If there are two things that embody the essence of Excelsior, it’s community and charm. Gray Home + Lifestyle, opened in November by local mother-daughter duo Dee Dee and Chloe Lappen, offers just those things.
The store sits at the top of Water Street in a house that was built in 1902. Those familiar with the area might recall the landscaping company that previously operated in the house under the name Gray Gardens.
“We were the first ones to find out that Andrew Kruger [the owner of Gray Gardens Landscaping] was selling the store,” Dee Dee says. (Gray Gardens Landscaping has since relocated to Victoria.) With the opportunity at hand and Chloe having just graduated from the University of Minnesota-Duluth in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in business and administration, the timing seemed right.
“I said, ‘Let’s do it.’ My mom was more hesitant, but I was able to convince her,” Chloe says.
For consistency’s sake, and as an homage to the previous shop, the two decided to keep the “Gray” in the boutique’s new moniker. And while the name Gray Home + Lifestyle might suggest a furnishing and décor store, Dee Dee says they consider it to be more of a “lifestyle store” with something for everyone.
“It’s really a one-stop shop,” Chloe says. “You find little stores with a bit of everything on the coasts and in Europe. That’s what we wanted to achieve.” Chloe says that some of her favorite sources of inspiration came from stores in markets like Vancouver and San Francisco.
“When we go through and say, ‘What do people want?’ it’s across the board,” Dee Dee says. “It all comes down to finding those beautiful and unique products.”
In keeping with their idea of “a little bit of everything,” the Lappens stocked Gray Home + Lifestyle with everything from organic soy and coconut candles to clothing from St. Paul brand Hackwith Design House. “Hackwith works directly with us to craft a collection specific to our store,” Dee Dee says, tying into the store’s goal of selling a unique blend of merchandise.
Dee Dee says they also work with a local man who creates tables out of reclaimed wood, and they sell apothecary lines from Australia and Sweden, all items you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.
Since the grand opening last fall, Dee Dee says the Excelsior community has been a consistent source of support. “Bill Damberg, owner of Brightwater Clothing and Gear, and Erin Duininck, owner of Golden Rule, have sent people our way,” Dee Dee says. “We’ve formed friendships with people from many Excelsior businesses.”
When it comes to family, the backbone of Gray Home + Lifestyle, Chloe says, “everyone helps out in their own little way.”
Since opening Gray Home + Lifestyle, Dee Dee and Chloe have had a strong support network behind them. Ultimately, the most important relationship in creating the store was their own, which they say has only gotten stronger. “We’ve always been so close, but this has definitely brought us closer,” Chloe says. “People say ‘My mom is my best friend’ all the time, but my mom actually is my best friend.”
“Knowing that she would do it with me was really one of the reasons I took the plunge in opening this store,” Dee Dee adds. “It’s fun to share this process with someone you care so much about. Every day I’m just so happy that she’s here.”