BY DEBRA KEEFER RAMAGE
As we’ve mentioned in a previous year, it’s easy to see the small business hub at 28th Avenue and 42nd Street as a small town within the city, with 42nd Street being “Main Street” of the mythical town of Standish-Ericsson, or Stan-Eric for short. As usual, we will look at how the pandemic has changed the small business landscape and how some individual businesses have responded.
From the busy hub of 28th Avenue and East 42nd Street, head east on 42nd toward Hiawatha Avenue and you will see some new places that have opened in the past year, as well as some great small businesses that have persisted through the pandemic and have now cautiously reopened. One of these is Doodle Bird Design. Doodle Bird is owned and run by a graphic artist. The company’s online store, doodlebirddesign.com, sells her own creations – beautiful greeting cards for all occasions. But the physical shop, now open for browsing, carries a large variety of arts, crafts and innovative products, all by Minnesota makers. I had occasion to go in there recently, and came out with a whole bunch of stuff, including some felt and cork coasters and some hand-knitted hotdish counter protectors, two things I really, really needed. No, really!
A little beyond there, at 30th Avenue, is Nokomis Pet Clinic, a beloved veterinarian’s office. Nokomis Pet Clinic is now allowing one pet parent at a time, masked, to be in the waiting room with their pet, and others must wait outside until called. Also, they are overwhelmed with patients, so they are not able to take on new patients at this time and have suspended non-essential services.
Crossing over the street and heading back westward, we pass the site of the previous Hudson Hardware, and here is where we see a change. There has been a small business “mini-empire” growing here in downtown Stan-Eric. This building is now the location of Angry Catfish, the bike shop. The bike shop/coffee shop hybrid has split off into two separate venues, with the old location housing the coffee shop, which we will get to presently. Angry Catfish, now just a bike shop, to be clear, has a lot more space, so obviously the pandemic has not hurt business. Quite the contrary, which is very good news.
Another change has occurred at the site previously housing Flag Foods and what I was told was a pretty decent taqueria inside of it. Sadly, neither Flag Foods nor the fast-food outlet it hosted has made it. The building is now occupied by Thai Pepper, a takeout-only (no delivery) branch of a West St. Paul Thai restaurant. I, for one, am happy to see another Thai restaurant in the neighborhood. I shall be trying them out soon.
Now we’re back at the corner of 28th Avenue, where Flanery Brothers Automotive is as busy as ever, servicing Southsiders’ vehicles since 1957 (over 50 years)! Still family-owned and operated, the auto shop was originally started by Bernard “Bum” Flanery, and is now owned by his sons, Tim and Brian. Flanery Brothers Auto takes pride in their loyal customer base, as they are known for both their expertise and honesty, as well as being good community citizens. I haven’t patronized them lately myself because my old Saturn is basically a rambling wreck on its last legs, but if you’re looking for an auto shop with high ratings for quality service and reasonable prices, give Flanery Brothers a call.
Dominating the corner, and with loads of Roosevelt High students flocking in for after-school snacks the last time I was there, is A Baker’s Wife. A classic neighborhood bakery, A Baker’s Wife sells all manner of doughnuts, danish, croissants, cookies, cakes and more. I tried a couple of new items the last time I stopped in. I got the Russian tea cookies and a gooey cookie/bar called the butter bar. They were both sublime. Keep A Baker’s Wife in mind for special occasion decorated cakes which can be ordered online a day or more in advance. And with winter around the corner, you can also order whole pies, coffee cakes, dinner rolls, etc. for your holiday feasts.
Next to A Baker’s Wife is another store in the aforementioned small empire which includes Angry Catfish. This is Mend Provisions, advertised as a “fishing store.” (This is not at all the same thing as a bait shop, by the way.) If you want to get a feel for it before you visit, I recommend you head over to the Yelp review site, where you will find five reviews, all at five-star, so a perfect score, all very folksy and blokey and possibly impenetrable due to the fishing jargon. If you understand the reviews, you will probably like the store.
Around the corner is the final part of the empire in this neighborhood, the coffee shop. The coffee shop is now renamed Northern Coffeeworks, and the coffee they are serving and selling in bags is called the same thing, and is locally roasted. Looking into this, I discovered that the owner, Josh Klauck, had yet another iron in the fire, so to speak. Back in 2019, in a partnership with investor Jeff Hilligloss, he started a local roastery and cafe on Washington Avenue in a location vacated by Big Brain Comics, called Northern Coffeeworks. They had been selling the coffee for a short while when all cafes were closed down in March 2020. So now the name of our Stan-Eric coffeeshop is the same as its sister spot over on Washington. Like the Thai place, I haven’t had a chance to try it yet, but I am eager to do so.
Another great place to check out at the 28th Avenue and 42nd Street hub is The Spinal Frontier Chiropractic, run by Dr. Tracie Fowler and her chiro team. As their website says, “this is not your Mom’s doctor clinic (unless she is one of those cool and hippy Moms that wouldn’t let you eat Wonder Bread and let you stay home from school just to hang out once in a while).” Dr. Tracie believes that the healthier you are, the more fun you have, and she has been a self-proclaimed “fun chiro” for 17 years. Just check out their very fun and entertaining website and you’ll see what I mean. Spinal Frontier offers a monthly membership option that provides all the care you need for one low price. Call or email them to get all the info on their services, rates and membership options.
In the stretch of 42nd Street westward from 28th to Cedar Avenue, I want to highlight Northern Fires Pizza, which I finally got to sample. Its service model is also online ordering followed by pickup for takeout. They have spacious, shaded benches out front. If you’re not there waiting, they will text you when your order’s up. I had a Margherita pizza, and their interesting take on roasted Brussels sprouts and a housemade unsweetened iced tea (comes in a bottle, add your own ice). It was all very delish, and very filling, so it stretched to three meals with a salad added.
I briefly want to mention Infused Life Plant Based Emporium, at the corner of 28th Avenue and East 38th Street. Its opening was delayed due to the owner’s medical issues so it missed out on our 38th Street issue, but I was able to visit there recently. They have teas, iced and hot, with caffeine and not, as well as vegan foods. They also have lots of other interesting items related to natural living and vegan cooking, including cookbooks, mixes and ingredients, herbal formulae, handmade jewelry, soaps, smudges and much more. It’s a fun and interesting shop, well worth a visit.