The Good Times pizza and ice cream parlor is pushing to open the doors at 38th & Grand, a job made more difficult when the door and windows repeatedly shatter.
“They waited until those got replaced, came back that night, smashed the same one out again, plus another one in the other space,” said the forthcoming pizza parlor’s owner, Franz Gilbertson, adding that someone also shattered the back glass door shortly after installation. “This is where it really starts to worry me.”
It’s a pattern that’s persisted for months at Avestini’s properties in North Minneapolis, home to businesses including Mykonos Coffee & Grill, Clientele Barbershop and Avestopolis Cleaners. At each location, vandals have damaged at least 10 windows since the fall of 2017, Avestini said.
“I have spent over $25,000 on my windows, not including the South Minneapolis [building],” Avestini said.
Two women face charges for separate incidents in the spring of 2018, but the damage keeps happening, he said, and now it’s followed him to Southwest Minneapolis.*
Surveillance video shows a bandana covering a suspect’s face in multiple incidents, Avestini said. Police reports note broken pieces of bricks and concrete nearby on the sidewalk. At Mykonos, he said, a suspect was injured and left blood all over, taking $50 in change and smashing a $350 cash register without a penny inside.
“All I know is every time the windows got fixed, they always came back and vandalized,” said the owner of Clientele Barbershop, who requested his name not be printed. He said he personally spent about $2,200 on windows until he refused to cover the cost of more.
“What I decided to do was just stake out,” he said.
The first night, the barbershop owner sat in the dark for about three hours, without seeing anyone. The second night, he was ready to give up before midnight, but then…
“Boom — I hear it,” he said. “Once I make it outside the door, I see the person in the middle of the parking lot.”
Update: The following property damage charge was dismissed.
Tamiko Lashawnda Delaney, age 32, is charged with one count of felony property damage in the May 17 incident. A witness who identified Delaney in a photo lineup alleged that he saw her break the window and jump across the hood of his car during her escape, no longer wearing a mask, according to court documents. Delaney is pleading not guilty, and she’s seeking additional surveillance video to prove her innocence and show that someone else committed the crime. Her attorney did not immediately respond for comment. A trial in Hennepin County District Court is scheduled for April 8. [The charge was dismissed April 10, according to court records.]
Avestini said he doesn’t know who the suspect is, or why someone might target him. (Avestini and his businesses have been involved in at least 17 civil lawsuits that date back to 1991.)
“I just want her to stop,” Avestini said. “I told her attorney, I said, ‘I will drop the charges if she answers two of the questions: Why she did it? And who put her up to it?’”
In a different incident that happened in April 2018, Chaujunita Lasha Dunigan, 58, reportedly told police she was unhappy with the dry cleaning services at Avestopolis Cleaners. Dunigan, described as an “irate customer” in a criminal complaint, allegedly “snapped” and threw a brick through the window. Dunigan apologized, according to the complaint, and the state suspended prosecution of the case to allow her to complete a diversion program. Her attorney did not immediately respond for comment.
Avestini said he recently installed a security system at 38th & Grand, which features an alarm and cameras he can monitor 24 hours a day. And he installed “bulletproof” windows at Avestopolis Cleaners.
One Kingfield resident who requested her name not be printed runs past the 38th & Grand storefront almost daily. She wrote to the city in support of Good Times’ beer and wine license, and said she’d like to see a new family-friendly dining spot.
“What’s happening?” she asked. “Is this going to open?”
For Gilbertson, who initially planned to open Good Times last fall, the windows are a secondary issue. He said he’s struggled through issues like a leaky roof and the landlord’s contribution to the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system. Avestini said the roof is fixed and he has contributed $6,000 toward heating and cooling.
Gilbertson, who previously ran a bakery in Seattle, said he’s already invested thousands in architectural design, plumbing upgrades, electrical work, licensing fees, heat payments for a temporary furnace and commercial kitchen plans. He paused the project over the winter to decide what to do.
“We just made the decision, let’s try to get some cash flow and get the doors open, and hope for the best and make a go of it,” he said. “That was a hard decision. … You have all of this investment and inertia in this specific address, basically, so it’s tough to just pull out and go somewhere else.”
As a Kingfield resident, Gilbertson said it’s been embarrassing to see shattered glass at the 38th & Grand bus stop and wait for repairs.
“I want to be transparent here and I want to be honest with the community,” he said. “I’m willing to stay on and make this thing work on this corner, but it’s been challenging. … I’m hoping for the best right now, and we’re just trying to keep things moving forward.”
The vision for Good Times remains the same: a jukebox, arcade-style video games, sidewalk seating along Grand and bar-style pizzas with “exceedingly thin crust” and sauce that “ain’t never sweet but zingy, bright garlicky and a touch spicy.”
Avestini acquired the building formerly home to Peter Pan Dry Cleaners in 2017. He said additional shops will soon materialize in the building, including a cleaner and tailor. Another storefront would hold “ShipNet Mailbox Depot and more,” which Avestini described as a miniature OfficeMax with computer stations, printers, office supplies and shipping services. The Fitting Room keeps a storefront on the block, and an acupuncturist is looking at the former Kinoko Kids space, he said.
Nearby business owners said they’re rooting for Good Times. Dave Foley, owner of The Record Spot, said the new restaurant would energize the neighborhood.
“If it opens up, it’ll fly,” he said.
Good Times aims to open later this spring, perhaps in May. The city approved a beer and wine license last fall, and a public hearing for a sidewalk café license is April 23.
“I still like the location, I still have faith in the location,” Gilbertson said. “Honestly, after everything that I’ve experienced thus far, nothing would surprise me anymore.”
*This story is updated to include a second property damage charge.