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Barely Brothers Records adds vinyl to retro shopping hub

Vinyl aficionados can look forward to flipping through a new trove of wax when Barely Brothers Records opens later this month at 783 Raymond Avenue in the Creative Enterprise Zone on the Central Corridor in Saint Paul. Barely Brothers joins such retro and vintage shops in the area as Mid Mod Men and Succotash.

The shop’s grand opening celebration is March 22. Local music acts including Minneapolis-based Eleganza, and Matt Arthur & the Bratlanders, will perform.

Co-owner Mike Elias has spent a good part of his life digging through stacks of records. After working at various record shops for a decade, he spent 13 years at the Electric Fetus in Minneapolis. When he’s not pushing vinyl, he’s often spinning it at clubs and events around town where he performs as DJ Father Time.

Along with co-owner Spencer Brook, Elias is now bringing his erudite musical tastes to bear on this new venture. With 8,000 LPs and 20,000 45s in store, Barely Brothers will offer a “deep and eclectic” catalogue of used records along with new releases, according to Elias.

“We have a pretty good Latin Boogaloo section,” Elias says, only half joking. “People don’t even know they want this stuff yet,” Brook adds.

Just talking about music and expanding customers’ horizons is a big part of the joy of owning a record store, Elias says, while fingering through a rack of albums. “Show me what you like and I’ll show you what else you’ll like,” he says.

Elias and Brook also plan to host live performances in their new space. With movable racks, the record store by day can easily become an intimate music club by night. Elias hopes to tap local DJs—many of whom he calls friends—to spin records specifically from the store’s catalogue. The owners would eventually like to host art-show openings in the space as well.

Their eclectic inventory might attract a certain collector crowd, but Elias and Brook are non-discriminating in their music tastes.  “My tastes are expansive so I really can’t discount anyone else’s…unless it’s Billy Joel,” Elias says.

Brook says they want every music fan, especially young ones, to stop by the shop and rediscover a different way of listening to music. They’re critical of today’s digital music industry, which pushes single tracks over holistic albums.

“We want people to think about the way they are listening to music, that there are better ways to do it,” Brook says. His suggestion? “Sit down and put on a record.”

Sources: Mike Elias, Spencer Brook
Writer: Kyle Mianulli

Infinite Vapor on a mission with artful e-cig shop

The fast-growing electronic cigarette trend has meant dozens of e-cig stores have been popping up around the Twin Cities. None, however, have been more artfully designed than Infinite Vapor in Uptown.

Tricia Khutoretsky, founder of the hot Public Functionary art space in Northeast Minneapolis, is curating the new shop, which currently includes a collection of screenprints from local artists such as Greg Gossel, Eric Inkala, and Adam Garcia, and a large mural by designer Mike Cina depicting wisps of vapor climbing a wall.

Longtime Twin Cities’ nightclub promoter Beecher Vaillancourt, and his friend and local mixed-martial arts fight promoter Gavin Rydell, own the shop. Anjel Vaillancourt, Beecher’s sister, is the store manager. Beecher successfully quit smoking after Rydell offered him an e-cig years ago. Anjel and the siblings’ parents also all laid down tobacco for the allegedly safer electronic option.

Beecher Vaillancourt and Rydell now have seven stores across Minnesota and North Dakota, and another starting up in Madison, Wisconsin. But the team is pouring special attention into the Uptown location, exploring how a local e-cig shop can do more than just sell supplies. They want to encourage people to quit tobacco for good, while also celebrating local community.

The store started the year with a quit-smoking campaign called “Kick It: A stop smoking movement by Infinite Vapor.” Through February, the store is also promoting a “Kick It For Love” special by offering two-for-one deals.

The shop is also working with a local organization that puts disabled veterans to work recycling e-cigarette atomizers—the piece that absorbs the liquid before it’s vaporized and inhaled.

A degree of uncertainty currently surrounds the future of e-cigarettes in Minnesota. Widespread adoption across the state has led several cities to institute limits on where people can puff on their e-cigs. A bill from DFL State Rep. Phyllis Kahn seeks to treat e-cigarettes like normal smokes under the Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act.

Source: Anjel Vaillancourt
Writer: Kyle Mianulli

Roundtable: Incubator roaster for craft coffeepreneurs

As the craft beer boom and local food movement have shown, the Twin Cities has developed a palate for artisanal and locally produced fare. Shawn Person, of Moonshine Coffee Co., is now looking to expand our developing taste for specialty roast coffee. In early March, he’s opening a new storefront location in the Creative Enterprise Zone next to the Green Line in Saint Paul. Roundtable Coffee Works, he says, is a “coffee roasting manufactory.”

Inspired by craft guilds and modeled after collaborative workspaces, Roundtable Coffee Works will house an array of local businesses endeavoring to create their own unique Twin Cities’ flavors of specialty coffee. “It’s really about sharing knowledge and helping each other out—establishing that kind of community,” Person says.

It might not make financial sense for a local coffee shop to purchase and maintain personal roasting equipment. But being able to rent a roaster by the hour to make a one-of-a-kind specialty roast? That’s an opportunity Person is confident coffee entrepreneurs will jump at.

After six years in the Twin Cities’ roasting scene, Person is an industry veteran, he says. He already has several local coffeepreneurs on board and a surprising number of home roasters have approached him about utilizing the space. Due to rising interest, he also plans to have dedicated hours for hobbyists to come in and roast their own beans.

“There’s a growing awareness of specialty coffee in general,” Person says. He’s also noticing “differences in ways of selling coffee. By that I mean Starbucks, Dunn Bros., and Caribou all sell coffee a certain way, and it works. But then there’s another way to sell [it], and that’s small and local, with a neighborhood focus, as well as quality focus.”

Just as people are flocking to taprooms to taste local microbrews, so are they increasingly interested in how their morning java tastes—and is made. They want to feel connected to the process, he says. “People want to see the roaster... At Thanksgiving, they want to brew some coffee in the morning and tell their family, ‘Yeah, my buddy Shawn roasted this.’”

Roundtable will have a retail component though don’t look for tables to sit at with your laptop while you leisurely sip a breve hazelnut latte. The roaster will only offer drip coffee and espresso to go, along with beans. The Roundtable brand of coffee won’t be wholesaled either.

For Person, his start up is more about serving residents of and visitors to the neighborhood. Still, eager customers can purchase Roundtable Coffee beans, mugs, t-shirts and other gear for a limited time through an online pop-up shop and similar pop-ups he’ll schedule annually.

Source: Shawn Person
Writer: Kyle Mianulli

Rock Star Supply Co. in chapter development with 826 National

Rock Star Supply Co.’s busy location, in the Creative Enterprise Zone at the corner of Raymond and University in Saint Paul, is about to get busier. The educational nonprofit—its dedicated volunteers tutor elementary- and secondary-school children on writing, algebra, and other subjects—is working with San Francisco-based tutoring company 826 National to bring one of that organization’s signature “stores” to the Twin Cities.

Rock Star is currently a lively tutoring workshop that offers “a range of programs, all free of charge…[that] focus on project-based learning, homework help, [and] extra-curricular reading, along with spectacular writing prompts and smaller writing workshops,” according to its website. This summer, Rock Star’s headquarters, as part of 826’s new franchise-style expansion initiative, will be rebranded as the “Mid-Continent Oceanographic Institute.”

What? The name does make sense. Here’s why. In its 10-plus years, 826 National has developed a clever, family-friendly approach to branding. Each tutoring center (it currently has eight, mostly in major Northern cities) doubles as a store with an unmistakable “angle.” For instance, Boston’s “Bigfoot Research Institute” sells cryptozoology books and paraphernalia.

Chicago’s “Boring Store” doubles as a “Spy Supply Store.” (The “boring” part is meant to throw passers-by off the trail.) Seattle’s “Space Travel Supply Company” sells rocket equipment, space suits, and other accessories to “freelance space travelers.” Each store plows its merchandise earnings back into its tutoring operations. So how did the Twin Cities become home to the Mid-Continent Oceanographic Institute?

“We went through an extensive ideation process to arrive at Mid-Continent Oceanographic Institute,” says Jeremy Wang, chair of Rock Star’s Executive Board. “We’re playing off the idea that, to most of the country, we’re a ‘fly-over’ state, hence the Mid-Continent. And while we have a lot of coastline, none of it is oceanic.” Wang’s thrilled at the prospect of opening a “sub shop” that doesn’t sell anything edible.

The expansion also comes with challenges. “Our biggest hurdle is to be financially stable enough to build out the storefront and sustain our current programming,” says Wang, noting that the organization has traditionally relied on donations from individuals and foundations. Razoo and upcoming Kickstarter campaigns are providing a crucial shot in the arm.

What can kids, parents, and shoppers expect from Mid-Continent Oceanographic Institute, née Rock Star Supply Co.? “I think nearly everyone involved at Rock Star Supply Co. has been inspired by the 826 model,” says Wang. “So we don't really see our programming changing a whole lot as we transition.”

That said, Wang does expect Rock Star to add more writing workshops as the transition date approaches. And there’s the issue of merging educational programming and retail activities. “Unlike other 826 sites, we started without a storefront,” says Wang. “They mostly started their programming at the storefront, then worked their way into schools.”

For now, the folks at Rock Star are working to retain their core mission without neglecting the coming transition. For Wang and the rest of the board, this means seeking help wherever they can find it. “We are always looking for tutors in any subject, especially algebra,” he says, “as we have a whole group of students that comes in for Algebra 2 on Tuesdays.” Rock star math tutors: Take note.

Source: Jeremy Wang
Writer: Brian Martucci

Carter Averbeck transforms old into renewed at Omforme

Omforme, a Norwegian word meaning "to transform,” is the name of a new shop at 24th and Lyndale in Minneapolis. Omforme also describes the ways in which its owner, Carter Averbeck, who is part Norwegian, gives furniture and other home goods a new lease on life. 

The shop offers a mix of vintage and modern pieces that reflect every era, as well as original furnishings from local designers. Some pieces are restored to their former glory, while others get a modern update, Averbeck explains.   

The shop evolved out of Averbeck’s other business, Trompe Decorative Finishes, through which Averbeck creates murals and decorative finishes for commercial and residential spaces. Often, when clients stopped by the studio, Averbeck says, they would remark on the unique furniture in the space--often pieces that Averbeck had reconditioned.

Before opening Omforme, Averbeck experimented with several pop-up shops. Those were successful, so he was able to secure a permanent home for Omforme.  

From the beginning, Averbeck wanted to be near Uptown, an area that has an artistic, hip edge to it, he says. 

Lyndale seemed like an ideal location. “Lyndale is moving so fast into what Uptown used to be,” with many new retail shops, restaurants, and apartments, he says. “I got lucky. It was the right space at the right time.”  

Previously, the 1,100-square-foot space had been a Gothic-style hair salon. Although the place needed a lot of attention, “the building has great bones,” Averbeck says.

Averbeck took his design cues from the vintage building. Old World details blend with crisp modern shades of white and charcoal gray, while the colorful pieces for sale lend ambiance. “It’s like a high-class manner house,” in Europe, “a timeless space,” he says. “People say it’s like walking out of Minneapolis, into some place else.”  

Source: Carter Averbeck, owner, Omforme 
Writer: Anna Pratt 

Betty Danger's Country Club to feature food and a Ferris wheel

Betty Danger’s Country Club, a Tex-Mex restaurant featuring dining while sitting on a Ferris wheel, a mini golf course, and a “pro shop,” is destined for Northeast Minneapolis. 

The restaurant plans to take over the former home of Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge, a retro drive-in at 2519 Marshall St. N.E., according to city materials about the project. The location has been empty since Psycho Suzi’s relocated nearby a couple of years ago.  

Leslie Bock, a.k.a. Psycho Suzi, owns both places, along with Donny Dirk’s Zombie Den in North Minneapolis. 

She described the personality behind Betty Danger’s in a letter to neighbors, according to the TC Daily Planet, which quotes her: “Betty is apple pie and sunshine, but sadly lives in a time warp with no sense of reality or logic. Poor Betty."   

The restaurant's most striking attraction, a 60-foot Ferris wheel, will offer views of the Mississippi River, the downtown skyline, and the Lowry Bridge.     
Last Monday, the city’s planning commission approved plans for the restaurant, which will also have a clubhouse, a covered terrace, an outdoor kitchen, and a full bar. The place aims to open by early next year.  City Council member Kevin Reich says of the neighborhood’s reaction, “The predominant tone I’m getting is that everyone’s looking for a win-win.” 

Parking is the main issue that has come up with the area’s neighborhood group. That said, it’s a solvable problem, Reich believes.  “The city’s not afraid of the novelty of it,” he says, and will be breaking it down into various regulatory items and other nuts-and-bolts issues. It helps that “the community is very engaged,” according to Reich.

Bock is known as someone who is “committed to being a good neighbor, who’s very creative, thinks out of the box, and brings landmarks to the area." In terms of finding the "wow factor," Reich says, “She’s done that in a big way."  

Source: Kevin Reich, City Council member 
Writer: Anna Pratt 

Little Mekong brand helps draw people to the Central Corridor

In recognition of the unique Asian businesses and other cultural institutions along University Avenue in St. Paul from Galtier to Mackubin streets, the area is being branded as Little Mekong.

It’s an initiative that the local Asian Economic Development Association (AEDA) launched on Feb. 25.

The name references the Mekong River, which is a major river in Southeast Asia, according to Va-Megn Thoj, who heads the AEDA. “Most businesses in the area have a connection to the river,” he explains.

In his view, “By giving a name to a destination which has existed for a long time, we can draw more people into the area.” This is especially needed during Central Corridor light rail construction, he says.  

Already, as a result of construction obstacles, many of the businesses are seeing less foot traffic, he says.

With the Little Mekong branding, “We want to build on what we have,” which he describes as “an attractive destination for people to get introduced to Asian cultures and cuisine.” Although the district has been around informally for a long time, not too many people are familiar with it, he says.

Besides improving the streetscape and putting up district-related signage, Little Mekong will host a number of events, including family-friendly festivals.

AEDA is also working with businesses to create incentive programs to bring in more customers, including coupons and other deals, and to handle increased traffic. “We’re working with businesses to strengthen their operations and customer service,” he says.

The coming Central Corridor represents “a tremendous opportunity to create something of benefit to the neighborhoods and city and region," he adds.

Source: Va-Megn Thoj
Writer: Anna Pratt

A unique deli concept to redefine empty space in Lowry Hill

After four years of sitting vacant, the space that once housed the Auriga restaurant in Minneapolis's Lowry Hill neighborhood will soon reopen with a unique deli concept.

The deli will be similar to those in Eastern Europe, but with a twist, according to Tobie Nidetz, a consultant on the project. Nidetz has helped open numerous restaurants in many locations.  

Citing a shortage of delis in the Twin Cities and beyond, Nidetz, who is known as "the food guy," says there's a "pent-up demand" for such a place.

He and real estate attorney David Weinstein, who lives near the space at 1930 Hennepin Avenue South, hope to fill that void, he says.  

Although specific details of the plan are still coming together, including the project's cost, physical renovations will happen mainly inside the space, while the old exterior will probably stay intact, the Southwest Journal reports.

Right now, Weinstein and Nidetz are still meeting with various designers, general contractors, and others to flesh out certain aspects of the project, including the deli's name, according to Nidetz.

However, they've already committed to a "fast casual" type of restaurant that will offer as many local, organic and sustainable products as possible, he says.

Most of the food will be made in-house. The deli will also offer desserts, coffee drinks, beer and cocktails, and more, he says.

But the signature menu item will be a variation on pastrami that's popular in Montreal.

Although the timeline is preliminary, Nidetz says he and Weinstein hope to open the deli this fall.

Source: Tobie Nidetz
Writer: Anna Pratt

$4.8 million Emerge Career and Technology Center will address growing digital divide

The $4.8 million Emerge Career and Technology Center will help address a growing digital divide in North Minneapolis.  

Emerge Community Development will redevelop the former North Branch Library at 1834 Emerson Avenue North, to make way for the center, which will offer a wide variety of programming pertaining to emerging careers, with an emphasis on green jobs, according to Emerge executive director Mike Wynne.

Training will deal with entrepreneurship, job skills, and career learning, while several learning labs, computer kiosks, multi-use conference rooms, and offices will be available.    

So far, Emerge has secured about $3.3 million for the center. Recently the project was listed by a City Council committee as a top priority for transit-oriented design funds from the county.    

In 2009, Emerge acquired the historic building from the Geneva Services Co., a salvage company that will stay in the building until the renovation starts, according to Wynne. The 13,000-square-foot building was a library from 1894 until 1977.    

Calling the building an architectural jewel, he says, "It's the oldest standing building that was erected solely as a library in the state and it was the first branch library in Minneapolis," adding that the project has attracted support from historic preservation groups, government agencies, and other funders.

Emerge's fundraising campaign highlights the legacy of Gratia Countryman, who headed the Minneapolis library system for several decades in the early 1900s, according to Wynne. She was well known across the country for her work starting up children's reading rooms and the bookmobile, which originated at the branch library, according to Emerge information.

As a part of the project, the old bookmobile garage and classrooms will be repurposed for the career tech center while some of Emerge's partners will move into the building to support its operation. "This community asset needs to be returned," says Wynne, adding, "It's a purpose that's accessible" to individuals and big and small groups.   
Emerge plans to wrap up the fundraising aspect in 2011 and begin construction before the year ends. "It's been a challenging time to hold a capital fundraising effort, but we continue to see progress," he says.  

On a broad level, the development contributes to the revitalization of the West Broadway commercial corridor. "At a time of great disparities in joblessness in North Minneapolis and communities of color, this is a chance to bring a support mechanism that works in a very direct way."

Source: Mike Wynne, executive director, Emerge Community Development
Writer: Anna Pratt

Brew�s Coffee & Books concept, a caf�, bookstore and creative outlet, needs $32,000 to start up

Eric Brew, a St. Paul resident, has long thought about creating an arts hub where writers, painters, thespians, and others could hang out and feed off of each other. 

The timing seemed right, so he recently set in motion an online kickstarter fund, to which anyone can contribute, to make it a reality. 

He's eying a 4,000-square-foot space in Northeast Minneapolis, the previous home of City Salvage, which moved next door, for a combination coffee shop, bookstore, and creative outlet he's calling Brew's Coffee & Books.

To make it a go, Brew needs to raise $32,000 in start-up expenses, including the first month's rent and deposit, business licenses, permits, coffee bar, bookshelves, and plumbing.

So far, the project has received $1,575 in startup funds, according to its website. The deadline for raising the money is May 4.  

Brew, who was inspired by the famous Shakespeare and Company Bookshop in Paris, wants to provide a similar feel, with a book-filled partition and plenty of nooks and crannies. "It's the complete opposite of what's there now," he says. "It has an empty floor plan." 

The vacant space has hardwood floors, exposed brick walls, and a stage. Brew is looking to incorporate writing studios and a lending library, along with books for sale on consignment and dramatic performances.

He envisions a place where people can teach or attend classes, perform, and participate in discussion groups and more. "The biggest thing is having an open space available to all kinds of artists, not specifically writers or actors, but everyone."

Brew's will emphasize sustainable practices: "We promise to be as green as we can be in two environmentally taxing industries, coffee and publishing," its website states.  

For starters, the caf� will serve specialty coffees that come from a local roaster who supports "direct trade" coffee beans that come straight from farmers through an area importer, while sustainable practices will be constantly refined, according to its website. Food will also come from local sources. 

The cafe will try to use as many secondhand items as possible, Brew says. To get the concept beyond the idea stage, he's working with a couple of collaborators while also networking with artists. He hopes to open the cafe in June.   

Source: Eric Brew, originator of Brew's Coffee & Books
Writer: Anna Pratt

A bold, and vertical, transformation in store for 26th and Nicollet Avenue

A sizable rock-climbing community in the Twin Cities is underserved, according to Nate Postma, the founder and president of the locally based company Vertical Endeavors. Numerous area rock-climbing gyms have gone out of business through the years, he explains. 

Vertical Endeavors runs several indoor rock-climbing gyms in St. Paul, Duluth, and Warrenville, Ill. In St. Paul, it offers indoor and outdoor lessons, youth programs, and group events, along with a pro shop, weight equipment, showers, lockers, and year round climate control, its website states.

As an indication of the sport's popularity, the St. Paul Vertical Endeavors location sees over 100,000 individual climbers a year. Many of them become repeat customers, Postma says.
For years the company scoped out various sites for a potential Minneapolis location.

Postma was pleased when Mark Krogh, the principal of Java Properties, approached Vertical Endeavors about the possibility of bringing an indoor rock-climbing gym to 26th and Nicollet Avenue in Southwest Minneapolis, as a part of a larger proposal to revamp a couple buildings on the block.

With the help of Minneapolis-based DJR Architecture, developer First & First LLC is heading the $5 million project.

The gym will go into an 11,000-square-foot space that once housed the Ice House Studio in the Whittier neighborhood.

Postma says the $2 million state-of-the-art facility will be among the largest in the country. It could be as high as 60 feet, with 25,000 square feet of climbing space. Many climbing gyms are half that size, or even smaller, he says.

It'll accommodate different styles, abilities and ages, with top-roped climbing, bouldering, and auto-belays (which allow people to go solo). "This will put Minneapolis on the map," he says, adding, "Our customers are destination-oriented."  

A branch of St. Paul's well-known burger joint, the Blue Door Pub, will be the second-largest tenant next to the gym, while the popular Azia restaurant is returning to the corner with a new concept, according to Krogh. Thirteen apartments, another restaurant, coffee shop, offices, courtyard and parking are also part of the plan.

Krogh says the rock-climbing gym will draw many new people to the restaurant-filled avenue, dubbed Eat Street. "I really believe this is going to be the next Uptown," he says. "It should be exciting. I think it's going to bring a lot of energy to Eat Street."

Source: Nate Postma, founder and president of Vertical Endeavors
Writer: Anna Pratt

From the farm to the cup: Peace Coffee brews up a new coffee shop in South Minneapolis

In putting together a hip new coffee shop that opens this week in South Minneapolis, the scrappy Peace Coffee team found themselves climbing atop an abandoned grain elevator, coming away with a cool door that makes for a unique menu board.

They salvaged lumber from a demolished house for custom benches. Additionally, blue and white tiles that once lined the bottom of a swimming pool now form a beautiful floor mosaic, picturing boxy, espresso-guzzling robots and monkeys.

The build-out of the Peace Coffee Shop at Wonderland Park is in keeping with the company's social responsibility ethos, inside and out. Peace Coffee peddles fair trade and organic coffee, often literally, via bicycle, from its base of operations that includes a roastery, in the nearby Phillips neighborhood.

The company had considered venturing into retail for a while, according to Peace Coffee's Lee Wallace, who goes by "Queen Bean."

It came together after a local building owner approached Wallace just over a year ago about the possibility of developing the space in the Longfellow neighborhood, which was previously a photography supply store. "This just seemed like the right partnership," says Wallace, who is leading the charge.

"It's another way to support the Twin Cities' independent coffee culture and connect with customers more directly," she says. She's looking forward to talking with people about how they source their coffees. "We want people to understand how to taste coffee and understand the story that comes with the food," which she adds goes from the farm to the cup.

At the bar, customers can watch as their drinks are being made, while a lab area provides for barista training, fair trade classes, and more.

Source: Lee Wallace, Peace Coffee, "Queen Bean"
Writer: Anna Pratt

East Bank Mills developer rallies to beat Nov. 15 sheriff's sale deadline

One of the most unusual development projects in the Twin Cities is facing a painfully common problem this month --foreclosure.

Schafer Richardson's East Bank Mills development was designed to bring nearly 1,000 new living units to the Minneapolis riverfront but stalled once the recession hit. Now a sheriff's sale is set for Nov. 15, with urgent negotiations underway to keep the project alive.

David Frank, who has been working on the project since his first day at Schafer Richardson seven years ago, says hope for East Bank Mills' future is "tempered with a hefty dose of reality." The project's financing structure, via 24 different banks, would be "unwieldy even in good times," he says.

The developer is pressing ahead on two fronts: trying to bring new money, people, and ideas to the project; and short-circuiting the foreclosure process through talks amongst the various parties' attorneys. But time is short. As Frank noted, when the calendar flipped this week the 15th was in the middle of the page.

East Bank Mills remains an ambitious vision, even languishing on paper. Plans include renovation of the historic Pillsury A Mill, a handsome 130-year-old limestone edifice that was the world's biggest flour mill in its heyday. Designed by Minneapolis architect LeRoy S. Buffington (who had a claim as one of the earliest skyscraper designers), the A Mill towers above Main Street, the oldest street in the city. Other massive buildings in the multi-block former Pillsbury milling complex would also be reused, including a red-tile grain elevator with silos that would remain empty but would support condominiums above.

Does Schafer Richardson regret environmental, historic-preservation and neighborhood planning processes that slowed the project's process? "Not really," Frank says. To forgo those steps is "not really our style."

Source: David Frank, Schafer Richardson
Writer: Chris Steller

St. Paul's 30th art crawl is 'a giant open house'

This month St. Paul held its 30th art crawl, and the semi-annual event has grown so popular that it has spawned a smaller, monthly version. Foot traffic at Saint Paul Art Crawls averages 20,000�24,000, says Robyn Priestly, executive director at the Saint Paul Art Collective, the nonprofit that runs the event.

Spectacular fall weather may have suppressed attendance at this month's three-day crawl. Priestly says reports are still being tallied from organizers at the four "clumps" of studios across the city: Lowertown and downtown; Grand Avenue; University Avenue; and the East Side.

The crawls' appeal is partly architectural, Priestly says: "Looking at the buildings is part of it because these are great old buildings, whether they're the new rehabbed buildings on University Avenue or the old warehouses down in Lowertown."

First Friday open houses occur every month in which the collective isn't mounting an art crawl. The scaled-down monthly crawls feature studios in five Lowertown buildings: Tilsner, Jax, Lowertown Lofts, Northwestern Building and the Northern Warehouse. The next First Friday, on Nov. 5, marks the one-year anniversary of the event.

One of the collective's other projects has been opening a new art gallery in the Northern Warehouse. On exhibit now (call 651-292-4373 for hours): artwork by the collective's past and present board members.

The crawls grew out of open houses held by members of the Lowertown Lofts artists' cooperative 20 years ago. For the first decade they were annual affairs before growing to a twice-yearly event that has stayed true to its original impetus. "It is a giant open house," Priestly says.

Source: Robyn Priestley, St. Paul Art Collective
Writer: Chris Steller

Leo Kim raising $24K to publish his "St Paul Serenity" photo project

On a sunny Sunday August afternoon last year, Leo Kim waded into the stream in downtown St. Paul's Mears Park for a new angle on a scene that had become familiar to him--maybe overly so--after many attempts at photographing it.

"What if I were a squirrel?" Kim asked himself. "What would I see?"

The resulting picture--an intimate view of natural forces set into motion in the city's midst--inspired Kim to embark on a nine-month quest to capture more images of surprising serenity within the city of St. Paul.

Now he's trying to raise $24,000 to publish a book of 96 photos he's calling "Saint Paul Serenity." That's twice what his earlier photo-book of North Dakota landscapes cost, but Kim decided he wants to keep the money in the local economy by using a Minneapolis printer instead of shipping the work overseas. An event on Thursday launches his fundraising effort, which he says is so far going more slowly than did the North Dakota project. He's hoping to get enough book orders to have "Serenity" printed by Christmas.

Kim, a professional photographer, lived in Minneapolis for 15 years before a 2005 move to Lowertown near Mears Park. He found he hadn't created a cohesive series of Minneapolis images--"Someday I will," he vows--but he readily discovered the serene scenes he went looking for around St. Paul.

"The city has done a great job with the landscape," says Kim, an immigrant of Korean heritage who came to Minnesota via Shanghai, Hong Kong, Macao, and Austria--not to mention time spent studying in North Dakota. He says he aspired to become an architect or city planner but couldn't bear to be in meetings. Instead, he seeks out St. Paul's wild side, often finding "I have the place to myself, only a stone's throw from downtown.

"It's amazing."

Source: Leo Kim, Leo Kim Photography
Writer: Chris Steller
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