Bibelot, the best place to buy gifts in the Twin Cities, has more to offer than just interesting finds for the holidays.
I had a chance recently to sit down and talk about Bibelot Shops, a local Twin Cities gift shop, with Bibelot’s gift buyers Janet Haugen and Peggy Merrill. For those of you who have visited one of their four metro locations, you know the colorful, welcoming environment is filled with unique gifts, Minnesota-themed merch, one-of-a-kind jewelry, and distinctive apparel. But after chatting with Haugen and Merrill, it was clear to see there’s much more to Bibelot than colorfully meets the eye.
Can you tell me a little bit of the history of Bibelot?
The story of Bibelot began in 1966, over 50 years ago. During this time, there were no such things as gift shops, the closest contenders were museum shops that offered unique goods to the arts lovers. Shopping options included clothing and department stores like Robert Hall, Montgomery Ward, and Donaldson’s. Gifts and toys were found at drug stores like Snyder Drug, five and dime stores such as Woolworths, or Target which first opened in Roseville in 1962.
So, needless to say, specialty gift stores with toys, clothes, home goods and gifts were hard to come by. With that, Roxana Freese of Saint Anthony Park established the first Bibelot Shop to bring a unique shopping destination to the Twin Cities.
When did you join the Bibelot team and what attracted you to the company?
Janet Haugen started at Bibelot 22 years ago, looking for a small local company that supported our Minnesota communities, Bibelot was the perfect place. She started as a manager trainee and now works as a gift buyer. Also currently a gift buyer, Peggy Merrill started at Bibelot 31 years ago, looking for a fun place to work, drawn to the shop that had the coolest, most interesting products. 20–30 years working at the same company is quite impressive and a true indicator of a positive, great place to work. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median number of years wage and salary workers had been with their current employer in January, 2016 was just 4.2 years*.
What are your responsibilities as a buyer?
As a retail- and product-design-obsessed geek, I was in total envy hearing about Haugen & Merrill’s daily and not-so-daily buyer responsibilities. Everyday responsibilities include finding new products for the shops, balancing stock between all four shop locations, and making sure the themed displays feature every product and look visually appealing. Some days they even work the store to hear feedback direct from their customers.
To get the most unique and interesting gifts for the stores, they will often go to local craft stores, Minneapolis market, and even markets in other states like the Las Vegas Market which features the latest home decor and gifts. Sounds so fun, but don’t worry Haugen and Merrill will find those unique goods and bring them home to Bibelot for oohs and ahhs all around.
(Women Empowerment section + Bibelot exclusive mugs and keychains)
What makes Bibelot Shops unique as a company and how is it making a difference right here in Minnesota?
We all know the products themselves make Bibelot a unique place to shop. But, they also have a positive working environment that really makes a difference here in the cities. Since the beginning, Bibelot was a shop that cultivated successful women in business. The company supports local artists and creators right here in Minnesota by selling and advocating for locally-made and handmade goods. By having a place to sell their creations, local artists can continue their craft, gain exposure, and support their own local business. It’s all about collaboration.
Another way Bibelot is making a difference is through their environmentally-conscious buying and operating practices. They place significant focus on buying eco-friendly products, such as organic, natural apparel from a local company called Soul Flower, to sourcing products that are made with recycled materials or produced using renewable resources like wind power. In their stores and office they recycle everything they can, like the packaging from products they receive including Styrofoam, which is rarely recycled due to the very few recycling programs that will accept it. When packing peanuts can’t be recycled, they share them with other companies so they can be reused. They also offer recycling services for their customers; recycling bags and boxes that customers bring in.
Who are some local Minnesota artists or creators we should know?
It was easy to tell this was a difficult question to answer. Because of the huge variety of products and artists that contribute to the array of offerings a Bibelot, it was hard to pinpoint just a few. So with that, in no particular order, here are some Minnesota artists that you’ll find represented in the products at Bibelot. Be sure to check out the full range at any of the Bibelot stores and show your love for the Twin Cities by supporting our fellow artists and creators. XOXO.
Mark Herman of Numeric Press Limited /// numericpress.com /// Graphic art prints many of which feature Minnesota landmarks
Jake Kalk /// Minnesota state shaped agate jewelry
Penny Larsen /// pennylarsenjewelry.com /// Handcrafted, classic jewelry from Minneapolis
Kerry Brooks of Dock 6 Pottery /// dock6pottery.com /// Handmade pottery straight from the Longfellow neighborhood
Mary Jo Schmith of Front Avenue Pottery /// frontavenuepotteryandtile.com /// Decorative and functional stoneware handmade in St. Paul
Mike and Peggy of Soul Flower /// soul-flower.com /// Organic, eco-friendly funky clothing made in Minnesota
Aisha Formanski of Everthine Jewelry /// everthinejewelry.com /// Handmade jewelry created in Northeast Minneapolis Art District
And so many more.
(Agate jewelry by Jake Kalk and Bibelot 50th Anniversary Print by Mark Herman)
(Natural, organic clothing by Soul Flower)
A huge thank you to Janet Haugen and Peggy Merrill for their time and knowledge sharing. A special thank you to Anny and Rachel of the Grand Avenue Bibelot for their help around the shop.
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