Stay in the Loop

Gift Shopping in Mill City Museums

Article and photos by Merle Minda

We are lucky. Living in Mill City and in the North Loop near the river means we have immediate access to all kinds of boutique shopping. But as the holidays approach, don’t overlook the incredible museum shopping we have right on our doorstep. I made a tour of four such shops and was amazed and even thrilled by the wide variety and unique gift options. My criteria were: unique and original merchandise; a special theme or perspective related to their museum purpose, and merchandise that perhaps could not be found elsewhere.

The Guthrie Theater Store

Guthrie Theater Store Director of Retail and Buyer Kay McGuire. This isn’t strictly a museum shop but it meets all the criteria. First and perhaps unexpected is rather fabulous and original jewelry made by local artists – earrings, necklaces and even watches (which I was not expecting). There is a wide variety of well-made Guthrie gear, from sweatshirts to warm winter hats.

The shop is themed to past and especially current Guthrie productions. Shakespeare and Shakespeare stuff, natch, including coloring books for children. Endless fun gift ideas including calendars, CDs and books, theater books and scripts. Right now their Noel Coward section, relating to the current Blithe Spirit production, includes Coward’s marvelous autobiographies beginning with Present Indicative.

Noel Coward section

A Scrooge for your tree!Plus little jeweled cases, Lady Macbeth soap, puzzles; Christmas ornaments with even a Scrooge for your tree.

Pretty business card holder. The shop is always open during on-stage productions, so matinees and evenings, plus some added hours. The store is located at 818 South 2nd Street, inside the theater on the main floor. Shop select Guthrie items anytime online at Call 612.225.6300 or e-mail

Mill City Museum Store

Phoebe Gray, visitors services associate at Mill City Museum Store. Just down the block from Guthrie are the wonderful Mill City Museum and its equally wonderful Museum Store.

This museum is all about the history of flour and milling in Minneapolis on the river. So, lots of baking stuff – from Bundt pans to measuring spoons. Interesting and unusual cookbooks, especially the new The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen cookbook. Other books focus on Minnesota history, fiction and non-fiction, plus aprons and all sorts of cooking gadgets, pots and pans for holiday cooking.

The Mill City Museum Store includes all sorts of holiday traditions items

A giclée original print. The shop also has some original giclée prints of on the river subjects, including the Stone Arch Bridge and Gold Medal sign. Fun stocking stuffers and toys for kids too.

Here is where you buy tickets for the not-to-be-missed Flour Tower elevator show. Open museum hours, Tuesday – Saturday from 10-5; Sunday from 12-5. Email at Check out the schedule for the Holiday Baking Workshops in the downstairs kitchen too.

Lots of puzzles and games for kids

The gotta-have wild rice section

100% wooly blankets and scarves

Two Shops at Open Book

If you haven’t discovered Open Book as yet, now is the time. Founded by four non-profit book organizations, there is always much to see and do, classes, readings, performances, book launches, etc. Located at 1011 Washington Avenue, with fairly easy street parking and an adjacent small lot, Open Book also houses two wonderful shops for gift buying.

Milkweed Books

Acclaimed local publisher Milkweed Editions opened this lovely bookshop last year inside Open Book. The book selection is eclectic with numerous literary best-sellers, Milkweed-published books, many small and independent press titles, a good poetry selection and some children’s books.

Daley Farr, bookseller and events coordinator at Milkweed Books

Good books and gift ideas galore here at Milkweed Books. Often book choices are recommended by “someone we trust,” says Daley Farr, bookseller and events coordinator. I did not escape without buying two new books for myself but I will be going back to do some gift-buying. Books can be ordered by phone or online. During my visit I saw a huge pile of stuffed envelopes with book orders to be mailed out. On main floor of Open Book, on-line orders at or call at 612-215-2540.

The Shop at MCBA (Minnesota Center for Book Arts)

Hand-made marbled paper. Another terrific gift shop. Everything is unusual or original, including a large selection of hand-made and marbled papers; jewelry, one-of-a kind journals, for calligraphy, thoughts or leather-covered.

Also, a wall of “Zines”, hand created and often self-published booklets on a raft of subjects.

Wall of “Zines” hand made and hand published

Jennifer Bowman, The Shop at MCBA staffer. Staffer Jill Weese led me through the selection of gorgeous hand-made cards, prints and ‘how-to’ materials for making your own book. Should you have an emerging book maker on your list, the shop also gives classes in book binding and marbling.

I fell in love with a small box that was “cartonnage” style, covered in hand-made paper. Perfect for earrings, I thought. Bring a list and shop for your special gifts here.

Merle’s favorite cartonnage box with hand-made paper

Located just inside the entrance of Open Book, 1011 Washington Avenue S, open Mon, Wed – Sat: 9:30 am – 6:30 pm; Tuesday, 9:30 am – 9 pm, and Sunday 12-5 pm.; contact them at 612-215-2520, email at, or online at

Special Note: Through December 19th, these two shops will both have extended hours and offer discounts – make a purchase of any retail item from one shop and get 10% off your second purchase at the other! 

My delightful shopping trip took me two and a half hours to visit all four stores. So get going, shopping list in hand, and make your purchases from one or more of these four terrific museum shops.

Editors note: Click here for more photos and larger images.

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About Merle Minda

Journalist and free-lance writer Merle Minda writes about travel, business, people profiles and other subjects for a number of national and regional publications, including Delta SKY, Mpls/St. Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Business, Star Tribune, Twin Cities Statement, Minnesota Monthly, and now Mill City Times. She can be reached at or on the web.

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