World-class commerce graces East Lake Street


Northern Sun Merchandising
2916 E. Lake St.
Mon – Fri, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sat, 10 a.m. to 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 liberal 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.

Gandhi Mahal Restaurant
3009 27th Ave. S.
Lunch Buffet
11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Dinner 5 to 10 p.m.

This South Minneapolis restaurant, just off Lake Street, is a winner—City Pages named Gandhi Mahal both the best Indian Restaurant and the best Green Business in the Twin Cities.
Since it opened 10 years ago, the owner and executive chef, Ruhel Islam, has worked to make sure that the food is healthy, delicious and environmentally responsible.
He’s installed a group of 30-kilowatt solar panels on the roof. Recycled cooking oil is turned into biofuel. There is an aquaponics mini-farm in the basement, soon to expand. In the summer, he buys a lot of his vegetables from local community gardens, youth gardens and farmers markets.
There is a community zations, a play area for kids, and soon, a healing room. The restaurant even has a sustainability coordinator, Claire Baglien.
Islam has been running businesses since he was a child in Bangladesh, growing up in Sylhet, a large city whose name translates to “Flavor Village.” It was there he also learned how to make the dishes that today bring in the crowds. “Foods that please the palate,” he said, “bring people together to change the world. Over a meal, you can have a dialogue and build community.”
Islam is assisted in the kitchen by Asmat Ali, also from Sylhet, who spent his youth playing professional soccer instead of learning to cook. He learned how to prepare Bangladesh style meals (generally less spicy than Indian) at the Uptown restaurant Passage to India.
Islam learned cooking, he said, from assisting his mother and grandmother in the kitchen. He doesn’t follow printed recipes and, he said, he doesn’t measure ingredients. “It’s a pinch of this, and a handful of that. It all comes naturally.”
Come in for the ever-changing lunch buffet, which always includes Islam’s lifetime favorite food, daal—Indian-style legumes. “When I was a child, if the daal was watery, I’d cry.”
“People will come in and sniff,” he said. The scents, of cumin, coriander, fenugreek, black mustard seed and fennel seed and other traditional Indian and Bangladesh foods, he said, are his best promotion.
The menu is varied, offering traditional foods using fish, seafood and halal meat. Vegetarians and vegans have dozens of choices, as well. Islam promotes spicy, although mild is available. “Most people order medium,” he said.
And, (by the way) “Don’t forget to try the daal soup.”

Repair Lair
3304 E. Lake St.
Tues – Fri 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Sat and Sun 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.

This unique shop, a tiny cramped specialty consignment store, brings in used outdoor and camping items, fixes them and resells them at consignment prices. A sign above founder Nancy Ford’s desk reads, “If it’s broke, fix it!”
Since opening in 2014, Ford and her staff repair backpacks, boots, outdoor ware, tents and anything related to out-of-door activities. Repair Lair sells everything from the never-used to antique items sold to collectors. Yes, there are collectors of antique camp stoves. “People bring in cool stuff, items that have been in their attic for 30 years,” Ford said.
Sale of consignment items brings in about 70% of the store’s revenue. But, Ford and her staff can make your damaged outdoor items usable again. (She claims to replace 500 zippers each summer.) Her staff can repair almost anything customers might bring in, and if they can’t, she said, they will find someone who can.
In addition to clothing, the shop sells camping equipment, including lanterns, tents and kayaks for reuse. There are skis and running shoes, bike shoes, clothing and much more.
This is Ford’s first retail business, but it’s been wildly successful, filling a niche found nowhere else. Ford is no stranger to the outdoor life. She once worked as a Mississippi River deck hand and drilled core ice in Antarctica for science. She spent her college days shopping second-hand stores learning how the resale business works.
And she grew up sewing, now teaching what she knows to her crew. The shop is open and friendly. Have a question about outdoor gear or the outdoors in general? Ask Ford or any member of her staff.
A couple of years ago, Repair Lair got a write-up in Outdoor Magazine, calling it, “The coolest gear repair shop in the U.S.” Neighbors and customers come in to hang out, to drink some free espresso or fizzy water or to pet Lucy, a redbone coonhound/Australian shepherd mix, and Greta, a 15-year-old rescue terrier. The store’s motto? “Spend less on gear, more on beer.”

3820 E. Lake St.
Mon – Sat 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Sun 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.

In 1988, Jim “Hymie” Peterson opened a record store on Lake Street, when technology was just starting to make vinyl records “vintage.” When Peterson died, in 2000, two of his loyal employees took it over before selling it, in 2009, to Laura and Dave Hoenack. The Hoenacks were simply record fans living in the neighborhood who wanted to see the popular store continue.
So why vinyl? “The Twin Cities,” Laura said, “is filled with vinyl fans. The store is jammed with thousands of records and the turntables on which to play them. And lots of folks—young, old, who love music and art and collecting vinyl. Most popular is classic rock, jazz and blues recordings, Laura says. “And, you never know what’s coming in next—rare, common, maybe something you’ve never seen before. People bring in boxes of vinyl records all the time.” The shop’s record bins hold local music, a children’s section and a large classical collection.
Hymie’s was named, along with the Electric Fetus, one of the top 50 record stores in the country in 2010. Irene, the shop’s 15-year old Boston terrier, was featured in the magazine’s photo for the store. “But rather than the usual stereotype of haphazard you-find-it stacks, the shop is tidily organized and full of superb finds. Start over here, who knows what else is over there,” the article said. It’s still true.
During the last few years, as the neighborhood around the store has become trendier, and their customer base and their young children have grown, the couple has decided that maybe running a mom-and-pop retail establishment takes up more time than they want to spend.
Last summer, the couple announced that Hymie’s Records is for sale (the building is not included). But, they insist they want to sell the business and all the records only to someone who wants to carry on the tradition of selling recorded music in its traditional, original form. The store is thriving, and they expect the business will continue to grow as a business and a destination for music lovers.
Nearly a year later, they are still at Hymie’s and still on the job.

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