BY STEPHANIE FOX
Schatzlein Saddle Shop
413 W. Lake St.
Monday – Friday, 9:30 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Thursday, 9:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Saturday, 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Everyone who regularly travels down Lake Street has seen the Schatzlein Saddle Shop. But, for many, what’s inside remains a mystery. A western shop with horse gear in the middle of the city? Owner Gary Schatzlein says that customers come from all over the Twin Cities, all over the country and all over the world.
When Gary’s grandfather opened the store 110 years ago, horses were a normal part of transportation, even in the heart of Minneapolis. The shop was originally two blocks away, moving once in 1936 and again to its current location in 1968. The merchandise expanded from handmade saddles, bridles and other horse riding and carriage gear to western clothing, including cowboy hats and boots.
Today, six family members work in the store along with Xena, the shop’s canine princess warrior, with Gary the shop’s leather master craftsman, repairing riding equipment in his lower level leather studio.
Visitors from all over the world end up at the shop. Some, said Schatzlein, are from foreign countries, visiting relatives and hoping to find authentic American western ware. “They come here from China, Japan, New Zealand and Australia, Norway, Sweden—all over. They’re visiting friends or relatives and come in to shop. Others find us on Google.”
Many customers are looking for authentic cowboy boots, cowboy hats or shirts. But, there are a lot of “horse” items for horse-crazy little girls and boys. Levis? They have a wide selection (adding Lee Jeans about 50 years ago).
Find your perfect cowboy hat (narrow and wide brim) and beautiful leather belts with your choice of western-style buckles. Looking for cowboy boots? You’ll get extra attention to make sure yours will perfectly fit your feet.
Customers tend to return to the shop, and if they live a world away, Schatzlein’s has a large mail order customer base. See if you can chat up Gary about the shop’s colorful history. He’ll be happy to tell you. And he’ll tell you about how the store’s power comes from the solar panels on the roof. Free parking is available next door.
Ingebretsen’s Scandinavian Gifts and Food
1601 E. Lake St.
Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Saturday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Lake Street is now the home of stores and restaurants representing cultures from Latin America to Africa to the British Isles. But, before the world came to Lake Street, there was a thriving Scandinavian community of Norwegians, Swedes and Danes. In the early 1900s, Charles Ingebretsen opened the Model Meat Market on Lake Street, on the streetcar line. The store carried many of the foods that the new immigrates still craved. His son, Charles Jr., born in 1921, took the store over from his father during the 1950s and began to make changes. The once close- knit Scandinavian community was moving out to the suburbs and he needed to lure back younger customers with additional products.
The family’s new business partner, Warren Dahl, had recipes for traditional foods (think authentic Swedish meatballs and potato sausages) and Charles Jr. added a gift shop and changed the name to Ingebretsen’s Scandinavian Center.
Warren’s son Steve has been running the food side of the business since 1965. In 1974, Julie Ingebretsen took over the gift shop side of the business.
Today, 96 years later, the still-large Scandinavian community will drive to Lake Street to pick up gifts, music, products for traditional Norwegian, Swedish or Danish weddings and holiday items for Easter and especially for Christmas. There are traditional crafts, collectibles, jewelry and fun gifts, including a 4-ft. inflatable Edvard Munch “Scream” and “Scandihoovian lip balm.”
At Christmas, lines snake out the front door as people line up to buy gifts and to purchase traditional foods including seven styles of bulk pickled herring, from mustard to sherry and matjes, a traditional food for the Scandinavian holiday table. Some of the 1,500 lbs. of picked herring sold each year are imported from Sweden, but some are made from traditional Ingebretsen and Dahl family recipes imported from the Old World. “The homemade herring in wine sauce is by far the store’s biggest seller,” Dahl said. Oh, yes. Lutefisk is available all year.
You can also pick up sausages, take-and-bake lamb or turkey meat loaf, imported cookies and candy, spices, breads, cheeses you can’t find elsewhere and ingredients to make your own Scandinavian delicacies.
The shop offers a number of classes in the traditional arts of needlework, knitting, crafts and cooking. Sign up to learn wooden spoon carving, crafting silver Viking knit bracelets, hardanger embroidery, krumkake or lefse.
Note: The gift shop takes credit and debit cards, but the grocery section requires cash or checks.
A&J Fish & Chicken
500 E. Lake St.
Monday – Thursday and Sunday, 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Friday – Saturday, 11 a.m. – midnight
Walking into A & J Fish & Chicken, a mostly take-out restaurant, is like leaving Minnesota, at least for a little while, especially when it’s cold outside and there is snow on the ground.
The place is a hole-in-the-wall, with only four booths for sit-down customers, but the traffic is steady. Most is for take-out, but there’s a family feel, with customers greeting each other and members of the kitchen staff. It’s warm inside in temperature and in attitude.
A & J’s owner, Jamil Tashtoush, learned how to cook Southern food while going to school and living on the south side of Chicago, where soul food has been a tradition as far back as people can remember. Soon after arriving in Minneapolis in 1998, Tashtoush opened his restaurant, and then moved to the current location in 2005.
The menu is what is commonly called “soul food,” with food not usually available in the Northland. The big sellers are the fried chicken wings, the hot wings and the chicken and/or fish dinners, served with fries, coleslaw and bread.
In true Southern tradition, there are a lot of deep-fried foods on the menu—not for those looking for boring low-calorie foods and trying to avoid the delicious, stay-away-from side dishes like the deep-fried okra, hush puppies, Jo-Jo potato wedges, fried chicken gizzards, fried chicken livers and fried mushrooms. The “Italian beef” roast beef sandwich is also a big seller. And, there is even a nod to Minnesota—fried cheese curds.
There are three large TV screens above the front counter. One shows sports or other entertainment. The other two feature the menu. The phone rings every couple of minutes with people calling in orders to be picked up.
Manager Salim Tashtoush, Jamil’s brother, says that the best part of his job is the neighborhood. “I love the neighborhood. I love my customers. And, I love keeping prices affordable.” So, wander into A & J for a lunch, dinner or a late night meal, a friendly greeting and some great food. Call first, and it will be waiting for you.
Northern Sun Merchandising
2916 E. Lake St.
Monday – Friday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Saturday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Almost 40 years ago, as Three Mile Island was melting down, Scott Cramer traveled from Illinois to his new home in the Twin Cities. He had printed up T-shirts with slogans against nuclear power, to sell at protests. He added more T-shirts on left-wing issues of the 1960s and 1970s. His clever shirts were popular and soon, the part-time endeavor had expanded to become Northern Sun Merchandising.
Today, located in a former public library building, Northern Sun is the largest message-oriented merchandising company in the country. Locally, you can find Northern Sun’s products at the store or at a booth at activist events or, if you live elsewhere, through their monthly catalog or online.
Northern Sun’s mission: to promote peace and social justice and a whole host of liberals and progressive issues through unique products.
Cramer’s once very small business has expanded and he now offers hundreds of products such as bumper stickers, buttons, mugs, magnets and other products for progressives. The messages focus on climate change, racism, sexism, politics and more.
One of the selling points of Cramer’s products is not just the alternative message but that those messages are witty and clever. Here’s the place to go to pick up a cap saying “Make red hats wearable again,” a Ruth Bader Ginsberg coffee mug (and RGB socks), a T-shirt saying “Impeach Pussy Grabber” or an “Early Warning Signs of Fascism” poster. Or even, a bumper sticker: “If you can’t say something nice, say something funny.” These are the type of products that might just possibly offend Trump supporters, Cramer admits.
Cramer looks to artists and others, local and from elsewhere, to submit ideas for new products, and he strives to have his products locally made.