BY DEBRA KEEFER RAMAGE
Yes, Nicollet Avenue was originally a main north-south corridor that went from downtown to Bloomington. Very few people remember those days today, but we live in hope that it will soon be so again. Nowadays, Nicollet Avenue is essentially two unconnected streets. One is the funky, ethnically diverse, exciting avenue stretching from the Minneapolis Central Library through the pedestrianized Nicollet Mall to “Eat Street,” and ending just after the crossing of the Greenway. The other is the only slightly less ethnically diverse and exciting south Minneapolis corridor stretching from south of a dead Kmart through the increasingly upscale neighborhoods of Lyndale, Kingfield, Tangletown and Windom, before crossing the border to Richfield, Bloomington and beyond.
So let’s talk about that dead Kmart, and the reincarnated U.S. post office nearby. In 2019, it was announced that 2020 would be the year plans were finalized and the demolition of the Kmart, in order to reconnect and revitalize Nicollet Avenue, would begin. Obviously, 2020 had other things in store for us. Probably due to hosting the Minneapolis 5th Precinct police station nearby, Nicollet and Lake were the site of major riot damage in the George Floyd uprising at the end of May 2020, with the Kmart and the Lake Street station post office at 110 E. 31st St. sustaining the most damage. In fact, the Lake Street station post office, like the Minnehaha station post office at 27th Avenue and East 31st, was burned to the ground.
This eventually led to Kmart simply closing and walking away, whereas in the former plan, the new redevelopment would have included a smaller, modernized Kmart in the new Nicollet-Lake crossing development. It also led to the empty building being repurposed as a temporary home for the two destroyed post offices. Now both post offices have been rebuilt, and their leases at the former Kmart building expire next month. In a May 11 story on KSTP (kstp.com) Mayor Jacob Frey in his State of the City address, and project supervisor Rebecca Parrell in a subsequent interview, both discussed imminent plans to start the actual demolition of Kmart and reopening and redesigning the intersection. Parrell even named a date (sort of) for the wrecking ball to swing – March of 2024.
On the edge of downtown near the Loring Park neighborhood are two spots not to be missed for dining, drinking and entertainment: the Nicollet Diner and Roxy’s Cabaret at 1333 Nicollet Ave. The Nicollet Diner offers great food, including all-day breakfast, burgers, fries, malts and other diner comfort food staples, but also, something hard to find in Minneapolis, it’s open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year! They also have a coffee shop for espresso drinks, plus ice cream and other sweet treats, and a full bar serving craft cocktails and tap beers. Roxy’s Cabaret is the entertainment and event space in the same building, with drag and celebrity impersonator shows every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, with full food and bar menus available before and during all shows. They also host specially themed brunches, karaoke nights, cult movie classics, comedy shows, live music, bingo and more. Check out roxyscabaret.com for their full event calendar.
Two things that are definitely on-trend at the moment are: 1. Zero-proof bars and bottle shops and 2. THC in the form of edibles, beverages and other products. Often these two things go hand in hand. This is the case with Marigold N/A Bottle Shop, which I briefly mentioned in The Dish last November. Marigold, an extension of the hair salon Honeycomb, is located next door at 3506 Nicollet Ave., and is open Monday through Wednesday and Saturday from noon to 6 p.m., and Thursday and Friday from noon to 8 p.m. They have an online shop (pickup only for beverages – shop.honeycombmpls.com) which carries all their beverage selection, plus skin and hair care products, homewares, and miscellaneous merch.
Another Nicollet Avenue shop getting a boost from this trend is Uffda Cannabis Dispensary, which was founded on Bloomington Avenue but has now added a Tangletown location, at 5456 Nicollet Ave. They only carry cannabis- derived products (marijuana or hemp), but this includes not only edibles (gummies, chocolates, cookies, etc.) and beverages (seltzers primarily) but also tinctures, topical balms and creams, vaping supplies, and straight-up weed in fancy little apothecary jars. They have a “shop” website at www.uffda.cc/s/shop, but apparently it’s for looking only, as it doesn’t seem to be enabled for shopping.
At 3700 Nicollet Ave. you will find one of a handful of truly righteous eateries in Minneapolis, the “B” Corporation certified Butter Bakery Cafe. This cafe is out in front on many causes, such as youth housing access and employment, labor rights, AIDS awareness and survival, supporting local artists, organic and local food sourcing, reusable wares in restaurant takeout and more. One of their innovative programs is a CSB, which is like a CSA but with “bakery” substituted for “agriculture.” In other words, a bread subscription service. These run in seasonal cycles, and the spring one is just finishing up. The summer CSB share starts June 19 and runs for 10 weeks at a cost of $70. You have to come and pick up your bread (or have a friend pick it up or, if you’re away, you can donate it to their youth housing partner Nicollet Square), and you can apply for a share on their website at butterbakerycafe.com.
Less than a block away is another favorite spot of mine – Kyatchi. They have great sushi, but it’s more than just a sushi place. Their happy hour menu is minimalist yet rich in unique experiences, at very low prices. Their dine-in menu is extensive, yet also selective, with multiple sushi categories, enticing small plates and hot dog categories, and with drinks limited to beer, whiskey, sake, wine and non-alcoholic beverages. There is a three-item dessert menu that Japanizes western classics through such means as miso-caramel, or matcha-almond crumble.
Remember Curran’s Restaurant? Remember how it was sold to a developer to add a new rental housing spot? Well, that spot is now completed and open for leasing, and it’s called the Rosa Apartments. Rental prices range from $1,290 for the smallest studio to $2,545 for the largest three bedroom. The complex is five stories with 79 units in all. It offers “amenities hand-picked for the modern renter.” This includes fiber internet (free in common areas), pets allowed and a pet spa for their enjoyment, washers and dryers in the units, smartphone-based secure access, and a coffee and ice cream kiosk. There’s also an exercise suite and a walkability score that’s off the charts. You can access more information at apartments.com or at the property managers’ own website.
If you have not yet embraced urban living to that extent and have an old-fashioned lawn to maintain, or maybe some fruit trees or a flower garden, you should know about Magnuson Sod and Klier’s Nursery and Garden Center at 5901 Nicollet Ave. This is a well-established family business with lots of positive reviews from customers over the years. The company sources sod from their own local farms, and unlike chain garden centers or big box stores, the sod you buy has been cut 24 hours or less from when you get it. By not being part of a hardware store or the afterthought of a landscaping service, Magnuson Sod and Klier’s Nursery are able to focus just on products and services for your lawn and garden. Among their offerings is expert knowledge of equipment, from lawn mowers to snow blowers. They sell, repair, maintain and, in some cases, rent (e.g., sod rollers, a thing you will probably only need once in your lifetime). Also, if you’re short on storage space, you can store your mower or blower with them during the off-season, as well as getting routine service on it.
Lastly we’re going to look at one spot that’s a little beyond our normal focus on Nicollet Avenue, in that it’s way out in Richfield, in the Hub shopping center in fact, at the intersection of Nicollet and 66th Street. We’re doing this because it’s awesome and we know it’s awesome because it’s consistently ranked as one of the Best Comics Stores in Minnesota on the website besthingsmn.com. (And there, they have the address as Minneapolis.) Hot Comics and Collectibles is this – ahem – marvel. They have been in business for over 30 years, and offer additional services such as a subscriber pull-list for comics series, and a 10% all-year discount card for $15 if you’re a frequent buyer.