NE business leaders revive business association for 13th Avenue

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July 16, 2012 // UPDATED 5:48 pm - December 27, 2012
By: Tim Sturrock
Tim Sturrock

SHERIDAN — Only a short stroll from the Grainbelt Brewery complex, 13th Avenue — a street with a unique mix of art venues, trendy restaurants and shops — has seen its revitalization continue this year. 


More than a decade ago, some business owners say the area was a ghost town of empty storefronts and populated largely with rental tenants. 


But along with the recovery from the recession, the revival of its business association this year after a four-year hiatus and new development in the pipeline, business owners say a sense of cooperation, support and creativity has set the area in motion to grow this year and beyond.


“This business district is notable for its number of small family-owned businesses without franchises, so we’d like to preserve that character,” said Michael Romens, managing director of the 1920s-era Ritz Theater on 13th Avenue, which opened in 2006 after 20 years of vacancy and neglect. Romens is also one of the organizers of the 13th Avenue Business

Association, which he hopes will help businesses have a unified voice.


One of the more exciting businesses planned for the area is the Dangerous Man Brewing Company, a new microbrewery and taproom planned for 1300 2nd St. NE. A new apartment development is in the works, too, for the Grain Belt office building and adjoining lot at Marshall and 13th.


Romens said the association plans to push for more parking options, the establishment of a boutique hotel to cement the area’s appeal as a destination, and construction of a park along the nearby river.


“These are some of the oldest neighborhoods in Minneapolis, but they have never had meaningful access to the river,” he said, adding that the association also needs to work together with police on the petty crimes that have increased with the summer months.


Frank Stone, who opened his gallery Frank Stone gallery in 1997 on 2nd Street just off of 13th Avenue said neighbors and business-owners bear the responsibility for the growth in the area, which already benefited from charming buildings constructed during the heyday of the Grainbelt Brewery’s operations.


“When we moved here they were going to tear down the Grainbelt Brewery and tear down the Ritz Theater,” he said.


But, he said, community involvement saved the landmarks, and that same involvement kept the area from losing its character.


His wife, Lynn Olson who runs the gallery, said that activity in the last business association died down as the recession closed some business and tapped the resources of others. 


“What happened is that unfortunately the crash came and all of us were really hurt by that,” she said.


Stone added that the energy that existed 10 years ago has resurged. 


“Now it seems like it’s coming alive again and it has a lot more verve,” he said.


Some business owners express surprise or at least delight at its development. 


“I had no idea. I was young and stupid. I never in my wildest dreams thought we would have a theater and other nice restaurants,” said Jim Grell, referring to the 1994 opening of his restaurant the Modern Café, which was for years an anomaly on 13th. The Modern maintains the 1940s style of its predecessor and now stands as one of the oldest of the existing

restaurants on the street. 


“[The area]’s gone through several phases of gentrification,” said Grell of the development over the last two decades. “It seems like maybe 10 to 12 years ago people started sharpening up and finding out about Northeast and realizing it was great value for homes and that has helped make a change.”


But, the area needs good neighbors, meaning that the association and businesses must attend to parking and noise, though those issues could be difficult to tackle, he added.


Mary Cassidy, owner of Maeve’s Café, said she plans on getting more involved in the business association in the fall and said it was a good time for the area to get more organized and share information about trends, events, advertising and crime in the area.


“The neighborhood is changing very quickly, and we want to stay on top of it,” she said.



Tim Sturrock covers Northeast for The Journal. Reach him at and on Twitter @timsturrock.