Up from the ashes: clothing store opens storefront at MOA
Local entrepreneur Joyce Sanders recently opened her Urban 29 clothing store at the Mall of America in Bloomington, MN. She describes it as “a premium, luxury streetwear brand” that caters to men and women, ages 18-35 years old.
The U29 brand offers more than unique fashion. There’s also an inspiring backstory.
She shared, “I had a mentor [that] I had about maybe 10 years now. I used to do a lot of vendor shows; I used to do some Sister Spokesman stuff.”
The Sister Spokesman events were sponsored by the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder’s nonprofit and geared toward serving African American women in the community. It is temporarily postponed due to COVID-19 safety concerns.
The vendor shows provided the U29 clothing store with great opportunities to grow, strengthen and establish the brand. Sanders would set up her merchandise for customers to view and purchase apparel and accessories.
She recalled, “I used to have my jewelry, purses—I did that for a long time. Then I started doing events like parties, ladies’ night—I did a lot of vendor stuff at first.” The pop-up clothing store was well-received by customers.
Sanders aspired to expand her business in a major way. She said, “I wanted to own my own store and sell men’s clothing—I wanted to step out on my own.” Her dream came to fruition.
In June 2019, Sanders established the U29 clothing store in South Minneapolis. “Our first location was 804 East Lake Street, I’d say my first real business,” Sanders said. The business was operating smoothly until the unexpected happened.
First came the COVID-19 pandemic, and then civil unrest negatively impacted her livelihood. “We were closed for COVID due to executive order and then when we opened, it was burned down due to the civil unrest [following the murder] of George Floyd, so it was destroyed in that,” Sanders recalled.
Although she experienced trials and tribulations, Sanders persevered through tumultuous times. Fortunately, she received an opportunity to relaunch her clothing enterprise. U29 was selected as one of 16 businesses featured at Mall of America’s Community Commons.
The MOA’s Community Commons storefront opened in October 2019. “The mall has this pop-up. They gave this opportunity for six months and it was a space for 16 businesses in there,” Sanders explained.
The local businesses that occupied the space weren’t charged any rent due to COVID and the civil unrest that business owners experienced.
After Sanders showcased her products for six months at the MOA’s Community Commons, she was presented with another stellar business opportunity: in May 2021, Sanders opened a storefront at the MOA, located on the second floor.
The layout of the new upscale U29 clothing store is inviting and vibrant. Every item is hand-picked by Sanders. When individuals shop at U29, they can expect a variety of trendsetting items to choose from.
U29 offers a selection of luxurious garments that are sourced from various places. Sanders explained, “A lot of luxury brands coming out of Paris—I do carry a lot of Black brands that are popular. I carry a brand out of Miami called Blac Leaf; they were real instrumental to me being able to come into this side of the business.”
Sanders explained the mindset she has in order to be successful. “You have to be focused. You have to be strong. You have to be creative—just can’t give up. Every day is not going to be all roses,” she said.
Being an entrepreneur requires grit, focus, and dedication. Sanders disclosed, “It looks easy, but it’s not easy. It’s work, more hours, less pay, no benefits.” The tradeoff is being independent.
She added, “I did work in corporate America for a long time and I didn’t want to be confined. And my main reason is because I want to build my own dreams, not someone else’s.” Sanders exudes humility and is grateful to live her dream every day.
“Have a dream, have a plan, stay focused, don’t give up!” was Sanders’ advice for future entrepreneurs and the youth. “It’s not all about looking good, you’ve got to put the work in.” She added, “Whatever you believe, you can achieve.”
Urban 29 is currently located at the Mall of America in Bloomington, MN, on the second floor. Store hours are Monday-Thursday 11 am to 9 pm; Friday-Saturday 10 am to 9 pm, and Sunday 11 am to 7 pm.
Note: The upscale U29 clothing brand will also be expanding to new territory in October/November 2021 when customers can expect to see a second location on Dale and University in St. Paul, MN.
Ashley Lauren is a contributing writer at the MN Spokesman-Recorder.