In the thick of it

Share this:
March 28, 2005 // UPDATED 1:53 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Kristopher Wenn
Kristopher Wenn

Ever thought of living in the thick of it all? Perhaps above a bustling Downtown watering hole or retail outlet?

Gene Oberpriller had a different kind of busy neighbor. Before he transformed the 117 Washington Ave. N. storefront into One-on-One Bicycle Studio last year, it was Yoshiko's Sauna - and Oberpriller its upstairs neighbor.

The entrepreneurial cyclist is downright reminiscent of life above Yoshiko's, which some would consider an unsavory ghost of Downtown's not-so-distant past.

However, Tracy Dolin, who lives just down the street at 7th & 1st Avenue North in the Lamoreaux Apartments above O'Donovan's Irish Pub yearns for a quieter place to call home.

Above the sauna

"Most people thought that my apartment was a whore house, but it was far from it," Oberpriller said of life above the sauna, which his friends assumed was a prostitution business.

Explaining what he and his roommate did for a living didn't always help believability-wise. "I was a professional bike racer and worked in Uptown and the guy that I lived with was a grip [in a film crew] in the movie business."

Still, the pair stuck it out for 10 years. Oberpriller said they enjoyed life on the bustling block.

"If you're a city-type person - someone that feels comfortable around a lot of people - and if you work in the city, I think it's advantageous to live in the city," Oberpriller said. "I [didn't] have to commute to anywhere. It [was] all right here."

There would sometimes be an occasional strange man hanging out in front of Yoshiko's or a misguided group of customers asking him about the massage parlor at the entryway he shared with the sauna, but Oberpriller says that his experience living above a business was pleasurable overall.

He said he regularly shared Korean meals with the owners of Yoshiko's and learned much about Korean culture in the process. But despite his belief that the owners of Yoshiko's Sauna were good people, their business could not shake off the label they were running an illegal operation.

Oberpriller said he was fortunate enough to live in the Warehouse District at a time when the local music scene and movie industries were doing well, making their mark on the national level. The neighborhood thrived with musicians, film types and artists. There were times when bands stayed at his apartment because it was near the clubs where they would be playing.

Around that time, Oberpriller with his friend, who is known as "Satanic Mechanic," dumpster dived for bicycles and stored them in his basement.

He foresaw the potential for a bike studio in the area and, once Yoshiko's Sauna closed its doors, Oberpriller and Satanic Mechanic transformed the business into One on One Bicycle Studio. Now the storefront is part coffee shop, part art studio and part bike shop.

Oberpriller lives in another Minneapolis neighborhood and is the landlord of his old place, "We had a waiting list for years for people to move in here . . . We have three guys living up there now."

Living Downtown can mean bustling days and energetic nights, but on the weekends, says Oberpriller, life does slow down to an eerie quiet.

"During the week you can look out the window and its just humanity going by like a river," he said. "And then on Sunday, it's just like everyone left town."


Tracy Dolin would love for some of that weekend silence to make its way to her Downtown apartment just a few blocks from One on One Bicycle Studio.

Dolin lives in the Lamoreaux apartments at 701 1st Ave. N. The Lamoreaux provides affordable transitional housing for formerly homeless adults. The three-story development is above O'Donovan's Irish Pub, and although the intersection-facing corner of the building is often draped with banner ads for Captain Morgan rum or other alcohol mainstays, the Lamoreaux is an alcohol-free building.

While the Lamoreaux residents themselves are fairly quiet, Dolin, who has lived there a year, is so fed up with the late-night noise that she is hoping to move.

"If you like a lot of nightlife, this is a nice place to be, but I live on the side near the Target Center - it's terrible," Dolin said. "There's a lot of commotion from Timberwolves games and the noise downstairs in the bar because they bring their bottles outside and they dump their bottles right into the garbage cans."

Still, Dolin enjoys knowing what concerts and events are coming to town. (The Target Center's electronic billboard keeps her posted.) And isn't ready for suburban quietude.

"You get more action [Downtown] than you do in the suburbs. Sometimes you'll hear about something going on kitty-corner from Block E or you might hear about a show at First Ave.," Dolin said.