TANGLETOWN — Jane Elias never thought to visit the corner of 48th Street & Nicollet Avenue when she lived a half-dozen blocks away five years ago.
There just wasn’t much there.
“We never came to this area because there were no businesses,” she said.
Now, five years later, she’s the intersection’s loudest cheerleader. Her art studio, Simply Jane, is among 13 new businesses that have transformed the little-known intersection during the past two years. Elias organized an event called “Spotlight on 48th & Nicollet” in late August to spread the word about the intersection’s rebirth and change the community’s perception about the corner.
“People drive by 15 times before they stop in and say what is this?” Elias said. “Even the neighbors, it takes them a while because they’re so used to not seeing anything here. So it’s kind of like we really need a spotlight on this area to show that we’re here.”
Boom to bust and back again
Tangletown historian and lifelong resident Tom Balcom said 48th & Nicollet was a traditional streetcar and bus line intersection in the 1950s and 1960s. And it was home to a popular drug store.
“It was a pretty lively intersection back in those days,” he said.
The corner changed significantly in the 1970s and 1980s, Balcom said, when people started moving to the suburbs and independent retailers started going out of business in the face of competition from larger companies.
Some companies survived, such as intersection veteran New Central Auto Body, but for many years, community members didn’t take much notice of the corner. Crime at the corner gas station, which has since changed ownership, made business extra difficult in the area, Balcom said.
“Now it seems like it’s turning around again and there are some retail shops coming back in and you’re seeing more people and it’s becoming a livelier, more neighborhood oriented intersection again,” Balcom said.
The growing popularity of living in the city and residents’ desire to have businesses and other amenities nearby has helped drive the change.
“I think it is evidence of revitalization in inner-city Minneapolis,” Balcom said. “You’re seeing a lot of old business corners become trendy restaurants and some coffee shops — revitalizing the storefronts.”
Balcom said the Tangletown Neighborhood Association, which he works for, hopes to invest in the corner and other sections of Nicollet that need a revamp.
Matt Perry, president of the Nicollet-East Harriet Business Association, said the organization extended its boundaries recently to include the new businesses at 48th & Nicollet. He said because it is “in vogue” now to bike or walk rather than drive, neighborhood business nodes are thriving.
Perry said the diversity of businesses at 48th & Nicollet makes them destinations for customers and the early success of many
of them should benefit the corner as a whole.
“Success breeds success,” he said.
A corner with potential
In recent years, a dry cleaning business that occupied a large section of the intersection on Nicollet closed and the building that housed it was remodeled to include six storefronts.
Shannon Leavitt, owner of fitness center YogaLift, was the first to occupy one of those spaces.
“I thought this had potential,” she said standing in front of
her business during the spotlight event in August.
After about two years, business has been good and it’s growing — slowly, Leavitt said.
What happened more quickly was the burst of new businesses around her. Simply Jane moved in nearby, as did East 42nd Street Salon and game shop Tower Games.
New businesses moved in across the street, too, including Red Cricket Acupuncture, which opened last April. Owner Joi Thomas said she was attracted to the storefront.
“I like being on Nicollet Avenue because its busy, but it’s not crazy busy,” she said. “Having a practice where we need to work with our patients and interact with our patients, we need to have some quiet. There’s enough traffic so people can see us but not enough that it can interfere with the treatments.”
Thomas said she also felt the community was receptive and open-minded about her practice.
Mary Zelner, who also works at Red Cricket Acupuncture, said the area has good energy and is always in motion.
That was evident at the spotlight event, when dance instructors from Let’s Dance Tonight put on a traffic-stopping show outside the business. Studio owner Sarah Lobely moved to the corner from Roseville, Minn., in February of this year.
“I believe Minneapolis is a happening place, this is a great corner and a great area,” she said. “I think the visibility helps.”
Spreading the word
Tangletown residents and other area community members are still getting to know the new businesses at 48th & Nicollet.
What drew me here tonight is that I will drive from 50th up to 42nd on my way home and I keep going by and there’s so much here,” said Elaine Bell, who lives in the Standish neighborhood in South Minneapolis and was walking the corner at the August event. “So I keep thinking I’ve got to stop there sometime and see what’s here.”
Candace Cobb, who has lived at 46th & Nicollet for a little more than a year, said she’s seen the corner change quite a bit in that time. She recently scheduled a birthday party for her 7-year-old daughter at Simply Jane, a business she thinks she’ll be spending more time at.
Elias, who now lives in Linden Hills and bikes to work, wants the corner to become a community hub. She and the other newcomers to the corner handed out coupon books in August to get customers in the doors.
“We hope that people come back and use their coupon books and fall in love with all the businesses and keep coming here,” she said. “We’re still just getting the word out.”
Reach Jake Weyer at 436-4367 or [email protected].
NEW TO 48TH & NICOLLET:
4807 Nicollet Ave. S.
4303 Nicollet Ave. S.
Simply Jane Studio
4801 Nicollet Ave. S.
East 42nd Street Salon
4805 Nicollet Ave. S.
Ahrens Exercise Physiology
4808 Nicollet Ave. S.
Red Cricket Acupuncture
4848 Nicollet Ave. S.
4743 Nicollet Ave. S.
Osvold Chiropractic Services and Becky Parkin Massage
4811 Nicollet Ave. S.
821-9770 and 423-9272
A&A Gas N More
4751 Nicollet Ave. S.
4747 Nicollet Ave. S.
Let’s Dance Tonight
4748 Nicollet Ave. S.
4810 Nicollet Ave. S.