BY DEBRA KEEFER RAMAGE
We have a load of interesting things to tell you about on or near Lyndale Avenue South. A few are long-time stalwarts, and a few are either new, or newly reopened since the last shutdown, or newly discovered by me and checked out for the first time even though I knew it was there. Because Lyndale Avenue is two things. One is, it’s very residential for long stretches. So, there is business activity but it’s in clusters. And the other is, it’s very volatile. Of all the commercial hubs we cover at Southside Pride, I think this one has the most constant change.
But Lyndale Avenue does have some amazing long-time stalwarts. For instance, the Wedge Co-op. I love the Wedge. I hadn’t been there in ages, until just last week, but I bought groceries online for delivery a few times during the early pandemic. And before the pandemic, I was a frequent visitor at the late, lamented Wedge Table. This was a great concept: a mash-up of a coffee shop, community gathering space, deli-style cafe, and junk food-less convenience store. I’m sad that it’s gone.
But the Wedge abides, stronger than ever since it got started in 1974. Check out their website for ongoing special offerings and events, including their Fresh Cut Fridays, where shoppers get 10% off all meat and seafood on the last Friday of every month.
The full-service butcher counter offers sustainably and ethically sourced fresh meat and seafood, sliced deli meats and custom sausages. The next Fresh Cut Friday discount day will be on Aug. 27. https://tccp.coop/wedge-lyndale/
Another long-hauler that’s still around, and one of the first to open for inside dining both last summer and this year in the wake of vaccination mitigation, thus saving my life on a few heat-wave days, is the French Meadow. You may not know this, but in addition to their bread and bakery products to go, the French Meadow now has a fridge-freezer selection of soups, sauces, and other ready-to-eat or ingredient things to take home.
To get into some newly discovered gems, we’ll start at Franklin Avenue and work our way south to the very borders of Richfield and slightly beyond. Just off Lyndale at 704 West 22nd St., next door to Caffetto Coffee, is a new ice cream place that was previously a pop-up. It’s called Bebe Zito, and the owners are ice cream chef Ben Spangler and his life and business partner, Gabriella Grant. It was quite a popular pop-up, so you may have heard of it before it opened in July 2020. Their wild flavors and their adorable love story (at www.bebezitomn.com/story) have made them so popular that they just opened a second location at Malcolm Yards in Southeast Minneapolis.
Once Upon A Crime, at 26th and Garfield Avenue, is not new, nor even new to me, but it’s in a new phase of existence. After the pandemic gave rise to much more digital and virtual “stuff,” OUAC is reopened but not abandoning all that fancy tech. Their website is a wonder in the small business world. They’re selling their used books on ABE (abebooks.com) and you can also buy eBooks and digital downloads of audiobooks on their site. OUAC was always known for their great author events. These days, about half of them are in person, and half online, but they’re still great. I love all that, but I also love that, for now, I can go in and browse.
Snapology is a nationwide educational company, and its Minneapolis outpost is on Lyndale near 27th Street. Snapology is about LEGOs(™) being used to teach both engineering and creativity. They offer classes, camps and private parties. Here’s a sample description of one of their classes:
“For ages 7-11, Mechanical Masterminds gives your student the tools they need to understand mechanical movement through the foundations of simple machines, physics, and engineering design. They will see moving parts up close as they follow instructions to build various machines, then use the models to develop new design ideas, test out physics concepts, and even play games with their partners and classmates. Spinning battle tops, motorized spirographs and remote-control claw grabbers are just the tip of the engineering iceberg!”
Then we come to a pretty old business, Hagen’s Auto Body Repair. In fact, it originally began business in a different location in 1950, being run by two brothers. Although apparently they used to do restoration work on classic cars, they now confine their work to a very thorough and professional collision repair service. Check out their website to see what all that entails. It’s a lot more than just the outer body of the car.
There are two businesses side by side in the building at 3019 Lyndale that are getting pretty old for the area. One is Lyn-Lake Barber Shop, which has been there for over 20 years. Their description on the singleplatform.com website says “This old-fashioned neighborhood barbershop, is the hip place for men, women and children to get the latest cut – style cuts, brush fades, bald fades, buzz cuts and flat tops or a traditional taper – you name it. You can also get a very relaxing shave and facial. If your hair needs coloring we can do that too.”
Next door is a pet grooming salon called Royal Pet Beauty Shop. They have been in business over 30 years! They do both cat and dog grooming, including special services such as nail trimming, cleaning teeth or ears, or medicated baths or dips for various conditions. They have loads of rave reviews and reasonable prices.
Just a hop and skip away from these two wonderful services is an interesting restaurant I visited by accident, sort of. Of course, you can’t get through a neighborhood review without at least one restaurant! I won’t say a lot about it because I’m possibly going to go into more detail in the September issue’s The Dish, but here’s how it happened. I was getting really hungry one of those days when I got busy and didn’t have anything but toast and coffee until late afternoon. I wanted to check out a coffee place on Lyndale and decided I would first get a meal at Saigon Uptown, which as far as I can remember I have never visited.
Well, you know how difficult it is to find parking in the Lake and Lyndale area? There was this off-street parking lot between Saigon and another place, Gyu-Kaku Japanese barbecue. I missed it on the first pass, went around the block and pulled in. By now I was feeling positively faint. There were big mean signs saying this parking was for Gyu-Kaku and if you park here for SAIGON we’re going to TOW you! I guess it was due to being so weak with hunger, but I ended up going into Gyu-Kaku instead of Saigon. I could see the tiny (and empty) Saigon parking space, but a big delivery truck was blocking the way. After this inauspicious introduction, I will just say three things about Gyu-Kaku, and I may even repeat them next month. (Don’t worry, if you’re mad about that, I’ll refund you the cost of your paper.) 1. It’s a chain! 2. All the staff and almost all the other clientele in there were Japanese. And 3. I liked it! A lot!
Quite a bit farther south, at the Boulevard Commons (because it’s the site of the old Boulevard movie theater) is the Minneapolis outpost of Mathnasium. Mathnasium has been around since 2002, but this site (it’s a huge franchise) has been there for a bit over five years. Mathnasium is a specialist tutoring service devoted solely to mathematics, for K-12 students. They can help kids who dread math get comfortable with it, or help kids who are just average at math excel at it, or help kids who love math and are good at it aspire to even greater heights.
Mathnasium, like all educational institutions and much else, has pivoted a lot to virtual learning to stay afloat. They are now back to having in-person classes and private tutoring and summer camps, but virtual classes and tutoring are also still available and may remain so.
Not far from Mathnasium, on 54th Street just off Lyndale, is The Roastery, an extremely dedicated coffee roastery that simply sells an amazing variety of carefully curated, carefully roasted coffee. Oh, and they offer classes in coffee roasting. The owner, Jeremy Raths, has over 40 years’ experience, but has been in his small one-man roastery “only” since 1992. You can buy their products from their website or call for other options.
I’ll finish off with a couple of unique businesses that are “new to me,” though not new. At 249 West 61st St. and online via Google, you will find Avian Suites, “the gold standard” in dedicated boarding services for parrots and other companion birds. This is a very important service for people who have a beloved pet bird, because you can’t just get a parrot-sitter in any time you go on a trip.
At 6242 Lyndale Ave. in Richfield is Devi Style and West Indian Grocery. It is a specialist shop for all things both East Indian and West Indian, including fish you’ve never heard of unless you’re an expert in Indian or West Indian cuisine, special treats and things for Hindu holidays, and Indian saris and other outfits and fabrics. I haven’t checked this place out yet, except for their Facebook page, but I’m definitely going to.