Showcasing the Lyn-Lake district

Business owners showing off the district's character

Morgan Luzier and Josh Wilken-Simon are leading an effort to promote the Lyn-Lake business district.

Hundreds of people participated in the Love from LynLake game in March for the chance to win prizes from businesses in the district.

This summer, several area business owners are planning another effort to increase their district’s visibility.

The group is planning a street fair-style series of events called the Lyn Lake Street Art Series, the first of which is June 15–17. The event will feature food, music and artists creating an outdoor mural in real time.

“It’s amazing to see the process of a mural being created,” said Morgan Luzier, owner of Balance Fitness Studio located at 29th & Garfield. She added that she hopes that people check out the art, see what else the district has to offer and come back periodically to see the progress the artists are making.

The first artist series event will come three months after Luzier and other business owners launched the Love from LynLake game. Participants stopped into different businesses in the district and completed challenges, such as doing a pushup at Luzier’s studio. They marked completed challenges on bingo-style game cards and were eligible for prizes when their cards had certain sequences.

Luzier said about 60 Lyn-Lake businesses participated in the game, noting a goal of touching every business in the commercial district. She said generating that level of participation took a lot of work and often required personal visits to the stores.

“We were proud that we pulled the damn thing off,” she said.

The Love from LynLake game came out of an informal committee that Luzier, Josh Wilken-Simon and Jill Bernard started earlier this year. Wilken-Simon is new to the district, having opened a second location of his art gallery and tobacco shop, Legacy Glassworks, at the Lake & Lyndale intersection this past December. Bernard is education director of HUGE Improv Theater down the street.

Wilken-Simon said he loves the independent spirit of the Lyn-Lake district but added that it also can be an Achilles heel. He said he asked why business owners weren’t pulling their talents together to give Lyn-Lake an identity.

Wilken-Simon and Luzier noted how the district is known for its many bars and restaurants. But they said they want to encourage people to come to the district at all times, noting its theaters, art galleries, retail fitness studios and more.

Lyn-Lake, which spans portions of the Lowry Hill East, Whittier, CARAG and Lyndale neighborhoods, developed as a commercial corridor in the late 1800s as the Lyndale & Lake intersection became a major streetcar transfer point. Today, its borders include Franklin Avenue to the north, 36th to the south and Blaisdell and Dupont avenues to the east and west, respectively.

Murals line public buildings in the Lyn-Lake business district, including this one of Donald Duck on a building near 29th & Garfield.
Murals line public buildings in the Lyn-Lake business district, including this one of Donald Duck on a building near 29th & Garfield.

Efforts in Duluth

Wilken-Simon said he saw how a business association could help revitalize a city after opening his first studio in 2010 in Duluth. He said downtown Duluth used to not be a place people went to, but that it changed because of efforts from Duluth’s Greater Downtown Council.

“It really spurred a new downtown,” he said.

Luzier and Wilken-Simon said their goal in Lyn-Lake is to promote existing businesses and incubate new businesses while maintaining the unique cultural identity of the district. Luzier added that they want to make sure that new development matches what is already in the district.

“I think what we’re really trying to do is make a great place,” she said.

She said she aspires for the LynLake Business Association to be in a position in which it can hire a staff person to promote its efforts. She stressed that she doesn’t want people to confuse the Lyn-Lake district with Uptown, noting the big-box commercial nature of the Uptown.

“Independents cannot afford to rent there,” she said, adding that the Lyn-Lake district wants to be a bridge between Uptown and Eat Street.

John Meegan, board chair of the LynLake Business Association, said he thinks the effort the business owners made to promote the district with the game was fantastic.

“The concept was so powerful,” said Meegan, who owns Top Shelf, a men’s clothing store near 31st & Lyndale.

Meegan said the businesses got excellent feedback from consumers who played the game, some of whom made a day out of it. He said patrons gave a concise rundown of which businesses at which they had the most fun.

“We can do a better job, but it was still a fabulous concept, and I’m sure we’re going to do it again,” Meegan said.

Meegan said the LynLake Business Association is in the process of redoing its website, noting new maps that will allow people to see the locations of the different businesses. He said it used to bother him that Uptown seemed to be annexing the Lyn-Lake district but noted efforts to establish the independence of the district.

“Now it seems like people are proud to say, ‘Lyn-Lake,'” he said.