

Because I don’t really want to document my daily life in crisp, accurate reality. I want to keep capturing it abstracted and veiled, like it all took place 25-extra years ago on the sets of strange Sissy Spacek movies.

Speaking of which, I now present a series of never-before-seen images from the past seventeen months, taken and never Tweeted while on the sets of strange Sissy Spacek movies while I lazily lived my life.

Goodbye, ol’ phone!

New York Stories pt. 3

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Saturday morning we wandered through Brooklyn and into a new shop called Goose Barnacle where I shuffled through thirty or so assorted packs of Afro-jelly bracelets to select the perfect color combination.

At the Barney’s Co-op we met up with Yuko whose lovely New York life I’ve followed on the internet and Twitter for years. She suggested we walk to an old Pharmacy turned Soda Fountain which sounded super to me.

I tried to select something that wouldn’t ruin my upcoming stop at the Shake Shack, so I went for the Red Velvet Twinkie Sundae. While we snacked Yuko told us about the dream-like shopping in Japan, and we recounted our survival story of being stranded in Paris last Spring at the hands of the Icelandic volcano.

We stopped into a few more hipster-worthy stores on our way back to the subway. Yuko mentioned she doesn’t actually venture into Brooklyn that often because she has a hard enough time stopping herself from buying clothes and shoes and important stuff like that all throughout Manhattan. That’s pretty much half the reason to know and love her!

Another New York blogger, Kwannam, told me about the Cured Olive Shortbread Cookies at a coffee shop called Abraco, so later in the day I tracked one down and adored its offbeat amazing-ness. I think I’ll try and bake some at home myself, sometime sorta soon.

Our final day in New York began at Barney’s where I’d wanted to see their R&Y Augousti accessories since I’m never fast enough to add any of them to my cart when they show up on Gilt. I’ve totally got a thing for shagreen, and after leaving the shop without anything, we trekked all the way back later in the day and bagged one of the boxes above!

I’m always way early for everything, so while wasting time until our lunch reservation we walked past the Apple Store to witness firsthand the fan memorials to the life and work of Steve Jobs. I actually got pretty choked up seeing all the people weeping and hugging and laying down their tributes to the man who changed the world. It’s been such an exciting and impacting decade or so; I guess my almost-tears were a silent little “thank you”.

Needing a AAA battery for the plane ride home, we then darted into a Duane Reader drugstore, where I added a bag of Utz Potato Chips to my souvenir stash. Cuz you don’t see Utz in Minneapolis very often, and Don Draper did do their creative, after all.

The day’s main event was a grand tour of Bergdorf Goodman’s, the retail kingdom where the turban-crowned Kelly Wearstler is now reigning queen.

Having just added clothing and accessories to her brazen line of brassy home goods, our tour climaxed with a two-and-a-half course lunch in the Wearstler-designed BG restaurant.

The best thing about a vacation to a big city is you can curate it with only the topmost shops, and the snappiest snacks, and the most atmospheric eateries, making it as if, for those four or five days, you live in a time and place where everything is beautiful.

Cause that’s the kind of time and place in which we should all be living.

New York Stories pt. 2

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

Our first full day in New York began at the Doughnut Plant. It wasn’t situated near any of the shops we’d assigned ourselves to visit, but when there’s playful Pistachio, Creme Brulée, and Peanut Butter Frosted/Jelly Filled doughnuts baked fresh in the city I’m waking up in, I’m gonna do whatever needs to be done to try them out.

The bulk of the day was spent in Soho. There were very few shops I cared to return to from my 2005 visit to New York, but Opening Ceremony was definitely one of them.

Although last time the shop was just a floor and a half worth of inventory, and now its spread out over two adjacent buildings with staircase after staircase leading to endless levels of sequin bow ties for him and lucite pumps for her.

The two-headed or pinata-topped mannequins throughout were every bit as kooky-cool as the merchandise. I’d thought about picking up a Carhartt blazer for myself there, but like every blazer manufactured anywhere in the Milky Way since the early 1920’s, even the Small was way too Not-Small for me.

To keep up our strength we stopped into the Mariebelle Chocolate shop where I ordered a hellishly hot Banana/Milk Chocolate drink.

I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced Hot Chocolate so thick it needs to literally be chewed, but now you at least know someone who has. I almost needed a damn fork to finish my “drink”.

Near the end of the day, my shopping dry-spell was broken at last when a mix-matched set of vintage Italian dishes were snatched up at Aero, and a sparkly slab of pyrite was unearthed at Evolution. On the subway ride back to the hotel, I started to realize I was going to need to base the success of my New York trip on something other than how many shopping-bags worth of sweaters and bookends I slammed into my suitcase once it was over. I vowed to enjoy my visit, and my hunt for new treasures, regardless of how much I ended up buying/not buying.

While still in Minneapolis, I’d made dinner reservations for Friday night at the Oyster Bar under Grand Central Station.

It seemed just the sort of place Holden Caufield would’ve weaseled his way into and then out of, filled with all sorts of over-drawn characters.

In fact we sat at a table next to two college prep pricks who, now that I think about it, I know Holden would’ve royally hated.

But watching the almost fictional-feeling Taiwanese tourists, and lackadaisical latin waiters, and jock-itchy jerks around you is exactly what makes dining at The Oyster Bar so Salinger-esque, and so New York.

RTH Shop

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

When I recently was sorting out which coast to select as the stage for a fall shopping spree, everything that New York has to offer was nearly trumped by the rough-hewn cool of a single Los Angeles store: West Hollywood’s RTH Shop.

I’m dead serious when I say I think I’ve had at least four separate dreams about visiting the shack-chic store since I stumbled upon it on the internet last fall.

The creative outpost for former Club Monaco, Polo, and J. Crew visionary Rene Holguin, RTH Shop stocks its shelves with a unique take on Americana that’s earthier and artier than the standardized Dean ‘n McQueen curriculum of USA cool.

Drawing from the beauty and materials of our country’s original artisans, the American Indians, RTH offers unisex leather and suede bags and accessories crafted on-site.

Tribal pieces carefully selected from around the world mix with RTH’s creations, layering with new and vintage ponchos and wide-legged pants to suggest the randomly rugged wardrobe Ansel Adams and Georgia O’Keeffe might have shared during one of their winters out west.

I purchased a trio of pieces from RTH over the phone in January and instantly found that even one little dose of Adobe-style cool  lends one’s outfit a unique and eclectic edge.

I’m aiming to finally step into the store in real life and make those four dreams of mine come true. If I can get New York Retail out of my system this fall, then next I’ll definitely be booking an extended stay in L.A. as close as I can to RTH.

Time Capsule: The NorthernGRADE Film

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

This is what we looked like.
This is what was important to us.

We went searching for boots and bags and better bow ties,
and on the way we found ourselves friends.

This is a document of what it felt like in our American-made world
when we came together for goods we believed in.

Thanks to Larry and to Mac & Kat for setting up this Minnesotan magic,
and for letting me capture it for everyone to see.


Q & A – J.W. Hulme’s Larry Felitto

Friday, October 15th, 2010

In the wake of last month’s Northern Grade Men’s Market, I was invited by J.W. Hulme’s Head of Sales and Product Development, Larry Felitto, to stop by their St. Paul storefront/factory for what ended up being a four hour tour!

Talking at length with Larry, it really struck me what an exciting and empowering time it must be working within an American heritage goods label in 2010, with consumer trends being what they are. Just years ago J.W. Hulme was on the verge of collapse, and now their bags receive top-billing at Barney’s.

I find it endlessly interesting to look across our great land to see the various ways in which these “comeback companies” are altering their business or design approach to either celebrate, capitalize on, or sourly shun the undeniable trends in men’s fashion and the new generation of buyers now interested in old-timey out-fittings.

Speaking with Larry, it’s clear J.W. Hulme’s approach to these changes in the market and their customer-base is as solid and sturdy as the goods they produce.

- – – – -

WR: A few years back, just as the rugged, heritage movement was about to
 make its way into the men’s fashion scene, J.W. Hulme had a near-death 
experience. How did that come about and how was the company revived?

LF: After our current owners bought the company in 2003 the company began to grow very rapidly. The rapid growth out-stripped the company’s ability to fund that pace. At that point an investor was brought in to re-capitalize the company. With a healthier balance sheet we were able to make some strategic moves to grow the brand. We contracted with the Steven Alan showroom to represent our line in New York; they started getting our products into high-end retailers such as Barneys. A broader customer base began to respond to American products, and we were able to expand our collection while staying true to our quality craftsmanship and design.

WR: With a younger and perhaps more trend-driven demographic suddenly 
interested in J.W. Hulme, has that affected how your company is approaching business, either in marketing or product design?

LF: We are not a company that chases trends; our designs are timeless, made to last a lifetime or more.

WR: What have you learned from your customers who’ve been buying your 
goods for years and years?

LF: They have  taught us that “legacy” really means something to them. It gave us the liberty to tell our story more fully; touting our truly American-made product philosophy and history. We used terms like “heritage” and “legacy” long before the recent heritage buzz started. Those terms have had true meaning to our customers for decades. Many of our customers have shared sentimental stories like remembering “the bags in the attic” that their parents took out to the summer cabin, or the shell pouch their grandpa always took hunting. When our customers invest in JWH products they know they are choosing family heirlooms.

LF: Our customers regularly tell us that quality is worth paying; some say “cheap is expensive; I have to replace it every few years!” They make a direct link between quality and made in America; it’s one of the key reasons customers buy JW Hulme. The quality they expect from us also applies to our customer service. All of our products are guaranteed for life; we even repair and recraft vintage JWH bags. The fact that we are made in the USA allows us to deliver that kind of service.

(Photo: Vintage Gokey dopp kitt on display at the store. J.W. Hulme produced many bags for the Gokey label up through the early 1980s.)

WR: And then, what would you say you’re learning from this new batch of younger customers?

LF: When our products become heirlooms the next generation is confident we are there to take care of them too. The most exciting thing we have learned is that this younger consumer has really started to appreciate quality. This is not a throw-away generation. They place a high value on authenticity—they see right through gimmicks and faux brand stories.

(Photo: Left, a vintage Gokey bag. Right, the traveled/pre-washed Sporting Originals Canvas Carry-On Bag created to invoke the worn-in wonder of the original.)

LF: We didn’t have to make our story up; customers in the younger generations are engaged and intrigued with our 105-year history, and continue to ask us great questions about it. They want to know how things are made and who made them. It is fun to see these younger consumers discover JWH. We just keep doing what we do best and that’s exciting to them.

WR: Since coming on board at J.W. Hulme last year to work in sales,
 you’ve since stepped over into product development as well. What’s been 
informing your work in that area? Do you feel constrained by the legacy
 of the company or empowered by it as you explore new designs?

LF: Working closely with our sales reps at Steven Alan has been incredibly helpful, in that they are really listening to the desires of our national–and international–wholesale buyers.

LF: I have the unique opportunity (being a small company) to answer customer questions personally, and listen to our retail consumers’ requests and desires as well.

(Photo: Prototype for an upcoming JWH tote.)

LF: At least once a day I read through the old Gokey catalogs that we have archived (some dating back to the early 50’s). These catalogs are chock full of old designs just waiting to be updated to meet the demands of the modern customer.

LF: Definitely, I feel empowered by the JWH collaborative environment in creating new products, modifying traditional designs. It’s incredibly exciting that in our small company ideas become reality in just a few months, rather than taking years!

WR: Having co-hosted the Northern Grade Men’s Market with Pierrepont Hicks earlier this month to celebrate American/Minnesotan-made goods, what insight did you gain that you’re taking back with you to J.W.

LF: Authentic matters! Additionally, it was very insightful to see a young “fashion forward” consumer excited about our products and the whole idea of made in America. Maybe there is hope for my grandchildren to know what an antique store is.

WR: You’ve got a lot of new endeavors coming up at J.W. Hulme. Looking 
out at the year ahead, what’s exciting you most?

LF: Obviously, I’m really looking forward to our new line of bags coming out in Fall 2011 (my first foray into product design for an entire season) but in the meantime, we’ve got a series of small leather goods that are really going to be fun… leather can coolers, snap hook key chains, and our recently unveiled Hamline Pocket Journal, an iPad Case to name a few.

(Photo: iPad case prototype.)

- – – – -

After my half-day field trip with Larry, it seemed to me that what JWH seems to be doing so smartly in navigating the current trends in the men’s market is they continue to honor their company’s past without being imprisoned by it. They both acknowledge and invite the interest and input of their younger customers, and adjust their designs and product-lines to serve the men (and women) of today with the quality we all associate with yesterday.

The best part is, it isn’t calculated, and it isn’t a strategy. It’s just who J.W. Hulme is.

On The Scene: Junk Bonanza

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

The beat-up best from around the country is once again up for grabs just south of the Twin Cities in Shakopee at the fifth annual Junk Bonanza.

Vendors and vintage-vultures alike are known to descend upon the epic event from as far away as Australia to witness hundreds of booths worth of weathered old wonders.

From emptied bottles of fizzled out soda pop brands to tattered telegrams to faded dressmaker’s forms the event is more or less an antiques assault on all one’s senses and a one-stop shop for battered but beautiful bargains.

The Junk Bonanza continues through September 18th down at Canterbury Park, so if you can see Minnesota from out your front window, you best U-Haul it on over there and stock up on other people’s old stuff.

On The Scene: Northern Grade Men’s Market

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

Sitting smack-dab between the two coasts, Minneapolis isn’t often invited into the big fashion action, but Saturday’s Northern Grade Ad-Hoc Men’s Market proved that both the men and the makers of Minnesota are sturdy and style-minded supporters of the Made-In-The-USA movement.

With manufacturers Red Wing Shoes, J.W. Hulme, and Duluth Pack but three of Minnesota’s revered and revived brand names, there really was no better state in the Union to celebrate the return of American Style to its rugged, well-made roots on a September afternoon.

Hosted within the Architectural Antiques store in Northeast Minneapolis, local mens boutique MartinPatrick3 anchored the handsome action with checked selections from Gitman Bros. Vintage and luscious leather overnighter bags from J.W. Hulme.

A black-to-brick rainbow of Red Wing boots rose over a salvaged fireplace mantle and past two rows of pre-war, movie theatre seats. (I hadn’t seen so many crepe soles in one place since I stomped out of my closet just three hours earlier.)

The Kansas City boys behind Baldwin Denim were among the friendliest at the retail event, offering expert advice on achieving the perfect dude-denim fit.

One of the brands I hadn’t recalled bumping into on the boy blogs before, Taylor Stitch, showcased the fine fabrics behind their shirting with a stash of swatches set all around our big, black world.

The rocking and most of the rolling at Northern Grade was provided by Erik Kosinken and his back-up band, featuring Your Lord Jesus Christ on (invisible) drums.

These two-toned Hulme bags were my favorite find at all of Northern Grade, although I hadn’t realized it until after I’d left. Soft and unstructured like a weathered old windbreaker, they couldn’t look better had you dug some out of the trunk of your Dad’s sedan and snatched ‘em without telling him.

The Rock-Ola jukebox wasn’t up or running during the event, but with Dolly Parton and Dean Martin both trapped somewhere deep inside, don’t think I didn’t consider plugging the old puppy back in.

Carefully curated vintage watches and antique books on topics including sailing and stables were stashed near the back of the MartinPatrick3 station. Their mix of old and new items, as at their North 1st Street shop, always emphasizes the beauty of both yesterday and today’s goods.

I’d received a reminder e-mail from MP3 halfway through the afternoon making me wonder (then full-on worry) that the event wasn’t going so well, attendance-wise. But when I arrived I was plum pleased to see how buzzy and bustling the mini-market was.

Man, oh man, the place was alive!

Minnesota, you done made me proud.

Northern Grade Men’s Market

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

The goods: All-American.
The guests: Mostly Minnesotan.

This coming Saturday, the pop-up-style men’s market makes its way to Minneapolis thanks to the mavens behind J.W. Hulme Co., Pierrepont Hicks, Red Wing Shoes, and Fox River Socks.

The Northern Grade Ad-Hoc Men’s Market will be invading an old, antique Barn Door/Church Pew store in NorthEast Minneapolis from noon until 7. I’ll be making an unscheduled appearance at some point in the afternoon, and I think I heard there’d be hot, straight-razor shaves offered on-site too. So needless to say, it’s THE place to be seen this weekend.

I best go on now, and grow out my scruff as quickly as possible. I refuse to clash with all the domestic plaids and leathers.