Did you know that a number of members of the Nokomis East Business Association (NEBA) both live and operate their businesses within the Nokomis community?
Neil Oxendale, along with his brother Adam, owns Oxendale’s Market on 34th Avenue as well as four other grocery stores in St. Paul, West St. Paul and Bloomington. He is a lifelong resident of Nokomis East and nearby neighborhoods. Having been born and raised in the community and having attended local schools gives Neil a unique perspective on what it means to be a resident and a business owner in the area.
In 1993, at age 15, Neil began working for a grocery store under different ownership at the same 34th Avenue location as Oxendale’s. By 2007, he had purchased the business, seeing the opportunity as a means to fulfilling his dream of reinvesting in the neighborhood and bringing what he felt were the right products to market.
Likening Nokomis East to a small town within a big city, Neil cites both the people and the natural amenities of the neighborhood as contributing to the appealing feeling of the area. Because he is a resident, he sees himself as more familiar to his customers and certainly more accessible.
“I am more likely to receive feedback from our customers because they know me and they know our team,” said Neil. “Absolutely it’s an advantage that I both live and work here – especially as convenience of our location drives much of our business and the majority of customers live in the immediate area.”
DENNIS AND MARY KLOEK
Dennis and Mary Kloek, longtime owners of Nokomis Beach Coffee and Café at 50th Street and 28th, and Dori Johnson, owner of Noko Strength (a strength gym formerly known as Paddlesculpt) – like Neil – all live in nearby neighborhoods and feel that as business owners who are area residents, they are especially vested in the community.
Dennis, upbeat by nature, loves his work at the coffee shop and estimates he knows the “usual” coffee drink orders of 85% of his regular customers.
“Our shop reflects what the neighborhood is and who the humble residents are,” Dennis said. “We're happy the shop has never lost its familiar vibe. I think because my family lives nearby I am more in tune with what our customers are seeking. They love our building and its location, as do Mary and I. People like to shop locally and that’s why many enjoy living in small towns.”
Dennis also noted he believes there are more and more diverse offerings by the neighborhood businesses, and that the community of business owners is very professional. “The level of professionalism here has grown considerably in the last decade,” Dennis said. “It has all been for the better.”
Dori points out that living near her place of business, especially with children at home, allows for great efficiency in her days due to her short commute. She has lived in her current home for 21 years, and has operated her gym on 34th Avenue since 2015. Paddlesculpt rebranded last January and became Noko Strength after Dori saw signs that the paddle boarding craze had diminished. She believes many of her customers feel very connected to the neighborhood, and chose to patronize Noko Strength because it is conveniently located near their homes.
“People can come here in fewer than five minutes,” Dori said.
DEVOTED TO THE NEIGHBORHOOD
Changes Neil has observed over the years as both a resident and business owner that he feels have uplifted Nokomis East as a place to live and conduct business include the strengthening of schools, the investment in parks such as Keewaydin, and very notably the enhanced environment around Lake Nokomis. Additionally, Neil remarked about the cohesiveness among business owners here which he sees as evolving to meet the needs of the community.
“Nokomis Days and Small Business Saturday are two examples of how our businesses serve and keep us visible,” said Neil.
Dennis added the familiar tree-lighting event on 34th Avenue is among what attracts customers to the area. Dori remarked she has retained a number of attendees of these business-backed events and festivals around Lake Nokomis as customers of Noko Strength, pointing out that many have been women as we are in a time when women’s training and women’s health have become such a priority.
It is clear all three area business owners and residents feel devoted to the Nokomis East neighborhoods. All spoke about the feeling of community that one feels patronizing area businesses, and the “little downtown ambiance,” as Dori described it, that one senses as a patron of Nokomis East businesses.
Neither Neil, Dennis nor Dori can imagine living in any other part of town or relocating their businesses away from the area.
“People just feel so connected to this neighborhood,” Dori said. “We have the best of the Minneapolis lakes nearby and I love operating a business that’s part of the neighborhood where I live. There is such tremendous support among business owners here. We all look out for each other. We’re certainly a community of risk-takers.”
NEBA board member Bob Albrecht owns Bob Albrecht Real Estate, LLC. He lives and works in the former Strom family home on Shoreview Avenue in Keewaydin.