Going Home: The Foundry, Minneapolis

Anna Hillengras, the owner of The Foundry Home Goods in Minneapolis’ up-and-coming North Loop neighborhood, emerges from a tiny door in the wall behind the cash register. She is dusty and largely makeup-free but her milkmaid braid is perfectly imperfect and her casual-cool draped outfit is accessorized and on-point. And she is not just smiling, she is beaming.

“Sorry, I’ve been unpacking shipment all day.”

KP, who let us in (and is the wearer of some incredible bright yellow rubber high-tops), has been chatting with us about the neighborhood and assuring us that it’s fine to “burst in” on Anna—apparently she’ll love it. Ruby, the shop chocolate lab (who has her own Instagram account) is tied up outside, due to an earlier ill-conceived decision to take a stroll around the neighborhood and pop into another shop unannounced. She’s making the most of it though, lounging on the front steps, visiting with passers-by and keeping an eye on the street.

It is now late afternoon and since it’s November, the sun is in the process of setting. It’s unseasonably warm, so the door is wide open and we are all just standing around, shooting the breeze and admiring how the dying rays make everything in this perfectly cozy, expertly curated shop, glow.

Eventually, we get around to asking Anna some interview questions but the conversation has been so natural, so comfortable that it’s hard to tell when the actual interview begins. When Anna begins to tell us her story, however, everything stops—photo-taking, chit-chat, attempting to coerce Ruby into a photo-op, everything.

Anna was born and raised in Minneapolis. Her family owns the building that The Foundry now occupies, which along with other spaces in building, includes Anna’s apartment upstairs. (Given how gorgeous the shop is, we can only imagine her living space.) In her early twenties, after working for a high-end furniture store in Minneapolis, Anna decided to go out into the world to seek her fortune. She landed in New York, at Christie’s Auction House in Manhattan. From there, she went to the Holly Hunt Showroom, a furniture store so prestigious, you have to login to the website to see any product information.

Think, $200,000 sofas. At that price point a certain level of service is expected.

Anna befriended a colleague from South Africa whom she credits with teaching her everything that she ever needed to know about sales. She learned on the floor from a mentor who was skilled and experienced at dealing with the hardest customer of all: the uber-rich. After her time catering to the unimaginably wealthy, Anna decided that as much as she loved what she did, she needed more creative license. She took her imagination, her excellent taste and her newly minted sales expertise and headed back home to Minneapolis, to build The Foundry.

The shop itself is small, just one long room. There is an almost overwhelming amount of inventory, except that it’s not overwhelming at all. It looks as though you’ve walked into the home of that one friend who always manages to find the most expertly crafted, beautifully unique, yet subtle things for every area of their home. It feels less like stocked shelves and more like a collection of lovingly selected items, meant to be used in a life well-lived.

Anna shows us the childhood drawings still etched into the window panes of the century-plus old building while she explains how she felt a pull to come home. The holiness of the space is not just felt through the plush knit throw blankets, neutral palette,  warm, rough-hewn wood and the other-worldly lighting, compliments of a picture perfect autumn evening. It’s felt in the way that Anna and KP interact with each other. “She’s been here since the beginning. She’s like a little sister,” Anna tells us of KP, who celebrated a work anniversary the day before. It’s in how they treat the people who wander in from the sidewalk, or pop their heads in to say hello and give Ruby a scratch behind the ears.

You never feel as though you are shopping at The Foundry, you feel as though you are visiting with old friends or the fun cousins you haven’t seen in a while. They just so happen to have excellent taste and everything in their house is for sale.

 

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