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Dinkytown McDonald’s makes its official return

Opening night brings a (Mc)flurry of business and excitement for the return of the former Dinkytown staple.
Image by Alexadndra DeYoe
The Dinkytown McDonalds reopened on Nov. 14.

After a nearly three-year-long wait, McDonald’s has finally opened its doors to the Dinkytown community and University of Minnesota students. 

The fast-food restaurant has returned after it was shut down in December 2020. Now, under Identity Apartments on 15th Avenue, McDonald’s celebrated its grand opening on Tuesday with red and yellow balloons and was packed with customers. 

President of the Dinkytown Business Alliance and owner of Raising Cane’s Kent Kramp said he is excited for McDonald’s to be back in the area. Kent said he is looking forward to having the staple restaurant back but wonders if the tradition connected with McDonald’s will return. 

“It’s impossible to recreate something that was, you know, something that had that much history and tradition,” Kramp said. “It doesn’t have the old character that the last one did.”

Kramp said though there are concerns about Dinkytown losing its historic charm, it is more important to try to blend the old tradition and the new, modern businesses. According to Kramp, these historical qualities resonate more with alumni than current students, so it is essential to focus on current student concerns like safety and quality housing.  

“It’s really important for them to make it feel like home,” Kramp said. “Having it being McDonald’s that comes back in that spot, that’s the way you keep the tradition of the old.” 

Kramp added Dinkytown McDonald’s is family-owned with 13 other locations around the metro area, which supports the idea of a mom-and-pop business with the financial security of a corporation. Having that backbone is extremely important in a University neighborhood because student clientele leaving for winter and summer break means slow business, according to Kramp. 

Kramp said mom-and-pop shops don’t often have other stores to help offset their cash flow. “You burn through” cash, Kramp said. “That’s a really hard burden.”

Because of the Dinkytown owner’s family background, Kramp said he believes their business will cater to and take care of the students and residents of Marcy-Holmes and Dinkytown. Kramp added he imagines McDonald’s will become a staple business similar to his Raising Cane’s restaurant. 

“We think of our Cane’s being a pillar on campus where you know that’s not gonna change for 20 years, the hope is that McDonald’s won’t change ever,” Kramp said. 

Tony Nicklow, the owner of Dinkytown restaurant Tony’s Diner, said while chain restaurants like McDonald’s are reliable establishments, they often lack the genuine connection found between a community and its local businesses.

“We truly care about what happens here with students, the teams and it shows, and so I don’t think you get that kind of love with the chain,” Nicklow said.

According to Nicklow, a major chain like McDonald’s will likely take some businesses from Dinkytown’s local restaurants. Despite this, Nicklow said the loyalty of patrons and the quality of service at Tony’s Diner will support them through the economic shift the returning McDonald’s will bring.

“I know it’ll probably take a little bit of the business here. But our food’s a lot different, a lot more home cooking, a lot more real,” Nicklow said. “So I’m pretty confident we’ll be okay, but they’re going to be one of the anchors of Dinkytown again for sure.” 

Students, while excited about the opening of McDonald’s, are also conscious of the impact the chain may have on local businesses. Sophia Telschow and Juna Fenton, second-year students at the University and opening night patrons of McDonald’s, said they are thrilled about the convenience and affordability of the new McDonald’s. 

Telschow said its appeal to college students has the potential to take business away from local establishments.

“McDonald’s is cheap and it’s geared towards college students who don’t want to spend a lot of money, I guess it would kind of take away money, like, income from other businesses,” Telschow said.

Initial excitement for the restaurant’s opening is accompanied by confidence in the longevity of its success. Opening night customers and first-year students at the University Abby Banark and Savannah Wickham said they were aware of the legacy Dinkytown McDonald’s held. Wickham said the busyness of opening night indicates a future of similar success.

“I think judging by how many people are already here, it’s definitely a comeback,” Wickham said.

Kat Hilleren-Policy, a third-year student at the University, said she has childhood memories of the old McDonald’s and is happy to have the familiar chain return to the area. 

Eating outside the McDonald’s on opening night, Hilleren-Policy said the new version of the restaurant may not have the same nostalgia the previous McDonald’s had, but its popularity will remain among a new generation of University students.

“I just think that it’s definitely modernized so it’s not going to hold the same value that it used to.” Hilleren-Policy said. “But, it’s McDonald’s and I think the students will love it the same way.” 

This article has been updated.

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  • Séamus McGuire
    Nov 19, 2023 at 11:04 am

    The customers must have been pretty tiny if they fit in those balloons.

  • M.Pulley
    Nov 16, 2023 at 9:12 am

    I wish I was there to see “red and yellow balloons packed with customers.” Must have been quite a sight in Dinkytown!