Hot intersections: 36th & Lake

This colorful Tim Hortons doughnut helped brighten the intersection on a recent rainy morning. Photo by Linda Koutsky

Exploring different retail intersections in Minneapolis is always an adventure.

These small-scale commercial nodes allow us city dwellers easy access to things we need rather than having to rely on suburban-style big-box retailers. Store owners are friendly and often know people by name, the sense of scale and sidewalk amenities are oriented to pedestrians instead of cars and shopping local helps keep jobs and dollars in our communities.

We all have our usual patterns of errands, so venturing into a new store in a different neighborhood bumps us out of our routine. That’s good for the brain and exposes us to new and different things.

East Lake Street has been evolving and changing at a rapid pace. I usually head through the area on my way to somewhere else, but this time I decided to stop and get out. It was easy to spend the afternoon there.

Floor-to-ceiling shelves packed with thousands of comics in plastic sleeves line the perimeter of Nostalgia Zone Comic Books, 3535 E. Lake St.

Established in 1993, this store sells not only comics but all kinds of related merchandise, including collectible action figures, “The Simpsons” TV show room settings, vintage games, a “Lost in Space” robot and Pee Wee Herman’s “fun pack” from 1988 that contains traditional trading cards, a temporary tattoo and games — the store manager says they’re his “favorite cards ever.” Regular shoppers here join the store’s membership for a 10-percent discount, shopping points, advance notice of sales and “tons of street cred.”

You’ve still got time to get in shape for ESPN’s X Games, coming to Minneapolis July 13. The four-day event features skateboarding and other competitions.

MXKskate, 3543 E. Lake St., has been on Lake Street about six months. The very contemporary store is filled with visually appealing merchandise, and the giant letters spelling the store’s name on the back wall are large enough to read a block away.

Skateboard decks are covered with patterns ranging from artful paintings to printed graphics and typographic statements. Some come with wheels attached, but many are available for customizing. Wheels and trucks (to hold the wheels to the decks) come in all sorts of colors and designs.

The current speed record for longboarding is 90 mph — about three times the legal speed limit on Lake Street. It’s fun to look, but leave the records for the professionals.

I’ve always loved old hardware stores — the worn wood floors, neatly piled merchandise and ability to buy one or two of something rather than a package of 50. When I asked store owner Jim Logan of River Lake True Value Hardware, 3605 E. Lake St., how long he’d been there, he replied, “Since 8 a.m.”

The store opened on Lake Street in 1944. Logan started working there in 1972, then bought it two years later. It’s the third longest running business on Lake Street. Along with another partner Logan also owns a small engine shop a few doors down.

If you ever need a key made, Logan is an expert. He made 20,000 in one year alone. He also has a wide selection of hard-to-find skeleton keys for old houses.

Logan said he’s never had a day he didn’t want to come into work. Logan was in the 86th airborne in Vietnam and goes back several times a year to help build houses, lead tours for veterans and buy decorative wooden dragonflies to give to his women customers on Lake Street. It’s things like that that keep customers coming back.

In business since 1977, Elsa’s House of Sleep, 3540 E. Lake St., is a second-generation family owned discount furniture store. Elsa Rezene originally sold mattresses but expanded the store’s products to include all types of home furnishings.

The store sells major national brands of sofas, dining room tables and chairs, bookcases, desks and office systems. They offer delivery, assembly and layaway. The store prides itself on providing honest bargains and great customer service.

Creativity also lives at this intersection.

Prairie Woodworking, 3535 E. Lake St., makes radiator enclosures and handmade custom furniture such as tables, kitchen cabinets, built-ins and fireplace surrounds in any number of finishes or to match existing woodwork.

Room 34 Creative Services, 3011 36th Ave. S., is an independent web developer for small to midsize businesses, nonprofits and cooperatives.

Miller Upholstering, 3614 E. Lake St., has been recovering vintage and antique furniture with designer fabrics since 2001.

292 Design Group, 3533 E. Lake St., provides architectural services for community-focused projects as diverse as churches, education and assisted living facilities and the Crooked Pint Ale House in Chaska’s Curling Center.

I’ve always believed that the more you learn about something the more interesting it becomes. That works with neighborhoods too. It was nice to go somewhere new. I’ll be back.



Sorry, but this intersection is too busy for one lunch tip! Depending on your mood, here are your choices:

— Savory Bake House, 3008 36th Ave. S.

Baked brioche sandwiches and pies with vegetarian and meat fillings are the bakery’s specialty. Their motto is “reinventing the idea of bakery.” Look for popular homemade soups on colder days.

— Merlins Rest Pub, 3601 E Lake St.

Even while boasting the Midwest’s largest selection of single malt Scotch whisky and Irish whiskey, this longtime neighborhood joint is known for good food. Try their British Isles’ classics: fish and chips, bangers and mash or steak and stilton pie, then stay for trivia, music and pub singing events.

— Tim Hortons, 3600 E. Lake St.

We’ve seen other major donut chains come and go in Minnesota but that didn’t stop Tim Hortons from giving it a try. Founded in 1964 by an Ontario, Canada, hockey player, this chain is beloved by northerners. Known for “donuts and coffee,” Tim Hortons also serves soups, sandwiches,] and salads. This store opened just last January when it replaced White Castle.

— International Cuisine Bar and Grill (3508 E. Lake St.)

The aroma of foods from Ecuador and Peru fill this modern twist on a neighborhood restaurant. Stop in for their popular lomo saltado, a Peruvian stir-fry with sirloin steak in a spicy sauce alongside a neat pile of rice topped with avocado. South American sodas and exotic smoothies share counter space at the bar.




Mark your calendar for the upcoming Longfellow Neighborhood Garage Sale, 9 a.m.–3 p.m. June 9–10.