Flotsam + Fork Bows Out of Retail at 38th and Chicago
Flotsam + Fork, a curated European homegoods and kitchenwares shop on Chicago Ave. and 38th St. in Minneapolis, hadn’t even been in its brick and mortar shop for a full year before it was forced to close its doors in March because of the pandemic. It moved its operations online—serving customers in the same virtual space that the store had occupied since launching in 2013 and prior to its move into a physical store last year.
But then, on May 25, George Floyd was murdered in front of Cup Foods at 3759 Chicago Ave.—just diagonal from Flotsam + Fork’s 3730 Chicago Ave. storefront. In the weeks following, the block became a sacred place of mourning, a memorial to Floyd and all those killed like him by racial injustice.
A little over a month after Floyd’s death, on June 27, founder and owner Adrianna Fie posted a statement on Flotsam + Fork’s social media announcing its intention to move out of its Chicago Ave. store.
“[We’ve] thought long and hard about how our little kitchenwares shop might fit into the new 38th and Chicago—without being a distraction from the important work happening there or the memory of George Floyd,” the post read. “As fierce supporters of Black Lives Matter and the revolt against racist police brutality, we have decided to close our brick and mortar location. The community should decide the best use for the space.”
“We currently have our eyes on a number of locations, and our goal is to find something nearby,” Fie said, “but with the uncertainty of coronavirus, we’re not rushing into anything.”
In the meantime, Fie says, Flotsam + Fork continues to expand its online business (it’s also offering “curbside” pick-up from Fie’s home) and look for pop-up shop opportunities, while also supporting the community and the fight against racism any way they can. (The company donated proceeds from late May sales to the Minnesota Freedom Fund and 100 percent of its profits from the first week of June to the Central Area Neighborhood Development Organization and Reclaim the Block.)
“We know that because of today’s hard work, a better tomorrow lies ahead,” the business’ social media post concluded. “As the famous French protest slogan goes, ‘sous les paves, la plage!’—or in English, ‘beneath the pavement, the beach!’”
We spoke to Fie about the impact of recent events on her fledgling business.
Q | How was your business disrupted/changed by coronavirus?
A | “Nearly all of our products come from Europe, so our supply chains were significantly disrupted as those countries went into lockdown and various travel and work restrictions took hold. Orders stalled. Shipments halted. That made restocking our inventory very challenging.
The coronavirus also forced us to close our shop to customers in March and move all of our business to our online store. Early on in the lockdown, we added a curbside pick-up option and even did a few deliveries in the immediately local area around the shop.
But, as a bright spot, as America settled in for the lockdown—with all the cooking and cleaning that quarantine entailed—we saw our online sales improve as people clearly started to stock up for the new way of life. Baking utensils, cleaning equipment, kitchen tools—those were all in very high demand, especially in the first few weeks of confinement.”
Q | Why did you decide to relocate your shop?
A | “As you may know, Flotsam + Fork’s Minneapolis storefront, at 3730 Chicago Avenue, is just half a block from where George Floyd was murdered by four Minneapolis Police Department officers on May 25. In the weeks following that traumatic event, the corner of 38th and Chicago has become a sacred place of mourning and an epicenter for the international movement for racial justice. It now serves as a much-needed destination for gathering, meditating and communicating.
We’ve observed this powerful transformation firsthand, and thought long and hard about how our little kitchenwares shop might fit into the new 38th and Chicago—without being a distraction from the important work happening there, or the memory of George Floyd. As fierce supporters of Black Lives Matter and the uprising against racist police brutality, we have decided to close our brick and mortar location. The community should determine the best use for the space.”
Q | Any bright spots from the last several months that you’d like to share?
A | “In February, just before the entire world shut down for coronavirus, we traveled to Germany and France to meet with our producers and plan for the new year. Of course, now, all of those plans are out the window, but it’s been remarkable to see these small manufacturers work through these incredible challenges, without complaint, and still deliver exceptionally-made products.
We work with an Italian linen weaver in Northern Italy, very near an area ravaged by the virus, and in the midst of it all they somehow managed to deliver a complete order on schedule. Our guy there, Michaelangelo, sent us an email basically saying, ‘In 175 years of doing business, we have survived two World Wars, the Italian Independence Wars, and two economic crises. We are confident, optimistic, and trying to do our part! We’ll all overcome this moment of difficulty.’ In the moment, that extremely uplifting message really helped us focus on the need to stay positive and keep moving things forward—and not succumb to despair.”