When Liz Murphy was looking to open her own antique shop after working for years as a dealer at the Missouri Mouse on St. Paul's Selby Avenue, it made perfect sense to move into a small brick building less than a half-mile away.
Consider it synergy. In a neighborhood becoming increasingly known for antiques stores and boutiques featuring vintage clothing and home furnishings, Murphy's tiny shop fits right in. This stretch of Selby between Snelling and Fairview avenues has been transformed into an antiques alley.
"It feels a little like a Hallmark Channel," said Murphy, who opened Betty's Antiques in May. "Walking into my shop is kind of like walking into a charming little shop in another country."
The neighborhood didn't start that way. For decades, the Selby and Snelling avenues intersection was home to such urban staples as a sporting goods store, an auto parts shop, a massive bank and a heating and cooling business.
But as several of those community anchors moved away, Selby's old brick buildings began attracting new businesses with their reasonable rents and proximity to the classic homes on nearby Summit Avenue and in the Macalester-Groveland and Merriam Park neighborhoods.
That transformation continues, said Megan McGuire, owner of Up Six Vintage on Snelling.
"Maybe it was a happy accident. But as more stores like this opened, more came," McGuire said of the shop she opened in 22 years ago.
It became so appealing — it's location and its growing cadre of like businesses — that when her lease was up seven years ago, McGuire moved just a few blocks away.
"It was a neighborhood where we'd been established 15 years. I just didn't know anywhere else," she said. "So many of us [business owners] have all become friends. We want to be a destination for everyone to come and spend the day."
Betty's Antiques adds to the vibe of the enclave "100 percent," McGuire said.
Brian Smith, owner of Eastwood Gallery, moved to the area four years ago after having a shop for years on Randolph Avenue a couple miles south. He said moving to Selby and Fairview made perfect marketing sense for his shop, which specializes in mission to mid-century modern art and furniture.
"We wanted this, just the proximity to all these other antique shops around here. To be surrounded by other businesses like ours," Smith said. "Yet, we're not identical. We all kind of do our own thing. ... There really is nothing like it in St. Paul."
Leah Timberlake Sullivan, executive director of the Union Park District Council, credits the Snelling-Selby Area Business Association for helping create Selby's pulling-together vibe.
"They are really very good at bringing visibility to the area," she said.
Another factor helping to foster the grouping of vintage businesses is the residents of the Union Park neighborhood, Timberlake Sullivan said.
"They are committed to supporting things within walking distance of their houses," she said, adding that the district council is doubling down on collaboration and has just launched a survey asking Union Park's businesses how the district council can support them better.
Before becoming a dealer at the Missouri Mouse, which houses dozens of vendors, Murphy spent 20 years working in corporate America. Betty's Antiques, named for her grandmother, opened in a 1930s building that once housed a diaper service. It's her first shop.
Murphy likes to call her store "not too Victorian and not too modern." One of the unique collections she offers is antique dollhouse furniture — as well as a case of tiny writing desks with miniature stationery, fountain pens and daguerreotypes.
Murphy said she loves the camaraderie and feeling of community that have been forged in the area. Betty's Antiques has already joined forces with several other businesses on joint marketing, such as putting plants from a garden store into vases bought at Betty's. Or having a tea party hosted by a neighborhood tea shop using antique teacups.
"The sense of community in this little pocket of St. Paul is amazing," Murphy said.