Biz buzz // First Tech celebrates 35 years with Apple

HENNEPIN AVENUE — A radio repair shop founded in 1941 has become one of the largest Apple technology repair businesses in the Midwest, weathering Apple’s ups and downs over the last three decades. 

First Tech is currently celebrating a 35-year partnership with Apple at 2640 Hennepin Ave., selling new  — and used — Apple gear. The office recently purchased a school district’s entire inventory of used MacBooks. 

“Every kid wants their own machine. For a lot of us, it’s not practical to buy them a shiny new MacBook Pro,” said Product Manager Fred Evans, who said the age of the family computer overseen by dad is disappearing. 

“A used machine can be a lot more affordable,” he said. 

First Tech also repairs Apple products and consults with businesses on how to integrate the iPad and other technologies into an office network. 

Evans has worked at the company for 25 years. He is one of several employees with long tenure at the family-owned business, which is run by three brothers. 

“There have been good and bad times,” Evans said.

In the mid-90s, employees watched their competitors stop selling Apple computers, convinced that Apple would go out of business. But that meant plenty of Apple business was diverted to First Tech, making it an easy decision to stay loyal. 

During the technology boom and bust of 2001, the owners tightened their belts and decided against layoffs. Evans said they benefited from Apple’s philosophy to innovate and release new products throughout the recession. 

“It helped us get through some of the lean years,” he said. 

Broders plans wine bar

Already home to Broders’ Pasta Bar, the popular restaurant, and Broders’ Cucina Italiana, the neighboring Italian deli, the intersection of 50th & Penn is set to welcome another Broders’-branded business, this time a wine bar.

Southwest’s island of Italian dining is reportedly planning to expand into the Pierre’s Bistro space at 2221 W. 50th St. Owner and chef Pierre Gardien announced in October he was closing the restaurant after 17 years and selling the space.

Broders’ owner Molly Broder did not return multiple calls seeking comment, but she told the local food news website heavytable.com in November the wine bar would open in the spring with a casual menu, wine and tap beer.

New hat shop on Hennepin 

EAST ISLES — The Goorin Bros. hat shop is now open at 2906-1/2 Hennepin Ave. S., the fruit of a two-year Minneapolis site search by the family-owned company. 

“We wanted to be in the Midwest,” said shopkeeper Ashley Foucault. “Our only presence is in Chicago.”

The company has 25 other locations along the East and West Coast, as well as a few southern states. 

Hat prices top out at $150 for a handmade style, and slide down to $25 for a sarcastic cap in the Animal Farm Trucker line. 

“Our styles are anything from ball caps to knits, duckbills, fedoras, top hats or bowlers,” Foucault said. 

The shop recently hosted a party to celebrate a new series of the artist-designed Peekaboo collection, featuring hand-drawn pinup girls hidden inside the hat. 

“They’re kind of sassy and a little bit sexy,” Foucault said. “They were a really big hit.”

On the same block, the shoe shop John Fluevog Minneapolis is also now open at 2900 Hennepin Ave., featuring shoes made exclusively for the new Minneapolis store: Big Presence Davis for women, and Andrew Guardian Angel for men. 

New apartments planned for 24th & Colfax 

THE WEDGE — Neighbors turned out in numbers to hear The Lander Group and At Home Apartment’s plans for five-story, 48-unit apartments at 2316 and 2320 Colfax Ave. S., according to the Lowry Hill East Neighborhood Association. The site currently holds two single-family homes.

“I didn’t hear anybody who said anything positive,” said Board Member Susan Bode, referring to the Oct. 10 LHENA Zoning & Planning Committee meeting. “One of the reasons this neighborhood was founded is we were losing a lot of historic houses.” 

Bode said that in the ’60s and ’70s, it was a common pattern to see absentee landlords allow houses to fall into disrepair, and later sell them as property for new two-story walkups.

“People are concerned that this could start a new wave of people trying to develop that end of the neighborhood,” Bode said.

The Lander Group did not return calls for comment.

Midtown Global Market welcomes new restaurants 

MIDTOWN — Two new restaurants are now open at the Midtown Global Market, adding Cambodian, Thai and Italian to the global menu. 

Aaron Kong, a manager at  Sabbai Cuisine, said the upstairs residents are flocking to the new restaurant.

“They are so happy to have a Thai restaurant now,” he said. 

So far, seven out of 10 customers choose the made-to-order Pad Thai, Kong reported. Sabbai’s menu includes fresh-made sesame balls, fried spring rolls and orange chicken.

The new Fresco’s Pasta Bar is just around the corner from Sabbai, featuring build-your-own pastas and salads. Cannolis sell out immediately. Everything on the menu is homemade, tested over the course of six-plus years at the founder’s catering business. 

According to staff, early favorites are the habanero shrimp pasta; sausage, potato and kale soup; and the pancetta mac and cheese. 

More changes are in store for the Global Market. The central plaza is growing to provide more seating, more event space, and new farmers market stands.

Mixed-use project proposed for East Isles 

EAST ISLES — Five stories of commercial and residential space are proposed for 1618-20 W. Lake and 2915 James Ave., according to the East Isles Residents Association. 

The developer, Frothinger Properties, declined to comment. 

According to the neighborhood: The apartment or condominium project would provide retail on the first floor, with upper-level residences set back from the street. The developer would need a variance from the city to build at the proposed height.

“The problem is none of us want any more taller buildings than we have to,” said Harvey Ettinger, co-chair of the neighborhood Zoning & Land Use Committee. 

Ettinger noted that the city approved an apartment project at Lake and Knox that broke with height guidelines of the Uptown Small Area Plan, leaving the neighborhood in a challenging position. The five-story project, “1800 Lake,” is 20 feet higher than the maximum laid out in the plan. 

“It’s getting harder to say it’s unreasonable to have taller buildings,” Ettinger said. “ As land values go up, it’s harder for people to make projects financially work if they are limited to a few stories. … Whatever happens here probably will set another level of precedence for the future.”

Uptown apartment project awarded major union grant 

THE WEDGE — The City Walk Apartments slated for construction at 1312 W. Lake St. recently netted a $15.7 million contribution from the AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust (HIT). 

The $20 million project is expected to generate 100 union construction jobs. 

The HIT’s National Construction Jobs Initiative has the goal to create 15,000 union jobs over a three-year period, in an attempt to put members back to work following the recession. 

Noted: 

The Republic has opened a second location in Calhoun Square — in the former home of the Independent. The bar, which has a spot on the West Bank, specializes in craft beers.

Southwest chefs and foodies were honored in the second annual Charlie Awards on Nov. 11, which spotlights the best of the Twin Cities food scene. Winners included Doug Flicker of Piccolo, 43rd & Bryant, for Outstanding Chef; Tilia in Linden Hills for Outstanding Restaurant; Johnny Michaels, Outstanding Bartender; and Randy Stanley of Parasole and the Uptown Restaurant Taskforce for Outstanding Neighbor.

Handmade gifts by local artists are available at the first annual Lynnhurst Holiday Boutique and Sale, running Saturday, Dec. 8 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.  Southwest-area artists and craft artisans will display their gifts at the Lynnhurst Community Center, located at 50th Street and West Minnehaha Parkway. 

The Tangletown Neighborhood Association is launching a new business committee, in an effort to support positive developments both at street-side businesses and others based in the home. 

For more information, contact Dylan Sirny at [email protected] 

The remodeler Quartersawn is now open at 48th & Grand, relocating from Edina.

The company’s current projects range from a century-old home on Fremont to a modern home near Minnehaha Falls.

“Our specialty is custom work,” said Principal Jeff Nicholson. “We do a lot of remodeling in the neighborhood, and this is a great central location for us.”

—Dylan Thomas contributed to this report.