In November of 2017, the familiar signs of overgrowth were beginning to surface at sota clothing. One shipping container of backstock inventory turned into two, boxes were stacked higher than code permitted, and Spencer’s photography studio perpetually down-sized before it got booted from the warehouse and into his office.
It was time to reach back out to our realtor Colin to search for sota’s next home, hopefully something that would last longer than a year and a half this time.
Based on the parameters he received, Colin showed us the historic Walker building in St. Louis Park. Erected in the 1880’s, it was the city’s oldest commercial building although the interior reflected the era of its 1990’s remodel. Spence was struck by the possibility of restoring the building and bringing back its original character. But beyond its potential for aesthetics, the space would provide what we desperately needed most—room for growth. We’d be leaving what quickly had become a cramped 3,200 square foot building and taking on a vast 12,000 square feet.
Walker Building 1955 - p/c: St. Louis Park Historical Society
Spencer’s internal idea generator was kicked into high gear as he entertained the countless endeavors this place could launch. He was developing plans for knocking down walls, exposing ceiling beams, brick walls, and hardwood floors. The only problem was that up until this point, our “renovations” mostly involved shiplap, barn doors, painting and wallpapering projects. If we were really going to try flipping the oldest building in St. Louis Park, we knew we needed to look beyond our circle. As it turned out, we didn’t need to look very far.
Mike Pattison is our graphic designer’s dad. Before going out on his own as a contractor, Mike had careers in both engineering and sales, and from personal experience we knew he did quality work. Over the next four months he worked closely with Rebecca Rudduck, our key visionary and designer for the buildout.
After extensive negotiating and back-and-forth talk with realtors and loan officers, contracts were signed and the keys to the historic Walker building were in our hands. Sota was now its own landlord.
Over the next four months, Spencer sent us out (with the exception of our sister Lauren, who was five months pregnant) to assist with renovations. Mike found ways to utilize and coach us rookies and turned us into a functioning demolition crew.
Enthusiasm ran high as the first walls came down and the maze-like interior opened up. Artifacts were found in the rafters that spoke to the building’s history, such as peanut jars and an old pair of women’s boots. Eventually demo week turned into demo months. Our move-in date was pushed back to the end of June.
On the eve of the move, we were outlining product placement on the shelves at the new warehouse, prepping what we could to assure a smooth transition for the next day.
The only thing we didn’t plan for was the text we received from Lauren in the morning. She was on her way to the hospital, already in the beginning stages of labor. An integral part of our team was out, and beginning her maternity leave on our biggest move to date. It was time for the team to rally.
General Moving Experts took two loads with their 30 foot truckbed, and as staff we used our personal vehicles to move the smaller, miscellaneous items. By mid-afternoon we were already making our final trips. The conference room table was placed in the middle of the warehouse, everyone would work from there until the office space was up to code. By the following day, order fulfillment was up and running, processing orders around everyone working from the table. As soon as things were feeling settled, Spence and I went straight from the warehouse to the hospital to meet our newest niece, sweet Nellie.
All of sota’s merchandise was now at the Walker building, but the office and retail space renovations would still continue for two more months. The opening date for our retail store was pushed further and further back. Once the second date was missed, Spencer reluctantly adjusted the window sign, this time adding “-ish” to the end of delayed. We were making great progress, but still struggling to settle on a date we could promise. We wanted to assure that the sota clothing experience would live up to everything our customers were hoping for, which called for more diligence and patience than we initially anticipated.
Day-by-day, projects were crossed off the list and all the city codes were passed. Before opening up the store to the public, we had a soft launch for family and friends. In our usual style, we were working into the last moments. Painting trim, pulling away painter’s tape, and covering up outlets and vents just minutes before the party started, quickly changing from our work to party clothes as guests were walking in.
By August 20th, we were welcoming customers through our doors. One of our biggest dreams -sota clothing’s first retail store- was now a reality. We all took a moment to celebrate and find our bearings, before quickly shifting our focus to what lay ahead. Seven days later we hauled the sota caravan to the MN State Fair to set up shop for the next twelve days. For the first time, we navigated inventory and staffing between online sales, the storefront and the State Fair.
So the hustle continued. And to our great joy and relief, 2018 went down as yet another year that grew us, rather than broke us.
Sota clothing employees: Rebecca Rudduck, Kyle Kunzmann, Gabe Pattison, Melissa Miller, Lauren Johnson, Kristin Carlson, Katie Weed, Carson Albrecht and Taryn Welch. Whether it was immersing yourselves in renovations or picking up the slack during the transition, you all went above and beyond for us.
*A special thank you to Gabe Pattison for his craftsmanship in the retail store and Doc’s hall. Kyle Kunzmann for his six weeks of consecutive demo-days on-site, and to Rebecca Rudduck who has had her boots on the ground since the beginning, and is still going with lower-level renovations.
Family and friends who worked alongside us in the final countdown: mom and dad, uncle Joe, Brian Castle, Nick Johnson, Mitchell Johnson, Mark Jeffrey, Andrew Fischer, Bryan Szmergalski, Lois and Mitch Hegland, Sandy Pattison, Danielle Pattison, and Zach Pattison. We’re beyond grateful to have you on our home team.
The man behind the renovation: Mike Pattison. Thank you for looking out for us all along the way, and making things happen. We’d still be in “demo-week” without you!
Walker Building - February 2019 - p/c: Spacecrafting Photography