Inside the renovation of Butter Roll Bakery

A couple weeks ago I was inside the old Butter Roll Bakery to check out the renovation efforts spearheaded by Charmaine Wahlstrom and her husband.

But before I could even write about what's happening at the Butter Roll Bakery, two buildings went down, (click here and here) a big neon sign went up on the 4th Street Salon, (click here) and generally the trend of the march of history continued to move decisively in the direction of West Broadway getting nicer. I left my little Butter Roll story aside but, luckily, nobody else is writing about the renovation so it's not like the story got stale...

When I arrived, Charmaine was in the middle of a trying to decide whether to stick with historic windows or replace the windows. She seemed to be leaning toward keeping the old windows. I chimed in and said, well, if I had a vote I'd vote for the old windows, too.

Apparently, the upstairs was relatively vacant and unused for a number of years and it's amazingly well preserved. In a recent email, Charmaine described what she had planned for the upstairs, as follows:

"The upper two floors will be for small office spaces or artist's lofts at $10 a square foot. My vision is to have a broad spectrum of people there like architects, lawyers, realtors, property managers, construction officers, artists, vendors that work with Minneapolis Public Schools, etc., with private or shared offices. People who work at home could have a shared offices space for receiving mail, answering phones, and have the awesome address 1500 West Broadway."

Downstairs there will be, once again, a bakery. But the building is getting a classy total makeover.

Looking out one of the upstairs window, a worker on a "cherry picker" lift works on the exterior. The new Minneapolis Public Schools headquarters can be seen in the background. The long-vacant and shamefully crappy looking Choi's Auto (1410 West Broadway) can be seen right below.

It turns out the brick facade of the building had sustained a lot of water damage over the years. In a nutshell, Charmaine saved the building in the nick of time.

This is a photo I took leaving out of a window and looking downward. Note the dark crack between the window sill and the brick ledge. Water got down in there and worked its way behind the brick. A few more years and it may have been too late to save the original brick facade. Three cheers for Charmaine Wahlstrom!

The way the corner of the window is fitted together is distinctive of a certain time period, and rather uncommon. Do I remember what the time period was? No, the only notes I was taking were mental notes.

While I was at Butter Roll Bakery, who should happen by but good ol' Scottie Tuska and his large, fancy camera? Scottie was documenting progress for the West Broadway Coalition, click here for their facade improvement website which was added recently to my blog roll.

Of course, only COMPLETED renovations are appearing on that website, but that didn't stop Scottie from shooting pictures. West Broadway is changing so fast that if you don't snap a picture, all we'll have is collective memory.

Anyway, while Charmaine was dealing with some other business, I dragged Scottie inside like, YOU HAVE GOT TO SEE THIS PLACE. Notably, Scottie went to the U of M School of Journalism right about the time I was a teaching assistant there, so it was like old home week.

Here's the old bakery phone, with years of numbers jotted nearby.

It was actually Scottie who saw this great camera angle before I did, but after he took some pictures I was all, like, I want one like that, too.

And who PUBLISHED the picture first? HA!!!!!

But seriously, Scottie has much more of an eye for beautiful camera angles. Me, I point my lens at a dark crack in a brick facade and think, "Must document water damage." When I take an artsy picture it's because I shot, like, 40 pictures and one of them was accidentally well-composed.

In any case, behold the photo above. Scottie's creativity as plagiarized by John Hoff. But since I admitted to it, it's not REALLY plagiarism.

Check out the really old mail holder on the exterior.

Here's a sample of the vintage wrought-iron facades that will decorate the exterior. Yes, Northside revitalization fanatics, be excited. Be very excited.

Ah, the messy path of progress.

Charmaine points to a spot on the exterior wall where a vehicle once ran into the side of the building, and the brick was repaired.

You can totally see the area where the brick was repaired. But I don't remember this accident happening in the last few years. Are there any readers who can say with certainty when this accident happened or link to a news article?

One of the workers runs an extension cord down the stairs, above.

Below, Charmaine's husband comes up the stairs. They'd both been working all day, and the days were stacked end-to-end, yet with no end in sight. The revitalization of West Broadway doesn't just happen because we wish for it. Real people have to work their fingers to the bone, all day and into the night, to make it happen. People like Charmaine and her husband.

Pictured above, a box of little plastic horses used as cake decorations. A lot of interesting odds and ends came with the building, and this is just one example. What might be the most exciting example is pictured below:

Yes, it's an old uniform from North High. The same day I took this picture, I showed the image to a number of Northside neighborhood revitalizers who had gathered at an upscale local watering hole to plot the path to progress. There was general agreement this artifact, pictured above, needed to be preserved and perhaps displayed.

But where? At North High? At the bakery itself?

Charmaine wasn't present but I assured those present she realized this uniform is an artifact and it's special.

"Trust Charmaine to do the right thing, whatever that is," I assured those present, or words to that effect.

Folks from the neighborhood probably remember the "Butter Roll Boy" who was displayed in the window for many years. Click here for an image. Well, that figurine had sentimental value and stayed with the family who owned the bakery . Or maybe he's in the witness protection program following the infamous slumlord Morris Klock versus Council Member Don Samuels "Dessert With Don" incident, take your pick.

Either way, "Little Butters" is gone. Sad face.

But (note photo above) apparently the little guy's father, uncle or mustachioed big brother stayed behind.

And speaking of stuff that stayed behind...

Here's a photo of Scottie. Note the large rectangular object in front of him. That's the old Butter Roll Bakery sign, with the front facing the wall. It's being preserved.

Here we are back at the beginning with, one hopes, an image of the future of West Broadway. Some of my clever readers may feel compelled to click on the image and read the letters above the door. Well, go ahead, but that word "Cortouse" is NOT going to be the name of the establishment. Suffice to say those were just letters put there by the artist for the sake of "here is where the name of the place would go."

That is all it is, nothing more. I guess we will all know the actual name when we see it appear perched atop the front entrance.

While all the recent progress on Broadway is exciting, there is something about the renovation of the Butter Roll Bakery which is particularly noteworthy, perhaps because there's something so classy and upscale in the plans. Though this particular blog post got pushed into the timeframe of holiday leftovers, the fact is this story has me so upbeat I may write a few more stories about the renovation before it is finished.

Charmaine and her husband are giving their all for the revitalization of West Broadway; so when you see them, give them a pat on the back.

(Photos by John Hoff)

1500 West Broadway
Minneapolis, MN

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John Hoff's picture
John Hoff

Blogging about North Minneapolis on www.johnnynorthside.com and now picked up by the Twin Cities Daily Planet.