Lessons Learned: Michael Druskin
For more than 40 years, Len Druskin was one of the best-known names in Twin Cities retail—women flocked to his eponymous Edina boutique for special occasion dresses and designer fashion. His son Michael Druskin took over in 1999. With an instinct for trends that were about to pop, the younger Druskin steered the store in a more trendy direction and began an aggressive expansion. At its peak six years ago, the company’s portfolio included a dozen stores in the Twin Cities and Chicago, and they weren’t all the same. Customers didn’t necessarily know the difference between the Len Druskin Outlet and the “Len” stores where everything was always 50 percent off. Overextended, the business began to unravel. The last of the suburban locations went dark overnight in 2017, leaving many employees and vendors without their final paycheck. Len Druskin Inc. filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in early 2018. Michael Druskin updated the job title on his LinkedIn profile to “Lyft driver.” It wasn’t a joke.
But in August, Michael Druskin returned to retail with a menswear store called Jaxon Grey—a nod to another iconic local boutique of yesteryear, Jackson Graves, where his grandmother was a buyer. Jaxon Grey is Druskin’s vision, but the money comes from a group of silent investors who he says “believe I have the ability to share something unique and cool.” Located within North Loop collective D.Nolo, Jaxon Grey will focus on small up- and-coming brands. Calm and reflective after more than a year of therapy and a new workout routine, Druskin says he hopes people won’t judge him on the final weeks of Len Druskin Inc. “We feel very badly that things didn’t go as planned,” Druskin says. “It’s not about what happened, but how you deal with it.”
- Don’t sulk.
His instinct was to hide after closing abruptly, but friends urged Druskin to do something—anything. They didn’t expect he’d become a Lyft driver, but Druskin says it was an amazing experience, and one that got him out of his own head to listen to others. “People share a lot,” he says. “You’re part concierge, part psychologist. There are so many people doing interesting things.”
- Throw a punch.
Druskin was always running—from store to store. But he never made time to work out, until last year. He says he was extremely intimidated to enter Uppercut Boxing, but now he goes several times a week. “The support and community has been life-changing.”
- Know your strengths … and weaknesses.
“As a creative person, I have a natural tendency to keep moving and get bored. It’s important for me to work with people who give me enough room in the sandbox to try things, but not so much space that I move in too many directions. Don’t be fearful of being honest about your shortcomings.”
- Get out of your comfort zone.
“I didn’t take enough chances (with Len Druskin Inc.). I didn’t push for digital when my competitors did. You’ve got to think progressively and be willing to try new things.”
- Listen to your father.
“My dad really taught me about customer service. Make people feel comfortable. That’s how you build a business.”
- Create a cohesive brand story.
“I picked things for Len Druskin that I thought would sell. But I didn’t know why, and I wasn’t necessarily true to the brand. This time, I am creating a brand that has its own distinct identity. I know the story behind it. Jaxon Grey is about being comfortable and approachable but pushed a little bit outside of the box.”
- —Allison Kaplan