A fashion-forward boutique now celebrating five years in the Lyn-Lake neighborhood, Showroom remains committed to elevating the value and professionalism of Minnesota makers. Owner Kimberly Jurek-Valanzasca and co-founder Jen Chilstrom, created a democratic collective for local talent to exhibit and sell clothing, jewelry and art.
The 2007–09 recession, says Chilstrom, hampered many artists’ ability to grow their businesses. “The birth of Showroom was in response to the fact that all the things we needed for our own design brand were all the things other local artists in the community also needed,” she says. After partnering with Showroom, Minnesota makers collectively operate a retail business and connect with makers of different experience levels. “In addition to having a retail store to show and sell their work, there is a co-working space, and each person is in charge of their inventory and brand, but we market on everyone’s behalf under the collective,” she explains.
Showroom was founded on the belief that building strong community relationships enhances the retail experience. Showroom gives customers the opportunity to meet with makers and get to know their stories. “They will make a pair of pants that fit you custom. They will make a custom engagement ring for you. If you’ve got jewelry you haven’t worn for a long time, but the stones are very special to you, they can help you reinvent and reimagine whatever it is that you have around you. You can walk away feeling that you’ve supported someone’s livelihood. That’s kind of a win-win,” says Chilstrom.
Jurek-Valanzasca finds exhibitors with original concepts to complement and contrast the existing participants. A new artist is featured each month. A few makers have contributed to Showroom since its inception, and she welcomes new artists every year. “A lot of people come in and ask me ‘how do you find new designers?’” she says. Jurek-Valanzasca meets designers in a variety of ways, from fashion shows she attends in the community to referrals from clients, and she is always looking for new talent to feature at Showroom.
Abstract painter and mixed media artist Mary Olson was invited for a solo show. “Showroom is beautiful,” Olson says. “Their mission to support local artists is powerful. When you visit, the genuine kindness and serious forward-thinking creative dedication and energy of the [founders] radiates.”
Jay Wu is a graphic designer/illustrator blending traditional and modern Chinese styles to create mystical illustrations. Chilstrom discovered Wu at his college job fair in 2017. With a big smile, Wu describes meeting Chilstrom and responding positively to her request to show his work. It was the first such opportunity for him outside of school, leading to exposure and sales. Wu says, “It was interesting to talk to the artists not in your field, and I learned how they create their work.”
With a five-year anniversary this month, Jurek-Valanzasca reflects on her experience as owner of Showroom. “I think all of us feel that we have developed friendships,” she says. “I really appreciate being a part of this community.”
These long-standing friendships include a few artists that have been with Showroom since its beginning. Clothing designer Tessa Louise, and jeweler 3 Jäg Design, by Betty Jäger are just two of the many.
But no matter how long each artist or maker has been with Showroom, they are invited into the community with open arms. “I am so proud of all of the designers,” says Jurek-Valanzasca. “Every single one of them.”
Join Showroom for their five year anniversary fashion show, May 12 4-7 p.m.