At Lotus on the Lake in Fitger’s Brewery Complex, customers bring in pictures of rooms they want to redo or even a mantel they want to dress up.
The pictures give owner Kelly Yetter an idea of the depth, width and style of the spaces. Then, using home accessories from her store, she’ll create a focal point right then and there, based on the colors and look they want.
Home decor is “huge” right now, says Yetter.
She said people are drawn to HGTV shows such as “Ellen’s Design Challenge” and “Fixer Upper” with Chip and Joanna Gaines as well as various do-it-yourself shows. And that has helped create a high demand for home decor at her Duluth store.
Yetter and co-owner Jackie McLean plan to ride the trend by opening a second store at Fitger’s that will focus on home accessories. That store, Elements of Duluth, will open around June 1, offering decor in retro, country chic and contemporary styles.
The “Elements” in the name refers to home accessories that add life to a home. “Duluth” was added to the name, not because the pieces are Duluth-inspired, but because “Elements” had already been taken, they said.
Yetter and McLean will take over store space in the mall’s lower level after it’s vacated in late April by Alpaca Wawa, which is closing.
“Fitger’s is fortunate to add a shop with such a concentrated focus on home decor,” said mall manager Tami Tanski Sherman. “We have been looking for this type of shop for a while to add to an already amazing mix. Jackie and Kelly understand the retail business and have proven themselves to be first-class operators. We are very excited to see this business open in June.”
Yetter and McLean opened Lotus on the Lake in 2013 inside the Superior Street mall entrance. The 1,150-square-foot store offers a selection of clothing for women ages 35 and older, along with accessories, jewelry, paper goods and home decor.
The two women teamed up after Catherine Imports, a popular downtown store, closed in 2012. Yetter, who has 35 years of retail experience, had been the store manager; McLean served as its office manager for a time.
With Lotus doing well, the pair had been talking about opening a second store focusing primarily on home decor. When they attended the Dallas Total Home & Gift Market, a twice-a-year wholesale trade show for shopkeepers in Dallas last month, they were convinced they were on the right track.
“The big buzz this year is home decor,” Yetter said of the show’s 16 floors of showrooms.
When they learned that Gene Castro-Castellares planned to close her Alpaca Wawa store in the space directly below Lotus on the Lake at Fitger’s, plans quickly fell into place to take over that space when it is vacated.
Alpaca store to close
Alpaca Wawa features a line of high-end garments for women ages 40 and older designed by owner Castro-Castellares herself and made from the hair of baby alpacas. “Wawa” means “baby” in an indigenous Inca language.
Since the store opened in 2012, the wholesale end of her business has grown from supplying two to approximately 15 boutiques on the East Coast. Castro-Castellares’ son, who is in New York City and works as his mother’s agent there, has started a clothing line for younger women also using alpaca fabrics.
“Sometimes you think you can do it, but sometimes it’s too much,” said Castro-Castellares, a native of Peru. “When the business grows up, you have to figure out production. These are special garments. Production takes a year. You have to start from scratch.”
Managing the growth became difficult especially when Castro-Castellares felt she needed to be at the store much of the time to explain to customers about the quality of the clothing and why items cost more.
So she plans to close the store in mid-April. A sale begins at the store this week, with everything 15 to 60 percent off.
She says most of her store customers have been from the the Twin Cities, not Duluth. But she’s confident her customers will follow her as her business goes online.
A brighter look
Although the Alpaca Wawa space is small, Yetter and McLean plan to remove a fitting room and office to create more retail space.
“It’s about 500 square feet, and we’re going to utilize every inch,” Yetter said.
First, the space will get a makeover. They plan to whitewash the wood walls and sand the wood floors for a lighter look.
When the store is set up, it will have three sections, each with its own identity — retro, country chic and contemporary. The shop will offer lamps, end tables, artwork, vases, table runners, garden accessories, statuaries, gifts and more. Everything in the store will be for sale, including the chandeliers.
While both work at the store, McLean serves as the bookkeeper and Yetter creates the displays and the look of the store. Those roles will continue with the new home decor store.
“Kelly (Yetter) definitely has the starting point in her head, where we’re going to go and what the look is going to be,” McLean said.
For Yetter, setting up the new store will be downright fun.
“Oh, my gosh, it’s my passion,” she said. “It’s been my passion since I was 14. I’ve been in every area of visual display. I have that in my background and owning my own business has been such a dream.”
Lotus on the Lake will continue to carry some home decor. But while its pieces will have a more industrial look — clean lines and combinations of metal and reclaimed wood — Elements of Duluth will have a more vintage, French-inspired, feminine touch, they say.
“We’re very confident this is what people want,” Yetter said. “People are craving for this and to have someone help them with their home decor. It’s important to change things out once in a while. It makes them feel better.”
(This article was originally featured in the Duluth News Tribune)