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Simple and modern

This rendering from BHH Partners shows what the exterior of 125 Apparel in downtown Perham will look like upon completion. Submitted photo1 / 2
Aaron Karvonen, seen inside Karvonen's, is planning to open 125 Apparel this summer. Submitted Photo2 / 2

When it came time to name his clothing store, Aaron Karvonen kept it simple. And, just like that, 125 Apparel was born.

"We chose it because we wanted something simple and modern to fit the look of the building after it's remodeled," Karvonen said. "It's not a franchise name or anything like that."

The store, 125 Apparel (pronounced one-twenty-five), has a simple origin, said Karvonen, who also owns Karvonen's and Refreshing Designs in downtown Perham. It's the address of the building.

Karvonen said when Thrifty White closed in downtown Perham in 2016, the business community knew that would have an impact on First Avenue, as well as the surrounding Main Street area, in terms of retail traffic.

"We have always had the opinion that empty stores on Main Street and in the Perham business area in general are not good for the town and other business, so we knew if we came up with a good solution, we would be interested in buying the building," Karvonen said.

Like any good businessman, first he developed a business plan and did some market research. At the end of the day, he said the math added up.

"Clothing is actually a close tie-in to the the furniture business, in terms of the buying cycles and trends are the same. It's all about fabric, style, and different materials," Karvonen said. "To me, they are very similar businesses, slightly different in terms of delivery and logistics from our main business. But, for the most part, the structure and operating model are similar."

Karvonen firmly believes in understanding his market and what customers want.

"Any time a customer shops with us, we've done something right," he said. "That market sensing approach means we have to understand trends, price points and styles."

The new store will offer women's and men's shoes in addition to clothes and will have a focus geared towards working professionals.

"We believe that will be our core customer, and it will also provide casual options for that same person," Karvonen said.

The store plans to have three price points—entry level, mid level and premium offerings.

"We have two real goals with the store—supplement traffic in the First Avenue area and be a really great team player and complement existing options," Karvonen said. "Not overlap, but fill voids and offer items that aren't already offered here."

He sees the new store as a way to help the downtown business community stay vibrant, and he feels that will be achieved in two ways.

The first way is updating the look of the building.

"It's going to be beautiful when it's done and hopefully set the stage for future projects with its modern design," Karvonen said. "Second, with the retail traffic the new store will bring in with what we are offering."

Plans are for the new store to open summer 2018.

Karvonen knows retail can be tough and there are plenty of stories about it not succeeding, but he feels if you get the product right, have good people and the process in place to make sure people succeed, it will go well.

"I love business in general and I feel if you do things right, then you will be successful," Karvonen said.

With a head for business and years of family experience a phone call away, Karvonen has plenty of support. He has sisters who work with him in the current business and one who will be involved in the clothing store.

"It's a great asset to have family that wants to work together and still get along at the end of the day," Karvonen said. "So, the family business legacy continues."

For updates on the project go to