BY DEBRA KEEFER RAMAGE
For this review of things in the neighborhood, we’ll go geographically down Lyndale Avenue, starting just north of Franklin Avenue, and ending just south of Minnehaha Creek. The first organization to check out is called Vision Loss Resources, a nonprofit that provides just what the name says. Their mission is to create “a community of service, skills, and support for people with vision loss,” so that they “find new ways to adapt, connect, and thrive.” They directly provide such things as trainings and webinars, support groups and mentors, but they also connect people living with vision loss to government, professional or other nonprofit resources.
A block south of Franklin Avenue, on the west side of the street, you’ll find a business with an intriguing name, Urban Tails. Although this place sells all manner of stuff related to keeping dogs, cats or other small animals as companions, their main gig is selling hard-to-find raw cat and dog foods and natural, healthy foods for all manner of pets. They also offer online shopping and free delivery within a fairly wide area (for orders over a modest threshold). If you can’t make it there in person, check out their comprehensive website (urbantailspet.com) and/or sign up for emails with updates and exclusive offers.
Across the street, at 2105 Lyndale, is the iconic Wedge Co-op, one of the oldest food co-ops in the Twin Cities (which is, as you know, Co-op-town USA). Some years ago the Wedge merged with Linden Hills Co-op, in the neighborhood of the same name, to become TCCP – Twin Cities Co-op Partners – but the two stores remain individual in style and stock, to suit their local consumers. (A single membership purchase gets you membership in both.) If you’ve been thinking of joining a co-op, check out tccp.coop/ownership to see what benefits are available. In addition to a 10% discount on a whole shop every quarter, they have a monthly rotation of additional benefits. For instance, in August, there is 15% off all Minnesota-grown produce during the week of August 17 – 23.
The next interesting business we come to is Sweeney Todd’s hair salon, located at 2429 Lyndale Ave. S. Sweeney Todd’s has been in business for 17 years on Lyndale, which is a great record. They’re a full-service hair salon offering simple traditional cuts or trendy styles, as well as color, permanent waves, extensions, dreadlocks or whatever you need. (They are in fact the upper Midwest’s #1 dreadlock service salon.) They have a newsletter you can sign up for and an online appointment booking platform.
A couple of blocks farther south we come to Common Roots Cafe, at 2558 Lyndale Ave. S., which shares the corner with a few other eateries. Common Roots is a community resource as well as a place to get a meal or just a quick coffee, tea or beer. They were a pioneer of the local food movement, and also practice waste reduction by composting and rainwater capture. They have a neighborhood garden where fruit, herbs and salad greens are grown. Common Roots paid a higher wage even before the city passed the $15 minimum and was one of the first places to go tip-free. They serve breakfast and lunch on weekends, and all meals on Tuesday through Friday, with a happy hour from 2 to 5 p.m. And if you want a private meeting and eating room, they have a closed-off room that seats up to 16 people.
Diagonally across from Common Roots, on the ground floor of the Rex26 apartment building, is an ALDI supermarket. This is a fairly new addition to the neighborhood. ALDI is primarily known for low prices even on vegan foods, organic produce, imported meats and cheeses, and other items that are often high-priced elsewhere. Groceries from ALDI can now be ordered online and delivered to you via Instacart.
Just around the corner, less than a block east of Lyndale, is one of my favorite local independent bookstores, Once Upon A Crime. This small but intelligently stocked family-run bookstore dominates the mysteries and crime stories market, for both new and used books, mostly new. I probably sound like an email newsletter fanatic the way I’m always pushing newsletters, but I do enjoy a good one, and Once Upon A Crime has one of the best email newsletters I’ve seen. You can sign up on their website where you can now also shop online, even though you can also once again shop in person.
In fact, like every bookstore still standing after 2020, you can order books delivered or for pickup, and you can order audiobooks and/or e-books to be delivered digitally and not even have to go to your mailbox! Once Upon A Crime is back to having in-store author events (check the website), but they have also archived a bunch of virtual events they held when in-person was not possible (again, website).
As we continue south and get near Lake Street, we come to Sunny’s Hair and Wigs, at 2938 Lyndale Ave. S. This family business started about 30 years ago as a hair care salon, founded by a guy named Sunny, with his wife helping out on weekends. They had four daughters who are now adults and currently manage the business. They pivoted to mainly wigs, extensions and related services about 20 years ago. Wig and hair customers run the gamut from the theater community to chemotherapy and other hair loss patients, to cosplaying convention-goers, to average folks who temporarily want more exotic hair. Sunny’s is there for all of them. The business started right here in Minneapolis but now has retail stores in Atlanta and Mesa, Ariz., as well as a thriving online shop.
Right on the corner, in fact at 626 W. Lake St., is another iconic eatery, It’s Greek to Me Taverna E Parea. Open since 1982, it was first called simply It’s Greek To Me back when I went there with my kids when they were small. It’s still an old-school Greek restaurant serving all the standard favorites like moussaka, pastitsio, dolmades and gyros, plus some surprising newer choices like a special side of locally grown amaranth greens with lemon and olive oil, or a green salad topped with grilled salmon. And check out their lovely, welcoming patio for outdoor dining during the summer months. They are open from 4 to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday, and closed Monday and Tuesday. You can also order via ToastTab for curbside pickup, inside pickup or delivery.
About six blocks south we come to 36 Lyn Refuel Station, another local business that goes above and beyond its ostensible business model. A focus piece from 2017 from a journal called Right Enterprises introduces proprietor Lonnie McQuirter (who also made the local Business Journal’s Fast50 list that same year):
“Lonnie prefers that no one refer to the 36 Lyn Refuel Station as a gas station or [its brand of gasoline] even though it is both of those things. What defines the business is the connection to the Lyndale neighborhood and, by extension, the product mix in the convenience store that reflects it. And for these things, Lonnie has been acknowledged by the likes of Kiplinger’s and the National Retail Federation.”
We’ll end our exploration of Lyndale Avenue at the Washburn Library, at 5244 Lyndale. Set near scenic Minnehaha Creek, Washburn Library is named for local flour magnate and U.S. Sen. William D. Washburn (1831-1912). Library service to this area began in 1939 with a bookmobile route. The library’s current location opened in 1970. Washburn Library is open six days a week and has nice amenities like a mural in the children’s section, lots of computers, and meeting rooms.