Neighboring businesses move together, adapt together

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October 22, 2013
By: Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson
Jim Laurie checking out an illustrated book from 1830
Ben Johnson
Jeromeo and James and Mary Laurie Booksellers have adapted their business models after moving from Nicollet Mall to North Loop

Last summer Scott Johnson and Jim Laurie were booted by their landlord from their shops on Nicollet Mall to make room for a new development.

Their businesses, located next door to each other on the 900 block of Nicollet, were geared toward attracting walk-ins from the thousands of people who stroll down the mall each day. Johnson sold exotic foreign antiques, perfumes and lotions at his shop, Jeromeo, and Laurie peddled hard-to-find books, records and paintings from his massive collection at James and Mary Laurie Booksellers.

“The thing about our Nicollet location is that a lot of people that came in there probably walked up and down that street every day,” said Johnson.

In July they moved to the North Loop, taking up residence next door to each other once again in the ground floor of a building full of artist lofts at 250 3rd Ave. N.

The move from the bustle of Nicollet to a sparsely-trafficked outpost near Target Field has prompted a shift in strategy for both businesses.

“I was reluctant to move to the North Loop, even though this is a really trendy area and I like this area, because I knew the foot traffic wasn’t going to be as great. You have to work harder to get people in the door,” said Johnson.

To do that Johnson has opened up a wellness center and yoga clinic in the back of Jeromeo’s new, larger location. He’s hired a few yoga instructors and massage therapists, and offers classes and individual appointments through a slick online booking system at Jeromeo.com.

Johnson is also planning events to be held periodically throughout the year. Jeromeo’s first-ever event was on Oct. 9. It featured food, music and a number of pieces by guest artists from Rogue Potters.

Laurie is trying a different strategy to increase revenue at his new location.

“We haven’t gotten the walk-in traffic we need, so we’re trying to convert to more of an internet business,” he said.

Right now roughly 10 percent of his collection of 120,000 books and 40,000 vinyl records are available for purchase on his website, lauriebooks.com. Laurie said he would like to get that up to 50 percent, but it takes time.

After an elevator ride to the basement – there are no stairs and wider aisles in the new location, a big plus for a shopkeeper who has been in the business for 40 years – he grabs a book that was catalogued and put online last night.

“Look at that, you’ve got the description, author, publication date, what it looks like, what kind of shape it’s in, and all of this,” he said, pointing to a half-page or so of small type describing the book, on sale for $400. “Putting a book online is an extremely labor-intensive process, so we start with our best books and work our way down,” he said.