By Kathy Henderson
In January 2022, Mary Norris didn’t have a vision or a strategy or even an intention of opening a retail shop in the popular Milton Square district in St. Anthony Park.
Yet, here it is January 2023, and not only has she opened the door to Yes!Yes! Vintage Market + Boutique, but she has brought in new stock to launch the new year and is already promising her customers a “big splash” for Valentine’s Day.
How did all this all happen?
It was the serendipity of Norris’ years of retail experience in Minneapolis and know-how, her love of fun vintage fashions and the happenstance of driving by Milton Square and seeing a “For Lease” sign at 2242 Carter Ave.
“This location opened up, and I couldn’t say no,” Norris said. “This area is magical. There is a real sense of community here.”
But it wasn’t until Norris put her signature on a three-year lease for the 540-square-foot shop that the reality of ownership hit her.
“Now, I gotta make it,” she thought to herself back then.
“Talk about a scramble!” is how she describes the time from summer lease signing to door opening in the fall. She admitted that one of her biggest challenges along the way was figuring out the technology for touch screen transactions and loading her inventory into the system.
Her husband Bill succinctly describes it this way: “It is a monumental task to start a business.”
The name Yes!Yes! Vintage Market + Boutique was inspired by Norris’ signature way of answering the phone in an upbeat singsongy tone with “Yes. Yes.”
Although the word “vintage” is in the shop’s name, Yes!Yes! is anything but stodgy. Instead, get ready for a shopping experience that will spark your imagination and engage your sense of wonder — whether you are looking for something unique for yourself, as a gift, or to delight someone young (or young at heart).
The variety of merchandise has developed from when Norris first opened Yes!Yes! Originally, she planned to only feature vintage fashions, along with some selective antique items.
However, as she listened and observed her customers, Norris has added more boutique items. In addition, there are earrings that she designs and crafts — some glamor sparkly, some protective talisman.
Yet, those “pre-loved” T-shirts continue to draw a following. “From the very beginning, even when the shop wasn’t open, we’d see people peering through the windows and laughing at the sayings on the T-shirts,” Norris said.
Eventually came the shelves of retro candy.
“I never expected that I would have stuff for kids,” she said. pointing to the shelves of retro candy — Pink Cadillacs fruit gummies, huge-size Fort Knox chocolate coins and Nik-L-Nips, those sweet liquid-filled tiny waxy bottles, are among varieties available. “I am surprised at the number of kids and tweens that love my shop!”
With the arrival of the New Year, the fanciful 1960s aluminum Christmas tree has disappeared from the show window, and customers are seeing new displays throughout the shop, including some perfumes and also a line of specialty soaps hand crafted in Montana. The stock of greeting cards has also expanded.
Yes!Yes! Vintage Market + Boutique is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Kathy Henderson lives in St. Paul and is a Twin Cities freelance writer.