Downtown's meet market

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October 10, 2005 // UPDATED 1:58 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Rachel Drewelow
Rachel Drewelow

For singles, the area’s options range from free to fee

Perhaps it was childhood fairytales that encouraged us to hold out for true love, not going out and tracking it down ourselves. Many wait for their knights in shining armor to break down their doors, rather than become knights themselves.

Not a club hopper or a bar junkie? Don’t fret. There are plenty of other options for Downtown singles to meet people. To make friends without the pressure of dating, consider joining a single’s club.

Singles groups; the price is right

John Baker is a few week member of Social Singles, a Twin Cities group born out of a Yahoo! Club that stages events throughout Downtown. Baker said so far he liked the “people and opportunities” Social Singles offered. He said a lot of his friends are married, and Social Single lets him get out and meet other singles.

The “activity club” began in June 2000 as a Yahoo! Club called “Single and Bored in MN.” Years later, the group has evolved, holding about six events a week, with about 135 active members according to David Allison who co-started the group and plans most activities along with member Vikki Pfeilsticker.

The club is for any single person over 21, but Allison said most members are 30-50 years old, and events are planned around their interests. Events this summer have included singles night at the Metrodome, 900 S. 5th St., a bike ride to Minnehaha Park, a drive-in movie night, a St. Paul Saints game and a trip to the State Fair.

Though the club is for singles to have fun with other singles, one couple who met there will wed this month, Allison said. He also said “several couples have formed over the years.”

Earl West has been in the group for about a year, and attends about four events a month. He said he has tried other things, such as online dating, but didn’t enjoy it because of stereotypical profile questions, such as “how much money do you make?”

He said Social Singles allows you to meet many people without being prejudged. Membership is free — the only fees are individual expenses such as dinner or admission charges.

To find out more about Social Singles, see groups.yahoo.com/socialsinglesofmn.

Single Volunteers is a national nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. Single Volunteers of the Twin Cities (SVTC) claims more than 3,000 members and works with different agencies offering varying opportunities for its members.

Members sign up for volunteer work, at sites in and around Downtown including International Market Square, 275 Market St.

SVTC is not a dating service; it’s an outlet to meet singles with similar community-service priorities. The organization tries to arrange volunteer groups into similar age groups with a balanced number of men and women.

The group also offers committee and leadership opportunities and holds dances, dinners, a talent show and a “dating game.” Membership is free, and members must be over 21. To find out more about SVTC, see www.svtconline.org.

Dating services

For daters who are more goal-oriented, speed dating is the fastest option, a facilitated round-robin dating event wherein you meet a new person every 10 minutes or less.

Dora Harris is a Minneapolis event coordinator for Cupid.com, a national predating service. Harris holds events Downtown at Zeno Caf/, 800 LaSalle Ave., as well as at Erte, 239 13th Ave. NE and Flashbaxx, 60 E. Broadway Ave. At the events, singles meet 10-15 potential dates. “They all fill up,” Harris said of her events, explaining that there is never an empty seat and “events are completely facilitated.”

At the predate sessions, men sit on one side of tables and women on the other. After five to seven minutes of small talk, a bell rings and the men shift seats. (Cupid.com has a patent-pending system so that pre-daters won’t meet the same people if they attend multiple events, according to its Web site.)

After each mini-date, participants mark “yes” or “no” on a scorecard, noting whether or not they would be interested in a second date. Participants are notified of matches — when both people marked “yes” — within 24 hours via e-mail. At this point, it is up to the potential lovebirds to contact each other.

In case a predate is plagued with an awkward silence, question cards are provided to facilitate small talk. Harris advises first-time predaters not to be nervous and “smile a lot. It’s so much fun after the first six-minute date.”

Harris has been notified of one engagement in her three years of experience. She said the proposal took place New Year’s Eve at Erte, where the couple first predated.

Events are age-group specific and typically cost $39. To find or sign up for events, see cupid.com — there are several other speed-dating franchises in the Twin Cities as well.

Dating agents

If speed dating doesn’t seem right, you might want to hire a specialist. Amy Rolando, founder of Table for Two, 119 N. 4th St., likens her local dating service to real estate. She said if you aren’t serious about buying a house, you might look around yourself, browse the Web and drive around to open houses.

This, she says, is similar to casual dating. But when someone is serious about buying a home they see a Realtor. “A Realtor is not going to show you 100 houses,” Rolando said, “they’ll show you 10 and have you buy one.”

Rolando considers Table for Two something of a Realtor of Romance.

The company calls itself a service for busy professionals. They first interview potential clients for appropriateness, a process that includes a criminal background check.

After being accepted to receive service, clients are given one-on-one consultations, counseling, and a 20-minute phone coaching session with author and psychologist Dr. Jan Hoistad. They are then set up on dates with matches based on their preferences, and see the benefits of concierge services such as free dessert at Bellanotte, 600 Hennepin Ave. S. or a free bottle of wine at the Nicollet Island Inn, 95 Merriam St. (Table for Two clients may also receive discounts with cosmetic dentists, home stylists and mortgage brokers, etc.)

Hiring the dating agency will set “a busy professional” back $2,695 for 12 months of service and 12 months of hold time (to use when dating someone exclusively).

Table for Two takes credit for more 400 marriages in its 10 years, according to Rolando, and now works with over 1,000 clients. To find out more, check out www.tablefor2.com.

Another similar service is It’s Just Lunch, a company with over 80 worldwide locations including one at 120 S 6th St. It’s Just Lunch is like Table for Two but revolves around the business day, scheduling first dates exclusively during the lunch hour or for after-work drinks.

It’s Just Lunch doesn’t offer concierge services, but has restaurant partners that help clients relax on first dates according to director Lynne Poferl. Downtown restaurants include Palomino, 825 Hennepin Ave. S. and Tiburn Caribbean Bistro, 1201 Harmon Place. Restaurateurs know first daters are coming ahead of time, and hold reservations under both names and deliver split bills.

Poferl said that her company hears about engagements all the time. “We had two engagements last week!” she said.

This service is cheaper than Table for Two. For $1,500, a client receives a minimum of 14 dates or 12 months of service — whichever comes last, allowing space for “hold time.” To find out more see, www.itsjustlunch.com.

In a nutshell

All of the outlets mentioned have one underlying motive — increasing one’s “bank” of single contacts. If apprehensive about joining one of these clubs or trying a service, there are several other ways to “invest” Downtown.

Take a different route when walking the dog, or eat lunch outside and be sure to talk to strangers. Take a class at the Minneapolis Art Institute, 2400 3rd Ave. S. or at The Loft Literary Center, 1011 Washington Ave. S. Join a recreational sports team or club at the YWCA, 1130 Nicollet Mall and 2323 11th Ave. S.

You can also attend seminars at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, 1501 Hennepin Ave. S. Volunteering opportunities include work at Sharing and Caring Hands, 425 N. 7th St. Read the Downtown Journal events page or calendar section and attend an event.