It’s retail magic for MacFarlane, Binkley

By Kathy Henderson

In just a few months, Abby MacFarlane has gone from being an independent vendor at the former Thistles outlet at Milton Square to becoming proprietor there of her own shop, “Practically Magical.”

Now MacFarlance’s latest move: She has found a business partner for Practically Magical in Bethany Binkley, a curated resale clothing vendor and fashion stylist.

“Bethany came in as a vendor last September,” MacFarlane said. “She immediately seemed to get my vision [for the store],” MacFarlane said of their shop space at 2238 Carter Ave.

The partnership vision was almost a simultaneous and serendipitous moment, although Binkley laughingly claims she was the first one to say they should become business partners.

“And I answered, ’Yes, please,’” MacFarlane added.

However, their spontaneity also was tempered by practical business considerations of wanting to get things right. If they were going to form a partnership, they wanted it to be an amazing partnership.

That pragmatism, they explained, included background checks and financials, along with a specifically created list for them of 100 questions encompassing business operation, organizational insights and personality traits that each filled out and exchanged with the other.

The result is they have established a solid base, said MacFarlane, with each knowing the other’s strengths and weaknesses. “Our vendors also clearly know how the shop will operate,” she said. “We want our group of vendors to grow their individual businesses, and at the same time, work together and support each other.”

It’s more than that, Binkley said, explaining how much fun they are having with their partnership, which in turn buoys the spirit of their vendors and spills over onto the people walking through the door.

As they rolled out a new look for the shop at the start of March, Binkley’s future plans included an April shower theme highlighting trench coats. She describes her resale clothing stock as brand vintage, not necessarily vintage. Vintage, she explained, means over 20 years old. Brand vintage represents the early years of a brand.

For example, Binkley looks for circa early-1990s Anthropologie clothing that feature artists’ signature prints.

“They are extremely hard to find,” she said, “and hold up extraordinarily well as representative of a time and style.”

In addition to her curated collection of resale clothing, Binkley’s offers a fee-based fashion stylist client service that reflects her overall personal approach, knowledge and past fashion stylist employment experience.

In the shop next door, Yes! Yes! Vintage Market + Boutique, 2242 Carter Ave., owner Mary Norris couldn’t be happier being Practically Magical’s neighbor.

Although both shops carry what Norris calls “pre-loved” clothing, Binkley’s tends toward the more classical lines, while there’s more rock ’n roll, novelty and funky merchandise at Yes! Yes!

Norris said she expects this spring, shoppers will again find some authentic Hawaiian Aloha print-style shirts in stock, maybe even some with the sought-after woody station wagon motif.

The ever-changing and often whimsical window displays of the two shops attract neighborhood walkers, as well as shoppers.

Norris waxes enthusiastically that having the two shops—plus Erin Flavin’s Marigold, a non-alcoholic bottle shop along Carter Avenue—increases Milton Square’s viability as a destination location in the St. Anthony Park business district, noting shoppers show up there from Minneapolis, Burnsville and beyond the metro area. 

Kathy Henderson lives in St. Paul and is a Bugle freelance writer.

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