Longtime businesses reflect on Dinkytown’s shifting landscape

As more new businesses open in Dinkytown, longtime establishments weigh their futures.

People walk past businesses on 4th Street Southeast in Dinkytown on Sunday, Feb. 18. A group of businesses are being forced to close after the buildings owner decided to sell the property.

Maddy Fox, Daily File Photo

People walk past businesses on 4th Street Southeast in Dinkytown on Sunday, Feb. 18. A group of businesses are being forced to close after the building’s owner decided to sell the property.

Kassidy Tarala

Dinkytown’s business landscape could look much different by mid-summer. 

Amid the recent closure of Espresso Royale and announcements that Vescio’s Italian Restaurant and five other Dinkytown businesses would soon follow suit, longtime businesses and patrons have voiced concern that the campus neighborhood is losing its character. The arrival of new restaurants has also affected the business of some establishments.

Mesa Pizza General Manager Mahalia Williams said they’ve noticed a change in business since the nearby opening of Frank from Philly and Andrea Pizza.

“We’ve noticed that there’s a divide between people who go to Frank and Andrea’s and people who come here,” she said.

Williams said she thinks Frank from Philly and Andrea Pizza has been competitive because of its wider variety of food options.

“They have fountain drinks and cheesesteaks, and we don’t have those, so I don’t think we’re losing customers to another pizza joint but just to a different type of restaurant,” Williams said.

One of the most noticeable differences has been during the wintertime. Williams said there are often long lines at Mesa that trail out the door, causing customers to head to Frank from Philly and Andrea Pizza to avoid the line and escape the cold.

Still, sales and specials have remained consistent at Mesa Pizza since the opening of Frank from Philly and Andrea Pizza, Williams said.

“If we both can exist here for a long time, that would be great. If not, I don’t see us personally going anywhere,” she said. “We will definitely be fine.”

Frank Vescio, owner of Vescio’s Italian Restaurant, recently told the Minnesota Daily that a Chinese restaurant will be the new tenant of their location.

“I’d like to see the building stay in the hands of a local restaurant, but it’s hard to tell if that’s possible now with so many big-name businesses in the area,” he said.

Though Vescio’s closing was upsetting for many, other local owners don’t think it was due to a lack of business.

“I know they owned the building, and they didn’t go out of business or anything, so I’m not too concerned about large corporations [being responsible for the closure],” said Kafe 421 owner Georgia Sander. “But hopefully whatever goes in next will have the same positive impact on the community that Vescio’s had.”

Sander said she’s sad to see longtime businesses like Vescio’s leave, but she doesn’t think the trend will affect Kafe 421. She added that she would also like to see another small business occupy Vescio’s spot.

Sander said she is hopeful for Kafe 421’s future and doesn’t see it going anywhere any time soon.

“Knock on wood, but I don’t think anything like that will happen to us. I’m just hopeful that the new business will be positive for us,” she said.

Pamela Chipman worked at Vescio’s in 1976 while her husband was taking a class at the University of Minnesota. She said Vescio’s was a “local monument” of the 1970s.

When she and her husband visit Dinkytown now, however, the change in business is apparent.

“Today, so much has changed [in Dinkytown]. It’s not even recognizable anymore,” Chipman said.