Green Line Businesses bounce back

For some businesses along the Green Line light rail, the nearly two years of transit construction proved to be too much to keep operations steady. The light rail’s construction from 2012 to 2014 pushed some Stadium Village and Prospect Park businesses — like 56-year-old Campus Pizza and Pasta — too far below their bottom line, and many of the area’s storefronts cut costs and changed some of their business practices. But now, those businesses that survived the road work are bouncing back from the years of low sales and slow foot traffic that came with the construction.In order to stay open, many area businesses reduced their staff sizes and inventory to keep revenue flowing. Though Stub and Herbs has a loyal fan base and a 76-year-old legacy, owner Josh Zavadil said the business struggled through the two-year construction period.  Zavadil said he restructured the property’s mortgage and cut back on some spending during the construction to cope with the restaurant’s dwindling business as a result of the area’s lack of foot traffic. The business relied heavily on customers from University of Minnesota hockey and football games, he said. Other businesses along the light rail resorted to hosting events with the hopes of drawing positive attention to a depressed area.  While Art and Architecture Inc., an antique store in Prospect Park, didn’t struggle as much as other area businesses, manager Jodi Hohman said, morale in the area was low during the road work. “Everybody was down in the area,” she said. “People were closing up shop.” The antique store held a number of events, including “junk markets” — which are comparable to yard sales — to spur extra business, Hohman said. The removal of parking spots came with the light rail’s construction, and businesses that relied heavily on those spaces are still feeling the loss. During the construction, Paradigm Copies owner Gary Magee said his business on Washington Avenue Southeast removed some of its printing machines and shrank in size to reduce its rent cost.  He said the store lost a lot of walk-in business and didn’t attract any customers. But now that the light rail is up and running, Magee said his storefront is more robust, and he expects its customer base to continue to grow. “I’m seeing a lot of positive signs,” he said. “We’re on our way to doing much better.” Few business owners in the area know their exact property values, but many said most of the land prices along the Green Line have gone up in recent years.  And owners who own their own buildings instead of rent, like Textile Center in Prospect Park, say they are glad that they do. Nancy Gross,  director of the center’s administration, said since the train started running last summer, the nonprofit has seen more people visit its gallery space, and its consignment store has had higher sales. On the Green Line light rail’s route, trains slowly turn onto University Avenue Southeast after the line’s Prospect Park stop — half of their windows facing the Textile Center. “There are lots of eyes on us,” Gross said. “We love it.” Continue Reading

NDC’s Annual Entrepreneur Awards: celebrating long hours, sweat, tears, and accomplishments

In welcoming a very large crowd to its 2015 Entrepreneur Awards ceremony, held Saturday, April 18, at the Nicollet Island Pavilion in Minneapolis, Neighborhood Development Center (NDC) founder and CEO, Mihailo “Mike” Temali, described the evening as an opportunity to celebrate Twin Cities area entrepreneurs and the long hours, sweat, tears, sacrifices, and accomplishments that they seldom get credit for. Over the course of the evening, 14 businesses and the 19 entrepreneurs who started and run them were recognized. 

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Who’s got a ticket to ride on private Zip Rail?

While a private entity calling itself the North American High Speed Rail Group LLC has declared itself the private organization that’s going to raise capital and build the Zip Rail, a nonstop high speed rail line between the Twin Cities and Rochester, the group has been reluctant to share much about its corporate structure or backers.In an email exchange with Bluestem Prairie, the group’s Chief Strategy Officer Wendy Meadley declined to share information via email about the group’s corporate structure, the CEO’s bio, and the group’s plan to elevate the Zip Rail tracks to accommodate agriculture.  “At this time we are not publicly displaying the type of information you are requesting, but we are happy to respond,” Meadley wrote.We’ve done a bit of research, hoping to learn more. This is what we’ve come across so far.CEO: Joe SperberThe Rochester Post Bulletin’s Heather Carlson reported in Long road ahead for private rail developer:During an interview after the meeting, North American’s CEO and president, Joe Sperber, said the company believes it can do something that has never been done in the United States before —privately build and operate a high-speed rail system. The key to making the plan a success is that it would not rely simply on the rail. Instead, Sperber said the project would including economic development tied into the project.Who is Joe Sperber?  He appears to be a resident of Stillwater who was CEO of HexFuel.  Finance and Commerce reported in HexFuel gets state grant for Hastings facility:Maplewood-based startup HexFuel is getting a $740,000 grant from the Minnesota Job Creation Fund to help with a new manufacturing facility in Hastings that is expected to employ 150 people within three years, according to a Department of Employment and Economic Development news release.HexFuel makes a device that can be installed on diesel engines to make them more efficient. The BoostBox H2 breaks down water into hydrogen and oxygen and uses the gases to improve combustion, which increases fuel efficiency, reduces emissions and enhances performance.The company is investing $10 million to open a plant for manufacturing the devices. Continue Reading

Broad coalition ramps up pressure for action on transportation

 Concerned that state lawmakers won’t act to address Minnesota’s transportation needs, advocates delivered thousands of signatures to the state Capitol Feb. 12, after hearing a call to action from Governor Mark Dayton.“The real question comes down to: What kind of Minnesota do we want in 10 years?” Dayton asked a packed room where members of The Transportation Alliance and MoveMn had gathered for Transportation Day. The groups include labor unions, businesses, local governments and community organizations from across the state.“If you’re willing to accept things getting worse in 10 years . . . Continue Reading

GLOBAL GROCERIES | One of the few true butcher shops still left in Minneapolis has a lot of fans

The Finer Meat Company, the tiny butcher shop near the corner of Nicollet and 38th, has been providing the best in meat to South Minneapolis since the depth of the Great Depression. First opened in 1932 at 36th and Bryant (now Gigi’s,) the shop moved to its current location and was then sold to Aaron Knopik in 1963. It hasn’t changed very much since then.Many customers have been coming to Finer Meats for years, even before a very young Brian Knopik stood on a milk crate helping stock the shelves for the family business. “My grandfather bought it on Saturday and opened it again on Monday,” said Knopik, who now runs the place. Knopik works with his fiancé, Stacy Tollefson who met Knopik five years ago and signed on as a rookie butcher the same night.The shop’s customer demographic is mostly the same as it was 50 years ago – African-American soul food cooks from the local neighborhood. Continue Reading

From Minnesota Chamber of Commerce’s Bill Blazer: African immigrant entrepreneurs key to state’s future

The Minnesota Somali Chamber of Commerce held its first annual celebration dinner Saturday at the Safari Restaurant in Minneapolis.Bill Blazer, interim president of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, and other distinguished guests attended the Somali chamber’s gala dinner to celebrate and mark its achievements.Despite a slow start of the night, guests enjoyed the evening dinner and the dynamic interaction. Some of the dignitaries attending the event included Dr. Bruce Corrie of University of Concordia St. Paul, Faruk Cingilli, president of Turkish Somali American Friendship Association, Nasibu Sareva, executive director of African Development Center, as well as Unity Cooperative Council’s executive director Hussein Khatib.Mohamud Beenebeene, executive director of the Minnesota Somali Chamber of Commerce kicked off the gala dinner by thanking all the parties that have contributed to the chamber. Speaking mostly in Somali, Beenebeene shared the chamber’s history and achievements and outlined visions of the chamber going forward.The Minnesota Somali Chamber of Commerce was conceived by a group of business women and men in June 2013 and was launched in 2014. It represents more than 210 Somali businesses in Minnesota.“This initiative was formed by a group of men and women who wanted a business platform,” Beenebeene said. Continue Reading