[Reprinted from original]
The Twin Cities last remaining furrier, Ribnick Luxury Outerwear, plans to close its doors in December after 76 years of business.
A fixture in the North Loop, sale signs went up on the windows of the shop at 224 N. First St. in Minneapolis Wednesday and owner Bill Ribnick confirmed that he sold the building, which was purchased by his grandfather Isaac Ribnick in 1945. He said the buyer is not yet ready to make any announcements as to how the prime spot will be used. Ribnick furs actually straddles two buildings–the original two-story structure, which is considered historic, and an adjacent one-story section added on 33 years ago. In total, it’s about 5,000 square feet on a corner of the hottest neighborhood in town.
“I’ve had a lot of offers through the years,” Ribnick said. He was ready to sell pre-Covid to a developer who wanted to put in a boutique hotel, but that plan fell apart during the pandemic. At the other end of the block, the Bachelor Farmer building remains up for sale by owners Eric and Andrew Dayton.
Throughout the pandemic, Ribnick kept on selling and storing furs for its clientele.
Isaac Ribnick started the business as a middleman—buying mink pelts from farmers and selling to manufacturers. His son Burt transitioned into garment sales 50 years ago, and eventually convinced his own son, Bill, to leave grad school—where he was working on an architecture degree—to join the family business. “He said he needed help,” Bill Ribnick recalled. “And here’s a thriving business.” One of Bill’s sons has been helping out at the store, but wasn’t interested in taking over the business.
Ribnick Luxury Outerwear endured as its many boutique competitors went out of business and department stores closed their fur departments. In 2019, Macy’s banned fur from its stores. The retailer joined a growing number of luxury brands to remove real animal fur from production, including Prada, Chanel, and Burberry.
The fur industry, Ribnick included, has pushed back by emphasizing sustainability. “It’s really the most environmentally friendly product there is,” Ribnick said. “Down puffers pollute the air, the water supply and sit in a landfill after you’re done wearing it.”
Ribnick said fur still has its fans—especially in Minnesota, where it can be a practical choice for warmth, not just fashion. Store sales remained healthy even in 2020, Ribnick said. His decision to sell had to do with timing, and his desire to retire. Ribnick is 65.
Aware that his closing the shop ends a retail era, Ribnick is talking to other local retailers about picking up fur sales or at least fur storage services. “I’m trying to convince someone to carry it on,” he said. “This wasn’t an easy decision, but there’s more to life than work.”
Ribnick’s closing sale will run through the end of the year. Store inventory is now 40 to 60 percent off.