Biz buzz // Record project spotlights a heyday for funk, soul music

LYN-LAKE — Secret Stash Records has sold out its purple vinyl editions of “Twin Cities Funk and Soul,” which debuted in September and chronicles “Lost R&B Grooves.”

The album compiles R&B hits that helped shape the Minneapolis music scene from 1964-1979. The music ranges from “sweet soul to full-on dance floor funk,” and the songs recall an era of North Minneapolis dance contests, clubs that were effectively segregated, and Minnesota’s first African American-owned record label. 

“We tried to tell the story of the scene back in the ’60s and ’70s in Minneapolis and St. Paul,” said General Manager Will Gilbert. “The biggest part of the project was tracking everyone down.”

To collect licensing rights, staff needed to find aging artists that had scattered across the country. Over the course of a year-and-a-half, they interviewed 65 people and compiled their research into a 32-page newspaper that comes with each record. 

“It was a really good time to do this,” Gilbert said. “Almost everyone we wanted to talk to was still alive. If we had waited 10 years, I think a lot of it might have been lost. This has never been written down before.”

During the ’60s and ’70s, local R&B music did not extend far beyond the black community, according to the record label’s research. R&B musicians were a tight-knit group, and they needed to be flexible to earn a full-time living, playing jazz or even rock on occasion. 

Gilbert said much of Downtown Minneapolis wasn’t friendly for black music. A notable exception was King Solomon’s Mines, located on the ground floor of the Foshay Tower. 

“That was the place to be, it was the biggest spot in town,” Gilbert said. 

The club owner, who was white, booked R&B acts for two years before a police raid led to suspension of the club’s liquor license. When it closed in 1969, owner Dean Constantine told The Minneapolis Spokesman he thought the club was targeted because white tenants in the Foshay Tower and other nearby buildings didn’t like the crowd. The police found minors in the club, although Constantine said he always had two people checking IDs who turned 30 or more people away each night. 

The Secret Stash research highlights a few Southwest hot spots for R&B. Old concert venues include Mr. Lucky’s and the adjacent Magoo’s at 29th & Nicollet, where Dave Brady and the Stars would play hits by The Temptations.

Another notable site was the Kay Bank recording studio at 26th & Nicollet. The Exciters bandmates recalled practicing material nonstop for three days prior to its recording session there, so they could limit the number of studio takes. The studio was originally named Swedien Recording, built in an old movie theater by founder Bruce Swedien at age 19. When he left the Twin Cities, Swedien went on to record Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

Several of the Twin Cities’ first R&B artists came here from southern cities. Big local names included Maurice McKinnies, Jackie Harris, Willie Walker and Mojo Buford.

Gilbert discovered that most of these artists aren’t sitting quietly in retirement, and many of them are still performing regularly. On Feb. 8, Secret Stash Records will gather some of them for a show at Icehouse, 2528 Nicollet Ave. S. 

Musicians from the record have already performed a sold-out show at The Cedar to celebrate the release. Mayor R.T. Rybak visited the basement studio at Lake & Lyndale to hear them rehearse. 

“We had hopes, but we never expected it to do that well,” Gilbert said. “It’s kind of an amazing level of excitement.”

Twin Cities Funk & Soul is the 25th release for Secret Stash Records, and it’s the first one to focus on local music. 

The independent label was launched in 2009 by Eric Foss and Cory Wong, who grew up together in Fridley. The label primarily handles world beat music, and almost everything is issued on vinyl. 

“We focus a lot on custom packaging and special-color vinyl,” Gilbert said. “We focus on the things we appreciate in records.”

Secret Stash’s niche lies in compiling lost or forgotten music, like “Soviet Funk” and “Porno Groove: The Sound of 70s Adult Films.”

The label recently partnered with KFAI Radio to generate monthly concerts at Icehouse, featuring world-music artists and Secret Stash DJs. The first concert kicked off in November, featuring the Afro-Peruvian music of Peña. 

Afro-Peruvian music is another one of Secret Stash’s music discoveries. Foss and Wong traveled to Lima to record Afro-Peruvian music, very little of which has ever been recorded and released outside of Peru.

As for future projects, Secret Stash continues to dig into the music of its rediscovered R&B stars. On Black Friday, the label started selling two previously unreleased tracks by Prophets of Peace, which is one of the bands on TC Funk and Soul. The record features the band’s original Maxx Records label, designed to look like it rolled off the press in 1974. 

Red Cow restaurant coming to 50th & France 

A restaurant focused on gourmet burgers, craft beer and wine by-the-glass is coming to the former Blockbuster building at 3624 W. 50th St.

Red Cow owner Luke Shimp said he wanted to take wine service a bit further, so he is installing a preservation system that holds wine at cellar temperature and shields it from oxygen exposure. Red Cow will feature 32 wines by-the-glass that start at $6 and go up to $30–$35, giving patrons a chance to sample high-end bottles that can be re-corked and fully preserved for weeks in the cellar. Red wine will be served at the precise optimal temperature — 62 degrees.

“People can try really fun wines they wouldn’t buy for their homes, because they would be too expensive,” Shimp said. “The wines we are choosing are primarily American, and they pair really well with the gourmet burgers.”

Aside from burgers of all kinds, the menu will offer salads, sandwiches, a few entrées, and appetizers like charcuterie and cheese curds.

The renovation underway will feature rustic woods, polished concrete floors, lipstick-red booths and patches of tin ceiling, aiming for an atmosphere both classic and modern.

Shimp previously worked as co-owner of the Blue Plate Restaurant Company, which operates the Edina Grill. Before entering the restaurant business, he worked for several years as lead mechanic on NASCAR racing teams.

“It’s exciting to be launching a new brand,” he said. “We’re trying to create a really strong neighborhood feel. This is something that all of Fulton and the surrounding neighbors can call their own.”

The restaurant opening is targeted for late February or early March.

H&M opens in Calhoun Square

LAKE & HENNEPIN — H&M’s grand opening is slated for Dec. 14 at Calhoun Square, 3001 Hennepin Ave. S.

At noon on the opening day, the first 100 shoppers will receive an H&M T-shirt and an “Access to Fashion” pass, valued from $10 to $300.

The H&M at Calhoun Square will offer separate “store within store” sections for accessories, lingerie, sports apparel and maternity clothing. It will also carry clothing for children, ages newborn to 14.

Store hours will be Monday thru Saturday, 10 a.m.–9 p.m., and Sunday, 12–6 p.m.

New Broders’ wine bar could open by March 

LYNNHURST — The Broders’ restaurant moving in to Pierre’s Bistro doesn’t have a name yet — but the owners can tell you it will be Italian, it will stay open later in the evening, and it could arrive as soon as March. 

“We want it to be a cozy neighborhood space that everyone is going to love to come to,” said President Molly Broder. 

This location at 2221 W. 50th St. won’t have a pasta focus, unlike Broders’ Pasta Bar, and it will function as a full-service restaurant, unlike the deli. Staff envision an expanded version of the Broders’ patio menu, with small plates, wine by the glass and tap beer. They are renovating the restaurant to expose natural wooden posts and provide more open kitchen space.

Broders’ wasn’t looking for a new restaurant location, but the family-owned business seized the opportunity when it arose. 
“I was talking to Pierre one day and he mentioned he had the place for sale,” Broder said. “Within two weeks, we had it.”

Construction wraps up on Nicollet 

NICOLLET — Construction is now finished on Nicollet Avenue between Lake and 36th streets, to the relief of area businesses. 

Eric Silverman, co-owner of Twin City Tattoo at 3131 Nicollet Ave., said the construction season was “miserable,” as access to his business was nearly completely blocked. 

“We’re still here; come on back,” he said.

The Lyndale Neighborhood Association reported that businesses saw a summertime drop in sales that ranged from 40 to 90 percent.

To help boost customer traffic, LNA created the “Live Nicollet” campaign, which awards points and prizes for activities such as “liking” the campaign on Facebook or patronizing Nicollet shops between Lake and 36th. The contest runs through Dec. 1.

LNA reported that Nicollet Avenue’s foundation was close to 100 years old. It hadn’t been repaved since 1977, and it hadn’t seen any major work since the bricks and streetcar tracks were covered up in 1954. The rehabbed street features new bus shelters, countdown timers at stop lights, a left turn lane at 36th Street, and a few more parking spaces.

Construction on Nicollet will resume next spring from 36th to 40th Street. 

Alex Jacoby, manager at Pat’s Tap, 3510 Nicollet Ave., said he’s happy construction is over. 

“The road looks great,” he said. “We definitely felt it when the road was closed. But we have a great clientele that comes here, and we survived just fine. … We picked up right where we left off.”

New workout space for women on Hennepin

EAST ISLES — X2 Fitness is teaching boxing, grappling and kettlebells to small groups of women at its new studio at 2538 Hennepin Ave. S. 

The classes cover techniques that are useful in self-defense, and they are designed to provide a full-body physical and mental workout. 

Instructor Gina Franssen is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt, and she was the first female boxer to ever compete in the Upper Midwest Golden Gloves Tournament in 2001.

X2 Fitness also offers private classes for women and men.

New podcast for parents 

THE WEDGE — The co-founder of Comedy Suitcase at Bryant-Lake Bowl has launched a weekly podcast called “Pratfalls of Parenting.”

In each podcast, Levi Weinhagen interviews artists and creative workers about “the relationship between being a maker of cool stuff and being a parent.”

Weinhagen said the podcast was born out of conversations with other actor and artist parents. They commiserated about juggling responsibilities, and agreed that children dramatically changed their world view. 

“I enjoy the conversation,” Weinhagen said. “I realized that my parenting has an impact on the kind of work I do.”­

Twenty-six interviews to date have netted plenty of entertaining insight. 

From entertainer Jena Young: “If you criticize my parenting, I will fight you.”

From comedy writer Tim Wick: “When is the right time to show my kids Raiders of the Lost Ark?”

From writer Susannah Shouweiler: “I feel like I’m sucking at everything.”

From musician Sean Roderick, of the band Wolff Jabbr: “What’s the harm in showing to your child by example — why the hell not do something that you love?”

To find the podcast, visit pratfallsofparenting.com. 

Noted 

THE WEDGE — Following the launch of the new Downtown arcade Insert Coins, the couple that owns Rusty Quarters at 818 W. Lake St. posted an open letter to its customers:

“We want to assure you that your neighborhood arcade will still be here for your retro gaming needs,” they said. 

Co-owner Sage Spirtos said Rusty Quarters thankfully hasn’t noticed a drop in business. Regulars are staying loyal, he said, particularly because his arcade is family-friendly, doesn’t enforce a dress code, and doesn’t have a cover charge.

Farmers markets are no longer relegated to summer months in Minneapolis. The Fulton and Kingfield markets are partnering to set up shop under the Bachman’s greenhouse roof at 6010 Lyndale Ave. S.

The winter markets will take place Saturday, Jan. 26 and Saturday, Feb. 23 from 10 a.m.–2 p.m.

Growers, vendors and food trucks will return to sell fresh fruits and vegetables, coffee, preserved foods, clothing, crafts and more. Bachman’s will also provide hard cider and family-friendly entertainment. 

“Each summer weekend, more than 3,000 people come to the Kingfield and Fulton Farmers’ Markets,” said Jeff Alden, vice-chair of the Kingfield-Fulton Farmers’ Market Board. “The truth is, we miss each other in the winter — and the farmers miss us, too. So we really appreciate Bachman’s bringing our communities back together and helping support our farmers.” 

THE WEDGE — The Ackerberg Group is starting to explore options for the second phase of the MoZaic project, which will rise on the east parking lot of the site at Lagoon & Girard. 

Development Director JoAnna Hicks said the new building would likely contain office space, and staff would bring a proposal to the neighborhood for discussion as soon as it’s ready. 

“We’re not quite at that point, but we are very excited about our leasing success at the first phase of MoZaic,” she said. 

Keller Williams is signing a lease to move into MoZaic, bringing the tower close to 80 percent leased.

THE WEDGE — A developer is shrinking an apartment proposal that would replace two homes at 2316 and 2320 Colfax Ave. S.

In response to neighborhood and City Council concerns, the five-story project was reduced to four levels, with underground parking and the top floor set back farther from the street.

“The building will have a fairly traditional brick character,” said Lander Group President Michael Lander in an email. “It will still be a great building, and still focused on biking and the great multi-modal, walkable location, but some of the more progressive green features were sacrificed to provide the underground parking requested by the neighborhood.”

Got a buzz tip? Email Michelle Bruch at michellebruch82@gmail.com

WHITTIER — Realtor Mike Stebnitz reportedly controls the former Azia site at 26th & Nicollet, but he recently told the Southwest Journal he doesn’t have an update on the development of a new restaurant called Azia Market. 

Former Azia Market owner Tom Pham told KMSP in October that he sold the venture to Stebnitz, a longtime friend and business partner.