Dinkytown drugstore closing signifies the end of a business era

Emily Babcock

After 50 years of service, Dinkytown’s lone drugstore is closing.
Gray’s Campus Drug, located on Fourth Street and 14th Avenue, will shut its doors for the final time at 6 p.m. tonight because of a continuing decline in profit.
“There is just not the traffic through Dinkytown that there used to be,” said Bud Platt, owner of the drugstore.
Platt said the last two years of road construction in Dinkytown kept away a lot of customers and was the “crowning blow” for the drugstore. But he added that he cannot blame the decreased profits entirely on the construction.
The drugstore building will join several other windows labeled “For Rent” in the neighborhood, where businesses, such as Kinko’s Copy Center and National Camera Exchange Inc., left vacancies.
“At the time when I bought the business there were a lot more small businesses,” Platt said. “And they have closed down over the years.”
Originally called Gray’s Cut Rate Drug, which opened in the mid 1940s, the store was purchased by Platt in 1976 and renamed Gray’s Campus Drug. The drugstore’s inventory will now transfer to Ideal Drugs and Gifts on Central Avenue in Minneapolis.
Fellow Dinkytown business owners said they were sad to see a friend leave, but that it is also important to focus on the future of Dinkytown.
“This notice of closure has caught everyone by surprise,” said Ann O’Loughlin, community spokeswoman for the University, which is also a member of the Dinkytown Business Association.
O’Loughlin said it was not a time for merchants to panic, but a time to be thoughtful on how to figure out the right way to service the area.
Besides the road construction project, which ended in November 1997, area business owners cited several other factors for the recent business closings in Dinkytown. Owners said corporate decisions, an increased mobility of students and changes in lifestyles have all affected the traffic through the neighborhood.
Tom Dale, owner of Dinkytown’s Zip-r-strip, a leather tailor, said “thinking small in Dinkytown” and making rental spaces more affordable would draw in more business owners.
“If landlords could redivide spaces, people could afford rent,” Dale said.
Some members of the business association said they would like to create more of a village setting in Dinkytown — with a mix of the traditional Dinkytown and new businesses that can cater to new generations of students.
Dan Zielske, president of the business association, said when he opened an Espresso Royale franchise 10 years ago in Dinkytown, the intention of the business was to create a place where everyone wants to go. He added that the association has adapted this focus.
“We always wanted to have business suits rub elbows with leather suits,” Zielske said.