Eric and Andrew Dayton on Obama's visit, Askov Finlayson, men's fashion

Eric and Andrew Dayton on Obama's visit, Askov Finlayson, men's fashion
All photos by Ward Rubrecht

Andrew and Eric Dayton aren't just the owners of a high-profile bar and restaurant. They're also proprietors of Askov Finlayson, a 1,000-square-foot high-end men's boutique situated in the front end of the same building that houses the Bachelor Farmer and Marvel Bar. The shop features items with high construction quality favoring a preppy look, as well as a variety of luxury lifestyle items. We sat down to pick Andrew and Eric's brains about the philosophy behind Askov Finlayson, and what it's like trying to buy clothes for Minnesota men.

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Obama came here; did he take a look at the shop?

Eric: Actually, they took over our store. As people entered, that's where they passed through the Secret Service security. We moved all our stuff to the side, and put up big metal detectors and that was the screening point.

We did do something really fun with our friends Katherine and Mac McMillan. They have a brand, Pierrepont Hicks, that's primarily neckwear. We did a collaboration necktie with those guys. On the back it said, 'Askov Finlayson X Pierrepont Hicks in honor of President Obama,' and then the date of the lunch. All of our staff wore the tie for the service, and then we gave one to President Obama as a gift.

Have you seen him wearing it in a press conference?

Andrew: It's more of a date night tie -- it has a casual look to it.

Eric and Andrew Dayton on Obama's visit, Askov Finlayson, men's fashion
All photos by Ward Rubrecht

What made you want to open a men's boutique?

Eric: The building was an opportunity for us to take an old building that we saw as having a lot of potential, in a neighborhood we were really excited about, and bring it back into service. We started thinking about what we wanted to do in the different spaces, and came up with this idea of the restaurant and bar and clothing shop working together within the one building. We liked the way that fit together. We hoped that it was something the neighborhood would value and appreciate. It also combined shared interests that Andrew and I had.

Andrew: I think there were also brands that we were really excited about that we hadn't seen in Minneapolis yet. There are a lot of great stores in the Twin Cities, but nobody had been focusing on exactly what we wanted to see and thought would be successful here.

How would you characterize those brands that you wanted to feature?

Andrew: For the two of us, it's focused on quality. Things have to be really well made. We look for items that are special because they're beautifully designed and because they're well made, but also because they're useful. We also keep an eye for color and pattern, which is something we respond to. You'll see it throughout the building, and the bar and restaurant. We wanted to bring that into the store as well.

What were some of the brands that you knew you wanted to bring in right away?

Eric: The jeans Andrew's wearing, Momotaro denim, we felt that was the best jean in the world and something we could bring to Minneapolis. Norse Projects was a first brand. While in Copenhagen, we got to visit their headquarters when we were on a trip. Not everything that we have is just unique to our store, but that's certainly been one of our driving principles: How do we do this differently than other people are doing it, in a way that feels like us and adds something to the retail mix of Minneapolis?

Eric and Andrew Dayton on Obama's visit, Askov Finlayson, men's fashion
All photos by Ward Rubrecht

Your pieces aren't as out there as the clothing carried by some other shops in the Cities. Can you speak to that?

Eric: We don't do very much trend. The pieces that we carry are meant to last for a long time. It doesn't do you any good if it lasts you 10 years but it's only in style for a year or two years. We really try to think of pieces that are going to be great in 10 years -- great in 20 years -- and aren't going to feel out of style or dated, but are designed to be as timeless as the quality of the construction.

Do you guys do all your own scouting and buying?

Andrew: Yeah, we do. We go to New York for Market Week twice a year, once in January/Febuary, and once in July to buy for spring of the next year.

It's kind of funny having to think six months in advance. With the restaurant, things are moving so quickly that you can make changes on the fly and really react to how customers are responding to a certain dish. In retail, we've learned you have to plan ahead for what's going to feel right for the store and for Minneapolis a season ahead. We also keep up on blogs and see what's going on around the Twin Cities and talk to friends to make sure that we feel we know what the landscape is.

Eric and Andrew Dayton on Obama's visit, Askov Finlayson, men's fashion
All photos by Ward Rubrecht

To what degree does your own closet reflect the stock in the store?

Eric: I've shopped for myself less since we opened. You're just focused on buying for the store and then I'm not thinking as much about updating my own wardrobe.

All the best stuff goes really fast. All the Marvel bartenders and regulars in the neighborhood come and clean us out as soon as it comes in, and the stuff I would've liked for myself is gone and I missed my chance. Better for them to have it than me, though.

Minneapolis and Minnesota have a stereotype of having a lot of guys who aren't fashion-adventurous. Do you agree with that assessment?

Andrew: We heard the same thing in our restaurant: that folks in the Twin Cities weren't adventurous eaters. But every time we put a dish on the menu that feels adventurous, it's usually really well received and often a big hit. We had a similar experience with the store. Guys in particular want to know where their clothing is made, and that it's made well. They want to hear the story behind it. If the quality's there -- in my experience at least -- guys in this town are willing to have fun in the way they dress.

Eric: Guys have great style in Minneapolis, but maybe don't go for the fashion trends that might be more successful on the East Coast. I think that's a good thing. Guys in Minnesota have a nose for BS. They say, 'I'm not going to wear that,' and if it doesn't feel right, they shouldn't. It's good for us when we go look at new stuff to put things through the Minnesota filter. Even though some fashion things might not be as successful in Minnesota, style does really well here.

What's one item in the store you'd like to gush about?

Andrew: I've been wearing Momotaro a long time before we opened the store. They're hand-dyed in Japan with natural indigo. There's a great story behind them, but that doesn't matter unless they fit great and wear well, which these do better than any jeans I've ever owned.

Eric: We've got this great lineup of shoes: Redwing boots and a brand called Rancourt. We actually met Kyle Rancourt. He didn't have a retail presence in Minnesota, so now we're the only shop to carry Rancourt. We had him come in when our shipment arrived to talk to our staff about the process and the manufacturing behind it. All his shoes are hand-sewn in Maine, they're really really beautiful and well-made. That's my current soft spot.

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