Retail and Co-Working Space Third Haus Brings Innovation to Minneapolis

Ivana V. Image
ByIvana V.
August 30,2019
The newly opened co-working hub in the Linden Hills neighborhood in Minneapolis provides a place for retailers to gather, share ideas, and experiment with new concepts.

Twin Cities have always been the epicenter of U.S. retail. Target, Mall of America, Best Buy, and General Mills are great examples of retail giants who have situated their headquarters in this metropolitan area. Apart from these big players who employ thousands of retail experts, the city is also filled with a number of independent marketing, PR, and design consultancy companies who support the industry.

Aware of the fact that the city is bustling with great minds from the retail business but lacking a collaborative space where these people can come together and share their thoughts and ideas, Chris Walton and Anne Mezzenga come up with a business plan.

These two former colleagues from Target had worked together a few years before on the ‘Store of the Future’ project. However, Target CEO Brian Cornell decided to abandon the project, which resulted in both Walton and Mezzenga leaving the company.

After their departure from Target, the duo started their own retail blog and podcast called Omni Talk. It’s an online space where Walton and Mezzenga write and talk about retail news, focusing on innovation in the industry.

Passionate about retail and eager to exchange creative ideas with others in the business, after leaving target Walton found himself spending a lot of time at where he would meet with other retail experts. Anne Mezzenga was doing the same. This is how the notion of creating a retail hub came to be.

“It was like, well, wait a minute, why isn’t there a place to go if you’re interested in retail where you can meet people and then you might bump into other people, too? Especially when retail is such a pulse of Minneapolis,” Walton told the Star Tribune.

They teamed up with Xenia Retail, a point-of-sale technology company based in Minneapolis, and launched Third Haus. Troy Stelzer, the CEO of Xenia, had collaborated with Mezzenga and Walton on Target’s ‘Store of the Future’ project. Stelzer also wanted to create a space where Xenia Retail could continue to develop ideas and showcase the company’s capabilities.

“We spent the better part of a year interviewing and selecting potential partners for Third Haus,” Xenia CEO said. “Most are complementary to our platform. But some have aspects that are competitive to Xenia. We have to be OK with that and understand the friction makes us both better.”

Located in the Linden Hills neighborhood, the newly opened Third Haus spreads out on 8,000 square feet and is probably the first co-working hub devoted entirely to retail. It’s got the typical characteristics of a shared working space such as large white tables equipped with outlets, coffee stations, a printer, and plants hanging from the ceiling.

But what makes Third Haus unique is the lab where retailers can go and test their ideas. Brands, tech startups and retailers of all sizes can come to the “Retail Experience Studio” and find display tables, mannequins, and other fixtures at their disposal, which they can use to experiment. The lab is designed to give retailers a fresh perspective on how to roll out innovative concepts at their brick-and-mortar stores.

Third Haus offers its members an opportunity to test the latest gadgets intended for retailers such as internet-connected lighting, donated by Philips, that senses when a consumer is near a certain product. Xenia’s mobile-checkout and scan-and-go technology are also available for a test try.

Mezzenga and Walton have moved their recording studio to the Linden Hill location and now create their Omni Talk podcast there. Xenia Retail employees also work from Third Haus full-time now.

Members who want to be a part of this collaborative community can choose from three monthly membership options ranging from $15 to $200 a month.

About the author

Ivana is a staff writer at SmallBizGenius. Her interests during office hours include writing about small businesses, start-ups, and retail. When the weekend comes, you can find her hiking in nature, hanging off of a cliff or dancing salsa.

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