THOUGH HE CARRIES TWO cellphones, maintains a personal Tumblr blog, and Tweets throughout the day, Christopher Yang likes, he says, “to fly under the radar.” He won’t say where he lives, how old he is, or even his professional title at The Tannery, though he later relents (he’s general manager and a buyer). The most specific personal detail he’ll offer up is his Starbucks order — Venti black tea lemonade — which, actually, is less revealed than overheard.
Young shoppers these days are a mess of contradiction, and part of Yang’s success is understanding, and playing to, that fact. Yang is a Tannery employee but also its quintessential customer, the endlessly plugged-in 18- to 34-year-old who’s interested enough in fashion to spend most of his disposable income on clothing (“My savings is my closet,” Yang says) but way too cool for department stores. Only a few years ago, that customer was too cool for The Tannery, too. For 40 years, the family-run store was known for its apparel and its shoes, which skewed toward the functional: Minnetonka moccasins, Birkenstocks. But in recent years, The Tannery has transformed from practical to a place where you can buy leopard print cashmere and skinny floral denim, as well as, say, a pair of classic penny loafers.