BY STEPHANIE FOX
Hennepin Avenue, in Uptown and north to downtown, is one of the older business districts in the city, always trendy, whether scruffy or upscale. For more than 100 years, from flappers to the hepcats to hippies to hipsters, Hennepin Ave. businesses have been a destination for folks from all over the Twin Cities looking to shop, eat, drink and have a little fun. It is history wrapped up in whatever is new and all the rage.
Magers and Quinn
3038 Hennepin Ave,
Housed in the Bryant Building, a former Chevrolet dealership, the bookstore first opened its Uptown doors in 1994 during the Uptown Art Fair. The building, built in 1922, has 8,000 sq. ft. of retail space and another 10,000 sq. ft. of storage space making it one of the largest independent bookstores in the Bold North.
The founder, Denny Magers (The Quinn was his mother’s last name) owned All Book, a small bookstore near the University and when a Hennepin Ave. thrift store went out of business, he seized the opportunity and moved to the larger Uptown location.
They not only carry a regular stock of discounted books but their inventory of newly published works and out of print books account for a great deal of retail space and store income. And, they buy books, from one to “large collections” (more than 800), selling discount, used and collectible out-of-print books. Their inventory of a quarter of a million books means they probably have what any book lover is looking for.
If a trip to Uptown seems like too much effort, they also have an active online presence. If you can make it to Uptown, you can attend one of their popular events, including author presentations, readings and book signings, all free.
One of those is the Mill City Reading Series where members of the Creative Writing MFA Program at the University of Minnesota, read works in progress.
Open Sun – Thur 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Fri & Sat 10 a.m. – 11 p.m.
10 a.m. – 7 p.m. weekdays
10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Sat & Sun
Liquor Lyle’s (1963)
2021 Hennepin Ave.
If you’re looking for an authentic and original dive bar, drop into Liquor Lyle’s. Since 1963, when lawyer Lyle Dorian opened his iconic saloon in a former vacuum supply store, Lyle’s has been attracting customers with what may have been the cities’ first 2 for 1 Happy Hour.
It was the first bar in the area. Before Lyle’s opened their doors, Minneapolis’ liquor laws prohibited selling hard alcohol east of Hennepin Ave. But, Lyle had owned a closed bar in downtown and his liquor license allowed the bar to be grandfathered in.
Since opening, the bar draws a mix of blue collar and blue uniform customers as well as the local celebrities including Paul Magers, part-owner Ken Meshbesher, singer and songwriter Paul Metza and Laurie (Zuzu’s Petals) Lindeen. Purple hair and tattooed customers rub shoulders with folks from the neighborhood and from the suburbs.
The bar has a mid-century vibe to it – neon, checkerboard floors, pool tables and a games arcade. The kitchen, opened until midnight includes wings, burgers, classic sandwiches, various cheese curds and breakfast – all day breakfast.
Happy hour runs from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. and again from 9 p.m. until 1 a.m. (midnight on Friday), when a discounted appetizer menu is available. Free parking, too.
Mon – Fri 3 p.m. – 2 a.m.
Isles Bun and Coffee (1993)
1424 W. 28th St.
Isles Bun and Coffee may be small, but they have a huge following. There’s a reason for that – fresh coffee and pastries made from scratch. Their motto: Hot coffee, warm buns and all the frosting you can eat. Come in, grab one of their goodies and a steaming cup of Joe and enjoy.
The bakery opened in 1993, and 19 years ago, new owners took over, continuing the baked goods tradition. Best sellers include a huge cinnamon roll (with a cult following) and a mini version called the Puppy Dog Tail – fresh dough, cinnamon with lots of frosting. Don’t miss their famous carrot cake.
The shop also offers office catering. Call them (give them a day’s notice) for breakfasts, boxed lunches with sandwiches made with their handmade focaccia, pizza or salads. They also offer cookie and milk “afternoon breaks” for friends or staff and special occasion cakes and dessert trays.
Isles Bun and Coffee also holds after-hour baking classes (team building or party time, anyone?). The staff is engaged and friendly and, they welcome kids, too, with kid’s specials. Butter, cinnamon and sugar. What’s not to love?
Mon – Sat: 6 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sun: 7 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Tao Natural Foods (1968)
2200 Hennepin Ave.
When Tao Natural Foods opened its doors on Hennepin Ave., the hippie movement was blossoming and flower children came to find healthy foods and supplements not available elsewhere. The shop has changed over the years but continues to thrive.
The atmosphere is welcoming with cozy surrounding and a friendly knowledgeable staff.
The menu at the front-of-the-store café has gone from basic to upscale, although still at affordable prices. As in early years, the cafe serves a wide choice of healthy smoothies, juices and teas and fancy coffees.
The café has become a popular lunch and brunch destination as well, with sandwiches, soups and salads.
In the back of the store, staff members are ready to answer questions and make suggestions about supplements and bulk herbs. And, there is a wide selection of natural tinctures, toiletries, balms and lotions, and ingredients for those who wish to make their own.
The store also offers health services, including acupuncture, Reiki treatments, therapeutic massage and health and wellness coaching by certified professionals, all done on site, with appointments. You can even schedule Tarot readings.
Check the website for upcoming classes on wide-ranging topics from health for the body to health for the spirit.
Mon – Sat: 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Sun: 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Uptown Theater (1916)
2906 Hennepin Ave.
Opened on June 3, 1916, at 7 p.m., the Uptown Theater, then known as “the Lagoon,” offered “Only the Best first run films, right when they are new” and “the ventilating system is the latest and is being used by the largest theatres in the country.” (This was nine years before modern air-conditioning made its way into movie theaters.)
Admission was a dime. The 1,500-seat theater was a marvel, costing $100,000 to build, $2,300,000 in today’s money.
The Lagoon was renamed “The Uptown” and in 1929 the theater installed the new technology of “sound.” In 1931, a second-floor dance hall was added.
In 1939 a fire broke out in the ventilating system. No one in the audience or the staff was injured, but the damage required a complete remodel, inside and out.
The newly reborn theater, designed by architects Liebenberg and Kaplan (who designed nearby Temple Israel) included an extravagant balcony, and outside, a 50-foot three-sided Art Modern tower was installed. The first movie played in the new theater was “The Women,” starring Joan Crawford.
There were a couple of other remodels, the latest in 2012. The theater added the Upstairs Bar serving wine and beer to enjoy while watching the movie. The theater was home to weekly showings of the “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” where moviegoers, dressed as characters in the movie, would attend to sing and dance along with the characters on the screen.
Today the 300-seat theater still draws people from all over the city to see foreign and art films. Their weekly “Midnight Madness,” showing classic films like “The Princess Bride,” “Purple Rain,” “Dr. Strangelove” and, of course, “Rocky Horror,” remains wildly popular.
Penzeys Spices (2000)
3028 Hennepin Ave.
If you cook and want to add a little adventure to meals, make Penzeys Spices a destination. Don’t expect the kind of choices you find at your local supermarket. Here, you can find spices no local grocer carries – choices like nearly a dozen kinds of super-fresh peppers and pepper mixes, a choice of oreganos a variety of cinnamons from various corners of the world, a wide range of chili powders, basic and specialty spice blends like Italian, Jerk, Northwoods, Greek, Tzardust, pie spice and many more. Look for the exotic, too, like grains of paradise and za’atar.
Not familiar with spices? The store has jars of spices to open and sniff and staff members can answer your spice question. Expect to spend time, browsing. If you need ideas on how to use your selection, Penzeys publishes a monthly magazine with ideas and recipes.
If wonderful spices, herbs and advice wasn’t enough, Bill Penzey, the owner and founder of the chain got into trouble with some when he called the current president a racist in a 2016 email to customers and other CEOs. There were calls for a boycott, of course, but two weeks later, Penzey’s online sales were up nearly 60%. They lost, they estimate, only 3% of their customer base.
Note: Isles Bun and Coffee gets their spice from Penzeys.
Mon – Sat 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sun 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.