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An Old World grocery store in the works for East Lake Street

Joel Ahlstrom is planning an old-timey grocery store at 38th and East Lake Street in Minneapolis. It's something the longtime grocer has been working on for four years.

Ahlstrom presented his plan for the $4.5 million Longfellow Market to the Longfellow Community Council’s development committee last month, the Longfellow/Nokomis Messenger reports.

Spencer Agnew, a staffer with the Longfellow Community Council, says the neighborhood, as big as it is, has limited options when it comes to grocery stores. Many people end up going outside of the neighborhood to shop for groceries, he says.

With plans for the new market underway, “Neighbors are excited to have a grocery option that is close, walkable, and bikable,” he says, adding that a market study confirms a strong demand for the store.

Besides meeting a practical need, “We are also excited about the potential for the new store to attract additional retail businesses to vacant spaces on East Lake Street,” he says. Ahlstrom “has a great story to tell with his family history,” he adds.

In some ways, Longfellow Market will hearken back to the grocery store that Ahlstrom’s grandparents ran many years ago in the area (see photo). Ahlstrom, who’s been a grocer for a half-century, only recently learned that they’d been in the same business. Ahlstrom also owns the Riverside Market in Isanti and formerly had a grocery store by the same name in Seward.

To make way for the store, the old Peterson Machinery building will undergo renovations and several other structures on the site will be torn down, the Longfellow/Nokomis Messenger story explains. The Peterson Machinery building’s high-beam ceilings and original windows will stay intact, but the 14,500-square-foot space will be modernized to save energy.

Hand-crank awnings, tin ceilings, wood floors and cases, shelves that reach the ceiling and vintage packing will give the store an Old World atmosphere. To take the old-timey theme a step further, the store will feature demonstrations of butter churning and candle-making by hand and feature a barbershop quartet on occasion, while employees will don vintage-style clothing.  

The store also includes a bakery and a deli, plus a butcher who will prepare specialty ham, bacon and smoked meats.

The Longfellow Market aims to open in mid-November.

“We are always excited to see entrepreneurs bring their own passion and vision to East Lake Street," says Agnew, adding that some of the most successful businesses in the area “offer a great atmosphere and a unique experience." It seems to him that Ahlstrom is doing just that.

Source: Spencer Agnew, Longfellow Community Council
Writer: Anna Pratt
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