BY DEBRA KEEFER RAMAGE
Retail businesses on Bloomington Avenue
Mercado Central, a non-profit location at the corner of Bloomington Avenue and Lake Street, contains several retail businesses. It serves as a business incubator specifically for Latinos, both as business owners and customers. There has been some turnover among vendors there, especially since the pandemic and civil unrest (during which Mercado Central suffered some of the worst acts of vandalism but thankfully wasn’t burnt down) but there’s usually a good mix of clothing, jewelry and watches, shoes, florists, sports equipment, general and specialty food stores, and more.
The Quilt Shop Co-op is a fabric and sewing supply store that caters to quilt makers. As a normal small business, the quilt shop (formerly called Glad Creations) has been around for over 40 years, but just over three years ago, when it closed due to the owners’ retirement, its clientele faithful got together and formed a consumer cooperative to buy it back. The Quilt Shop Co-op also sells finished quilts, as well as patterns and even kits, so if you think you might want to start a new hobby, they’ve got you covered.
Another innovative tailoring-related business on Bloomington Avenue is RETHINK Tailoring and Sewing Lounge at 3449 Bloomington Ave. This business combines “upcycling” used clothes into new clothes or other items, sewing new items (using used fabric) from patterns, a basic sewing service (which is currently on hiatus), classes in all of the above and the retail sale of their smart and attractive recycled products. Now in the not quite post-pandemic period, RETHINK is offering both in-person and virtual classes. Classes cover must-have skills such as “Machine Repairing Denim”, “Taking Size on Jeans” and “Intro to Pockets”. They also have summer camps for kids going on, and it’s not too late to join.
KNO Woodworks at 4649 Bloomington builds, designs and sells wooden fences, pergolas and decks. They design custom solutions for privacy, shade, pet safety, curb appeal, or any other need. They have been in business for about 10 years and have a 5/5 rating on Google. Check out the huge photo gallery on their website.
Irreverent Bookworm is an independent, gay woman-owned bookstore that sells new books, used books, book-related items, notebooks and journals, tarot decks, and similar items. For their used books, they offer store credit in exchange for your lightly used books in categories that match their customers, purpose, and inventory. Although they don’t seem to have any upcoming events at the moment, they have hosted book clubs and author events in the past and hopefully will do so again. Irreverent Bookworm is located at 5163 Bloomington Ave. and is closed on Monday and Tuesday.
Food and drink on Bloomington Avenue
Mercado Central, which I mentioned above under retail stores, is also food-focused. Many successful Mexican and Latino food businesses have been incubated at Mercado Central, including Manny’s Tortas, where I often lunched while working across the street at In the Heart of the Beast. (Manny’s graduated from Mercado Central, but can still be found at Midtown Global Market and other locations.) A visit to Mercado Central might be worth seeing what’s going on there these days.
A little further south is the bustling corner of 35th and Bloomington, where you’ll find two really great (and really different) places to eat. The May Day Cafe has long been closed due to the pandemic, but is now open from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Thursday through Monday. The May Day Cafe has been in business since 1996 and offers some of the most delicious baked goods you can find.
Across 35th Street is the second incarnation and location of vegan restaurant and bar Reverie. They have a small but excellent wine, beer and cider list, mostly from local breweries, cider houses and wineries. They now serve weekend brunches as well as dinner. They do a take-out business and also have a large, cozy patio.
A few blocks further south is Mama Sheila’s House of Soul, with buffet-style service. Mama Sheila’s is one of the few places in Minnesota I’ve been to that takes me back to East Point, Georgia, where I grew up eating soul food without even knowing it, so I guess that means it’s is “authentic”. It’s okay, that’s all I can say.
Finally, at 5204 Bloomington Ave., there is Hot Plate. Another down-to-earth eatery with some longevity, Hot Plate is a breakfast spot, open from 8am every day except Tuesdays, and closing at 1pm on weekdays and 2pm on weekends.
Services, organizations and associations on Bloomington Avenue
Bloomington Avenue has an above average number of services, service organizations, and nonprofits along its length in Minneapolis. Just at the start of the avenue, at 2001 Bloomington Ave., you’ll find Minneapolis’ most well-known community clinic. Pronounced “kook”, its real name is Community-University Health Care Center or
CUHCC. In addition to being a community clinic, it is also a teaching clinic for the University of Minnesota School of Medicine and Dental School. The CUHCC is run by some truly excellent people. They’ll walk you through applying for MNsure or MinnesotaCare or Medicaid, and if you’re too high income for any program, but you’re still low income, they have their own sliding scale of discounts that you can ask.
East of Bloomington Avenue at 2600 E. 38th St. is the Friendship Academy of the Arts (FAA), a tuition-free K-8 public charter school with a private school atmosphere. First opened in 2001, FAA has continued to grow each year and now has two campuses, one for kindergarten through first grade and the other for students in grades 2 through 8. Their fine arts-focused curriculum provides students with daily artistic experiences. FAA teachers and arts specialists not only help students discover their own artistic heritage and the importance of the fine arts to all cultures, but also integrate the arts into the core curriculum subjects of reading, math, science, social studies, physical education and health. At the Friendship Academy of the Arts, children develop the skills and attitudes needed to find meaning in their lives through music, dance, drama and visual arts.
Another interesting organization on Bloomington Avenue and 35th Street is Greenbrier Montessori, a micro-school for children ages three to six. Greenbrier Montessori is part of the Wildflower School Network which is described as “an ecosystem of decentralized Montessori micro-schools that support children, teachers and parents”.
Modus Locus is on this same corner, right next to Reverie. Modus Locus is an art gallery but several other things in addition. This is a co-office space with two current resident offices on site. This is an event space that you can rent out for special art exhibits, yoga classes, film screenings, workshops, rehearsals, or a variety of other uses. It is a community educational resource with courses on a variety of subjects. They also sell art.
There are a few bike shops or repair places in Bloomington. One of the oldest and most respected is Nokomis Cycle. It’s privately owned but very communal (as are the best bike shops). It was founded in 1994 as a repair shop. Now they also sell bikes – new, custom and electric – as well as bike accessories. And they have a long tradition of the Monday Night Ride. Every Monday from March to September, weather permitting, cyclists depart from the store at 7 p.m. for a circuit around the nearby lakes.
The other is more consciously a community-led organization. It’s The Grease Pit, which we’ve covered for the past few years, but due to COVID and other forces, the story has changed a bit each year. The Grease Pit began as a “non-profit bicycle repair shop”. Basically, it was a library of bike repair tools with a team of all-volunteer helpers. People who used their services were encouraged to donate time, money or bicycles. They recycled and sold cheap bikes to finance the project, pure uncontrolled mutual aid. Predictably, come the time of the 2020 uprising, The Grease Pit became a hub for all kinds of help beyond bike repair. It now reverts to something more like its previous form. The shop itself is open Wednesday and Thursday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.