All you need is Downtown

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February 12, 2007 // UPDATED 11:01 am - April 26, 2007
By: Michelle Bruch
Michelle Bruch

Love stories abound among the galleries, jobs, night life

An exhibit called “Today’s Love Stories” is on display through MarCH 10 at the Outsiders and Others gallery.

Inspired by the widely varying depictions of love found in the gallery, the Downtown Journal decided to retell some additional love stories for which Downtown was a backdrop.

The owners of the 112 Eatery met while working together at D’Amico Cucina.

“He did the line work and I was a waitress,” said Nancy St. Pierre.

Isaac Becker said he thought Nancy was cute.

“I’m not sure she thought I was anything special,” he said.

The pair started dating within six months and were married two years later in the fall of 1997, but the dream of opening a restaurant together did not materialize so quickly.

“I was a little apprehensive because I had never run a restaurant before, but he thought it would be great,” Nancy said.

Isaac dates their first serious thoughts of opening a restaurant together back to the day they stopped in a tiny New York restaurant called Ino.

“Nancy and I were just looking at each other, saying we could do this,” he said. “It was really simple, good food, and it was small and manageable.”

They opened the 112 Eatery about five years later to rave reviews.

The couple said their marriage helps smooth the rifts that can develop between the front and back of a restaurant — St. Pierre manages the front, Becker manages the back.

“We went out on a date the other day, and we both said our marriage is better because we work together and we love our jobs,” St. Pierre said. “We both think it’s the best thing that ever happened to us.”

Becker said his favorite days of the week are the two he spends at the restaurant with his wife.

“She usually comes in a little bit later than me, and I always look forward to her getting there,” Becker said.

Hitting the hot spots

A highlight of Michelle Stoll’s work at the reception desk at the 511 Building near the Metrodome were the moments when John, the Airborne Express driver, came through the door.

“He would always come in and wave,” Stoll said. “I would call my mom and tell her my Airborne Express guy had come. ... I could kind of tell he wanted to talk to me, but we were just both too shy.”

She saw him once at the University of Minnesota campus while riding a bike and she tried to wave, nearly falling off her bike in the process.

Her near fall became a conversation topic during his next stop at the 511 Building. Once acquainted, they continued to chat now and then until a loud-mouthed office worker across the hall asked John, “Are you ever going to ask her out?” So John asked her out.

Their first date hit Downtown hot spots such as the Fine Line and First Avenue, and their second date came about three days later.

“We ended up hitting it off right away,” Michelle said.

Michelle and John were engaged after three years of dating, and they married a year-and-a-half later.

Art of love

Audrey Bernard’s artwork is on display at the Outsiders and Others Gallery in Elliot Park, in an exhibit called “Today’s Love Stories.”

The love story behind her artwork began in July 1989, when she left her children behind in Jamaica and moved to the United States. Since that time, she has returned home just twice, and her health has prevented her from seeing her five children and eight grandchildren for the past nine years.

In the midst of deep sadness, Bernard started spending time in an art studio run by Spectrum Community Mental Health. She learned printmaking techniques and started reconstructing photographs of her family into paintings.

“I wasn’t interested in painting, but I would keep coming every day because I was depressed,” Bernard said. Eventually, she said, the work gave her a sense of peace.

“This keeps me a little more in touch,” she said.

In addition to the show at Outsiders and Others, her paintings such as the brightly colored “Grandkids with Attitude” are also on display this week on the 8th floor of the IDS Center.

“Painting is something I didn’t know I had in me,” Bernard said. “To see where I came from, thinking about the depression to where I am today, it makes me very happy. I am very proud of my kids.”


Where would a city boy from New York meet a Midwest farm girl and start a romance that would lead them to downtown Minneapolis? In Galveston, Texas, of course.

David Frank, who previously worked in Portland, Ore. attended a conference in Galveston where Wendy Holmes, current vice president of resource development for Artspace, was fated to serve as moderator. After some dancing at the conference later that night and a trip to a French bakery the following morning, David said he was “very smitten.”

They kept in touch for two years, and at another conference in Chicago, they decided they needed to be together.

Now the couple lives at the 710 Lofts, and they are immersed in the Downtown lifestyle — Wendy’s daughter Kira Nelson learned to ride her bike in a parking lot underneath the I-94 onramp. The couple walks to movies at St. Anthony Main, rides bikes along the river and even bought a Christmas tree from the Farmers’ Market using an HOURCAR.

Good, clean fun

Ben Ganje and Carrie Held live Downtown and are planning a June wedding.

The couple met at school in Ohio through mutual friends. Ganje moved here right out of college and waited here for two years while Held earned her nursing degree and moved to Minneapolis.

Held, who grew up in Chicago, said relocating Downtown was an easy decision for her.

“I was impressed with its cleanliness, and we get to do a lot — it’s fun,” she said.

Favorite destinations are the Spoonriver restaurant and the Mill City Farmers’ Market, and the couple often host rooftop parties above their condo near the Guthrie.

“We absolutely love it,” Ganje said.

Working it out

Susan and Scott Kuhlman, the husband-and-wife team behind Kuhlman Co., met in 1982 while still in high school, and they will have been married 20 years in June.

Scott entered the apparel industry as a wholesale representative with several different clothing lines. Susan, however, originally pursued television broadcasting. When Scott went exclusive with one company about 13 years ago, he asked Susan to take over the other companies he represented.

The couple launched the business that became Kuhlman five years ago and found themselves initially working 15 hours per day on the same tasks.

“The key for us is that we get along 97 percent of the time, and the other 3 percent doesn’t last too long,” Susan said. “We’ve had people around us who are mystified by it, that we can be great friends and business partners and we still actually like each other.”

The couple said the key is to respect and use each other’s strengths. Scott focuses on the big-picture thinking and excels at bringing outside vendors and participants into the company. Susan, who surmises that her job title must be “office glue,” handles day-to-day operations.

“You can hear horror stories of husbands and wives working together,” Scott said. “But this is a great opportunity to be together 24 hours a day. ... I really don’t know what I would do if Susan wasn’t here.”