BY DEBRA KEEFER RAMAGE
Whither George Floyd Square?
In May, the Minneapolis Spokesman-Recorder wrote about George Floyd Square, the headline stating that it “remains a work in progress.” That is certainly true. The opening sentence of the piece is a bit more controversial: “In the three years since the murder of George Floyd and the protests that followed, not much has changed at the intersection of Chicago and 38th Street.” Change is sometimes dramatic, sometimes slow and incremental. I’d say we’ve seen both at George Floyd Square. In the first month after Floyd’s murder, the change was cataclysmic, including the advent of the new name, which barely made a ripple against the more life-and-death matters that were “normal” then. Since then, it’s been mostly incremental. Let’s examine some of the changes, before zooming out to look at the surrounding neighborhood.
Unity Foods; Onyx Coffeehouse; Chopped and Served; Just Turkey
Sometime earlier this year, the notorious Cup Foods, whose sidewalks George Floyd drew his last breath on, changed its name to Unity Foods. All reports are rather cagey about whether it’s the ownership that changed or just the name. I suspect the latter, since new owners would probably want to make that known, easy enough in today’s connected social media world.
Onyx Coffeehouse is across the street, close to the People’s Way (formerly Speedway) on the northwest corner. It is still owned and operated by Billy Jones, who originally opened it under the name ForReal Coffee. At the time he was partnering with a realtor, but the partnership dissolved and he changed the name of the coffee shop. It’s one of the most visibly successful enterprises at GFS.
The catering company Chopped and Served across the other street from Unity Foods, on the southeast corner, seems successful but is more opaque. The signage has not changed, but the catering business has an active web presence listing that address as its location. Chopped and Served offers an interesting mix which the owner, Imani Jackson, calls “Blewish” food, with influences from soul food, Creole, and Jewish-American delicatessens.
Halfway up the block from the intersection of 38th and Chicago is another successful venture you really should try (if you haven’t already) – Just Turkey Restaurant. Like the name says, they serve all things turkey – never pork or beef – with menu items like BBQ turkey ribs and rib tips, turkey burgers in a variety of flavors, a Chicago-style turkey Polish, turkey wraps, turkey tacos … the list goes on. Sides include fries, corn on the cob, or mixed greens. Check out the glowing reviews on Just Turkey’s website or Facebook page. Plus, you can order online for convenient pickup or delivery.
Nonprofits, volunteers, and spontaneity at GFS
Brass Solidarity started playing at GFS before it was even founded officially. Now that they’re doing gigs and appearances at many other movement spaces, and even in other states, they are probably more organized. But the whole thing started as impromptu jam sessions, with various unrelated musicians trying to share their own gifts with the movement. They have a Facebook page, a great website, a Linktree, and even a booking form on their website. (Check it out at brasssolidarity.com and check out the YouTube video of their performance at the Powderhorn Park Neighborhood Association MLK Jr. Day Celebration at youtu.be/T5V3G9u6VkQ.)
MPR did a great piece on Brass Solidarity. Search for “Local Brass Band Transforms George Floyd Square With Music” published July 19 on
Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL) at 3715 Chicago Ave. pre-dates George Floyd Square by many years. Space does not permit me to delve into the many organizing campaigns they run currently – BDR – Building Dignity and Respect – for non-union construction workers; Defensores (Rights Defenders) program; the Future Fighters program; and the Rise Up campaign – so check out their website (ctul.net) for more information and opportunities to get involved.
Chicago Avenue Fire Arts Center (CAFAC) at 3749 Chicago Ave. is an arts organization right in the heart of GFS and aligned with the movement. Open (Hot)House is a biannual open house with demos, displays, and do-it-yourself, and it’s coming up on Sept. 20 at 6:30 p.m. This year’s celebration will include a fire performance called Fire Jam by Lil C and the opening for a new gallery exhibit celebrating women in blacksmithing, “Forging Women,” created by Carla Hall and co-curated by Jhyle Rinker. See the Facebook event Open (Hot)House for more details and to RSVP.
Full Cycle, at 3515 Chicago Ave., is a youth program and a nonprofit bike shop. They sell used, reconditioned bikes and bike parts, and connect with and support young people experiencing homelessness through several interconnected strategies. These include employment and job training in the shop, free bikes and street outreach services.
Beyond George Floyd Square
At 2840 Chicago Ave., on the southern edge of the Allina hospital campus, you’ll find another interesting new coffee shop, Black Bean Coffee. They are open from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and have coffee and tea drinks, plus snacks and light breakfast fare. An old neighborhood stalwart is Modern Times, at 3200 Chicago Ave., one of my favorite places for breakfast. Try the Hashbrown Rancheros for an all-day meal. Jakeeno’s, 3555 Chicago Ave., is an even older neighborhood icon. (It was one of the first places I ate at when I arrived in Minneapolis in the summer of 1984!) It’s open seven days a week, has all your favorite Italian goodies, and has takeout and delivery as well as table service.
StevenBe at 3448 Chicago Ave. is another Powderhorn institution. An excerpt from the website explains: “StevenBe Studio is a two-story reclaimed firehouse dedicated to our love of the fiber arts. You’ll be welcomed like an old friend and shown some of our favorite projects and yarn. We have a lust for wild color and texture … and a fabulous Fiber Loft. We were even featured by USA Today as one of the top 10 yarn shops in North America!”
Pillsbury House + Theatre is another movement-adjacent arts organization. In addition to education and youth programs, they put on award-winning live theater and other types of performing arts. Coming up Sept. 20 through Oct. 15 is “Passage.” Here’s the synopsis:
“Set in the fictional Country X, a neocolonial state of Country Y, Christopher Chen’s ‘Passage’ examines colonialism, power, and how societal imbalances affect interpersonal dynamics through the story of B, a local doctor, and F, an expat teacher.”
Reservoir Doggies is an organization that dates back to 2013 but moved to Minnesota and South Minneapolis in 2021. This is a home-based business (their
home is near 40th and Columbus Avenue) run by animal-whisperer Emma and her supportive partner Jason. It’s billed as a dog-walking business, but it’s more than that, and might be just the thing you need if you have a pet in need of extra care or training. At the core of their business model is the Group Hike, one human and up to five dogs on a carefully curated hike around a lake or through a populated area. Check out the website reservoirdoggies.com for more services and FAQs.