Biz Buzz // Tao Natural Foods remodeling

LOWRY HILL — Big changes are planned for Tao Natural Foods, 2200 Hennepin Ave. S., which temporarily closed for remodeling Jan. 1.

A Jan. 5 public meeting was scheduled on owner Anna Badger’s application for a Class E liquor license, which would allow the shop to serve wine and beer in the remodeled café and in an expanded outdoor seating area. The store will reopen in late January with more seating in the store’s café an expanded menu, employee Aaron Ridgeway said.

Another employee, Vicki Rafn, said the upstairs space where acupuncture, massage and other health services were offered would be “tweaked,” at most, during the remodel. The store also will continue to carry supplements and other natural food products, but the space where they are sold will be condensed to make room for more café seating, Rafn added.

Tao will also add a main-floor, handicap-accessible bathroom during the remodeling process, she said.

The café currently serves all organic and mostly vegetarian food, including sandwiches, salads, smoothies, tea and coffee drinks. When it reopens, Tao’s café will offer more grab-and-go, pre-prepared items, Ridgeway said.

If the liquor license is approved, the store will offer an all-organic selection of beer and wine. Closing time will be pushed back to 9 p.m. from 8 p.m. weekdays and Saturday, and the café may stay open even later next summer, Rafn said.

Tao opened in 1968 and for most of that time has been in its current location at the corner of Hennepin Avenue and 22nd Street.


Gather moving to bigger space

50th & FRANCE — Seven years after opening its doors at 50th and France, Gather is moving to a larger location.

Not that customers who have grown fond of the boutique will have to look far to find it.

The new location, expected to open on Feb. 1, is located at 5041 France Avenue, just up the street from the store’s longtime location, which was shuttered on Dec. 24 in preparation for the move.

Michael Hagie, Gather’s owner, said he’s moving because he simply needed more space. The new location will be roughly 2,300-square-feet, about twice the size of the current space.

“We should’ve expanded a few years ago, but we just got complacent here,” he said.

Hagie said the new store will carry many of the same items it does now, but also have more seasonal, tabletop and stationary products.

Oska, a women’s clothing store based in Germany, is moving into the former Gather space. It is expected to open in March.


New boutique Suzetra opens

50th & FRANCE — Women’s clothing boutique Suzetra has opened in the old Ann Taylor Loft space at 3825 W. 50th St.

The 1,500-square-foot boutique opened on Black Friday, Nov. 25, and specializes in apparel for women ages 35 to 45, said boutique owner Susie Peterson.

“We have everything from casual to cocktail wear,” she said.

Opening a boutique has been a life-long dream of Peterson. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Stout with a  degree in retail merchandising and management and then moved to Arizona where she worked as a retail buyer.

Now she lives in Mendota Heights and said she’s excited about the 50th & France location, which has become a magnet for new boutiques and other specialty retailers in recent months.

“The other boutique [owners] have become very kind,” she said. “There’s kind of a hometown feel here.”

Throughout January, the store is offering a “friend” discount. Bring in a friend, and you and your pal get a 20 percent discount.  

The store hours are 10 a.m.–6 p.m., Monday–Friday; 11 a.m.–6 p.m., Saturday; and noon–5 p.m., Sunday. For more details, go to suzetra.com.


Kenwood Café closing

KENWOOD — After a six-year run in the Kenwood neighborhood’s tiny commercial node, the Kenwood Café, 2115 W. 21st St., is slated to close to the public Jan. 15.

Café owner Catherine Veigel said she opted not to renew her lease when she had the opportunity in September. Veigel and property owner Paul Modell “were not able to come to mutually agreeable terms,” she said.

Veigel said she was sad to be leaving the neighborhood. Her business neighbors Birchbark Books and Bockley Gallery.

“We have been devastated by it, in terms of how everybody feels,” she said. “Many people have come to me and shared stories of things that have developed in Kenwood Café, in terms of community.”

“People have cried,” she added. “I’m not kidding.”

Viegel described the location as “marginal” and said she hoped to improve her business by investing in kitchen improvements and applying for a license to sell beer and wine. Viegel said she and Model could not come to terms about who would pay for other necessary building improvements, however.

Modell said his attempts to negotiate were stymied by cancelled meetings and unreturned calls.

“I have never run into this kind of a situation before,” he said.

Modell said he was working with a commercial real estate broker to find a new tenant for the space, possibly a similar business.

“The future plan is to re-lease the space to a viable business that will be good for the neighborhood,” he said.

Veigel also operates Isles Bun & Coffee, 1424 W. 28th St., a business she purchased from its previous owner about 11 years ago. Asked about future plans for another business, Veigel said she would hope to find another location with a neighborhood feel.

“I’m very excited about it, but nothing is concrete,” she said.


Pottery fundraiser for Nicollet Square

Local potters are being asked to submit handmade bowls to be used in a first-of-its-kind fundraiser to raise awareness about hunger in the community and support a local youth housing organization.

The bowls, which organizers say should be able to hold two to three cups of soup, will be offered to those who come to the Empty Bowls Fundraiser on Thursday, Feb. 9.

The fundraiser is being coordinated by the Kingfield Neighborhood Association as a benefit for Nicollet Square, a nonprofit that provides housing to young people who have been homeless or in foster care.     

This is the first time the Kingfield group has held such a fundraiser, but the idea is based on an global Empty Bowls campaign that has led to similar efforts around the country.

Locally, the Powderhorn Park Neighborhood Organization has held a similar event for each of the last six years. Earlier this year, the Powderhorn group raised around $27,000 to help provide meals locally.

Funds raised at the Kingfield event will be used support at Nicollet Square, which provides low-rent housing to around 40 youth between 16- and 21-years-old. The organization opened a year ago at 3700 Nicollet Ave. with the use of city, state and federal money. Kris Berggren, a spokesperson for the group, said the organization must raise $300,000 a year to pay for transition coaches and employment services offered by the organization. The group needs to raise another $175,000 before June 30, 2012, she said.

Berggren said nearly all of Nicollet Square’s residences are currently occupied, and that 83 percent of residents have met employment goals.

Bowls to be used in the fundraiser are due by Feb. 1, 2012. For questions or to arrange a drop off contact Sarah
Linnes-Robinson, executive director of the Kingfield Neighborhood Association, at 823-5980 or [email protected]


Noted:

Duplex, a restaurant at 2516 Hennepin Ave. S., has closed after a six year run.

Jack’s, 818 W. 46th St., has hired Kevin Kathman as a new chef/partner. The new menu will focus a variety of small to mid-sized plates featuring organic and seasonal ingredients.

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