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Messenger, Monitor papers transition to new ownership May 1

Posted on 22 April 2019 by calvin

Current owners Calvin deRuyter and Tim Nelson sell newspapers to writer Tesha M. Christensen

The Longfellow Nokomis Messenger, and its sister publication, the Midway Como Monitor, will be under new ownership beginning May 1, 2019.

Calvin deRuyter and Tim Nelson of deRuyter-Nelson Publications have sold their two well-established neighborhood newspapers to south Minneapolis resident Tesha M. Christensen, who has written for the two newspapers for almost eight years.

Christensen always knew she wanted to be a writer and was drawn to journalism at a young age when she wrote a letter to the editor that was published in the Cambridge Star newspaper.

“From that point on I was hooked. I had gotten my first glimpse into the power of the printed word,” recalled Christensen. “I wanted more. I saw how newspapers could be used to generate change in their communities, and how they could inform and engage people.”

Lifelong learner
She earned a degree in English and writing in 1998 from Bethel College, where she wrote for the Clarion, and then entered the community newspaper industry.

Her first job was with the same newspaper that printed her letter to the editor, then renamed The Star newspaper. Christensen worked as the assistant editor and special sections editor of her hometown newspaper for ten years, serving two counties and a circulation of 21,000 with a twice-weekly newspaper.

Photo right: New owner Tesha M. Christensen of TMC Publications CO and her two children, Axel (age 6) and Joselyn (age 10) are excited to become more involved in these two neighborhood newspapers. The kids, of course, are pushing for a new section for kids. Got ideas on what that should include? Email (Photo courtesy of Tesha M. Christensen)

Over the years, Christensen covered a range of topics in Isanti and Chisago counties, from school board levies to new county parks to crime news. “I wrote about what new businesses were coming to town, local musicians, and rodeo shows, and a story about one resident who saved the life of another,” Christensen recalled.

“I love the ever-changing nature of this business, and how I learn something new with each story I write.”

She left the full-time workforce in March 2009 when her first baby was born, but continued writing on a part-time basis for Northstar Media, the Isanti County News, ECM Publishers/Adams Publishing Group, Twin Cities Daily Planet, RedCurrent, and The Alley newspaper in the Phillips neighborhood of south Minneapolis.

From 2006 to 2012, she worked as an adjunct journalism instructor at Anoka-Ramsey Community College where she taught a variety of journalism classes and was an adviser for the Cambridge Campus newspaper, the Ink Spot. She also taught for one year at Planet Homeschool, a homeschool co-op in St. Anthony, and helped launch a school newspaper written by the middle and high school students.

“I love journalism, and I am passionate about sharing journalism with kids and young adults,” stated Christensen. “They are the future, and it’s so exciting to hear their ideas.”

Christensen has served on a variety of committees and boards over the years and is a co-founder of Team Yarn – Head Huggers (, a small non-profit dedicated to making and donating hats, shawls, and lapghans to those battling cancer and other serious illnesses.

Forum for community discussion
Christensen and longtime staff member Denis Woulfe, along with the writers and photographers who contribute to the paper, are looking forward to what the future holds for the Messenger and Monitor newspapers.

“I think what excites me about this next chapter is working to re-engage the newspapers with the communities that we serve,” observed Woulfe, who started as an intern at the Monitor while he attended Hamline University 40 years ago.

“The world has changed since each of the newspapers was founded, but the basic needs of our readers are largely the same. I think they value the work and the role of the Messenger and the Monitor, and our challenge now is to find out how to heighten that engagement and fulfill that special contract between our readers and the newspapers that enhances and enriches the communities that we serve.”

Over the years, Woulfe has served in many different roles at the neighborhood newspapers, including the editor, typesetter, managing editor, advertising manager, and more. For the past few years, he’s been busy selling ads. and is currently a board member at ALLY People Solutions in the Midway which just merged with Community Involvement Programs (CIP) of Minneapolis. He is also a member of the Alumni Annual Fund Board for Hamline University.

“We dealt with many challenges over the years, but one, in particular, was the discussion over the role of a neighborhood newspaper and the balance between reporting what some readers saw as ‘good’ news and what others saw as ‘bad’ news,” said Woulfe. There also was a constant dialogue about what role the neighborhood newspaper had, and how it differed from the daily newspapers.

“Despite the different neighborhoods we serve with the two newspapers, the value of bringing community stakeholders together and providing a forum for community discussion has remained the constant over the years,” stated Woulfe. “It remains as important now more than ever!”

Think print is dead?
Christensen agrees that it is more important now than ever, and will be recruiting various people from each neighborhood to serve on an advisory board that will share story ideas and ties each story closer into the fabric of the neighborhood.

“At the Messenger and Monitor, we are here to tell the stories of our neighborhoods,” she stated. “We want to be reader-centric and make our content—both ads and articles—engaging and applicable. Print is evolving, and we’re looking ahead in innovative and creative ways. More people are reading than ever before in the history of humankind, and we want to ensure that local residents are reading their community newspaper because it is ‘News for You.’

“Think print is dead? Think again.”

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East Nokomis actress co-directs her first film at age 10

Posted on 22 April 2019 by calvin

Jocelyn Sanchez attended her first acting class less than a year ago. Since then, she’s signed with five talent agencies and been cast in 16 short films, commercials, and TV pilots.

Photo right: Actress Jocelyn Sanchez said, “I’ve fallen in love with acting. I love being in front of the camera, and the adrenaline that comes with it. I’m naturally good at memorization. I memorize the lines I’m given, and then I talk to my mom about how I think the character is feeling.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Her original script, called “Lost and Found” was recently accepted by the 50 Fifty Reel Challenge, an international short film competition and festival for kids. To jump-start the filming process, Jocelyn ran a successful GoFundMe Campaign and reached her goal of $1,000. She posted her casting notice on TC Cinematics, and 50+ actors submitted their headshots and resumes. She eventually had a cast and crew of more than 60 people who volunteered their time and talent to be part of her film. Jocelyn oversaw a four-day shoot at four different locations. She made shot lists for 21 scenes, assisted with editing, co-directed and starred in the film. She came up with her production company name and designed her logo.

Jocelyn Sanchez is 10 years old.

Talking about her whirlwind year, Sanchez said, “When I told my mom I wanted to give acting a try, she took me seriously. I started as an ‘extra,’ when you’re on film but you don’t have any lines. I didn’t feel very confident in the beginning, to be honest.”

Sanchez has grown in both experience and confidence in a very short time. “I think that my background in karate has helped me,” she said. “I’ve earned a brown belt at Kitsune Karate, which is also in the East Nokomis neighborhood. Karate has taught me a lot of self-discipline—when to use my strength, and when to back off. I’ve been trained to listen carefully to my sensei (teacher) and now, in the same way, I listen to my directors.”

Sanchez has been writing stories since she was old enough to write, and the chance to enter the film festival was a dream come true for her. “You have to choose a genre to enter the film competition,” Sanchez said. “The film I made is in the genre of sadness/friendship. It’s about two sisters who lose their parents in a car crash. They’re sent to live with a relative who decides to separate them, raising one herself and sending the other into foster care.” Sanchez plays the part of the older sister, and her real-life sister Maya plays the part of the younger one. The film will be shown on the big screen at the New Hope Cinema Grill Aug. 8, 2019.

The Sanchez family has lived in East Nokomis since 2006. Jocelyn attends the International Spanish Language Academy, a charter elementary school located in Hopkins, where she is in 5th grade.

“Sometimes I wonder how my life will look in five years if I stay with acting,” Sanchez said. “What will I be like? How will I change? Will I end up living in Los Angeles, or in Atlanta—now the second largest market in the US for commercials, television, and film. I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this without the support of my family, my directors, and my friends. Everyone has been so supportive. I’ve been very lucky.”


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A new season of Midtown Farmers Market opens in a new location

Posted on 22 April 2019 by calvin

The Midtown Farmers Market will open their season in a brand new location on Sat., May 4. Moon Palace Books will host the market for 2019-2020, in an open lot adjacent to their store at 3032 Minnehaha Ave. Market manager Jenna Yeakle said, “We could not be happier with this site. Moon Palace Books co-owners Jamie and Angela Schwesnedl were once Midtown Farmers Market vendors themselves. Their entrepreneurial spirit and community leadership will ensure that the market remains strong during our two year transition period.”

The Tuesday night market will open June 4

The original market site at E. Lake St. and Hiawatha Ave. is under construction. Hennepin County is about to begin Phase II of the Hiawatha/Lake Development, which includes a public plaza that will be the permanent home of the Midtown Farmers Market. By the time it’s completed, it will be almost ten years ago that the Corcoran Neighbor-hood Association began working toward this vision.

In case you’re worried, the market is not in a holding pattern in the meantime. This year it’s welcoming several new vendors including R & R Cultivation (local mushrooms), Jajja Wellness (fresh juices), Northern Coffeeworks (craft coffee), Centro Tyrone Guzman (youth-made salsa), and Bull Thistle Gardens (organic urban produce.)

“Many of our returning vendors are trying exciting new things too,” Yeakle said. “Asa’s Bakery will be adding sandwiches made from their naturally leavened sourdough breads and bagels, home-made cream cheese, spreads, and the market’s amazing seasonal produce.”

Photo right: Midtown Farmers Market manager Jenna Yeakle said, “We’re excited about our two-year interim location at Moon Palace Books. This is an opportunity for us to continue building relationships with our neighbors.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

As in years’ past, there will be live entertainment every Saturday from 9am-1pm. The Brass Messengers will play on opening day, with a full season of other musicians, poets, puppeteers, and storytellers to follow.

Want to perform? Contact Jenna Yeakle at with questions.

Tuesday night special attractions will include free Zumba classes in partnership with the Midtown YWCA (June 4-Aug, 27 at 5:30pm), with Moon Palace continuing to host trivia, movie showings, and book clubs in their store.

On-street parking will be available on Minnehaha and Snelling avenues, as well as in the Arbeiter Brewing parking lot on market days. A bicycle rewards program is in the works with the Hub Bicycle Co-op: fill a six-punch card and enter a monthly drawing to receive $25 of merchandise from the Hub.

Yeakle said, “At our peak in 2015-2016, the market served about 50,000 people per season. Last year, our attendance dropped in response to disruption from construction. We think our new, temporary location will be great—with excellent visibility on Minnehaha Ave.”

The Midtown Farmers Market started 17 years ago and has been a pioneer in the neighborhood farmers’ market movement ever since. “We made the mold for what has become standard practice across the state,” Yeakle explained. “Those wooden tokens called Market Bucks? We invented them. Come to the information table at the market and swipe your credit card in $5 increments. You’ll receive tokens that don’t expire, in case you forgot to bring cash. Our market was also the first in the state to accept EBT and SNAP payments. Innovation and access to healthy food have been core components of the market since the beginning.”

In the spirit of innovation, this year’s market hopes to host 10 new-to-the-market vendors through its Try It! Program. A Try It! Program workshop will be held on May 18 for those interested. Yeakle said, “We’re prioritizing applicants who have historically been marginalized and kept out of entrepreneurial opportunities. The goal of this program is to help emerging entrepreneurs explore whether or not becoming a Farmers Market vendor is a good fit for them. Becoming a farmers market vendor is hard work—requiring permits, licensing, insurance, specialized equipment, and marketing know-how. The Try It! Program helps prospective new vendors navigate all that. We waive application and stall fees for two market days for Try It! Program participants, and provide resources and mentoring as well. Call 612-724-7457 to register.”

To keep in touch with what is happening regularly at the Farmers Market, visit



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Changing ‘business as usual’

Posted on 22 April 2019 by calvin

Angela Conley (center) is Hennepin County’s first African American commissioner, and she’s staffed her office with other women of color who are working on racial equity issues. On the left is Policy Director Cacje Henderson and on the right is District Outreach and Scheduler Cheniqua Johnson. (Photo courtesy of Chris Juhn)

Hennepin County’s first African American commissioner Angela Conley is a lifelong Southside resident with innovative ideas on how to bring more diverse voices into government

Editor’s note: This is the first in a two-part series.

Angela Conley has yearned to be a Hennepin County Commissioner for 20 years so that she had the power to make changes to the system she worked within.

On Jan. 7, 2019, that dream came true.

The lifelong Southside resident was sworn in as a county commissioner for District 4 and became the county’s first Black commissioner in 166 years.

“Being in this level of leadership now has opened my eyes to seeing how the system is set up in a way that perpetuates disparities, that limits people’s abilities to really live their best lives,” said Conley.

She’s working to shift the narrative and move into a holistic approach for county business. Conley now chairs the health and human services committee, drawing from her years of experience working in that field.

“I feel this obligation to change systems to work better for people,” remarked Conley.

That could be anything from real estate services to tax forfeiture to housing and homelessness.

In addition to being the first African American commissioner, Conley is the first Black female commissioner and is one of two new diverse voices on the previously all-white Hennepin County board. Joining her this year is another woman of color, Irene Fernando, a Filipino-American in District 2. With their election, five of the seven-member board are women.

Race, equity, work
Bringing more diverse voices into the county is a priority for Conley, who campaigned to create a Race Equity Advisory Council.

“Before I was elected, the county would come up with ideas on their own on how to reduce disparities. Well, unless you have people of color and those directly affected by those disparities guiding the discussion you’re not going to get anywhere. You’re not going to make any progress,” said Conley.

She envisions that a council would have a place at the table to inform the board on how disparities can be reduced on issues such as lowering the number of people of color being arrested to the overwhelming number of people of color who are part of the child protection system.

Inspired by how she saw the Hennepin County Community Advisory Council on Adult Mental Health operate while she served on it, Conley believes that the needle can be moved on an issue when you have many people with a range of lived experiences giving input on a topic about missing pieces and gaps.

Thus far, Conley has met with the county’s new Disparity Reduction Director to learn what’s being done there, and what form the Race Equity Advisory Council could take.

“Disparity reduction has to start internally first,” she observed. She’s glad to see that the new composition of the county board finally reflects the composition of the communities being served and direct-line county staff. Part of what drove her to run for office is that those at the top didn’t look like her.

“I think we sent a very strong message to the status quo Nov. 6 that folks want to see diversity in leadership,” said Conley. “County leadership can function differently now. We’ve got new voices with various backgrounds and experiences.”

She believes that having those voices on the board can inform how policy changes going forward.

“It’s changed the conversation,” Conley said. “It’s changed the narrative. It’s changed ‘business as usual.’”

Going directly to the source
For Conley, the first quarter of her first term in office has been spent meeting people, being out in the community, touring homeless shelters and the jail, and talking to people directly impacted by issues she’s concerned about. “That’s how you’ll see my leadership continue,” she promised, “going directly to the source.

“We’re pushing back against outdated ideas and really trying to get innovative in how we approach issues.”

Bail reform is one place where Conley thinks changes could be made for lower-level, low-risk offenses. “What would it look like to have a system that didn’t hold you if you couldn’t afford to get out?” asked Conley.

She intends to be mindful of what the ripple effects are of decisions the county makes and recognizes that a 1% increase in property taxes might push a resident out of a home.

Equity through transit
As someone who didn’t have a car until she was 23, Conley is a fan of transit and heard from constituents on both sides of light rail during her campaign. She’s advocating for the Rapid Bus Transit D Line along the Route 5 corridor in the fourth district on Chicago and Emerson/Fremont avenues.

She pointed out that the D Line is a modern mode of bus transport that uses technology to keep lights green so the buses can move people from place to place quicker.

“That will bring transit equity to an area that typically doesn’t have it,” stated Conley. “The 5 is the highest ridership route in the state. It’s always crowded. There are safety concerns. And it runs through four of the seven commissioner districts. It runs through two of the poorest neighborhoods in Minneapolis, too. Bringing Bus Rapid Transit or the D Line would bring access to 200,000 jobs.”

(Read part two in the June edition of the Messenger.)

Conley’s assistants

Southside resident Angela Conley campaigned as a Black woman, and even her logo identified her as someone who would bring a diverse voice to the Hennepin County Board.

She continues to focus on diversity and racial equity in a variety of ways—not the least which is staffing her office with other African American women.

Cacje Henderson, Policy Director
Cacje Henderson was born and raised in South Minneapolis and is the oldest of seven children. She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities and is an alumna of the Women’s Campaign School at Yale University. She began her political career in the grassroots movement as an economic justice organizer and has gone on to work for a variety of elected officials including U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN), Gubernatorial Candidate Erin Murphy (DFL-MN) and most recently as the Senior Policy Aide to Minneapolis City Council-member Jeremiah Ellison (DFL-MN). She commits to building power in low-income communities and communities of color through local policy, and is looking forward to continuing this work as Policy Director.

Cheniqua Johnson, District Outreach and Scheduler
Cheniqua Johnson was born and raised in Worthington, MN. She is a first-generation, TRIO college graduate. She received a bachelor’s degree in family social science from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities College of Education and Human Development. She comes to the 4th District of Hennepin County from the Office of Congressman Keith Ellison, where she served as his Legislative Correspondent. In addition, she has spent the last five years in public service having previously served for the Office of Senator Al Franken (DFL-MN), Governor Mark Dayton (DFL-MN), Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL),University of Minnesota’s Roy Wilkins Center for Human Relations and Social Justice, and the City of Saint Paul. Now, she is ready to amplify voices and serve the most diverse district in the county as the District Outreach Coordinator & Scheduler.


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East Lake Savers is closed, catching everyone by surprise

Posted on 22 April 2019 by calvin

Powderhorn resident Sherrie Beal tried on a suede jacket with 6” fringe and said, “Where else can you find something like this for $4? I’ve been thrifting for as long as I can remember, and this place is a neighborhood institution. I don’t believe in buying clothes new when you can get great stuff without adding to the waste stream.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

According to several employees, the closing of the East Lake Savers in the Hi-Lake Shopping Center took everyone by surprise.
Cashier Julie Johnson said, “This closing was very sudden. Someone from the corporate office walked in here on Wed., Apr. 3, and said, ‘We’re closing the store in nine days.’ Savers has been in this location for 27 years, and there were a few people hired the day before. We’re sorry for the loss to the community.”

Savers LLC is the biggest for-profit thrift store chain in the U.S. According to their website, the company runs more than 300 stores with 22,000 employees under the names Savers and Valu Village in the U.S., Canada, and Australia; or at least they did before the recent spate of closings.

It’s hard to know how many stores there still are. The Valu Village store at Sun Ray Shopping Center in St. Paul also closed Apr. 13.

Photo right: Cashier Julie Johnson said, “The employees are sorry for the loss of this store to the community.” (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

This isn’t the first time the thrift store chain has been in the news. In 2015, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson sued Savers for misleading the public about their donations to charities. Contrary to what they advertised, Savers gave as little as 1% of clothing sales to charitable nonprofits—and none of its profits from furniture and other home goods. The company later entered into a settlement agreement with the attorney general’s office. They agreed to disclose to donors their status as a for-profit company and to have transparency on their website about actual charitable donations.

The Hi-Lake Shopping Center is managed by Wellington Management. Executive vice-president David Wellington said, “We were disappointed when we learned that Savers would go dark at the end of the month; they have been an excellent tenant there since 1992. We’re actively seeking a replacement tenant, including a thrift store or other use that would be a good mix in this important neighborhood shopping center.”

According to Wellington property manager Vicky Carr, “The lease for Savers was locked in for several years to come. A rent increase had nothing to do with their decision to close.”

According to Bloomberg LP (a global provider of financial news and information), the most likely reason for the closing seems to be a restructuring deal last month that cuts Savers’ debt load by 40% and handed over the reins to a new management and investment group. The lighter debt load and new financing will put Savers in a better position, as will reducing the number of stores they operate.

East Lake Savers manager Chantelle Caldwell said, “I started as a cashier here four years ago, and worked my way up. We’ve been told we could transfer to other stores, but for me, it’s not worth it. I’d have to start over again at entry-level. I was told they don’t have any management openings at the other Twin Cities stores. We have about 100 employees at this store alone. Some are really sad, but I’m excited. It’s time for me to do something new.”


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Minnehaha Townhomes expected to be occupied within a month

Posted on 25 March 2019 by calvin

Families begin moving into the first new public housing in Minneapolis since 2010

Sixteen new townhomes are housed in the four new buildings. The total cost of the project was approximately $5 million. (Illustration provided)

The Minneapolis Public Housing Authority (MPHA) has opened the city’s first new public housing since 2010 to 16 area families experiencing homelessness.

The Minnehaha Town­homes are owned and managed by MPHA and families come as referrals from the Hennepin County shelter system. Families began moving in at the beginning of March and MPHA anticipates full occupancy by the end of the month.

The four buildings revitalize a long-vacant site in the East Nokomis neighborhood, donated by the City of Minneapolis. The townhomes include four two-bedroom and 12 three-bedroom units reserved for families below 30 percent of area median income.

Photo right: The 16 new townhomes represent the first new public housing in eight years opened by the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority. (Photo provided)

At the cost of approximately $5 million, the Minnehaha Townhomes represent the financial contributions of MPHA, Minnesota Housing, the City of Minneapolis, Hennepin County, the Met Council, Federal Home Loan Bank, and Otto Bremer Trust.

“These 16 new units are opening as we embark on our long-term plan to preserve and expand MPHA’s housing across the city,” said MPHA Executive Director Greg Russ. “They also show the level of quality, sustainability, and household amenities we can provide to families when we construct modern public housing.”

Hennepin County’s Coordinated Entry process is designed to ensure that individuals and families with the highest vulnerability, service needs, and length of homelessness receive top priority in housing placement. The townhomes are helping to fill a gap in the process, as 70 percent of families that are eligible for Coordinated Entry are waiting for permanent supportive housing—sometimes spending up to a year in the shelter system.

“This is really a dream project for us as far as needs go,” said Hennepin County Housing Referral Coordinator Sarah Hunt. “For the families that we have been able to refer, it directly correlates with a population that we were unable to send to other housing. The unique nature of these affordable units paired with services is exactly what has been identified as an ongoing need.”

The families who live at the Minnehaha Townhomes receive services from the county and several rapid rehousing providers, offering intensive case management up-front to help families get oriented to the area, assistance with basic housing needs, referrals for ongoing needs, and more.

“The families who have been identified have not had any other options, and for them it’s a big boost,” said Hennepin County Shelter Team Supervisor Pat Hartnagel. “It’s amazing to see the things they’ve worked through and accomplished, purely because of the hope to have this housing.”

The broader impact of this housing is being felt for the Hennepin County team already. “It’s one thing to have 16 units open up and allow stability for families to have a place to call home, but it’s also directly opening up spaces in emergency shelters for other families in crisis,” said Hunt.

The site on Riverview Rd. includes a playground, ample green space, and community patio. The townhomes are located on the Blue Line light rail between two major job centers—Downtown Minneapolis and Bloomington/MOA/MSP. They are walking distance to the VA Medical Center and Minnehaha Regional Park.

The Minneapolis Public Housing Authority manages 6,000 units of public housing and 5,000 Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers, serving more than 26,000 people in Minneapolis.



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New tattoo shop owner hopes to thrive in East Nokomis

Posted on 25 March 2019 by calvin

The increasingly trendy East Nokomis commercial neighborhood at 34th Ave. and 50th St. is now the home of Nokomis Tattoo, a new higher-end tattoo studio run by Mike Welsh, tattoo name, ‘Metal Mike.’

“In tattooing,” Mike explained, “there is a long and rich history of not using your given name.” But, his given name is on the required paperwork from the Department of Health, his incorporation papers and the purchase agreement for the building now housing the newly established tattoo parlor.

Nokomis Tattoo, 4933 S. 34th Ave., opened Mar. 1, one day after passing the health department inspection. Mike said he was expecting a slow start. “I didn’t think we’d get a walk-in, but in the first hour, a lady who works at a local coffee shop came in for a tattoo.” Other clients soon followed, having seen the sign on the front of the soon-to-be-opened shop.

Photo right: Tattoo artist Allison Pegoraro and tattoo studio owner “Metal Mike” Welsh wait for clients at the entrance of Nokomis Tattoo. (Photo by Stephanie Fox)

Mike, who now lives in the East Nokomis neighborhood, had grown up in the Twin Cities, leaving in 1998 to start his vocation as a graffiti artist, working as a line cook, and moving from city to city to see the country and practice his craft.

He relocated every year or two, from Louisville to Erie to Columbus, Atlanta to Jacksonville, to mostly economically distressed rust belt and southern cities. His art got him arrested several times. Spray painting property that’s not your own is a felony, and he spent time in jail for it, including 60 days in Detroit. But, after a year, he’d proven himself to the system, and his record was expunged.

Then, when a friend, a tattoo shop owner name Jay Fish offered him a chance for a tattoo apprenticeship in Erie, he took it, seeing it as a way to use his talent and make a good living as well. He stayed at Fish’s tattoo parlor, Ink Assassins, for five years.

In 2010, he ended up back in the Twin Cities. “I didn’t think I would stick around long,” he said. But he found that coming home was a chance to continue to turn his life around.

Getting a tattoo license in Minnesota is not easy. It means jumping through a lot of hoops through the Minnesota Department of Health. These include classes in dealing with bloodborne pathogens like Hep C, HIV, and MERSA, (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and 200 hours of supervised tattooing. Forms for body art establishments include passing a 46-item checklist.

But eight years ago, armed with a Minnesota license, Mike and a business partner, Kyle Skyer, opened up Tiger Rose, a tattoo shop in Northeast Minneapolis, where Mike is still half-owner. Then, last year, he saw an opportunity to open his own shop in East Nokomis where he lives with his schoolteacher wife and two rescue dogs, Oliver, the boxer and Cricket, a pit bull.

A building that had once housed a rather sketchy massage parlor came up for sale, and he took the chance, buying the 1928 building, closing on Jan. 16. He immediately started working on remodeling it. “It needed a lot of work,” he said.

Rather than dank and dark, the new place is clean, bright and airy, with a large front-facing window, elaborate hardwood floors, up-cycled doors and other materials that had been hidden by a previous remodel.

The shop specializes in traditional tattoo styles including lettering, elaborate Japanese and other Asian style art, black and gray designs and, being Minnesota, hockey and sports tattoos. The shop’s artists also do reworks of bad tattoo art.

They welcome walk-ins and Mike expects that half their clientele will come in unannounced. He is booking appointments as well, a month or two ahead.

Other artists are signing on, including Allison Pegoraro and Rachael Rose. “I have a friend coming up from Iowa in the next few months and a friend I like working with who will probably work one day a week,” said Mike.

Pegoraro grew up in a family of artists. Her father, she said, bought both her and her sister tattoo kits. She practiced on friends and then decided to go legit and started looking for an apprenticeship.

Pegoraro already had an art and design background, having studied at the Perpich Center for Arts Education and at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. She’d worked at Dean Gallery and created the interactive bison at the Minnesota History Center. She also worked at two other local tattoo studios creating body art.

Pegoraro originally applied to work at Tiger Rose but didn’t get the job. She contacted Mike to see if she could apply at Nokomis Tattoo. “We talked on the phone, and I told her to come and work for two weeks as a try-out. After two days, I knew I’d hire her,” said Mike.

She’d gotten her first tattoo, she admitted, before she was of legal age, stealing her sister’s passport to ‘prove’ that she was 18 years old. It was a doodled a cartoon skull, she said. Five years later she covered it up with an abstract pond and lily pads design. To pay for the repair, she traded cleaning the artist’s house, including an eight-hour freezer defrost. “It had smelt embedded in ice,” she remembered.

Mike’s first tattoo was a pin-up girl. “I thought it was funny,” he said. “But, about half my tattoos have a deep meaning for me, a lot of Japanese art.” He still has some room left for future tattoos, he said, on his back and legs.

If someone comes in with an unusual request, Mike says, like a face tattoo, “I’ll do it after a discussion. I won’t tattoo an 18-year old kid who wants their whole neck done. And, I won’t tattoo genitals.”

“And,” he said, “I won’t do racist tattoos. It’s not worth it. Once you start to cater to that type of clientele, more of them will show up. If you don’t do those kinds of tattoos, that type of people won’t come around.”

Mike said plans to install a sign in his shop, hung alongside framed examples of brightly colored tattoo designs, stating his philosophy about how all people who come in will be treated fairly and with respect. “I’m just waiting to come up with the exact right words.”

Mike is also actively investing in the East Nokomis neighborhood. He is a member of the Nokomis East Neighborhood Association and planning to run for a seat on the Board of Directors this spring. And, he says, he wants to give back to the community in other ways as well.

“I come from a rough upbringing,” he said. “So, we’re giving five percent of our profits to different local charities.” Proceeds from March will go to Bags of Love, a non-profit giving kids in foster home backpacks filled with things they might need, like clothing, toiletries, and toys.

And, on May 29, the shop has invited Memorial Blood Center to park their bloodmobile outside his shop so neighbors and clients can donate. (To donate blood, health rules require a wait of a week after getting a tattoo. Donate first.)

For more information or to make an appointment at Nokomis Tattoo, call 952-999-2181.


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Neighbors review three options for Hiawatha Golf Course

Posted on 25 March 2019 by calvin

About 75 people attended the March 7 meeting to hear about, and offer input, on three possible options for the Hiawatha Golf Course property. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Possible components include a 9-hole golf course, aqua range, golf learning center, BMX/pump track,  aerial adventure course, disc golf, pickleball court, expanded clubhouse, viewing tower, amphitheater and more

The community is considering the pros and cons of three designs for the Hiawatha Golf Course.

Designers expect to take components of the three options that were presented at a Community Advisory Committee (CAC) meeting on March 7 and fashion them into a preferred draft by late April/early May.

“Nothing here today is set in stone and cannot be changed moving forward,” Andy Mitton of Berger Partnership told the 75 people present at Powderhorn Park Recreation Center.

Photo left: CAC Chair David Kaplan stands up to ask attendees to hold their comments until the comment period at the end of the meeting after some started yelling because they were unhappy the first option presented did not include at least nine holes of golf. “I’m trying to move us forward. Yelling at me and your neighbors is not very helpful,” stated Kaplan during the March 7 meeting at Powderhorn Park. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

About the three options
Mitton explained that they first looked at the water footprint and elevation of the site, and then fashioned various uses around that information.

Option 1, titled “Expanding Opportunities” (illustration right provided), would remove the existing berm next to Lake Hiawatha and allow the water to equalize. This plan includes many other options but only four practice holes, golf skills development area, and aqua range.

By doing that, designers made space for a BMX/pump track, aerial adventure course, disc golf, and pickleball court, as well as a new trailhead restroom/concession building, trails, discovery nodes, boardwalks, and bridges. There would also be space for hammocks (requested via an online comment) and possible adventure play such as hillside slides.

At the Native American focus group session held in November, designers were encouraged to incorporate native tree species such as cedar, cottonwood, ash, and white pine.

Option 2, titled “Experience Lake Hiawatha” (illustration left provided), includes a nine-hole golf course par 36 that ranges from easy to challenging and offers several beautiful vista points throughout the course. The water and golf footprint intermingle together, explained Mitton, and is done in a way that helps flood waters recede quicker than in the past.

This plan includes a water access area with boat storage and rentals, along with a play area and viewing tower. Option 2 also includes an amphitheater where movies could be shown on an inflatable screen and an ethnobotanical garden.

An expanded clubhouse could include a golf learning center with new technology.

Option 3, titled “Back to Nature” (illustration right provided), also has a nine-hole course and expanded clubhouse, this time with a pro-shop, learning center with new technology and food service. It shifts the putting green around and includes a three-tiered driving range.

An ice climbing wall could be placed on one side of the two-story high clubhouse set into the hill.

In the southeast side of the land would be a parking lot and learning center with catering kitchen, the sort where canning classes could be held, observed Mitton.

The working vision statement for the committee is: “A unique destination providing a welcoming and equitable park experience for both the surrounding community and regional park users that is ecologically-responsible, addresses water management needs, and respectful of the site’s natural and cultural history. Park development will have a long-term focus for year-round passive and active recreation, where golf and other recreation will interface with ecology and art to provide for a flood-resilient design that is accessible, connected, and celebrates the spirit of Minneapolis.”

What’s the same
All three options reduce groundwater pumping at the site by 70%, as directed by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board of Commissioners. They also mitigate trash at the site by diverting the northwest storm sewer pipe. Two of them involve re-meandering Minnehaha Creek.

Mitton stressed that all three options include some type of groundwater pumping to protect area houses.

However, more drainage would be achieved via gravity pipes instead of through pumping.

Photo left: Photo left: Bobby Warfield speaks during the March 7 Hiawatha Golf Course Community Advisory Committee meeting at Powderhorn Park. Three options for the golf course were presented at the meeting, and residents were encouraged to share their input with the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Designers hope to use pumped water as a resource by using it to irrigate the course (15-20 million gallons per year), make snow for a cross country ski loop (3.5-5 MGY), and heating and cooling an expanded clubhouse (4-8 MGY cooling, 4-19 MGY heating).

None of the options change the overall floodplain storage at the site, assured designers.

Knowing that the site may flood again simply due to its elevation, designers purposefully placed critical golf features on higher ground above the average water level of Lake Hiawatha so that they aren’t wrecked as they have been in the past.

How much will it cost?
MPRB Project Manager Tyler Pederson explained that the park would be funded as others are, through a combination of state and regional funds. Parks aren’t expected to generate all of their own revenue, although money could be earned at this site through concession sales, facility rentals, boat rentals, and golfing. The estimated revenue that could be generated at an updated golf course range from $700,000 to $1.3 million, depending on what is included in the plan.

The cost of construction ranges from $28.2 to $62 million, or $4-9 a square foot.

The annual maintenance cost is estimated to range from $1.1 to $1.5 million.

What people think
Some committee members, including Teresa Engstrom and Kathryn Kelly, were upset that none of the options included an 18-hole golf course.

Others stated their concern about putting too much in the southeast corner and interfering with the natural area there used by wildlife.

CAC member Tim Clemens supported planting indigenous species in the park that would complement art by indigenous artists.

Understanding how the water flows in the larger area around Lakes Hiawatha and Nokomis and Minnehaha Creek remains a priority for CAC member Joan Soholt, who garnered a round of applause after her call for a detailed study of the entire area. Senator Patricia Torres-Ray informed attendees of her intent to have a Senate hearing on surface water in this area.

“The reality is that we’re here because there are a number of things that are inviting us to look at change,” stated CAC member Roxanne Stuhr. “I think it’s tremendous that we’ve got this point, and I also think there is a lot of work to be done.”

She added, “We need to partner with nature.”

District 5 MPRB Commissioner Steffanie Musich thanked people for attending the meeting. Afterward she commented, “The world we are living in now is not the world our kids will be living in. We as a society need to find a way to adapt our landscapes to the changing reality—or nature will do it for us.”
Additional focus sessions were held on March 18 and 19 to gather input on golf, African American golfers, environmental factors, neighbors, and

Indigenous and Dakota, mirroring a similar set of focus groups in November 2018.

The committee is expected to finalize a design by June, and hold a public hearing in September.

SEE Is Hiawatha Golf Course making, or losing, money?


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Longfellow accessory dwelling unit to be part of Home Tour

Posted on 25 March 2019 by calvin

Christopher Strom Architects, a five-person architectural firm located in St. Louis Park, has built a portfolio of award-winning custom residential homes over the years. Lately, they’ve been getting a lot of attention for their ability to translate big design into small structures—which they call second suites. One of those projects will be part of this year’s Minneapolis-St. Paul Home Tour on Apr. 27-28.

A second suite is a permanent, secondary residence on a city lot with a dedicated kitchen and bathroom. Legally, they are referred to as accessory dwelling units (ADUs). A second suite gives city dwellers a little more room without increasing the mass of their main house. It also allows for multi-generational living while maintaining independence and privacy. Families can share resources, provide caregiving, and enjoy spending time together. While not cheap, an ADU can be a cost-effective alternative to an apartment or even an assisted living facility.

ADUs became legal in Minneapolis on Dec. 5, 2014, when the City Council amended zoning code.

“We love the idea of building new in the city without having to do a tear-down,” Strom said. “With a second suite, homeowners may decide to build-to-blend with the character of their existing home, or add a contemporary counterpoint to what’s already there.”

An ADU in Longfellow is a case in point. Owned by Stephanie Erickson and Ross Pfund, it’s the fourth project of its kind designed by Christopher Strom Architects in Minneapolis.

“There’s an amazing stock of bungalows and other well-proportioned homes in Longfellow,” Strom said. “They’re beautiful in the size and shape that they are, but they’re challenging to add on to. The reality is that people have a different expectation of reasonable space in this generation, but you don’t have to wreck a house to make it bigger.”

Photo right: Stephanie Erickson, Ross Pfund and baby Quinlan in their partially completed accessory dwelling unit. The new structure will have a living room, kitchenette, ¾ bathroom and bedroom over a double garage. A forced air furnace is located under the interior staircase. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Erikson and Pfund had meant to replace their single stall, shed-style garage anyhow. With the arrival of baby Quinlan a year ago, their home suddenly got smaller. Erickson said, “We saw two of Chris’s other projects in the neighborhood and thought maybe we should consider building an ADU. The idea of having a family room and a guest bedroom was really appealing. Both our sets of parents live out of town, so it’ll be great to have a place where they can be comfortable during visits. Our house is 1,100 square feet, and the finished ADU will be about 500 square feet. By law, the ADU can’t be larger or taller than the primary structure, and one or the other must be owner-occupied.”

“ADU design is really a game of inches,” Strom added. “When doing a custom residential design, the temptation is to keep increasing the size of the footprint to accomplish design goals. With an ADU, you don’t have that luxury. This way of working has impacted the way we look at our other projects.”

There are a lot of benefits to building an ADU. It could be used as business space (the City of Minneapolis allows one home-based employee in addition to the business owner). It could be home for an aging parent, or a young adult child returning to the roost. It could be used for rental income, or as an Airbnb. It could be used to enhance current living space, and provide more flexibility.

Strom concluded, “A second suite like the one in Longfellow isn’t a tricked-out garage. It’s a single family home with a garage on the bottom.”

For more ideas or to start a conversation, visit the alternative dwelling unit website of Christopher Strom Architects at

The 2019 Minneapolis and Saint Paul Home Tour will be Sat., Apr. 27, 10am-5pm and Sun., Apr. 28, 1-5pm.

In its 32nd year, the Tour features homes ranging from the very old to the very new. Homeowners will be on hand to share their home improvement experiences. The Tour will be held regardless of weather. Come out to meet homeowners and building professionals in a low-key, no obligation setting.

A list of all homes on the self-guided Tour will be online at in early April.


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People’s Center Dental Clinic offers comprehensive care

Posted on 25 March 2019 by calvin

The People’s Center Dental Clinic, 3152 Minnehaha Ave., provides affordable dental care to individuals and families. The clinic accepts all major insurance plans and has a sliding fee scale for patients without insurance.

Dental office manager Noel Switzer said, “Our 15-person staff includes three dentists and three registered dental hygienists. We have staff fluent in Spanish, Oromo, Amharic, Somalian, and even Italian. We have a diverse patient population, and many of our patients are new to this country. It’s quite possible that a new patient may not have been to the dentist before, but we also have many patients who have lived in the community for years.”

Photo right: Dental office manager Noel Switzer (left) and registered dental hygienist Hassan Moallim (right) of the People’s Center Dental Clinic.. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

The People’s Center Dental Clinic is a non-profit organization funded by grants and the federal government.

“We don’t turn patients away due to inability to pay,” Switzer said, “and we always welcome new patients to our clinic. We provide a comprehensive range of services, and draw patients from across the metro area and as far away as St. Cloud.”

Hassan Moallim is one of the clinic’s three registered dental hygienists and its only Italian speaker. He grew up in Florence, Italy, where his Somalian-born parents met. “I visited Minnesota several times with my family. My aunt and uncle lived here, and I eventually studied English at MCTC for two years. Their support was crucial to my success. In Somalian culture, we believe that the community is collective and that family comes first. My uncle is an internist and my mother is a retired pharmacist. I felt drawn to a career in the health sciences, and decided to become a dental hygienist.”

While studying at Nor­man­dale Community College, Moallim developed a clear sense that he wanted to work in a community dental clinic. “I enjoy the wide range of patients we get here: a lot of artists and people from many different ethnic backgrounds,” he said. “Being a dental hygienist means that you have to be skilled with instruments and tools, but you also have to be very good at working up close with people. We encourage preventive dentistry here, and I think the most important part of preventive dentistry is education. If we do a good job at that, patients will have good results.”

A common factor shared by many people coming to the dentist is anxiety. “We don’t want to scare anybody!” Moallim said. “I’m the official DJ on the lower level of the clinic, and I think hearing beautiful music helps patients to relax. In Italy, music was very prevalent and part of everyday life. This is one way that I can share what I love with my patients.”

You can contact the People’s Center Dental Clinic at 612-332-4973. Clinic hours are Monday-Friday, from 8:30am-4:30pm.


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