Once-sleepy street experiences retail, restaurant revival
During the past few years, Grand Avenue has seen a dozen new businesses spring up, which has also boosted existing businesses. We’re not talking about St. Paul’s Grand Avenue; the new hot Grand runs through Southwest’s Kingfield and Tangletown neighborhoods.
One formerly slumbering business node — at 38th & Grand — is now being called a regional draw by businesses several blocks away. Another once-sleepy intersection, 48th & Grand, has sprouted colorful retail stores within the past year. Other nodes, at 42nd and 46th, are also looking up.
The 38th & Grand factor
Although there are several reasons for growth, many shop owners say 38th & Grand’s turnaround has been the key.
The most vibrant signs of life are the colorful murals that now decorate the south side of 38th, which were sponsored by the Kingfield Neighborhood Association. The murals form a gateway to a hot new restaurant (Bakery on Grand), a hip gourmet grocery store (Luckygirl) and a place to make dreams come true (Fairy Godmother). That trio replaced a seldom-open bakery, a speaker manufacturer and a T-shirt store, respectively. A neighborhood icon, Victor’s 1959 Caf/, has also recently remodeled its 3756 Grand Ave. location.
Most credit Bakery on Grand as the lynchpin. The 20-month-old restaurant — which mixes Euro hipness with Kingfield flannel — has received nothing but rave reviews. The result: fancier cars bringing fancier people to an already-gentrifying neighborhood.
"They’re coming to Bakery on Grand because of the press," said Terre Thomas, who owns Fairy Godmother, 3801 Grand Ave. "It pulls in people who would never come into this neighborhood — never, never."
Still, Bakery co-owner Jessica Anderson said she and partners Doug Anderson and Keith Poppe also depend on a neighborhood base. "We wanted to concentrate on being a service to the community. That’s why Doug insisted on serving breakfast. When he first said that, I said, ‘What are you, crazy?’"
Such morning competition might have been expected to hurt Victor’s 1959 Caf/, which only serves breakfast and lunch. However, Victor’s co-owner Niki Valens, said the mix between new and established businesses has been symbiotic and crucial to the area’s success. "The businesses are feeding off each other," she said. "Business for us is as good as ever, if not better."
Eight blocks away, one business owner says 38th Street’s revival is lifting all boats.
"People come from all over the state to come to [38th & Grand] — it drags people to Grand Avenue," said Tammy Ortegon, who owns the one-year-old Colorwheel Salon and Art Gallery, 319 W. 46th St.
While the Kingfield corner has been the talk of the business community, other Grand Avenue business owners say it’s residents’ support for unique, artsy shops that’s kept them afloat.
Most Grand Avenue business owners said a major reason they chose Grand Avenue is to be close to their home. But the street’s revival may have as much to do with rapidly improving neighborhood demographics.
Like many city neighborhoods, Lyndale, Kingfield and Tangletown have all seen an influx of families and residents with disposable income in the past decade.
Said Anderson, "We wanted specifically [to target this] neighborhood and South Minneapolis. I felt Kingfield would be receptive to the restaurant — an arts-educated community and young families, people who had traveled and people that were interested in investing in their community, having a walkable neighborhood service."
Ortegon, now a Kingfield resident, said she chose a Grand Avenue because she’d worked at a salon on 46th & Nicollet Avenue and really liked the area. She said she felt the neighborhood had enough pedestrian traffic to support a business such as hers that depends on walk-by traffic.
Grand Avenue could be called a compromise between a major artery like Nicollet and a quieter residential street. In its day, Grand was a streetcar line, which is why most of the business nodes exist; Grand remains a bus route, although a lightly used one.
Dave Hill, owner of Carlson Cycle, 316 W. 48th St., cites this balance for choosing his Tangletown location. He said he likes the calmer streets, pedestrian traffic and small-town feel.
Hill said he opened the shop one year ago and business has been much better than expected. He attributes the success to neighborhood support of small businesses, noting the staying power of the locally owned Guse Hardware, 4602 Bryant Ave. S., against the Home Depot chain.
Like the larger corporate malls, many Grand Avenue business owners say symbiosis is helping them succeed.
Kingfield resident Tammy Mulvehill, new owner of Caff/ Tempo, 4161 Grand Ave., took over the coffee shop with her husband in January. She says the businesses rely on each other, offering coffee and gift browsing all in the same corner.
Dave Osterberg, owner of Remnants, 4754 Grand Ave., moved from 42nd & Grand after five years last March.
He said he stayed on Grand Avenue because he has many customers who live nearby. Also, the area has art and d/cor businesses nearby that draw more customers for everyone, Osterberg said.
Laurie Lausen, owner of The Wooly Red Rug, 4750 Grand Ave., said she knew the Tangletown business node was a good location because it has other art-related shops, such as the nearby art gallery and framing store, offering an artsy customer more places to stop and shop on the same corner.
Still, Grand Avenue merchants have their wish lists. Ortegon said she’d like to have a fuller-service grocery story close to her 46th Street location, while those at 46th and 48th streets want coffee shops similar to the ones gracing 38th and 42nd.