Homi Restaurant: Interview audio and transcript

Bruce Johansen: It’s September 14, 2013. I’m Bruce Johansen and I’m at Homi Mexican Restaurant, located at 864 University Avenue West in St. Paul. This is one in a series of interviews I’m doing with business owners along the Central Corridor. My project is funded through a grant from the State of Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage Fund. [Audio at bottom]Today I’m interviewing two people, Miguel López and Hortencia Reyes, Homi’s co-owners. Continue Reading

Flamingo Restaurant: Interview audio and transcript

Bruce Johansen: It’s June 28, 2013 and I’m Bruce Johansen. I’m at the Flamingo Restaurant, right off of University Avenue, at 490 North Syndicate, in St. Paul. This interview is one in a series of interviews I’m doing with business owners along University Avenue, also known now as the Central Corridor and the Green Line. This project is funded through a State of Minnesota Historical & Cultural Heritage Grant. With me is Flamingo co-owner Shegitu Kebede. [Audio at bottom]To learn more, read Flamingo Restaurant: “We feel like we’re home” by Bruce Johansen, listen to the audio below, and watch video here. Continue Reading

Best Steak House: Interview audio and transcript

Bruce Johansen: It’s September 20, 2013. I’m Bruce Johansen and I’m at Best Steak House, located at 860 University Avenue West in St. Paul. This is one in a series of interviews I’m doing with business owners along the Central Corridor. My project is funded through a State of Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage Grant. [Audio at bottom]To learn more, read Best Steak House: “When they told me business would go up…I couldn’t figure out how, but it really has,” by Bruce Johansen, listen to the audio below, and watch video here. Continue Reading

Dubliner Pub: Interview audio and transcript

Bruce Johansen: It’s September 18, 2013 and I’m Bruce Johansen. I’m at the Dubliner Pub, located at 2162 University Avenue West in St. Paul. This interview is one in a series that I’m doing with business owners along University Avenue, also known now as the Central Corridor. This project is funded through a State of Minnesota Historical & Cultural Heritage Grant. With me is owner Tom Scanlon. Continue Reading

Ha Tien Grocery Store: “We are confident that it will be better, a lot better”

“It’s just a very long distance from not having anything, to get to this point,” says Ne Dao, co-owner of Ha Tien Grocery Store (353 University Avenue West, St. Paul). While Dao means as business people, St. Paul is also a long distance from where Ne and husband and co-owner, Son Dao, started out geographically.This article is part of the series, Along the Corridor: University Avenue business owners navigating change, an oral history project funded through a State of Minnesota Historical & Cultural Heritage Grant. Ne was born in Cambodia, Son in Vietnam. She and her parents, farmers, fled Cambodia for Thailand in the 1970s, where they lived in a resettlement camp for three-and-a-half years. Continue Reading

Bangkok Cuisine: “When this opportunity came up, we just had to take it”

“When we started, people were like, ‘Are you nuts? The light rail’s going to come here. You’re going to have grand opening, grand closing.’” Jai Vang, owner of Bangkok Cuisine (432 University Ave. W., St. Paul), says he heard what people were saying, but felt compelled to go forward.This article is part of the series, Along the Corridor: University Avenue business owners navigating change, an oral history project funded through a State of Minnesota Historical & Cultural Heritage Grant. “Just like in life, a storm hits, you weather it, and the sunshine comes through. Continue Reading

Big Daddy’s Old Fashioned Barbeque: “I would just like to see a better mix of things”

Historically, the Rondo neighborhood was the most vibrant African American community in St. Paul, until a new freeway, built in the 1960s, tore it apart. According to the Minnesota Historical Society, “The construction of I-94 shattered this tight-knit community, displaced thousands of African Americans into a racially segregated city and a discriminatory housing market, and erased a now-legendary neighborhood.”This article is part of the series, Along the Corridor: University Avenue business owners navigating change, an oral history project funded through a State of Minnesota Historical & Cultural Heritage Grant. Ron Whyte, one of three owners of Big Daddy’s Old Fashioned Barbeque (625 University West, St. Paul), has observed a shrinking African American presence since his arrival in St. Paul in 1980. Continue Reading

SugaRush: “I just hope that corporate America don’t come in and take us all out”

SugaRush (712 University Avenue W., St. Paul) is many things. It’s a donut shop with a dazzling array of donuts, apple fritters, coffee, smoothies, and other tasty treats. It’s an independent business entirely staffed by family members. It’s also a community gathering place for many residents of Frogtown and surrounding neighborhoods.This article is part of the series, Along the Corridor: University Avenue business owners navigating change, an oral history project funded through a State of Minnesota Historical & Cultural Heritage Grant. Keoni Nguyen, who owns the shop with his wife, Susie Path, has deep roots in the area. Continue Reading

Ngon Vietnamese Bistro: “We knew this was right for us, and we knew light rail was coming”

Hai Truong was born in Vietnam and came to the United States with his family at age five. That was in 1979. While the Truong family lived in various places—Minneapolis, St. Paul, Mounds View, Maplewood—Truong’s deepest connection has been to the storefront at the corner of University and Avon Aves. It’s where his father opened his first Caravelle Restaurant in 1984, and where Truong has been the chef-owner of Ngon Vietnamese Bistro since 2007.This article is part of the series, Along the Corridor: University Avenue business owners navigating change, an oral history project funded through a State of Minnesota Historical & Cultural Heritage Grant. Knowing that University Avenue would soon be served by light rail was one of Truong’s main incentives for leaving the corporate world and launching his own business. Continue Reading