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April 11, 2011
By: Jeremy Zoss
Jeremy Zoss
National Camera closes doors

HENNEPIN AVENUE — After nearly 30 years at its current location, National Camera’s Hennepin location has closed. The news of the closure came as an abrupt blow to many of the store’s loyal customers, but founder John Liss is hopeful that it’s not the end of National Camera’s presence Downtown.

“I’d like to stay,” says Liss. “And I don’t think you’d condemn the building. But it has to be a safe and healthy place for people to work.”

According to Liss, the building requires extensive repairs to both the interior and exterior. One corner of the building is essentially held together with giant metal staples, and cracks in the brick led to water damage to the interior. The electrical system is also in need of significant updates, and the result is a building that needs significant repairs. Repairs that can’t happen while the store remains open.

Both Liss and store manager Megan Boesen say that the city of Minneapolis has contacted National Camera and expressed interest in keeping them in the space or helping the store find a new location Downtown.

“If I can find a way to finance the repairs of both the interior and exterior, we’ll do them and stay,” said Liss. “The city likes having us there as an anchor in the Theater District. But there are advantages to finding a new space too. The Downtown location is the smallest of our stores. If we found a bigger space, we could put a lab in, we could have a bigger footprint. One way or the other, we’d like to be back downtown in six months to a year.”

National Camera has maintained a Downtown location off and on since the company’s founding in 1914, and all five of the Downtown store’s employees will be transferred to other locations along with any remaining inventory. Boesen is thankful that she and her co-workers won’t be losing their jobs, but is clearly hopeful that they’ll all be returning to downtown quickly. “We’ve got the best customers in the world,” she says. “They keep coming in and telling us about vacant properties we could lease for the store.”

Liss is eager to hear suggestions for new spaces. “We love the old place, but it could be better. We need more visibility. We need more parking. And as long as it’s not an internal space, we’re open to all possibilities. It can be different from our other stores. We don’t have a store that looks like the others. We don’t mind different.”


Lingerie Football League coming to Minneapolis

WAREHOUSE DISTRICT — Playing at Target Center may be a no-go for the Vikings, but one new team will be calling it home this fall. The Lingerie Football League is coming to Minneapolis as part of the sexy sports league’s four-city expansion.

Founded in 2009, the LFL features seven-on-seven games played by women clad in the unusual combination of shoulder pads, helmets and skimpy lingerie. According to a statement by Target Center Vice President and General Manager Steve Mattson, the LFL games will “provide Minnesota fans an entertaining blend of action, beauty and football all wrapped up in one event.”

Fans were asked to submit potential names for the team. The name “Minnesota Valkyrie” was chosen by an overwhelming margin, and the first person to suggest the name will reportedly receive lifetime season tickets. All other fans will pay around $50 a seat. Naturally, seats closest to the action are expected to sell quickly.


LOOK + SEE celebrates new home

RIVERFRONT — Look + See Eye Care hosted a grand opening celebration on April 9 for its new space at 225 Main St. SE.

In response to a growing patient roster, the company has added a doctor and moved from East Hennepin Avenue into a larger space with more parking.

The store’s new showroom is now carrying a few more designers, such as the “weightless” Zero G brand, and the Seraphin line made by the local shop Ogi.


American Burger Bar opens in LaSalle Plaza

HENNEPIN AVENUE — The oddly shaped storefront across from Rock Bottom Brewery in LaSalle Plaza has a new occupant, one that hopes to carve out a unique place in the retail and dining complex. American Burger Bar opened in late March, and co-owner Eric Sandrock is confident that his restaurant will be a welcome addition to the neighborhood.

“You’ve got the high end dining with the Capital Grill, the brewery and now you’ve got the mom and pop shop,” says Sandrock. “That’s us. And we feel like now there’s really something for everyone here.”

The Downtown restaurant is the third location for the American Burger Bar franchise, which opened its first location in St. Paul in 2009. Downtown was an attractive location for the new restaurant because Sandrock “loves the energy,” and restaurant has several unique features to bring in the diners. As the name suggests, American Burger Bar serves both standard burgers and more daring fare, such as a Kobe beef Jucy Lucy, a Thai burger and a “South of the Border” burger with a bun that’s actually branded with a cattle iron.

There are many places downtown to grab a burger, so Sandrock is hoping some of the restaurants other unique aspects will appeal to diners. It is one of the only restaurants in Downtown to offer a selection of “extreme beers,” limited edition brews with high alcohol content and bold flavors created by microbreweries from around the country. The restaurant also serves breakfast from 7–11 on weekdays and features a “make your own burger bar” for the time-sensitive lunch crowd. But perhaps the most enticing amenity of all is The Boardroom, a luxurious conference room with HDTV, separate stereo system and high-backed leather chairs that can be reserved for meetings, or just groups looking for a unique place to eat.


New owners aim to class up former Skyway Lounge

HENNEPIN —  The notoriously seedy Hennepin Avenue strip club the Skyway Lounge has closed, but a new gentleman’s club will be taking its place in early summer. The new owners have been renovating the space since the private sale and intend to reopen as a classier, more upscale establishment than the famously grungy former occupant.

Called Lure, the new business will feature topless dancers and liquor sales in setting with a burlesque vibe and boudoir-inspired décor. Lure’s owners hope to open in roughly a month.

In other adult-oriented news, adult novelty chain Fantasy Gifts is opening a new location on Hennepin Avenue on the first floor of the Stage Apartments building.


Fulton Brewery beginning to take shape

NORTH LOOP — While there is still much to do before it can open, progress is being made on the new brewery for Minneapolis-based microbrewery Fulton. The amount of work left is so considerable that Fulton President Ryan Petz is hesitant to even name a month for its opening, but he’s hopeful that the North Loop building will be open for tours in the late summer.

Fulton’s plans have been submitted to the city for approval, and the microbrewery is working with other local firms to guide the project to completion. Both the architecture firm and construction company working on the brewery are based in Minneapolis.

Until the brewery is complete, Fulton’s beer will continue to be brewed at the Sand Creek brewery in Black River Falls, Wisconsin. Fulton’s “War and Peace” coffee stout took home the Golden Firkin award for the audience’s favorite beer at the recent Firken Fest beer event in St. Paul.


Pearl Ultra Lounge to open in Spin Nightclub space

WAREHOUSE DISTRICT — The former Spin Nightclub space has been quiet since March, but no longer. New owners John Barlow and Ned Abdul have taken over the space in the Lumber Exchange building and are hard at work on renovating the two-floor club. The new venue will be known as the Pearl Night Club and Ultra Lounge, and will forgo Spin’s 18+ dance nights in favor of more events aimed at a 21–35 year-old crowd.

Barlow and Adbul also own the Epic and Karma nightclubs Downtown. The duo is reportedly working on an ID-scanning system that will share information across all three clubs, which would prevent anyone causing trouble at one club from entering either of the other two.

Michelle Bruch contributed to this report.