Selling Selby

Business trio finds plenty of reasons to celebrate customers, local artists and each other.
Molly Black, owner of Gem Salon and Spa

Sometimes less is more, especially during holiday gift-buying jaunts. While shopping malls have their place in the retail landscape, stores with overly culled merchandise might cause shoppers to come down with troublesome cases of retail ennui. There’s an antidote. Three venues, smartly tucked into 526 Selby Ave., each offer unique experiences—and together, they provide shoppers and clients with carefully curated items and thoughtful service blanketed in warmth.

Naked Ninas Nutrient Bar


Forget what’s in the juice or smoothies. There’s something in the air at Naked Nina’s that makes shoulders relax and thoughts clear. The ambiance gently offers an oasis of calm and attention to health and wellness. With 13 concoctions featuring the likes of beets, carrots, kale, cranberries, pumpkin juice and spinach; apples, berries, mangos and pineapples; and ginger, lavender, sea salt, turmeric and more, there are mixes to meet every craving. The ingredients vary by season and are purchased locally.

Espresso and tea lists and kombucha on tap join raw foods, including salads such as Naked Nina’s kale salad, featuring snow peas, scallions, carrots, cilantro, kale, red cabbage, fennel, red bell pepper and black sesame seeds served with peanut ginger dressing; and desserts—the avocado chocolate pudding is tagged as Naked Nina’s version of pudding snack-packs. The difference? This incarnation is health-minded and crowned with cinnamon and coconut flakes.

In addition to eat-in or take-out options, Naked Nina’s offers a selection of sundries. “What comes to my heart regarding the best part about our products is the fact that we offer an array of products for self-care, and juicing is about self-care, but we go beyond that by offering a space for entrepreneurs to venture out and expend their own creative ventures into the community and in turn build their own self-worth,” Kristin Thompson, ordering manager, says. “This makes us different from your regular juice bar. This makes us unique and such a welcoming space. We are building up the community. We empower our customers to take care and love themselves, and we also empower businesses, by selling their products or by going out and being a part of what they are about in the community.”

Opened in January, Naked Nina’s is an extension of Nina’s Coffee Café, just down the block at 1651 Western Ave. “As I aged, the passion for health became really important,” owner June Berkowitz explains. With a focus pinpointed on healthier beverages and fare, Berkowitz says Naked Nina’s is drawing in a broad range of customers, including the younger set. “I am so surprised at the number of parents who are bringing children in,” she says. Berkowitz notes that the staff is excited to share its knowledge with customers, calling it a “very authentic promotion” of Naked Nina’s lineup since, as she says, the staff appreciates the health benefits of the products.

While Berkowitz is the sole owner of Naked Nina’s, she doesn’t feel like she’s on her own. “I don’t feel that way when I’m in a building with other women [business owners], who are supporting each other,” she says. Of the Selby area, Berkowitz says, “It’s growing. It’s changing. It’s evolving.” Admittedly, vacant storefronts can be cause for a bit of consternation, but she is pleased with the addition of new venues, including Revival restaurant at 515 Selby Ave., and considers the tide has turned for the better. “We want it to be right and good, and sometimes that takes patience,” Berkowitz says. “It’s exciting to see sustainability,” pointing to Selby Avenue mainstays W.A. Frost and Co. and Moscow on the Hill.

Get the Goods:

There is more to love at Naked Nina’s, including transformative Moon Juice Dusts, plant-sourced formulas with organic and wild herbs, adaptogenic plants and bioactive minerals. The dusts add a boost to juices, smoothies and lattes and are available behind the bar or to bring home. $30, with sachets available for $2.50.

Sewjourngear handcrafted bags by Kody Hamel can be used as satchels, adventure bags and everyday use. Naked Nina’s is the first outpost for Hamel’s creations. $65-$100




It’s abundantly clear that Corazon owner Susan Zdon puts her heart and soul into her shop. Her enthusiasm is palpable and reflects her eclectic merchandising sensibilities. Shelves showcase books, cards, clothing, gifts, home goods, jewelry and stationery, among other must-haves for gifts (for others or for yourself). The name of the store, Spanish for “heart,” even reflects one of Zdon’s personal good luck talismans—heart-shaped stones.

Shoppers will notice that Corazon now features a shop within a shop, with the addition of Faribault Woolen Mills merchandise. Zdon is pleased to be the only local retailer showcasing the entire line. “I am so thrilled that I can hardly believe it,” she says. In addition to featuring Faribault’s full line, special orders will also be available.

Zdon has her eye on developing another portion of the store with the addition of a decidedly more masculine section. Between 35 and 40 percent of her clientele is men, so it makes a lot of sense. “They seem to be always curious about what we’re doing,” she says, noting men are drawn to writing accoutrements, including creative stationery products.

Zdon is a veteran business owner, with another successful Corazon location on East Lake Street in Minneapolis. More significant is that she’s no stranger to Saint Paul, having grown up in the city. She’s watched from far and near the transformation of Selby Avenue and beyond, and is encouraged as other business owners recognize the value of the area. “We’ve become this ‘perfect storm’ destination,” she says. “I think it’s up and coming.” Zdon points out that those new to the area should realize that Saint Paulites value tradition and a standard of quality. What’s interesting about Saint Paul residents is they really want to know local owners, she says, noting shop owners stressed to her the importance of acquainting herself with the business community and the residents, which she is pleased to do. “I really believe in this community,” she says. “I think it’s going to be great.”

Get the Goods:

Perfect for the kitchen to hold spices on a dresser or bedside table for treasured whatnots, Sweet Pinch pots from artist Lindsay Keating come in two sizes and assorted colors. $20-$34

From LeatherWorks, the cowboy wallet, paired with a leather toothpick holder, is big on style and can fit in front or back pockets. $25.95 and $6.95

Twin Cities-lovers can cozy up in a Faribault Woolen Mills blanket, featuring a Twin Cities map replica from 1913. The black-and-white throw is 85 percent merino wool and 15 percent cotton. $90-$180


Gem Salon and Spa

As the area along Selby Avenue continues to evolve, so too has the former FiveTwoSix Salon, which has been rebranded as Gem Salon and Spa. The full-service salon, featuring eight stylists, is “a hidden gem in the neighborhood,” says Jada Breuer, manager. Clients don’t expect to walk back into the rear of the building and discover an expansive space, filled with natural light and elegant décor. “It’s a cool but not pretentious feel,” Breuer says. The salon also added pedicure chairs and treatment rooms for facials and waxing treatments.

Owner Molly Black took over the helm of the salon in 2015. The salon’s previous incarnation had been a fixture in the Cathedral Hill neighborhood. Black, a mother of four, has more than 20 years of experience in the industry and a purposeful eye on the future of the salon. “She is striving to refine what it means to be beautiful,” Olivia Black says of her mother, Molly. Her goal, says Olivia “is always to find and refine the style that best reflects who you are—authentic, unique and beautiful.”

The success of Gem not only rests on Black and the staff but with the health of the neighborhood. Breuer is optimistic. “In the last two years, there’s been so many good things happening,” she says, noting the addition of new businesses and the commitment of veteran business owners to stand firm with the area. The area, known for its historic nature, draws in a residential population, devoted to preserving the neighborhood’s architectural past and essence. “That in itself lends an East Coast vibe,” Breuer says.

Get the Goods:

Perfect for going from day to night or from the office to the office party, Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray is an invisible product that encourages volume and sexy texture. $42

Need to ramp up your hair vibe? Bumble and Bumble Brilliantine gives hair polish and that languid, slept-in look. $24

R+Co Park Ave Blow Out Balm creates great looking blowouts and is free of parabens and sulfates. The balm is vegan and cruelty- and gluten-free. $28