Consignment shop building once housed well-known furrier

As the years pass, it's likely that your home decor has taken on an assortment of styles. For some, those styles span more than 70 years. From color and brightness of the '50s to the clean lines from the '60s, each style represents something from nearly every era of our lives.

In 1949, the Furs by Francis shop in Winona made, altered and sold fur coats, hats, gloves and most anything that could be made from pelts. Francis Losinski, who founded the fur shop, first worked with fur at Winona’s former Conrad Fur Co.

The garments made at Furs by Francis were symbols of high class, with mink jackets made for winners of Miss Minnesota pageants and coyote vests for Ragnar, the Minnesota Vikings mascot.

Renae Ahrens, owner of Inside the Vault, a consignment shop in Winona, currently runs her business in the former Furs by Francis shop. She says the building is a sound structure that was once symbol of distinction in downtown Winona.

"I wanted the building because the layout was attractive to me," Ahrens says. "The windows were a huge draw for me as well."


"Furs by Francis was always known for their wonderful window displays, so I am hoping to carry on the tradition," she adds.

The inspiration behind the name of her shop comes from a working vault in the building. Underneath a catwalk lies a vast concrete room lined with bars from which fur coats once hung. The display cases and many of the mannequins at the shop are also from the original Furs by Francis store.

Ahrens opened her shop in February. While she does carry some antique and collectible items, she says her goal is to have unique items that catch the eye.

"I have a huge love for mid-century and retro items. I am always looking for things from that era," she says.

The nostalgia of this building is what makes this shop so unique, Ahrens says. She's currently working to turn the vault in retail space so customers can walk inside it.

"We are maintaining the authenticity of how it looks and I think people will get a kick of being able to see inside what used to be locked and private for years," she says. "Who doesn't want to see what’s inside a vault?"

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