Venkata: Diversity in Dinkytown

Restaurants are good, so are services in Dinkytown.

by Uma Venkata

Dinkytown has been brimming with new businesses in the last year or so. College staples like Annie’s Parlor for burgers and malts, a chain cookie store, pizza joints and a couple of bars have been doing and will continue to do great business. I have spent a fair amount of money on iterations of the same meatball sub order at Potbelly Sandwich Shop over the last couple years. Qdoba treats me right with their laissez-faire guacamole policy. Other people may have more complicated tastes than I do, but they are certainly being taken care of with new and incoming Dinkytown businesses.

Within the last year, plenty of places have been slated to open up. We will soon be, or already are, home to things such as: two one poke places, Korean fried chicken, a salad restaurant, an ice cream place, a “food court,” much like the early-aughts malls of our childhoods and, interestingly, a coffee and CBD oil joint. I didn’t really know there was a market for that — neither did the Minneapolis Health Department, which was apparently not consulted until after the fact — but the sentiment makes sense. Businesses try to find new ideas that others didn’t think of, partly to make it easy to dominate a market and be hailed for creativity. 

This is all fine and well, but there’s one obvious common denominator for the new Dinkytown business fixtures; none of them are full grocery stores. To be quite honest, there are a few businesses absent in Dinkytown that I would support far more frequently than any lone restaurant. I’m thinking specifically of what are usually neighborhood staples: a dry cleaner, a tailor and a grocery store. And frankly, we need a threading — not waxing! — place for mocha ladies like myself, but I understand that I can’t have everything.

There are existing non-food Dinkytown businesses that I love. The Book House is a mini library of Babel, and the service and punch cards are precious. Gina + Will has supplied most of my current long-sleeve rotation, and Dinkytown Optical quickly fixed a big problem when a certain person in my life stepped on my glasses. It’s also lovely that we have the Hennepin County’s Southeast Library, even if we use the University of Minnesota’s libraries for all or most of our borrowing. 

However, a dry cleaner, tailor and grocery store are conspicuous absences. My friend told me he never has and never will use a dry cleaner — but I think one day he’ll turn 30 and have nice shirts. In the meantime, there are multiple career fairs per year, plus other various meetings that the 48,000 students of this school may have the good fortune to need to look presentable for. Without a dry cleaner, hand-knit items are one spill away from screwed. 

A tailor is necessary because we need both to treat and fit our suits well — for me, that fit changes over time, in both directions, Marilyn Monroe-style. 

A grocery store is probably even more necessary, though. The Quarry is far away without a car, and Target Express isn’t a full grocery store. A small Cub or other grocery-focused vendor could have been a great occupant of the future “food court” on 4th Street Southeast and 15th Avenue Southeast, serving Dinkytown and Marcy-Holmes students by offering diverse food and prices closer to MSRP than Target Express. 

Maybe Dinkytown businesses don’t have to reinvent the wheel to get steady traffic. If a dry cleaner opens up — the Bookhouse tells me there used to be one — I’m prepared to pay market price, or a little higher, for some solvent action for my sweaters.