Biz buzz :: Simple Luxuries

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November 23, 2009 // UPDATED 8:27 am - November 23, 2009
By: Amanda Kushner
Amanda Kushner
Simple Luxuries coming to the skyways

Something doesn’t have to be outrageously expensive to be luxurious. And that’s the idea behind a new seasonal shop, Simple Luxuries, located on the skyway level in ESBEE’s media gallery at Avenue SixQ Skyways.

Friends and business partners Stacy Bee, president of ESBEE Public Relations and Marketing, and Nicole Wersal, who owns and operates rt design + interiors are pairing together their talents, aesthetic and complementary strengths to start Simple Luxuries.

The two partners had a conversation that people in Minnesota tend to be leery of the word luxury and no one wants to spend it or buy it, although it does describe what people want. That’s how the women settled on the name for the store.

“It doesn’t have to be a $1,000 or $10,000 Rolex watch to be luxury. It’s what we appreciate in our heart on a daily basis of what is comforting and what is luxury to us,” Bee said.

Gifts range from $5 ornaments to $500 handbags. Wersal said the price range will help customers find gifts for a variety of people. There are ornaments from Silver Cocoon and their wood tree art pieces, handbags made from vintage furs are designed by Bee and Wersal, Assouline coffee table books, soy candles, a candle scent of the week and cuff links. Almost all of the products are local.

The gifts are aimed to make both the giver and receiver feel special, Wersal said. Also the store will help reduce holiday stress because it will make it easy to find gifts people care about, she said.

Wersal, with a retail background, has previously owned her own shop, and over lunch and while attending events the two decided to uniquely use the space at ESBEE for the holidays. When Wersal mentioned having a store concept in her office, Bee suggested test marketing the luxuries in the media gallery, Bee said.

The working synergy developed when Wersal and Bee first came together and Wersal’s interior design company designed Bee’s workspace, including the media gallery.

Simple Luxuries will launch on Nov. 30 and will be open Monday­–Friday from 10 a.m.­–5 p.m.


Honey, 205 E. Hennepin Ave.,  a new lounge in the basement below Ginger Hop, opened from the same owners in mid-November.

Honey is the place to be if you’re looking for a refined menu with small plates, chocolate flights, desserts and cocktails, said owner Jake Polt.

Brian Gray is the chef and items on the menu include a beef tenderloin petit filet and horseradish mashed potato, a seasonal veggie, which is caramelized Brussels sprouts or a truffled French fry, Polt said.

There’s also an emphasis on Scotches because the owners wanted to have nice products in a bar setting that sometimes get overlooked including small bourbons, small Scotches, wines and rare gins, said owner Jon Provenzano. Charles Lodge and Katey Leitch are also owners of Honey.

Provenzano said there are a lot of similar lounges in New York where they are in basements and have good small food menus with the artistic vibe and an emphasis on cocktails and some nightlife.

“We are trying to have some of that feel of places like that,” he said. “When you are in a basement, you’ve got to be creative.”

The walls will be decorated with local artists’ work, and Polk said that with so many artists in the area it’s a great way to give them exposure and fits with the artistic crowd the owners expect to bring into Honey.

The owners picked the name Honey because it could mean desserts and emphasizes the name, Provenzano said. Polk added that they think they were successful in creating a warm and cozy environment although it’s underground. Honey will have DJs Friday and Saturday evening. They hope to build jazz music or another form of entertainment Wednesday through Saturday. The lounge is open 6 p.m. to close Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday and 6 p.m.–2 a.m. Friday and Saturdays.


After 23 years, Café Brenda, 300 1st Ave N, will close soon, according to its website.

“It is time to move on and work on new projects in education with the principle of food as medicine,” said owner Brenda Langton on the site.

Langton is producing a video in collaboration with the Children’s Hospital of Minnesota to show nurses, doctors, patients and families how to prepare foods to boost immune systems. Langton is also working on a cookbook. She’s a senior fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Spirtuality & Healing and she helped start the Mill City Farmers Market.

Café Brenda will remain open for another couple of weeks, and the website invites customers to celebrate Café Brenda’s success.