By AVA KIAN, St. Paul Pioneer Press
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) – Anthony Andler of Heimie’s Mercerie wants this to be more than just a store. For him, it could become a cultural touchstone shaped by the romanticism of the early 1900s, a scene from St. Paul where his great-grandfather lived.
The upscale men’s clothing store, which has been in downtown St. Paul since 2007, is a one-stop shop, selling clothing such as jackets, suits, pants, sweaters and fedoras; provision of in-store services such as shoe shine, steam presses; and offering its own hairdressing salon.
Six-year-old customer Paul Dotson who buys suits and casual wear from the store said this was the place to go for special service. Her son-in-law recently had a costume fitted and modified in 48 hours, using what Dotson called some of the “most fantastic materials.”
The decor and design of the haberdashery is a nod to the early 1900s culture and art that Andler is so eager to bring back, reported the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
âI surround myself with the times. When things were done by hand, a wooden cabinet was made a certain way, it has personality and grace, and it has a story to tell; he has a story. He has energy, âhe said.
Andler’s experience in cinema and theater has allowed him to promote character creation and set design in his store.
âI think this company is just an extension of my performance. It’s a stage set, âhe said. “It is a reflection of my inner truth.”
In 2019, Andler expanded the store – in the historic Hamm Building on St. Peter Street – to 10,000 square feet, adding space for a barista, cafes, a shotgun library and a lounge for married. Shortly after, he added a smoking patio, where guests can smoke cigars.
âIt’s part of being human, having a good cappuccino and a little dessert, going out with your friends and laughing, and then soaking up the environment. Environments are so important to our storytelling, âhe said.
Dotson loves to go to the haberdashery to have a relaxed conversation in a pleasant setting, he said.
âBack in the days when we were all working from our offices and I was in downtown St. Paul, I would go there regularly at least once a week, just to have a coffee or a soda and just to shoot. breeze with him, âDotson mentioned. âI know it’s cheesy, but it’s a beautiful place.
This is not where it ends for Andler. He wants haberdashery to inspire creativity in other playwrights and writers, so he hopes to start hosting filmmaker parties or readings. He also plans to hold themed shows on Friday and Saturday nights to draw crowds to downtown St. Paul.
âI want the store to be more than just a clothing business. I want to smooth things over and make a real commitment to the community, âsaid Andler. “I always wanted it to be more than just a clothing store.”
Growing up as the great-grandchild of Russian Jewish tailors and clothing retailers, who immigrated to the United States in 1917, Andler came to appreciate the struggles of immigrants. In 1921, his great-grandfather, Heimie Andler, opened a tailor shop in the Lower Town neighborhood of St. Paul, which moved to Robert Street in 1947.
This immigration story is important to Andler because it reflects a time when Russian Jews had to become good at what the communities they entered needed, seeing their skills as “currency,” he said.
âJews came to America and they were told, ‘Here are some things you can do. You can be a tailor or a ragpicker; this is what is acceptable, âhe said. âThey learned that clothes were a bargaining chip. It was their motto. They were selling clothes to make money, and they became some of the best merchants and some of the best retailers. “
Andler, who apprenticed with his grandfather, always envisioned what it might be like if he took the business a step further, he said.
âIt’s a reflection of what I thought it could be or should be. Growing up, ironing clothes, looking at my grandfather, listening, being around the business, I always imagined there would be more, âhe said. “I just added more.”
Today Andler still brings in some of his grandfather’s clients, many of whom still exist in an older culture, where visiting your tailor becomes an experience.
This approach is something Andler wants to keep alive. He started making short films, where he parodies older films in homage to that time.
âWe play it in our heads all the time, and we see it all the time in the movies. This is why making these shorts is so important. Because it’s a social culture, it allows people to see more than clothes. It’s part of the landscape, âhe said.
Andler is currently writing a screenplay inspired by people he meets every day in the store but which takes place in the 1940s. He plans to do castings at the haberdashery and then shoot the film later.
âThe characters are cool, well-rounded and interesting characters because that’s what people are when they come here,â he said.
His creativity also spread to social media after noticing supply issues during the pandemic. To combat lost sales, Andler found a new way to bring customers into the store.
He launched a YouTube series called âThe Haberdasher’s Couch,â a variety show featuring local businesses, musicians, playwrights, comedians, actors and songwriters. The show is a tribute to the vaudeville-style scene and has brought new customers to the store, Andler said.
The haberdashery’s social media presence with short films and other content is a valuable additional connection area for the Dotson customer.
âI love them,â Dotson said. âI know these people, and so watching them recreate these videos is engaging as a client / friend. And part of it was especially when he got the radio station up and running, an effort to reach out to the community and do something that doesn’t just rush customers and get them out. â
This month, Andler is posting a weekly mini-series on Instagram and YouTube.
He used to organize cabaret nights, where people would come to see a show and spend the night in town. As a merchant, it was something he enjoyed very much.
âThere was a vibe in the city. There was a synergy, it was hip, and people would come here for a show, come to the haberdashery for a show, and then they would go to Kincaid and have dinner, âhe said.
Andler’s creativity extends to the clothes he designs. He is interested in the exploration of gender neutral clothing, recognizing the important role that gender conditioning plays in the clothing we wear.
As a child he used to buy some women’s clothes, but dressing people in less gender-specific clothes was not as accepted 20 years ago, he said.
âI like both the masculine and the feminine. And sometimes I like to merge those two things, and I like to play with that, âAndler said.
What matters to him is to dress the interior, as he hopes to change lives through clothing.
âAs long as we dress the inside, the outside will be beautiful,â he said. âChanging lives through the expression of clothes is pretty cool because it’s so important to who we are every day. I don’t just want to put on my pants; I want to shoot them with the goal.
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