Shopping St. Paul

Where to stop and spend in the other twin city.

by Kara Nesvig

The Twin Cities and their surrounding suburbs are shopaholic dream cities. Not every metropolis can lay claim to the largest mall in America, nor can they brag about swanky boutiques like St. Louis ParkâÄôs OPM and local-fashion haven Design Collective . St. Paul tends to get ignored in favor of the flashier Minneapolis, but the historic city is gaining in momentum as a shopping destination, and for good reason. ItâÄôs teeming with boutiques, antique stores and vintage shops begging to give your Visa a workout. Flirt (177 N. Snelling Ave.) âÄúWho doesnâÄôt love lingerie?âÄù exclaims Jessica Gerard, owner of Flirt, an adorable underthings shop snuggled next to gift giant Patina . The store, which opened in May 2008 on Grand Avenue, moved to the intersection of busy Selby and Snelling avenues in June of 2009. This shell-pink bombshell hideaway, where Frank and Dean croon and patrons slip into something sexy behind a baby-pink curtain, is a taste of Old Hollywood, St. Paul style. Though sheâÄôd never had retail experience before opening her store, Gerard has created a delightful getaway. Flirt caters to the modern pinup girl, a woman who likes her lingerie sweet and sexy at the same time; think bows, lace and frills with a grown-up, flirtatious edge. Gerard carries French brand Rosy , Wacoal and their lower-priced line b.temptâÄôd as well as Elle Macpherson , to name a few. Most pieces retail for around $30 but look much more expensive than they are, ranging in size from 32AA-38DD. Flirt offers professional bra fittings, so whichever brand you choose will fit you perfectly. âÄúI try to find really fun, feminine, pretty lingerie,âÄù Gerard explains. âÄúThese brands have glamour. ItâÄôs all about the pinup and vintage Hollywood style.âÄù As a lingerie fanatic, I slipped behind the curtain to try on a few of GerardâÄôs selections. I couldnâÄôt help but leave the shop with FlirtâÄôs bestselling bra from popular Italian line Cosabella , which retails for $66, and has just enough lift and separation for everyday wear, but with a keyhole and lace detail to keep it enticing. Flirt also carries slips and nighties, bubble bath, luxury stockings from Falke and bachelorette party gifts, just in case you havenâÄôt moved on from VictoriaâÄôs Secret PINK yet. A. Michele (1591 Selby Ave.) Lux, vintage-inspired girly girls with a rock âÄònâÄô roll side need look no further than A. Michele, which is just around the corner from Flirt in the shopping district. Minnesota Monthly recently deemed the store as one of the best in the metro. Woodbury resident and former flight attendant Amy Michele Mullen opened the first incarnation of A. Michele out of her home in 2006. âÄúI was watching that corner of Selby and Snelling and when I saw that it was going to be charming and quaint, I thought it was perfect for me,âÄù she said. Mullen wanted to stay away from the boutique saturation on Grand Avenue and found the sweet Selby Avenue location to be perfect. âÄúI wanted to have an eclectic boutique, to have a mishmash of stuff. I wanted it to be a welcoming environment,âÄù she explains of the space, which is comfy and romantic. A. Michele carries premium denim from William Rast , party ready frocks by Cynthia Steffe and a wide variety of pieces that can go from day to night with a simple change of accessories. (A. MicheleâÄôs jewelry cases sparkle with such baubles.) The Selby store is popular with young professionals in their mid-twenties, hip mommies and even the 50+ crowd. Lula Vintage (1587 Selby Ave.) Rummaging through the racks of the Salvation Army looking for quality vintage can be exhausting. Vintage is a tricky thing; sometimes, thrift stores will have amazing pieces and other times youâÄôll end up empty-handed. If walking out the door with the perfect cardigan or polyester blazer is essential, then look no further than Lula, part of the St. Paul Retro Loop. Inside this tiny treasure youâÄôll find a plethora of vintage pieces from the âÄô50s to âÄô80s. Enemies of polyester beware, because thereâÄôs a lot of it âÄî but thatâÄôs to be expected. Like any high-quality, carefully selected vintage shop, LulaâÄôs prices are a bit high, but youâÄôll probably find what youâÄôre looking for. (In my case, it was a ruffle-front blouse like the $88 version J. Crew is currently hawking.) Lula had a great dupe for only $18. There was some minor tailoring needed, but I saved about $50. Picky Girl (949 Grand Ave.) Before she began her career in fashion and retail, 33-year-old Elizabeth Varghese worked as a hair stylist, shaping coiffeurs instead of ensembles. However, her passion for style led her to opening Picky Girl in May 2006. âÄúI grew up in Highland Park, and I always knew that I would open a boutique on Grand Avenue someday,âÄù she says of her store. So she created Picky Girl, an enclave filled with sorority formal-ready cocktail dresses and bright leather gloves for the transitional fall weather. Picky GirlâÄôs wide variety of flirty dresses from Kensie and Mac & Jac , vintage-inspired shoes from Pink Studio and wrap cardigans from Covet make it perfect for college-aged females, though the store is popular with picky ladies of all ages. âÄúFidelity Denim, a line from Canada, is the best denim ever. It does not stretch out,âÄù Varghese says of Picky GirlâÄôs popular jean line, worn by celebrities like Megan Fox. The best part about Picky Girl? Most of VargheseâÄôs merchandise is under $100, so updating your look for a new season wonâÄôt be too hard on your handbag. Karma (867 Grand Ave.) The high-end hippie girl buys her cozy knits at Karma, the Grand Avenue shop for bohemians with a taste for quality. Here youâÄôll find basics from Velvet, upscale free-spirit wear from Free People and thick scarves from Tulle , as well as a wide variety of jewelry. If that boho sensibility suits you but the price tagâÄôs a little much to bear, then Stella Blu (1104 Grand Ave.) might be more your style. I like it for its cheap and trendy accessories section; the ring selection in particular is killer and worth digging through. Like any lower-priced boutique, thereâÄôs more riff-raff than something a bit more upscale, but half the fun is in the hunt. Sophie JoeâÄôs Emporium (453 W. 7th St.) Rumor has it that Lindsay Lohan shopped here while she was in town filming âÄúA Prairie Home Companion,âÄù but whoâÄôs to be sure? Either way, she could have found something worth her money at this sprawling antique mall. Imagine troves of costume jewelry, a small but ever-changing selection of vintage clothing from Sophie JoeâÄôs multitudes of dealers and yes, a bunch of antiques and collectibles you can use to furnish your apartment as well as your closet.