Dinkytown community aims to raise awareness of takeout for businesses

Flyers with yellow elephants will be placed in businesses’ windows as part of the campaign.

The neon signs of Annies Parlour in Dinkytown hang dark on Saturday, March 21.

Kamaan Richards

The neon signs of Annies Parlour in Dinkytown hang dark on Saturday, March 21.

Caitlin Anderson

As businesses at the University of Minnesota operate solely on takeout options, community members are aiming to help raise awareness and bring in more customers.

Many businesses near the University are utilizing takeout options — in-store and curbside pickup, and delivery — to bring in revenue during the state’s COVID-19 shutdown. Community members say they are hoping to help keep these businesses afloat through a new campaign by University students, faculty and neighbors.

With a new initiative called Dinkytown 2 Go, members of the Dinkytown Business Alliance, neighbors and University faculty are working to make sure students and neighbors who are living near campus know how to access the area’s restaurants and businesses, said David Feehan, a consultant on the Roadmap to Greater Dinkytown initiative, which is a community partnership leading the project.

Gov. Tim Walz’s executive order has shut down nonessential businesses, limiting restaurants to takeout and delivery. Both restaurants and other businesses near campus have decided to stay open for delivery and curbside pickup despite business being slower than usual.

“It’s been, you know, pretty bare bones I guess we could say,” said Tony Nicklow, owner of Tony’s Diner in Dinkytown. “It’s slow but we just want to kind of keep the wheels in motion at the restaurant. You know, do what we can to keep business going around there.”

Interns with DBA came up with a plan to install flyers in windows of businesses featuring a yellow elephant,symbolizing the area’s mascot, “Dinky,” to show which businesses are still open. The DBA website also lists which businesses are open at what hours, options for ordering and how to pick up food or other items. 

“Everything that we’re doing now is geared to helping businesses stay afloat and helping students to access food and other goods that they need,” Feehan said. 

The interns are working with the DBA through a University partnership as part of a broader University goal to connect students with nearby neighborhoods, said Merrie Benasutti, a coordinator for community partnerships through the Office for Public Engagement. 

The interns will also research how well different strategies worked for businesses in the area, she said.

Greg Kohler, DBA intern and University junior, said students need an easy way to navigate which businesses are open, helping businesses bring in revenue in the process. 

“It would be smart to kind of get everyone … a singular resource for people to check in on stuff,” he said. “This is really important so that these businesses can continue to survive because what [makes] Dinkytown really unique and special is that there are a lot of small businesses.”

Nicklow said supporting local businesses can help keep them open.

“When we’re through this, hopefully, we’re all be celebrating in the streets a little bit,” he said.