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Editorial Cartoon: Alabama and IVF
Editorial Cartoon: Alabama and IVF
Published March 1, 2024

A campus icon: Students mourn the loss of Dinkytown McDonald’s

Developers will clear the popular University landmark to prepare for construction.
Image by Parker Johnson
Rachel Selly, Amanda Holscher, and Maddy Personius pose for portraits on Monday, Jan. 18 outside the former Dinkytown McDonalds that closed January 9th. Selly discusses her thoughts on the closure, “This year has done a toll on Dinkytown and it will never look the same without those arches.”

Say goodbye to the golden arches of Dinkytown’s skyline. The University of Minnesota landmark went dark last month.

After 57 years as a popular student destination in Dinkytown, McDonald’s closed down in preparation for a new development. Though the fast-food giant will reopen a Dinkytown location after construction, students took to social media to mourn the closing of a University icon and reflect on the memories.

Fourth-year University of Minnesota student Rachel Selly reminisced on her many times spent in the ordering line.

“My roommate and I would always ask people, ‘Oh, what’s your breakfast order?’ and ours is always the same — a sausage, egg and cheese McMuffin with a chocolate milkshake,” Selly said. “My roommate and I know each others’ like the back of our hands.”

McDonald’s plastered signs around the building Dec. 14 to abruptly announce the closure. CA Ventures, the developer that bought the land under McDonald’s and Dinkytown Wine & Spirits, caused multiple closures in preparation for construction. While McDonald’s will reopen, other businesses — such as Dinkytown Wine & Spirits — closed for good.

Word of the closure quickly spread over social media as students shared the news. The Daily’s Facebook post saw more than 2,300 shares and about a thousand comments.

One social media commenter simply responded, “Oh nooooo” to the shuttering. Another responded, “noooo, why?!? No more soggy fries!” Others gave deeper accounts of their experiences, with some recalling having childhood birthdays there or visiting with their parents. One student suggested a candlelight vigil for the restaurant. Another commenter said, “I still laugh about asking security if they went to hamburgler university.”

Many were more cynical about another high-rise student-housing complex encroaching on the neighborhood.

Selly said she found out about the closure via Instagram, and proceeded to post many of the pictures and videos that she had made at the restaurant.

“Well, I had to do my own little tribute,” Selly said. “Gather all of my memories, all of my things and show people what’s going on.”

Selly said that she was upset and surprised when she saw news of the closure.

“This was somewhere that [many University students] went to or really cared about and it wasn’t even that it was McDonald’s,” Selly said. “It was more like the memories that we made there together.”

The restaurant, affectionately dubbed “Drunk Don’s” by many students, held a status as a hangout spot before and after parties, said third-year student Mattea Schubert.

“It was definitely the agreed-upon place to go when you went to a party or something,” Schubert said.

Fourth-year student Amanda Holscher said she went to McDonald’s with her roommates on the last night it was open to reminisce and say goodbyes.

Holscher said she will probably move away from the Dinkytown area after graduation, so she will not come to the new location. She added that even her mom — who grew up in the area — was sad about the news, which made the impact of Dinkytown McDonald’s long legacy clear to her.

“I feel like a lot of things around Dinkytown are changing and turning into like apartment buildings and not quite as historic as they used to be,” Holscher said. “So it’s kind of like seeing it change right before your eyes because I remember my mom heard about it.”

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  • james cox
    Jan 21, 2021 at 3:33 pm

    I go my first job there and remember it well being insanely busy we had to make calls to other stores for fries and other stuff

  • praiseinterracialmarriages
    Jan 20, 2021 at 4:53 pm

    The stories which Minnesota Daily has told about the closure of the Dinkytown McDonald’s has focused on current students. As an alumnus and former short-period employee of this McDonald’s I remember visiting the restaurant even when I was a little boy at the age of eight in 1970.

    In 1970, I had a crush on a little girl whose name was Shigeko Okada, now Shigeko Tsujimoto, of Niigata Prefecture, Japan. Shigeko’s dad, Kohei, was a neurosurgery post-doc student at University of Minnesota, and later practiced at various hospitals around Niigata. I lost track of Shigeko in 2012 when I lost my address book during a move.  Her dad had passed away, and Shigeko had married and had kids. Shigeko became a high school teacher and taught geography and Japanese to her students. I remember telling her when we were eight that we would be married when we grew up — to which she stomped her foot on the parking lot surface near our apartment complex and said, “NO! I’m going to marry my COUSIN!”

    Shigeko, me, and her little brother, Yasuki, and Mrs. Okada would visit Dinkytown and the old Nelson’s Office Supply store which was next to McDonald’s until several years ago. We would visit Nelson’s to pick up coloring paper and colored pencils and other office supplies to draw and to do origami. After our trip to Nelson’s we would get a bite to eat at McDonald’s.

    I remember my first visit to the Dinkytown McDonald’s when my dad was first out of law school and working for either the office of the Minnesota Attorney General or the U.S. District Attorney as an assistant or associate attorney (he worked for both agencies). I don’t know that the Big Mac was yet developed at that time, but we had regular hamburgers, Coca Cola, and fries. I just checked: The Big Mac was developed in the late 1960’s and was available, nationwide, by 1968. It was developed in Pittsburgh in 1967. My dad was a wonderful dad and liked spending time with me and my brother when he had time, but he was extremely busy.

    Many years later, when I was a student at De La Salle High School on Nicollet Island, my friends and I had two favorite places: this McDonald’s and the White Castle in Northeast Minneapolis. Love those sliders! We would visit after extra-curricular activities and after track and field meets. I was the class photographer and yearbook photographer at De La Salle, and I was a sports photographer, as well. We spent many evenings and afternoons at Mac and Don’s or Micky-D’s.

    Much later, in 2014, when I was in between jobs at the age of 52, I decided to give McDonald’s a try as an employee. There’s no dignity lost when one wants to work and learn a new business, and I thought it would be good for development of my humility as well as an opportunity to get out of the house. Now, I’m a language coach for Chinese physicians and engineers in the U.S. and China, developing an online retail site, and may decide to return to my work as an insurance and securities broker at a national brokerage firm in Roseville, Minnesota.

    I digress….

    The chocolate malts were among my favorites, as well as the French fries. I also like Big Mac’s.

    Working at McDonald’s, which students will be able to do once the new site is up and running, is good training, and it allows us to work with people who we otherwise may never have had the opportunity to meet. Working in college, whether one is from a wealthy family or a less wealthy family, is a good way to develop experience to put on our resumes, and makes for interesting conversation during interviews. My friend, now a Catholic priest, Father Jon Shelley, worked as a manager at a McDonald’s during high school, and you can look up the many famous people and celebrities who have worked at McDonald’s on the internet; their alumni list and photos are quite interesting! The training for crew members is easy, and the opportunities to get into supervision and management are great for future roles in the community and in one’s own family for developing excellent organizational and communications skills, as well as learning to set priorities and work with a vast array of people in the public.

    This McDonald’s was a wonderful landmark, although some of the people who came in were not the most savory of people and made it difficult for employees and customers alike. However, the good memories are with us, and a new chapter of fast food dining at a new McDonald’s will be with us not long from now. Meanwhile, there is the White Castle in Northeast Minneapolis. It is reachable by two buses from 15th Avenue and 4th Street, or by car. They have a free parking lot, and it is super clean.