A superfluity of wealth, and a train of domestic slaves, naturally banish a sense of general liberty, and nourish the seeds of that kind of independence that usually terminates in aristocracy. Mercy Otis Warren, 1728-1814, political writing and propagandist
Back in June, when word came down that Celebrate Your Independents Month was the classy theme for July 2012, I made big plans to interview the independent businesses in my neighborhood. After some futile calls around, to learn for one thing that the Northeast Neighbors and Business Association is currently dormant, I scrapped the interview plan and decided to focus instead on the great independent business owners with whom I, as an inveterate supporter, come in contact every day.
Theirs are the stories I know, the people, the products and the services I want to celebrate! In the words of Mr. Rogers, these are the “people in my neighborhood”, the people I know not as vendors of goods and services but as friends.
Sue Johnson, the ebullient queen of all things breakfast-related at Johnson’s Bacon & Eggs Cafe in Columbia Heights, shares her culinary talents, decorating bent, and unstinting hospitality with all comers – the daily gathering of locals and those of us in search of the perfect blueberry pancake. Great food served with a touch of class, a shared laugh and Sue’s warm friendship sends me on my way with a new take on the day to come.
Jeannie Rarick, who rules at Annona Gourmet in the newly-spruced-up St. Anthony Village Shopping Center, shares her energy and zest for life with an ever-growing cast of gourmet shoppers from the neighborhood and from far-flung environs. Jeannie dispenses tasty samples of her wares, principally vinegars and oils, along with an encyclopedic knowledge of their histories and virtues, along with the latest tidbits from the hood.
Just next door is Corner Books, a totally irresistible bookstore owned and operated by one of the world’s great bibliophiles, Carol Urness. Carol is a scholar, librarian, birder and traveler who knows and shares with shoppers and gawkers just about everything there is to know and share about books. Customers know Carol is in if her brilliantly painted library cart, full of great reads, is parked outside the shop.
And then there is Jennifer Schmidt nnow reigning at Hair-O-Smith, a woman-run hair salon cum dance studio nestled in the Q.arma Building in the heart of the Northeast Minneapolis Arts Area. The funky setting is the ideal palette for Jennifer, hairdresser extraordinaire who is always at the ready with the right cut and the right take on the realities of life.
Trish and Matt at Crafty Planet, 2833 NE Johnson, meet the talented crafter and those of us who struggle with the intricacies of dishcloth construction with equal enthusiasm for the possibilities. They and their staff add a personal touch to the charming shop that bursts on the seams with every conceivable pattern, material, yarn, thread, and learning opportunity. They share their knowledge with a host of classes and outreach activities, including their July 22 NoCoast Craft-O-Rama craft and art family fun event at Silverwood Park.
Though I’m not sure which comes first, I know that a visit to the Crafty Planet and a stop at The Coffee House Northeast, just across the street at 2852 Johnson NE, are inseparable. The friendly neighborhood gathering spot offers not just coffee but a full menu of smoothies, sweets, salads, sandwiches and more. The ongoing expansion project at The Coffee House Northeast testifies to the come-on-in spirit of this neighborhood independent business.
There are not enough hours to track my own steps through the neighborhood in order to chronicle the scores of independents I patronize – or at least visit – on a regular basis. And there’s nowhere near the money for to help these fine businesses owners spur the economy. Still, I am proud to tell the story of the role of independent businesses in my life neighborhood. Through their very presence, their services and the unique products they provide, they and the scores of other independents in my neighborhood contribute immeasurably to the vitality of the community of which they are the economic and social hub.
For others’ celebratory thoughts, check the St. Paul Pioneer Press Twin Cities.Com article in which Twin Citians extol the virtues of their own favorite independent vendors of books, theater, movies, music and art.
So much to celebrate, so little time!