MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A lot of us now shop online. But the Twin Cities are on the map for a lot of consumers because of Mall of America. And there’s one woman who has shopped every square inch of it, providing tips and insider info. But you probably will never guess how she got her start on the shopping beat.

Ali Kaplan was literally born into retail. It’s what makes her this week’s Minnesotan to Meet.

“Shopping is such a big part of our culture,” she said.

Kaplan is small in stature. But as take a walk through Mall of America and her enthusiasm for fashion is huge.

“This has really become our calling card. It’s become a laboratory really,” Kaplan said.

Retail has run through her veins since the day she was born.

“My parents met at Dayton’s, I’m truly a product of the Dayton-Hudson corporation,” she said.

Her dad moved from Chicago to be a home trend director, her mom worked in special events.

“She always says he was a markdown on the fifth floor,” she said, with a laugh.

Kaplan followed her mom, Harmony Slater, to fashion shows and watched her work on set of the lifestyle show, PM Magazine, which aired on WCCO in the 70s and 80s.

“I was always in and around it and had weird opportunities to meet like, Boomer the famous dog and Richard Simmons and weird stuff like that,” she said.

Kaplan worked in retail, but after a stint with the Edina High School newspaper, she majored in journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
From there, she got a job at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and later, the Chicago Daily Herald.

“I was asked to cover this beat called Time and Pocket Books and I was like, ‘What is this?’ But it got me off the crime beat and the city council meetings,” Kaplan said.

She was back to her consumer roots. And eventually her hometown, when the Pioneer Press offered her a job. While there, she had a revolutionary idea and brought it to her editor.

“I think we need a Twin Cities online shopping guide and he said, ‘Great idea, we’ll never do it,'” she said.

So she did. In 2006, she launched AliShops.com

Four years ago, she left newspapers for Minneapolis-St. Paul Magazine. That gave her even more resources for consumers with 2,000 store listings.

“I’m one of those few people who can go shop over the lunch hour and say it’s for work, it really is,” she said.

She finds herself at Mall of America nearly every week.

“When you live in Minnesota, we’re very hard on the mall, it’s not cool to like the mall,” she said. “I’m OK with it, I’m OK saying I really dig this place.”

That lead her to tweak her site and add a mobile guide to the mall.

“How to get in, where to park, the best bathrooms, where to have lunch, all the things that make the experience better,” she said.

With her journalism background, Kaplan tells it like it is. Just ask her for shopping advice, she doesn’t hesitate. For example, where is a good place to get a deal right now?

“Nordstrom Rack is amazing. Because we have Nordstrom things really do go right down the hall to Nordstrom Rack,” she said.

Kaplan admits the only person who may out scoop her on shop openings or deals, is her mom.

“My mother was my first editor and will be my last,” she said.

And, as Kaplan found out last week, the shopping legacy may continue with one of her two sons.

“My son for fourth grade started off the year having to write a paper about ‘I am,'” she said. “His was, ‘I am Mall of America.'”

On top of editing Shopping and Style for Minneapolis-St. Paul Magazine, Kaplan hosts a weekly radio show with her mom on MyTalk.

She’s also written for Delta Sky Magazine, Lucky and ShopEtc. She never gets tired of answering questions on trends and where to shop, so if you see her, stop her and ask. She also won best blog on Rumble on the Runway this past weekend.

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