New stores for business districts in University area

Five businesses opened their doors, and at least six more are scheduled to open.

by Haley Madderom

As the dust settles from years of light rail and luxury housing construction, business districts around the University of Minnesota are welcoming new tenants and, in some cases, new storefronts.

For the most part, more businesses have opened shop in recent months than shut their doors. Over the summer and early fall, five businesses opened their doors in Stadium Village and Dinkytown, with at least six more set to launch within months.

Stadium Village, an area dissected by the Green Line light rail, has experienced a new swell of activity, said AJ Niemiec, general manager of Punch Pizza.

“Especially since the students got back this year and the light rail’s been open now, it’s been very busy,” he said. “There have been tons of changes over the last two years.”

In describing the area’s recent activity, Niemiec recalled its new slogan: “Not just for game days.”

Sally’s Saloon, Toppers Pizza and Gold Country will return to Stadium Village at the base of 700 on Washington by October, said the apartment building’s general manager.

One block away, Jamba Juice shuttered at the end of August.

Within about a week, Kung Fu Tea staked its Stadium Village territory when it opened next to the new Mesa Pizza location.

The tea shop’s proprietor, Ji Chen, also owns China Express in Dinkytown. Chen said he is negotiating a contract for another Kung Fu Tea location at the base of the Marshall, but he said nothing has been signed yet.

Before tenants moved into the 326-unit apartment building this fall, TargetExpress debuted in July on the building’s ground floor.

In June, Lands End Pasty Company premiered in Dinkydale mall while around the corner, Bruegger’s Bagels’ Dinkytown location disappeared.

Down the street in the Venue’s retail spaces, Gina+Will — a Goodwill offshoot tailored to college-age shoppers — opened Aug. 23. A Starbucks and a Great Clips are set to join it.

Greg Pillsbury, former Dinkytown Business Association president, said Dinkytown is on the verge of a commercial transformation.

“I guarantee we’re gonna have a flood of hot and new and cool places going in in the next six months,” he said. “Dinkytown is set to pop again.”

Pillsbury said he expects a flood of retail as construction wraps up on housing projects with commercial space on the ground floor, like Riverton Community Housing’s upcoming Fourth Street Housing Co-op across the road from the Library Bar.

However, Pillsbury said it’s been difficult to get detailed information before contracts are signed and made public.

“No one’s saying anything right now — no one’s saying who’s leaving, no one’s saying who’s coming in,” Pillsbury said. “I think everyone’s been holding their breath. … It’s kind of a hard time to find out what’s going on.”

Businesses on the West Bank have been less affected by recent development and student traffic, said Matty O’Reilly, co-owner of Republic.

In June, the Sisterhood Boutique shifted locations from the African Development Center to a spot on Riverside Avenue.