New Dinkytown businesses garner attention, curiosity

Vincent Staupe

In what has become an annual event in Dinkytown, a shuffle of business openings precede owners’ expectations and concerns about increasing taxes.

Among the newest businesses are Potbelly Sandwich Works at the former location of Purple Onion Café; Qdoba Mexican Grill, planned next door to Potbelly; and Caribou Coffee, replacing the Starbucks at the corner of Fourth Street and 15th Avenue Southeast.

Skott Johnson, former president of the Dinkytown Business Association and owner of area business Autographics, said the new businesses opening in the area deserve watching.

“I’m anxious to see what kind of neighbors Potbelly and Qdoba will be,” Johnson said.

Some owners appear particularly leery of the corporate ownership aspect of the newer restaurants opening in the area.

However, Johnson said corporate-owned businesses can benefit areas like Dinkytown.

“McDonald’s, Bruegger’s, Subway – they’re just excellent members of the community with all that they contribute back to the community,” he said.

But with corporate ownership come issues that locally-owned businesses don’t necessarily have.

“We did have our Starbucks (type-businesses) for example,” Johnson said, “where

you have to call someone in New York City to get permission to hang a poster on their wall.”

Laurel Bauer, owner of the House of Hanson grocery store, said higher property taxes might mean more locally-owned businesses will have to “go corporate,” to offset the higher cost of operations.

“With the cost of property taxes, electric and gas, people have to ask such a high rent,” Bauer said. “You almost have to go corporate.”

Bauer added, however, that a variety of restaurants is good for the area.

“I don’t have anything against any of these new restaurants,” she said. “We still have our eclectic mix and I still think Dinkytown has its own special charm.”

Jack Rust, Caribou Coffee store manager, said he and his staff were excited about being in Dinkytown.

“Everything’s going pretty much as planned,” Rust said of customer traffic.

The Dinkytown Caribou has been at its current location since June 23, and Rust said the store is involved with several projects in the community, including an ROTC event this weekend.

“We’re also helping out the University’s Habitat for Humanity by supplying brewed coffee,” Rust said.

While concerns over whether corporate-owned businesses hinder the Dinkytown area by pushing out the “ma and pa” shops, most businesses are just as concerned about increasing property taxes.

“We’re all sort of wondering why property taxes have increased so significantly,” said Johnson.

There are many reasons for the property tax increase, according to Ken Rowe, a property tax analyst for Hennepin County.

In Dinkytown, Rowe said, the rate at which property values are increasing compared with surrounding areas is one reason for the increase.

“The values of commercial property have been increasing at a faster pace than the values of commercial property in Hennepin County and Minneapolis as a whole,” Rowe said, which results in higher taxes for the businesses in the area.

Longtime owners said it’s too early to tell which direction the influx of new businesses will send Dinkytown.

Bauer said in a similar situation, corporate shops didn’t affect the area’s flavor.

“Uptown allowed some corporate (businesses) to come in, too, and it hasn’t hurt them,” she said, “I think it’s just a sign of the times.”