Building on success, store adds downtown Duluth location

The move to turn Duluth's old Downtown into the city's arts and entertainment district is gaining momentum. The owners of Art in the Alley, a popular boutique in Superior with colorful, eye-popping artists' wares, are expanding by opening a secon...

Art in the Alley
Art in the Alley, owned by Dan Edmunds and Tami LaPole Edmunds, has been successful in Superior's Old City Hall. Now the couple are ready to give Duluth at try by opening a second store in old Downtown next month. It, too, will feature the creations of dozens of local artists, including the Edmunds. (Steve Kuchera /

The move to turn Duluth's old Downtown into the city's arts and entertainment district is gaining momentum.

The owners of Art in the Alley, a popular boutique in Superior with colorful, eye-popping artists' wares, are expanding by opening a second store in downtown Duluth.

"They'll be a great fit in the Old Downtown, as this only adds to the overall goal of a vibrant arts & entertainment district," said Kristi Stokes, president of the Greater Downtown Council. "We've seen so much investment and reinvestment in this area, and the momentum continues to grow. They're an exciting new addition to our arts and retail scene."

The new storefront, at the corner of East Superior Street and Third Avenue East, will open in mid-September. And the owners say they're ready for downtown Duluth.

"Downtown Duluth is where it's going to be happening in the next five to 10 years," said co-owner Tami LaPole Edmunds who, along with her husband, Dan Edmunds, had considered several other sites in the downtown area.


But the empty storefront in the Intrepid Building, across from Greysolon Plaza and the Norshor Theatre, fit the bill.

The corner site has storefront presence. Its large windows will allow passersby to see inside at Art in the Alley's upbeat offerings, including jewelry, clothing, pottery and home décor fashioned by 40 local artists, including the owners, who are artists themselves.

"We are so visual," LaPole Edmunds said of the store. "In Superior, you don't see in our windows. When people come in, they literally gasp at what we have. But this will have street presence."

The Superior store will continue operating when the Duluth store opens, with LaPole Edmunds splitting her time between the locations.

The new store will have a slightly different vibe to it with different artists, she said.

While it will also have a wide variety of creations from local artists, the Duluth store will have more clothing, home decor and furnishings than the Superior store. It also will have vintage items and use antiques as store fixtures.

Like the Superior Art in the Alley, customers will see a lot of upcycling, where items are altered and repurposed to give them new life.

"That's where the element of art and design comes in," LaPole Edmunds explained.


The storefront space in the Intrepid Building opened up a few months ago when the New London Corp. moved its offices upstairs.

"They didn't need to be in retail space," said Greg Follmer, the commercial broker who handled the leasing. "It was a great deal for everybody, because we have a great retailer for that corner. And it enhances everything around it."

With the store's opening next month, the block will have artistic bookends -- Art in the Alley on one corner, Lake Superior Art Glass on the other, with Zeitgeist Arts in between.

"It will be a nice spot for shopping, but it will also have that artistic flair for people who will be in the area," Follmer said.

A Superior start

The original Art in the Alley, in Superior's historic Old City Hall at Broadway and Hammond, was a good place to start their business four years ago, LaPole Edmunds said.

The building, built in 1893, maintains much of its original look and charm and houses several businesses, including the Red Mug Coffeehouse. The Art in the Alley got its name from potter Dan Edmunds' kiln, which is outside the building, by the alley.

"What we've accomplished is amazing," LaPole Edmunds said of their store. "Customers thank you for having a store in Superior. That's nice. It's been a really, really great place to start. Now it's sell-sufficient."


But LaPole Edmunds said they haven't been able to tap much of the Duluth market, where the couple happen to live. So Duluth was part of their long-term business plan.

They didn't take action until Stokes encouraged them to open a store in downtown Duluth.

"They are very talented artists who have successfully grown their business," Stokes said. "I've been a big fan of theirs for many years, so I thought it only made sense to ask them about opening another location in downtown Duluth. I think the stars were aligned for all of us. I just planted the seed a few months ago, and they were ready to take on a new opportunity. You could just see their creative wheels turning."

So the Edmunds began their search for a Duluth site. About six weeks after their first conversation with Follmer, who handles many downtown properties, they signed the lease for space at 230 E. Superior St. That was 10 days ago.

"In my world that's pretty fast," Follmer said, adding that the property owner, WKK Inc., is fortunate to get them.

"A lot of other people were hopeful to get her in their buildings downtown and on London Road, but this made more sense to her," Follmer said. "We knew we were not the only people they had considered."

The couple say they couldn't have done it without a loan and other assistance from the Entrepreneur Fund, a non-profit organization that helps businesses get started.

"They're quite instrumental in helping small business in the entire region," LaPole Edmunds said. "They helped us with our business plan and business projections. They don't just loan money, they do coaching, from the business plan to the marketing plan."


LaPole Edmunds is confident their new store will be a success.

"Seeing what we've done in Superior, we're extremely confident we'll be well received in Duluth," she said.

See more stories about new downtown Duluth businesses in coming weeks in Business Monday.

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