Rebuilding Lake St. businesses battles perceptions the area is dangerous

Eastlake Brewery owner Ryan Pitman sees business booming at other breweries, but customers still aren’t ordering rounds into the night at his place in the Midtown World Market on Lake Street.

“Once it gets dark, people leave,” Pitman said. “Things took a long time to get back to pre-riot levels.”

After being at the center of unrest following the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer two years ago, Lake Street still faces an image problem.

“I think the perception is going to have to change and that’s going to continue to happen with the rebuilding of Lake Street,” the brewery owner said.

Crime in Minneapolis has increased in most categories since the spring of 2020. In the first three months of this year, crime incidents on Lake Street were flat compared to a year ago and significantly up. below the day after the murder of George Floyd two years ago.

Suburban shoppers may be reluctant to head to Midtown Global Market, said Mostafa Khchich, owner of rug and accessories store Dar Medina.

“They hear the news and they’re scared,” said Khchich, who launched a website to market his products.But Lake Street is recovering. It is a very big change since that time. Things look a lot better. The streets are cleared.”

At Ingebretsen’s Nordic Marketplace, mail-order business has exploded during the pandemic and has remained strong even as its longtime customers return to the store at near 2019 levels, said Julie Ingebretsen, the third-generation owner. .

“Sometimes we get a phone call asking if it’s okay to come down and we say yes. There’s always apprehension for sure,” she said. “Our main customers live in the city. People further afield continue to get the message that the city is a very scary place.”

On Lake Street, protective plywood panels long ago detached from buildings. Cub Foods and Target reopened a few months after the unrest. US Bank has rebuilt an even larger branch that opened earlier this year.

A spokeswoman for Minneapolis-based Target Corp. said its Lake Street and Hiawatha store has seen increased traffic and revenue since rebuilding after the riots.

Many small businesses have reopened after receiving a combination of insurance money, rent relief, grants and loans. Some owners dipped into their savings to rebuild.

The 7 Mile Fashion store at the Hi-Lake mall reopened this year and Gina Ahn is relieved that customers are just coming back because she is still trying to train her staff and work out hours as employees face challenges. childcare and transportation issues.

She has also seen an increase in shoplifting even as the family business works on longer payment terms with suppliers to stay afloat. Ahn suspects the store’s new look is attracting thieves. “I’m ok with the slow rollout, but it’s a little nerve wracking with the flights and all the money we have to pay back,” she said.

Despite a high fence around the grounds, a steady stream of cars stop to refuel at the Stop N Shop at 31st East Street and 1st South Ave.

Owner Joe Zerka said he was determined to rebuild. The local market reopened last September with security measures such as a high fence, which he describes as “hideous”, and bulletproof glass. Many neighbors don’t have a car and walk to the store.

“I think it’s a personal duty for me to stay here and serve this community,” said Zerka, who took over the store in 2018 from his late father. “There’s no way anyone is going to take that away from me. My dad started this business. It fed my family for years.”

Pharmacist Elias Usso of Seward Pharmacy on Lake Street near Hiawatha feels the same sense of commitment.

“I live a few blocks from where George Floyd was killed,” he said. “It was a tough time as a neighbor and as a business owner.”

The pharmacy opened in December 2019, then closed in June 2020 due to damage during the Troubles. Usso was able to work from another clinic location before reopening in September of that year.

“I’m a member of this community. If I don’t roll up my sleeves and open this pharmacy, I’m like, ‘Who’s going to do it?’ I’m responsible for being strong and opening it up again,” Usso said. “That’s what really drove me forward.”

Even an attempted robbery at knifepoint by a drug-demanding man did not alter his resolve, although he keeps the front door locked now. “Security is my main concern,” he said.

Every day he sees the number of prescriptions increase. “I can’t complain, to be honest with you,” Usso said.

Lake Street Council expects more openings and the return of fairs and street festivals to attract more traffic.

“We’ve seen many outdoor summer events coming back, so hopefully this will bring customers back to the hallway, especially those who haven’t returned since COVID or civil unrest,” said Marie Campos, an adviser. spokesperson.

At Eastlake Brewery, owner Pitman is offering free delivery and handing out four packs of his beer to liquor stores to compensate for declining visitor numbers. He’s encouraged by new food options at Midtown Global Market and other openings in the neighborhood, like the new US Bank branch across the street.

“If people just came, they’d be surprised at how vibrant Lake Street is,” Pitman said. “We still have some of the best Mexican food in all of Metro, all on one street, and anything else you can think of too.”

About Wanda Dufresne

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