Biz buzz // Be’Wiched owner bring business to Southwest

Be’Wiched owner bringing deli, bar and live music to 26th & Nicollet

WHITTIER — An owner of the acclaimed Be’Wiched Deli in the North Loop neighborhood is opening a new restaurant and bar in Whittier late this fall, and it promises to offer whole lot more than sandwiches.

Matthew Bickford is co-owner of The Icehouse, which will open in the building that used to house the Sindbad grocery just north of Jasmine Deli.

As far as food goes, it sounds like The Icehouse (the name is in homage to the old icehouse building located just behind Nicollet at 26th Street) won’t be that much different from Be’Wiched.

“The core business is still going to be about the handcrafted ingredients we use, and everything will still be made from scratch,” Bickford said. “We’ll have sandwiches and salads, some soups, and the core will still be house-cured meats and fresh-baked breads.”

The big change, however, is that The Icehouse is seeking a full liquor license and plans to host live music on the building’s 24-foot stage.

Bickford said he and co-owner Brian Liebeck plan to book an eclectic group of bands ranging from avant-garde jazz to folk and rock n’ roll. Ownership plans to have gospel and jazz brunches on the weekend and shows during the evenings too.

Sound mitigation work is already underway, and Bickford said city planners told him he and Liebeck shouldn’t have any problem obtaining a license for amplified music.

Bickford said he and Liebeck had been looking for a location in St. Paul for their deli/bar/venue concept, but were blown away by the 26th & Nicollet property.

“When they started doing demo work on the site and tearing stuff away, they uncovered this gem of a space with beautifully patinaed brick, a large theater-in-the-round-style stage and a mezzanine. It’s the right opportunity,” he said, adding that he hopes to open The Icehouse in November.

The Icehouse’s tenancy at the old Sindbad building means almost all the tenants are in place at the redeveloping 26th & Nicollet intersection. Eat Street Social will open this fall at the old Taco Morelos property, Dunn Brothers is coming soon to the old Anemoni Sushi space and Vertical Endeavors is still hoping to open this year in Cedar Lake Ice & Fuel Co. building.

Mark Krogh, leasing agent for Java Properties, said he is still looking for a tenant for the old Azia restaurant property right on the corner of 26th & Nicollet.

“We could have it full tomorrow if we wanted to, but we are waiting for the right user and we want to make sure they don’t compete with each other,” Krogh said, adding that he hopes to find a quality Italian restaurant for the property.

“Eat Street really doesn’t have any Italian,” he said.


Paper Hat opens at 50th & Penn

FULTON — Paper Hat, a new art and handmade gifts store, is now open at 2309 W. 50th St.

The store offers everything from oil paintings, ceramics, and screen prints to more functional items like scarves, hair clips and other accessories, including jewelry.

Owner Greta Norlander said she sources art and gifts from a mix of local and national artists.

“Most of the bigger originals are from Minneapolis, St. Paul or further out in the metro, and I’ve also brought in work from a mix of artists that are known around the country but don’t have a presence at stores in Minneapolis,” she said, adding that she believes supporting local artists “is a big movement, especially in this economy.”

The idea behind Paper Hat, Norlander explained, is to allow folks to start or build their art collection from a variety of price points.

A longtime veteran of retail, Norlander had been working to raise capital and refine Paper Hat’s concept for the past three years. She said she couldn’t be happier with her store’s location next to Broders’ Pasta Bar.

“I’ve been waiting for the right time and right place, I found this spot and I feel really lucky to be here,” she said.

For more information about Paper Hat, check out the store’s website at


State shutdown puts The Lowry on hold

LOWRY HILL — The Lowry was all set for an Aug. 2 opening. Then the state government shutdown happened, and now the restaurant’s opening is on hold.

The problem is that even though it was submitted with more than a week to spare, the state wasn’t able to process The Lowry’s application for a “buyer’s card” before July 1. The restaurant already has a full liquor license, but the card is needed for The Lowry to buy beer and alcohol from distributors.

Interior renovations at the old Hollywood Video site that will house The Lowry, 2112 Hennepin Ave. S., were almost completed as of July 18, and the Blue Plate Restaurant Company already hired about 100 workers to serve, tend bar and cook.

Blue Plate Vice President Stephanie Shimp said the plan was for employee training to begin on July 12, but with the shutdown lingering into late July those workers were left idling at home.

“Here we are waiting with 100 employees ready to work,” she said. “We could’ve started training, but with no end [to the shutdown] in sight we didn’t want to get everyone’s hopes up.”

Luke Shimp, Stephanie’s brother and chief financial officer for Blue Plate, estimated that for each week The Lowry’s opening is delayed, Blue Plate will lose out on $80,000 in sales revenue and won’t be paying $32,000 in wages. And of course, Blue Plate is still on the hook for rent and debt service among other fixed costs.

From the state’s end, Luke Shimp estimates that The Lowry’s delay means a weekly loss of $4,100 in food sales tax, $2,625 in liquor sales tax and $4,800 in payroll taxes.

When it opens, The Lowry will offer about 30 tap beers, keg wine, cask-conditioned ale and a full food menu featuring burgers, oysters and eggs.


Before restaurant opens, Big E out as Viva Brazil chef

CARAG — Before the restaurant even served its first rack of ribs, Viva Brazil became embroiled in controversy. Eric Austin was out as chef the day the restaurant was supposed to begin a soft opening.

Austin, better known as Big E, made a name for himself in the Twin Cities culinary community as chef at Big E’s Soul Food and Bourbon Street Steakhouse. He announced his departure from Viva, 913 W. Lake St, on his Facebook page on the morning of July 13. Reached for comment later in the day, Austin expressed disappointment about the turn of events and said he plans to take legal action against Viva ownership for breaching his one-year contract after just four months on the job.

He said he raised concerns to Viva management about an inadequately stocked kitchen and unpaid back wages the night before the restaurant’s scheduled soft opening, causing a row culminating in Viva’s general manager informing him that his services were no longer needed.

Viva Brazil co-owner Olmedo Albarando disputes Austin’s characterization of his departure. “We didn’t fire him — he quit,” Albarando said.

A new chef and sous chef were quickly hired by Viva ownership. To give them time to get acclimated, the restaurant’s soft opening was pushed back to July 18, with public opening slated for the last week of the month.



ATT will open a 4,411 square-foot store on the first floor of Calhoun Square this fall. Ken Seifert, general manager of Calhoun Square, said the lease agreement brings Calhoun Square up to 85 percent occupancy, adding that management “is actively pursuing other tenants” for the remaining retail space.

Regency Centers purchased Calhoun Commons, a 66,150 square-foot Cedar-Isles-Dean shopping center anchored by Whole Foods Market, for $21 million.