Dinkytown revives with new businesses

Nathan Halverson

The House of Hanson corner store has been in Dinkytown through five major wars, several economic booms and recessions, and multiple demonstrations and riots.

And Laurel Bauer has seen a lot of it from behind the store’s counter. The business has been in the family for more than 70 years.

She has seen Dinkytown’s prosperity rise, fall and rise again. This year was just one more notch in the belt for one of the oldest neighborhoods in Minneapolis.

Many say this year marked a revival of sorts for the neighborhood. Several new businesses opened, bringing a once-lost energy back to Dinkytown.

The Kitty Cat Klub, Burrito Loco and the Steak Knife are some of the new stores that people point to as signs of Dinkytown’s rebirth.

Diana Tsytin said the neighborhood’s re-emerging energy compelled her to locate her soon-to-open ethnic restaurant and deli, Kafe421, on 14th Avenue Southeast.

“When we came to Dinkytown it seemed right. It spoke to us,” she said. “I think now it is coming back on the map.”

She said in the past the area seemed run-down and felt lackluster.

“Now when you’re there you can kind of feel it. There are a lot of people walking in the streets,” she said.

Larry Zidel, owner of Dinkytown Optical, said a reconstruction of Dinkytown streets and sidewalks five years ago hurt business. But the times are improving.

“The changing in Dinkytown has been cyclical,” he said.

Bauer has a unique lens with which to view the changes. She tracks the town by what is on her shelves. A year ago, she was not selling any so-called “natural foods.” Now she sells $1,500 of them every three weeks. In the 1970s, the store sold more than two tons of popcorn kernels. Now, almost no one buys it.

Jerry Rau is a street performer who has been playing guitar and singing folk tunes for pedestrians for 30 years. He has seen the town change.

“It’s a gradual, subtle thing over the years,” he said.

Jason McLean said after opening the Kitty Cat Klub in November that it is undeniable that Dinkytown’s street life is back.

“There’s many times it feels a bit like New York,” McLean said.