Fire destroys businesses in Lyndale

A large fire at 3345 Nicollet Avenue South destroyed two businesses and put a freshly painted mural in jeopardy Wednesday.

The building was the home of retailer Jojo Urban Clothing and a bakery that was being remodeled as a pizza parlor. A third space was vacant.

A mural depicting the building’s original use as a grocery store was painted on its south side in September. The Kingfield Neighborhood Association (KFNA) and Lyndale Neighborhood Association (LNA) led the mural effort, a precursor to a larger mural event planned for this summer.

Fire broke out in the building around 10:30 a.m., said Minneapolis Fire Department Deputy Chief Jean Kidd, who works out of Station 8 at 2749 Blaisdell Ave. Crews were still fighting the blaze after noon, dousing it from above as thick smoke flooded streets for blocks around the building.

Nicollet Avenue was closed between 33rd and 34th Streets, where two fire trucks and several squad cars were parked.

Kidd said the Fire Department was unsure what started the fire and probably wouldn’t have more information until later in the day. No injuries were reported.

Nearby residents and passersby stood in the bitter cold to watch the fire.

Blaisdell YMCA Director Mike Melstad offered the center, just across the street, as a place for firefighters to warm up.

“I thought they might be getting kind of cold out here,” he said.

LNA Executive Director Mark Hinds, whose office is a few blocks down the street, visited the scene to see how bad it was. He was concerned about losing the building or having it become an eyesore.

“The last thing as a neighborhood we want is a burned out building standing in the neighborhood,” Hinds said. “Especially a building that we invested hundreds of hours in volunteer time and thousands of dollars in putting up a mural to make it look a lot nicer and a lot better.”

If the building ends up being demolished, there is little chance of saving the mural, which is painted directly on the brick wall, Hinds said.

Thomas Coty, who lives just down the block, said he had been staring at the fire for about a half hour.

“I just stepped out of my apartment and looked up and saw this,” he said. “I can’t believe it. I went to the (nearby SuperAmerica) at about five in the morning and none of this was like this.”

Coty said he used to shop at Jojo Urban Clothing, which opened last summer.

“I feel bad,” he said. “I mean look at it.”

Stacy Elkins, co-owner of the store, said over the phone that the fire wouldn’t be the end of the business. Jojo survived several burglaries last summer and fall and was doing well in recent months, she said.

“In my opinion, we’ve been doing really well, so it’s really disappointing to lose (the store),” she said.

She said the store would probably reopen at another location in the area.

“We’d like to stay in that same area and hopefully we’ll be able to take our clientele with us and everyone will find us at our new spot,” she said.

The bakery, called La Princesa, was an operation run by teenager Irvin Perez and his mother, Bulmara Espegel. Perez and Bulmara could not be reached for comment.

Minneapolis firefighters simultaneously battled another fire at 12th Street and Washington Avenue Wednesday.