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Shop the Minnehaha Mile

Posted on 26 November 2014 by robwas66

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By MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN

Chicago may have its destination shopping district, the Magnificent Mile along Michigan Ave., but Minneapolis can now also boast its own: the Minnehaha Mile. While not quite as posh, the emerged and emerging shops will likely appeal more to our Minnesota sensibilities of thrift and creativity.

How to best describe the eight businesses that make up this shopping corridor? While each is unique, the common thread is re-use. The goods sold here are vintage, re-purposed, gently used, gorgeously upcycled, rediscovered, and typically, one-of-a-kind.

Stretching along Minnehaha Ave. from East Lake St. to the Falls, this cluster of like-minded businesses was awarded a $3,000 grant from the City of Minneapolis’ Great Streets Business District Support Program. The Longfellow Business Association (LBA) got the ball rolling and secured extra funds from member LBA businesses to generate some start-up PR. The monies donated went toward branding, and creating some nice-looking maps of the Minnehaha Mile available in all of the participating shops.

Last year the Messenger ran an article about the businesses open at the time, but several new ones have been added to the Minnehaha Mile this year.

Kay Hanson and her partner Mike Atkinson opened Family Estate Sales (3904 Minnehaha Ave.) in June. Kay has been in the antiques business since the 1970’s, and is thrilled to have hung her shingle practically around the corner from the house where she has lived for more than 60 years. Costume jewelry is her specialty, but the shop carries all kinds of nifty items. Though Kay and Mike have no additional employees, they get plenty of help from family and friends. She calls these helpers, “Pickers,” and says, “They’re the folks that call us up with tips, knowing what we like, and they tell us where to find great stuff.” In her spare time she loves to watch American Pickers, a show on the History Channel about two antique dealers from Iowa who dust off and sell things they find in old barns—”Rusty gold” they call it. To hear Kay talk, there is a strong element of treasure hunting in this line of work.

Right next door, actually sharing the same address, is Lady Lucille, owned by the highly original Lucille Neal. For years Lucille ran her business out of a pink and black 1959 Shasta Air Flight (a travel trailer) with wings on the back! Since July, she has taken up residence on Minnehaha Ave., but still hits the road on summer weekends to travel the circuit of classic car shows across Minnesota. Lucille was born in Idaho, but because her mother went into labor there when they were on a road trip, she’s not sure if it “counts.” The family lived in six different states before settling in Minnesota, which means Lucille absorbed a lot of Americana growing up. She describes her personal and professional vision as being, “A pin up, retro, rock-a-billy lifestyle.” Her clothing concept is called retro-reproductions, which means the items are made with new materials but based on designs from the 1950’s–the line is colorful and beautifully constructed. A trip to Lady Lucille is a super fun blast from the past.

Toni Johnson and Kevin Hauser opened Turquoise Vintage at 3456 Minnehaha Ave. in August. Toni had previously operated the store as Tumbleweeds, but with a new business partner and the talents he brought, a name change made sense. Kevin is a terrific wood refinisher and upholsterer, as can be seen by the many pieces of 1950’s furniture on the sales floor. Toni’s passion is finding homes for things, reflecting that, “There’s so much waste in the world, why would I want to add to it?” She was kind enough to provide a little history lesson, explaining that “A lot of people use these words interchangeably, but they mean different things. Retro goes back 20-30 years, and just feels funky. Vintage is 30-70 years old, and something antique would have been around for a long time, 70-100+ years.”

While the Minnehaha Mile proprietors are selling a lot of old stuff, they are doing it in a new way. According to Toni, “Our collaborative model of business development is special.” The shop owners had a vision of collaboration from the beginning, and the Longfellow Business Association helped them solidify it. They advertise and market as a group, not as individual businesses. They encourage shoppers to visit all the stores, and cheerfully offer copies of the Minnehaha Mile shopping map to anyone who comes through their doors.  The atmosphere among the shop owners is non-competitive, as everyone is selling something different.

Time Bomb, opening this month (when we went to press the opening date was “late November”), is the latest addition to the Minnehaha Mile. Located in the old Falls Hardware building at 4008 Minnehaha Ave., their refurbished building will house several different vendors. Owners Andrea and Scott Poague have a love for all things mid-century, modern, art-deco, psychedelic and retro. If your holiday shopping list needs a little inspiration, head over there for collectible toys, retro candy and soda, or locally produced art lovingly re-made of relics from the past. Check out their website at www.timebombvintage.com for information about their opening date and participating vendors.

Minnehaha Ave. is scheduled for major road repair beginning in early 2015 and ending in fall of 2016. Phase I of the re-construction will involve 46th to 38th streets; phase II will involve 38th St. to E. Lake St. Business owners hope that they can build customer loyalty before construction starts. They will remain open for business during the construction and, as we all know, that can be very hard – especially for small business owners.

Come on out and explore the Minnehaha Mile, learn where your favorite businesses are, identify their cross streets and make a point to continue supporting them through the months ahead.

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