Dinkytown designer shop opens

The retailer started a student group that may require additional U oversight.

Peppermint Park CEO and founder Jessie Conners readies bags for display in her store Sunday morning in Dinky Town. Conners had been at work since 4:00 a.m. prepping the store to open the following day.

Image by Bridget Bennett

Peppermint Park CEO and founder Jessie Conners readies bags for display in her store Sunday morning in Dinky Town. Conners had been at work since 4:00 a.m. prepping the store to open the following day.

by Tony

Dinkytown is not an easy place to open a clothing store. Three have shut their doors in as many years, leaving only specialty apparel shops like Gold Country Inc. and Underground Printing.

Online, membership-based retailer Peppermint Park opened up its first physical store in Dinkytown on Monday, and the local company has created a registered student group to directly engage with University of Minnesota students.

The group, Peppermint Park’s Candy Girls, receives free membership and helps market the store on campus.

“Candy Girls are like the promoter girls,” Jessie Conners, Founder and CEO of Peppermint Park said. “They go out to share with the community and get people in and tell other women on campus what the store is about.”

Peppermint Park sells women’s luxury clothing at a discount. Non-members can shop online and in the Dinkytown store, but members pay a $10 monthly fee for deeper price cuts.

Erin McGillivray, marketing director for Peppermint Park, started the Candy Girls in June. She said the group provides sisterhood, as well as experience in marketing and event planning.

McGillivray, a 2008 University graduate, wrote the group’s constitution and assigned officer positions to students.

“She has been very involved,” said Caitlin Ochtera, Candy Girls president. “It wasn’t something that we started; we were approached with it, kind of.”

The group is currently recruiting, and Ochtera said “a lot of girls are very interested” in both the group and the store itself, especially from sororities.

Ochtera said those interested in joining the Candy Girls will attend a “casting call” where they will be selected by the group’s five officers and McGillivray.

McGillivray said that the Candy Girls passed out fliers promoting the store at Welcome Week events. The group is also organizing a fashion show to be held in the SuperBlock later this month.

On-campus restrictions

Generally, student groups associated with for-profit organizations are not allowed, according to Denny Olsen, senior associate director of the Office of Student Unions and Activities.

Olsen said there are a few student groups associated with housing complexes near campus, such as the U Students of Jefferson. These groups are allowed to register just like any other, with some restrictions on their on-campus activity.

Although the group was allowed to register, Olsen said he was not aware whether Peppermint Park was a for-profit business or not.

“In general, an outside for-profit group won’t be able to [market] on campus,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s real clear here what the connection of Peppermint Park is, if that’s students or an outside for-profit group.”

SUA is planning to meet with the group to decide if its activities on campus would have to be restricted, Olsen said. He decided to set up a meeting after receiving the Candy Girls’ request to hold the fashion show on campus.

“We’re not sure if they can be registered at all, based on the nature of the group,” he said. “We really don’t know until we’ve met with them to get some more information on that.”

The meeting has not been scheduled yet.

Expanding to other campuses

If the Dinkytown store is successful, Conners said that she hopes to expand to other college campuses, opening stores and forming student groups to help promote them.

“The vision is that it becomes a campus store,” she said. “This can be a place where girls not only come to shop, but can also come to just relax.”

Conners said that Peppermint Park will host movie nights and other special events for store members.

 “We really want to be a part of campus life in general,” McGillivray said. “Not just be a business near campus, but a part of life in Dinkytown.”