Angeline Gard owned and ran Plie Dance Studio in Oak Park Heights for 13 years, but once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, she turned the 6,500 square foot, two-level dance studio into a multi-vendor boutique called Rust and Rose, 5525 Oak Park Heights.
Gard planned to retire from teaching dance in a few years as she is in her 40s, which she said is old for a dancing, but as with many aspects of life upended this year she was forced to adapt quickly.
“I was going to hand it over to my assistant director in about three years -- this was before COVID hit — and then COVID hit,” Gard said. “So my landlord wasn’t going to let me out of my lease and I had three years left on it.”
Before teaching dance, Gard owned a boutique on Mille Lacs Lake, and she thought it was something she could pursue again.
“I always thought, ‘with this space, this would be a cool little event hall, or maybe a cool boutique,’” Gard said. “These were just things in the back of my mind, but I never did anything about them.”
When the coronavirus pandemic began, Gard didn’t feel she there was a safe — or effective — way to continue teaching dance to children who made up the majority of her students.
“It was a very established business; it was a very successful business,” Gard said. “It was a heartbreaking choice to make.”
However, she knew with COVID that it wasn’t much of a choice anyway as people were losing their jobs, and many had to prioritize purchasing food over paying for ballet classes. That left Gard seeking out a way to move forward.
“So what I need is, I need to get people in here to sublease from me,” she thought.
Her landlord agreed to the subleases, and Rust and Rose boutique was born last summer.
A fresh start
Now, 13 vendors lease space in the boutique marketplace, each selling different trinkets or items. Gard describes compares her new business similar to a flea market, but the items for sale are a bit more upscale than the standard seasonal second-hand marketplace.
Gard often gets told she was crazy to open a retail space in the midst of a pandemic, but the former dance instructor frequently responds necessity drove her decision.
“It was something I created out of a need, and sort of a survival instinct,” she said, “but it was always something I wanted to do anyways. It just came a bit earlier than I wanted it to. It just was what can I do to make it work? What can I do to survive?”
Rust and Rose Boutique opened on July 11, and Gard found it was a bit of a shot in the dark on how well her new endeavor would work out — so far, however, she has found early success.
“Everyone has been sort of overwhelmingly supportive,” Gard said. “Since we’ve only been open for four months we’ve had tons of repeat customers already.”
Gard thinks she has found a niche that serves the Stillwater/Oak Park heights community well.
“I think there’s a hunger out there for ladies who love to shop,” Gard said.
Social safety standards
Gard also takes private appointments on days the business is closed to the public as a way for those who want to minimize the amount of contact they have with other people.
The store also offers a large space to keep distance from others.
“The thing about this building is that it is big enough that you can safely social distance and shop,” Gard said.
Gard and her assistant are the ones managing the stores most days, but the other vendors are required to work two days a month — or they can pay and have Gard’s assistant work instead.
The system makes it so staffing is limited helping to maintain social distancing and there are only ever two vendors selling their wares at the same time.
Gard’s own section is the main space in the larger downstairs portion of the building. She describes her own section as a gifts and home décor.
She also makes candles for and her painting and other artworks are for sale.
“My space is pretty eclectic,” Gard said.
She chose the name Rust and Rose because her middle name is Rose, and she was named after her grandmother.
“We have a little bit of new and a little bit of rehab,” Gard said. “We have a lot of new shiny products, then we have these rusty old rehab products.”
When Gard was crafting the idea of her store she wanted her place to be inclusive.
“So no matter who you are, you can find something,” Gard said. “So like vintage things; antique things and new things.”
The boutique’s hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays.
For more information visit Rust and Rose boutique’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/rustandrosemarket/.
To make a private appointment, contact Gard at 651-249-4656 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.