You may have noticed a new store on the block. John Henry, the menswear shop, is a local collaboration between its three founders: Michele Henry of Primp Boutique, Henry’s brother, Mike, and John Vadnais. Located next to the women’s clothing shop Primp on Banning Avenue, John Henry is a one-stop shop for men, making downtown White Bear Lake a shopping destination for men and women alike.
Inspiration struck in 2015 when Henry and Vadnais were in Chicago. Vadnais was shopping for clothes while Henry was styling, pulling items for him from around the store. That’s when the lightbulb went on. Vadnais wondered why there wasn’t anything like this for men back home; most of the fashion boutiques with stylists are geared towards women. For Henry, who grew up in Mahtomedi, and Vadnais, who graduated from White Bear Lake High School, the business partners decided to bring the concept back home with them. Opening last April, John Henry fills a void with its customer service-oriented men’s retail shop.
(Michele Henry and John Vadnais in the John Henry store, which is located in downtown White Bear Lake.)
The shop’s ambiance is unlike any big-box store. With its custom dark wood and dark tin ceiling tiles, you may feel like you are walking into someone’s stylish study. There’s a huge stuffed bear mounted on the wall. Local merchandise sits atop a vintage foosball table, while books, cigar cases and hatboxes, are displayed throughout the store. The atmosphere is relaxed, with inviting leather couches and a big-screen TV playing ESPN Sportscenter. If it’s after 2 p.m., you’ll be offered a beverage when you enter.
“Every brand we bring in has some sort of intriguing story behind it,” Henry says. “We want to know our brands, and we want our stylists and customers to know them.” The shop’s five stylists, who are all White Bear Lake natives, are thoroughly trained on the manufacturers behind the merchandise. Most of the brands are American-made, and many are local, such as ‘Sota Clothing. Then there’s Great Lakes Clothing Co. with clothing inspired by a love for Minnesota’s lakes.
“It’s business casual, but also [has] things you could wear with a suit,” says Vadnais. Almost everything has stretch to it. For example, the shop carries a line of four-way-stretch dress shirts by State & Liberty Clothing Co., a company based out of Michigan offering wrinkle-free and machine-washable dress shirts. There are also the stretch chinos and denim made by the Kennedy Denim Co., a family-owned business based out of Los Angeles.
“Having a man try on a pair of denim with stretch is like introducing a woman to a pair of yoga pants for the first time,” Henry says. “It’s pretty life-changing.”
As the co-founder of Primp boutique, Henry has a keen eye for style and a knack for entrepreneurship. The women’s clothing shop offers trendy pieces for under $100. The first Primp boutique opened in 2010; today, there are six locations across the metro and several others in the region. And John Henry will soon follow suit: The owners already have their eyes on two more locations.
John Henry and Primp overlap in offering great style and service, but the stores’ business philosophies differ. At Primp, once you see a style in the store sell out, it’s gone. They do not purchase things twice. At John Henry, the store’s stock stays fresh with new products introduced at least once a week. However, the owners aren’t afraid to do reorders. The classic styles like the denim and button-up shirts will always be on hand. “It’s a little more tailored and a little more customized,” Henry explains, adding that John Henry customers can make requests for different sizes or alterations.
“You can’t find our items in big department stores,” Vadnais says. With prices that are approachable, you’ll find anything from a locally designed screen-printed tee for $25 to buffalo-hide boots for $300. Whether it’s a look for a wedding, a new job or a day out boating, the shop’s stylists are eager to outfit the men of White Bear and beyond for the desired occasion.
(On Dylan: State and Liberty shirt $90, Kennedy denim $88, watch $110)
Winter Style Tips from John Henry
Hats: For winter hats, think classic styles. “It can become overwhelming when the winter hits, and pulling an old orange winter hat out of the bin can look out of place,” John Vadnais says. John Henry carries custom MN knit hats, bomber hats and classic caps with a short brim.
Layers: The puff coat is out. Vadnais and Henry suggest dressing in warm layers underneath a fashionable jacket. Jackets carried in-store have moisture-wicking technology and can withstand severe conditions.
Scarves: The many ways in which you can tie a scarf may surprise you; a shop stylist can teach you a handful of techniques. “This is the difference between utilizing a scarf to make your outfit stand out or having it hide under your coat,” Vadnais says.
Shoes: A good winter shoe should be versatile and long-lasting. John Henry’s buffalo-hide shoes are naturally water-resistant and don’t need to be treated like traditional cowhide.
New and Noteworthy
Looking for a suit that will fit you to a tee? Henry and Vadnais have just announced plans to offer custom suits. Stop in to see samples of the exciting fabrics, colors and styles offered.
(On Dylan, cover photo: Mizzen button-up $125, Mizzen sweater $110, chinos $135)