Fast Company magazine recently identified five cutting-edge retailers that have figured out how to compete in the age of Amazon and bring shoppers back to the physical store in an article entitled “The future of retail in the age of Amazon.”
Three of the five retailers profiled – Mall of America, Target and Martin Patrick 3 — are based in the Twin Cities, a region where 17 Fortune 500 companies are headquartered. This offers retailers there a growing base of affluent customers to tap among its high-paid executives, their families and many visitors to the region.
Not to short change the Mall of America or Target, I believe Martin Patrick 3 is arguably the hottest retailer in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul Twin Cities, which is arguably the hottest place for innovative new retail concepts. MP3 is by far the most innovative and exciting independent retailer in Minneapolis, maybe the country, one that you may not have heard of but should.
Men’s lifestyle retailer, Martin Patrick 3 creatively combines home furnishings, men’s apparel, interior design studio and more in one giant warehouse space. Martin Patrick 3 has won numerous awards, including Best Clothing Store in Minneapolis by City Pages and Retail Vision Award by MR, a menswear industry magazine.
I sat down with Greg Walsh, co-founder of Martin Patrick 3 along with partner Dana Swindler, to discover the secret sauce that has made MP3 such a dynamic place to shop and an amazing brick-and-mortar retailer that has figured out how to win against the competition including internet disruptors like Amazon.
Location, location, location
The old real-estate adage about “location, location, location” is one of the secrets of Martin Patrick 3’s success. Located in Minneapolis’ historic North Loop, the site of 1890s warehouses, that are being converted to apartments, lofts and condos for urban sophisticates, the area has undergone a renaissance to become a commercial hub attracting retailers, hotels and hospitality, restaurants, artists and entertainment venues to the cultural creatives that call the North Loop home.
Martin Patrick 3 was one of the first businesses to move into the North Loop neighborhood and its success is in no small part one reason why other local specialty retailers have followed suit, including Askov Finlayson and D.Nolo. That in turn has drawn new-age national retailers as well, including Bonobos, Warby Parker and Shinola.
“We were one of the first down here, starting in 2001,” says Walsh, “Since then we’ve had a series of locations within a 2-block radius. We’ve been in our current location since 2010,” now based in a 17,000-square-foot rehabbed warehouse which leaves plenty of room left to grow.
Martin Patrick 3 started life as an interior design studio, Walsh Design Group, in 1994 which naturally evolved into a home store selling furniture, then into decorative accessories and gifts. “I would go to all the trade shows for home and gift and started bringing in men’s accessories, like books, valet cases and barware as a natural extension of gifts, but with a men’s point of view. We started with three bookcases in the home store, which would sell out quickly so we added another bookcase and another. Then we knew we were onto something,” Walsh explains.
That led to establishing a new store, the first iteration of Martin Patrick 3 down the street from the design studio and home store. In that new 1,000 sq. ft. space it featured men’s accessories, like jewelry, hats, bags, brief cases, smoking and bar accessories and 1 shirt line, Gitman Brothers, “because we had a lot of customers asking for apparel,” Walsh adds.
Ultimately it was decided to bring all three businesses under one umbrella and they chose Martin Patrick 3 as the name for the new combined entity. “MP3 had only been around for 3 years, but it had much more consumer recognition than Walsh Design Group after 20 years. So we decided to take MP3 and do everything under that name and spun the ‘3’ in our name to signify furnishings-apparel-design and dissolved the other brand names.”
The next phase in its evolution was unwittingly but gratefully provided by local competitors, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus and Macy’s, which all closed their downtown locations leaving many highly qualified, highly trained and highly networked men’s sales professionals out of work, some of whom found their next job at Martin Patrick 3.
Filled a gaping hole in growing market
“There was no business plan. It all just happened,” says Walsh. “All of a sudden there was a big gap in the fine men’s apparel market. We picked up NM’s top salesman in the country who happened to be here, then everything started to roll from there. Once we hit a critical mass in our combined store, we brought in even more great sales people on the apparel side with books of clients that now weren’t being served.”
He goes on to explain that these sales professionals, besides having established relationships dressing Twin Cities’ professionals, also had great relationships with apparel brands looking to continue doing business in the market after their other retailers abandoned ship. “So that is how the apparel rose within what we do,” he says.
Design sensibility, merchandising expertise
Besides having a great eye for merchandise to appeal to its core men’s market with a selection of good-better-best offerings, Walsh and team ground the Martin Patrick 3 shopping experience with a sophisticated design sensibility. “We look at everything with a design eye,” Walsh notes. “Design touches every category in the store and how we present merchandise and the visuals in the store. A great part of our success is the interior design aspect that we have behind us.”
Given that home furnishings is often perceived of as a female-centric category, I asked Walsh how he has been so successful selling home to men. His answer is simple: women like to shop at Martin Patrick 3 just as much as men do. “The store has furniture and furnishings interwoven in the vignettes with apparel so it is a holistic lifestyle presentation,” he explains.
The store’s home furnishings appeal both to its more aesthetically-aware single men who not only want to dress better but want to live that lifestyle beyond what they drive, but also to couples who shop together. “Men bring their wives to shop with them, who enjoy the home furnishings side of the store. It becomes a shared experience, where they aren’t going just to a furniture store to buy furniture or a men’s store,” he notes.
MP3 becomes a place of discovery for both men and women with all sides of the store feeding the other. “The man wants to buy this $3,000 jacket and the woman says she wants this club chair or area rug. So it becomes a bargaining chip, ‘You can buy this, if I can buy that,’” he notes.
In closing Walsh credits the success of Martin Patrick 3 because they have tapped a psychology in the market that other stores have missed, which is the masculine point of view. “We bring design swank to everything we do,” he says.
As for why Minneapolis is such a hotbed of innovative retail, Walsh points to Target as being a prime mover in that regard, bringing many retail professionals to the city. But also with so many corporate headquarters located there, Minneapolis is a city that draws highly-paid cultural creatives, including marketing, graphics, advertising and design professionals.
“Minneapolis has been undersold. It’s dismissed as a fly-over Midwest city where everybody goes out of town to New York, Chicago, Los Angeles to shop. But we’ve found a huge appetite here of people who can afford it and want the kind of retail experience that they haven’t been able to get here until recently.” Martin Patrick 3 gives those folks a reason to stay home.