Biz buzz :: Geek out!

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March 29, 2010 // UPDATED 8:20 am - March 29, 2010
By: Gregory J. Scott
Gregory J. Scott

// Kristoffer Knutson shows Pink Hobo gallery some ROBOTlove //

One of the coolest pockets of Northeast is about to get even cooler. Or maybe geekier, depending on your perspective.

ROBOTlove — an Uptown Mecca for vinyl toy collectors, alternative interior designers and aficionados of quirk — is moving to the corner of East Hennepin and Central Avenue this June, settling into the space currently occupied by geek art gallery Pink Hobo. The move brings yet another funky boutique to a shopping district already brimming with indie shops, cafés and restaurants.

The move is part of an arrangement that welcomes ROBOTlove owner Kristoffer Knutson on staff at the multimedia firm PUNY, which operates out of a studio tucked behind Pink Hobo. Since April of 2009, PUNY has operated the gallery as a showroom for non-commercial work produced by its friends and collaborators. Knutson started his new role at PUNY, as a managing director, on March 15.

Knutson will continue to operate ROBOTlove as an independent boutique. And thanks to a spatial shuffle orchestrated by artist and designer Jonathan Gomez Whitney, Pink Hobo will slide over, filling out and expanding an auxiliary storefront space that now accommodates overflow from the gallery. Both ROBOTlove and Pink Hobo will have regular daytime hours. And all three entities — PUNY, Pink Hobo and ROBOTlove — will share the building at 507 E. Hennepin Ave.

“I came out of 2009 pretty beaten,” said Knutson, who opened ROBOTlove in 2004. “After the holiday season, it was looking like I was either going to have to find work or something drastic was going to happen.”

And although Knutson has extensive experience in advertising, he knew he didn’t want to go back to producing commercials, which he did for five years at Fallon before opening his shop. He also knew that in such a tight job market, “sending a resume out won’t do any good.”

So Knutson, who says he hasn’t worked for someone else in 10 years, set up a lunch with Pink Hobo/PUNY principles Shad Petosky and Vincent Stall.

“I basically laid it all out there,” said Knutson. He was looking for work.

And, coincidentally, Petosky and Stall were looking to move the gallery forward.

“We were already thinking, ‘What is year two going to be like for Pink Hobo? How do we evolve?’” said Stall. And selling “curated merchandise” was one thing he and Petosky were strongly considering. Knutson, with his experience managing ROBOTlove’s carefully selected menagerie of inventory, seemed like an ideal hire.

“That’s what made the collaboration click,” said Stall. “Our customer bases just mesh so well. We’ve got geek art, the interactive agency and now designer toys.”

In other words, design geek central.

The new retail space will allow ROBOTlove to expand its stock to include PUNY branded products and prints, including select merchandise from the children’s show Yo Gabba Gabba!, one of PUNY’s more high-profile clients.

Knutson will also play a role in programming the Pink Hobo, bringing toy designers and other ROBOTlove featured artists into the mix. Stall hopes that Knutson’s involvement will add “a little more caché” to the gallery, hopefully attracting more high-profile talent from around the nation. Knutson, a partner in the local visual arts website, has been a fixture of the art scene for years.

A grand opening for the new ROBOTlove is schedule for June 16, coinciding with the release of the latest run of Dunny toys, the Kid Robot Dunny 2010 series.

First Ave opens burger joint

What do you get a rock club for its 40th anniversary? How about a “Diamond Dog,” a quarter pound, all-beef hotdog, wrapped with pepper bacon and deep-fried on a pretzel bun?

First Avenue, one of the oldest music venues in the country, turns 40 on April 3. And as part of its birthday celebrations, the club will open the Depot Tavern, its long-awaited burger joint that since last spring has been slated to take over the former Unbank property on 7th St. The Depot Tavern will open sometime this May, and officials have been touting the Diamond Dog as its signature menu item.

The Depot’s name honors the history of the venue, which initially opened in 1937 as a Greyhound Bus depot.

In addition to the Tavern, First Ave has also announced plans to renovate the VIP Room, which will be renamed The Record Room. Local artist Greg Gossel has been selected to create a large indoor mural for the revamped space. The Record Room’s launch party goes down on April 4, with DJ set from Passion Pit, the Moon Goons, Ricky Biggs and others.

First Ave’s official 40th birthday party is slated for April 2–3, with a pair of sold-out Spoon shows in the Mainroom.