An iconic downtown shop is expanding its footprint in Rochester’s subway with new stores-within-a-store for shoes and luggage.

Owner Lisa Ihrke says her ELL Boutiques store under the Marriott hotel is taking over part of the former Weber & Judd drug store as well as the former Scrub Your Butt Soap shop.

“We’re more than doubling our space. … It will be one big store,” she said. “It’s kind of a godsend.”

There is a lot of work to be done yet, as the current ELL space will be upgraded with “a whole new look” as a portion of the Weber & Judd space is transformed into a mini-store called Shoes Down Under as well as a Tumi Luggage store-within-a-store under the ELL Boutiques umbrella. The ex-Scrub Your Butt storefront will be turned into a storage room for the Shoes Down Under.

The Shoes Down Under portion of the shop will share the ex-drug store space with a coming Saladworks eatery.

Ihrke hopes to have all of the construction wrapped up on her expanded boutique by late June or early July.

The entrance to her store will temporarily be moved while the work is underway. The temporary entrance will be at the ex-drug store door by the Marriott escalators.

Part of the reason driving the creation of Shoes Down Under is the closing of landmark O&B Shoes in downtown Rochester last year.

Ihrke, who has a good relationship with Don Hadley and the former O&B crew, says many shoppers lost the choice of many shoe brands with that closure.

She has picked up the license for many of the brands O&B carried, including Sorel, L’Artiste and Rieker.

While Ihrke’s business is growing in the subway, her ELL Boutiques store on the second floor of the nearby Shops at University Square mall will continue to operate as usual.

She has a team of 15 employees staffing the two downtown stores.

Jeff Kiger tracks business action in Rochester and southeastern Minnesota every day in Heard on the Street. Send tips to, or via Twitter to @whereskiger. You can call him at 285-7798.

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Jeff has worked at newspapers as a reporter, columnist, editor, photographer and copy editor since 1992. He started at the Post Bulletin in 1999. Kiger is the PB's business reporter and writes a daily column, "Heard on the Street."

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