Biz buzz

JP American Bistro closes

JP American Bistro restaurant shut its doors in late September for the last time after five-and-a-half years in business.

Owner JP Samuelson said he finally gave in to “a perfect storm” of struggles — the economy, rising property taxes, slow holiday seasons, and, of course, ongoing Lake Street construction.

“At some point, you have to make that decision, painful as it is,” he said. “We had great employees, great customers, a great neighborhood … but at some point you have to cut your losses.

“I believed in it longer than I should have.”

Samuelson said he’ll do some teaching and catering while he figures out what to do next.

Before Samuelson opened the bistro at 2937 Lyndale Ave. S. with his wife, Cheryl, the Lyndale resident was the executive chef for D’Amico Cucina, and prior to that worked for acclaimed restaurants and chefs in New York City.

Contract post office – 28th & Blaisdell

Tired of the occasional out-the-door lines at the Lake Street post office at 31st Street & 1st Avenue? Head to 2746 Blaisdell Ave., where a new office opened earlier this year in the Los Amigos Supermercado.

It’s a contract office, which basically means a full-service post office inside an existing retail business. It’s staffed by store employees, not postal workers, but keeps longer hours and is open weekends.

The office opened in April as a way to alleviate growing traffic at the Lake Street office. It largely operated under the radar until last month, when it celebrated its grand opening.

“It’s a real nice thing to have in the neighborhood,” said USPS spokesman Peter Nowacki. “It gives us another outlet without having to put up a full-blown post office somewhere.”

Employees at the new office speak Spanish to better serve the neighborhood’s large Hispanic clientele, Nowacki said.

The Blaisdell office is open 10 a.m.–8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Saturdays, and noon–5 p.m. Sundays.

Kitchen Window – Hennepin & Lake

Kitchen Window, the Uptown supply store for all things cooking and entertaining, has signed a new 10-year lease on its Calhoun Square space.

“It is a real milestone and solidifies our opportunity to expand our business and the level of service we provide to our customers,” said Kitchen Window president Doug Huemoeller in a release. “We have been a part of this wonderful neighborhood for a long time.”

Calhoun Square is in the midst of a massive two-year renovation intended to revitalize the mall’s interior and exterior aesthetics and draw additional visitors. Construction continues on the parking ramp, and crews plan to begin some demolition work this month.

Calhoun Square has already confirmed leases for other current and new retailers, including an LA Fitness sports club, which plans to anchor the mall’s second floor.

For more information and updates on Calhoun Square, visit www.calhounsquare.com.

Café Agri – 43rd & Bryant

Café Agri, the all-organic restaurant at 4300 Bryant Ave. S., opened a new addition this month that nearly doubles the size of the restaurant.

Café Agri co-owner Fabrizio Ciccone said the 24-seat room was planned in response to a growing customer base for the restaurant, which opened this summer.

The room features hand-brushed graffiti artwork by young South Minneapolis artists. The graffiti reproduces scenes of Italian agritourism (where people tour working farms, pick their own produce and learn about agriculture), one of the restaurant’s main inspirations.

Biz buzz

54TH & PENN

Popular restaurant and wine bar Café Maude at 54th Street and Penn Avenue in Armatage is getting closer to opening a restaurant for large groups across the street in the former Marlys Beauty Salon space.

The Armatage Room, at 5416 Penn Ave., is set to open the first week in November, said Kevin Sheehy, owner of Café Maude.  

The room is a response to demand for large-group-style corporate dinners as well as wedding receptions and private parties. The 11,050-square-foot restaurant will seat as many as 32, but the minimum number of people needed to make a reservation is yet to be determined, Sheehy said.

The group menu features creations by Café Maude’s chef and includes a choice of five-or-eight-course meals with multiple meat or vegetarian options. When large party reservations have not been made, the Armatage Room will be open to the public with a small-plate menu and a wine and beer list.

Prices to rent out the restaurant are still to be determined and will depend on the number of people and the menu choices for each plate, Sheehy said.

The Armatage Room will be open Tuesday–Thursday from 5–10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday until midnight.

More information can be found at www.armatageroom.com and a link to it will also be placed at www.cafemaude.com. Reservations for The Armatage Room need to be made at least two weeks in advance at their website, which will go live at the end of September, Sheehy said. The website will include everything from directions to the restaurant, the menu and booking information.  Reservations are not being accepted yet, but bookings will start soon.

For more information, call Café Maude at 822-5411.    

LAKE & HOLMES

The last of three developers interested in building a hotel in Uptown has abandoned his project and now plans to build an apartment complex.

Curt Gunsbury, the man behind Hotel Uptown — a six-story hotel on Holmes Avenue between Lake and 31st streets that the city approved last year — said he now plans to build a 60-unit apartment complex with ground-floor retail and office space.

The building’s features will include solar-power-heated water, LED lighting, rain barrels, sustainable materials, and other environmentally friendly amenities.

“It’s a very green project, through and through,” Gunsbury said.

Gunsbury said he’d call the building Solhem, which translates as “Home of the Sun” and is named after his ancestral family’s retreat in Sweden.

Crews plan to demolish the site in early October for preparation for construction. Gunsbury said the building could open as early as summer 2009.

Gunsbury’s revised plans come on the heels of two other developers abandoning plans for hotels in the neighborhood. The Ackerberg Group had planned a 140-room hotel as part of the Mozaic project at Lagoon and Fremont Avenues, and Greco Real Estate Development had planned a 100-room hotel in the Lyn-Lake area.

Both developers pulled out, citing different combinations of struggles ranging from finding available space to the collapse of the local condominium market and other factors.

25TH & HENNEPIN

The Kowalski’s grocery store, at 2440 Hennepin Ave., may start selling wine and other alcoholic libations next year as part of the local company’s plan to add small liquor stores to its nine Twin Cities locations.

The company will test-market the plan with its new Eagan store, scheduled to open next month. It hasn’t set a timeframe for adding to its East Isles store.

“(It’s) a rather small store, so it’ll be a bit of challenge to get it in there,” said Kris Kowalski Christiansen, the company’s chief operating officer.

The shops will primarily feature wine, and also include select liquors and beers. Each will have a separate entrance; Minnesota law doesn’t allow grocery stores to sell alcohol.

Kowalski’s has been a prominent supporter of the “Wine With Dinner” campaign, which calls on the Minnesota Legislature to legalize wine sales in grocery stores. Christiansen said the company will still be involved with the campaign, though added that it’s “taking a breather” and may not return until next year.

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A second Spyhouse coffee shop is scheduled to open later this month at the intersection of 24th & Hennepin.

The shop cleared its last city hurdle Sept. 22, when the Minneapolis Planning Commission approved extended hours for a planned outdoor patio. The East Isles Residents’ Association had protested the hours, saying that some of its residents were concerned about noise and security.

Christian Johnson, who also owns the Spyhouse coffee shop and the Bad Waitress restaurant in Whittier, said noise won’t be a concern.

“We’ve never had a single complaint at (the Nicollet Avenue) Spyhouse in eight years,” he said, adding that more than 20 people live above that space. That shop has an outdoor patio similar to what’s planned for the new Spyhouse.

Johnson said he collected 662 signatures on a petition supporting the new location, though he never needed to present them to the commission, which unanimously approved the extended hours after little discussion.

Johnson said the new Spyhouse was inspired by coffee shops he visited in Portland, and will feature an early 20th-century vibe with exposed brick and ceilings.

For more information, contact the Nicollet Avenue Spyhouse at 612-871-3177 or go online to www.spyhousecoffeeshop.com.