Stretching three miles from Xcel Energy Center to Interstate 35E, West 7th Street in St. Paul has been a commercial node since the city developed. It’s seen good times, rough times and is now in a resurgence.
I recently spent a day there and couldn’t pack it all in. It’s dotted with micro breweries, restaurants, bakeries and coffee shops interspersed with any number of retail opportunities. It’s a great destination shopping street with treasures for everyone.
Here are seven of my favorites:
Sophie Joe’s Emporium
453 W. 7th St.
This large, bustling, 16-year-old store is packed to the rafters with antiques, vintage clothing, collectible jewelry, modern purses and home decor. The 48 dealers fill room after room with a wide assortment of merchandise. Everyone’s friendly and the air is filled with laughter. It feels like a party — or the epitome of retail therapy.
Claddagh Coffee Cafe
459 W. 7th St.
I was skeptical when the barista told me their most popular coffee drink had cayenne pepper in it, but it was a little nippy that day so I gave it a chance. “Hot Molly” did indeed have a kick to it but the pepper’s lingering warmth proved to be a perfect compliment to the strong coffee and warm milk. Mark your calendars for the cafe’s annual Holiday Pop Up Shop on Dec. 9th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Shop from local artists and vendors while enjoying live music and a visit from Santa.
678 W. 7th St.
Leatherwork doesn’t get any finer than this. Though they started out making products for outdoor enthusiasts in 1905, J. W. Hulme’s products have evolved over the years. Their purses, backpacks, briefcases and luggage are all still made right here in St. Paul. The heirloom-quality products are guaranteed for life. Most items in this factory store are big ticket items, but you can still find the occasional deal here, like a product sample, an affordable leather dog leash or other small leather good.
Mt. Simon Aquifer
888 W. 7th St.
How about a cool drink of water for the holidays? Schmidt beer was brewed from water 1,500 feet below the surface in what is called the Mt. Simon Aquifer. The aquifer covers thousands of square miles under five states and is the largest and deepest aquifer in Minnesota. The water came from melting glaciers and is 35,000 years old! Even though beer is no longer brewed there, the well remains. It’s right out in front of the redeveloped property now home to artists. Bring your own containers and slide them in the vending machine. The price is $1 a gallon. Push the button for how many gallons you want then insert cash or credit card. I’m giving water bottles for gifts this year with a special card outlining the well’s history. Send me an email if you want a copy.
937 W. 7th St.
With a large storefront and dedicated gallery space in back, this store is a showcase of regional artists. From leaf-printed silk scarves to sterling silver jewelry to limited-edition poetry chapbooks, there is something here for every creative person on your gift list. Well designed displays are emblematic of the store owners past work in set design and scenic painting. It’s like walking through an artist’s head.
Center for Lost Objects
957 W. 7th St.
The smell of sawdust greeted me at the door to this unusually named unusual store. The proprietor had just finished sawing wood Christmas trees from cast-off fence board she found on her way into the shop that day. Handmade, repurposed, upcycled and vintage goods fill this funky corner storefront. Have fun browsing here or let them assemble a custom gift package for you.
St. Paul Guitar Repair
1101 W. 7th St.
A relative newcomer to the street, this repair shop fixes guitars for amateur and professional musicians. They also sell reconditioned guitars and banjos, some children’s instruments and accessories such as strings, picks and electronic pickups. One of the shop’s owners also makes beautiful custom steel lap guitars with inlay designs in abalone and mother-of-pearl.
These are just a few of the many places to visit on West 7th Street. I’m sure you’ll stumble into your own favorites. Don’t forget to check out the odd, annual, taxidermy nativity scene in the window of Wescott Station, 226 W. 7th St.
Lunch tip: Though it’s technically not on West 7th Street, it’s just a stone’s throw away. Walk back in time with a visit to Waldmann Brewery & Wurstery, 445 Smith Ave. Built of Plattville limestone in 1857, this former saloon is the oldest surviving commercial building in the Twin Cities. Enjoy house-made craft beers and German specialties in an old-world environment.
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