Tag Archives: NE Minneapolis

Eastside Food Co-op Celebrates Success



For years I’ve made regular stops at my neighborhood coop, the Eastside Food Co-op (EFC). It’s a bustling place, filled with parents toting kids in strollers, fresh produce, organic food staples, herbs and spices, and shelves filled with aids to health and beauty far beyond my ken.  Usually I have a cup of free trade coffee, read the well-stocked bulletin board, and marvel at the world around me.  In recent times, I’ve had several reasons to pay closer attention – mostly because I’m on a quest to learn more about my neighborhood.  (Northeast icon Jeanette May recently advised me that the more I learn about Northeast the more I will love Northeast!)


My reading of the latest EFC newsletter clued me into the fact that my slow learning curve coincides with the 7th anniversary of the opening of the EFC, to be celebrated with a neighborhood party on Saturday, December 11.  It’s time to explore the wonders of the EFC.


A visit to the EFC website gave me a great start.  Local resident Ginny Sutton was an early supporter who worked tirelessly to create “the little co-op that could.”  The appellation refers to the fact that the common acceptance of the fact that co-ops work in upscale neighborhoods, not in less affluent ethnic neighborhoods such as Central Avenue.  Ginny wrote a fascinating article published in the March-April 2004 issue of Cooperative Grocer in which she describes in historic detail the politics of bringing together the 13 neighborhood associations in Northeast, the Neighborhood Revitalization and other political forces with the financial expertise and resources in Northeast.  It’s a great read and a tribute to persistence and collaboration.


More recently, Leslie Watson, President of the EFC Board expands on that history, with insights including reflections on the exploits of the EFC Precision Shopping Cart Drill Team that marched in the 2004 Northeast Parade.  She also provides expanded details about the governance structure, politics and updated history of the EFC.  Watson reports that, as of September 2009, over 2800 member households owned the Eastside Food Co-op. Today, there are nearly 3500 members.


EFC is indeed a community hub.  The food shelves are just the surface of a beehive of activities. Today EFC serves an ethnic community that includes a large Mexican population, Somalis, many Ecuadorians (the Ecuadorian consulate is in the neighborhood) as well as the rich heritage of Eastern European and other ethnic communities long identified with Northeast. EFC promotional materials are published in Hmong, Arabic, Somali and Spanish, grocery shelves feature ethnic foods and programs to address community priorities are omnipresent.


As the vital community served by EFC evolves, so have the programs and resources of EFC.  The calendar of events overflows with ongoing and special events.  For example, third Thursdays are Co-op Movie Nights – first-rate movies with popcorn and beverages.  Or there’s the NE Network, second Thursdays, featuring free and open discussions of community issues (December 9 it’s “The Other Side of the Tracks: Future of Shoreham Yards).  There are cooking classes, wellness programs, a yoga studio, arts and crafts exhibits and demonstrations, the well-known spring plant sale, seasonal programs and a new winter farmer’s market every second Saturday morning.  Increasingly neighborhood organizations are meeting in the newly-opened granite studio.  EFC has ongoing programs going with Edison High School (you’ll find Tommie paraphernalia on the EFC shelves), with community education, the public library and nonprofits that serve the community.


Best of all, EFC is on firm financial footing, looking to and planning for a bright future.  Assistant Manager Kristina Gronquist observes that in these tough times, when for-profits are struggling and failing, EFC is a “smashing economic success” – no small feat for a member-owned organization that plans to start paying dividends to its members in the near future.


The EFC website offers an amazing pot pourri of events, services and ideas plus details about staff, facilities, membership and more.  The EFC newsletter carries news about the neighborhood and the community as well as the Co-op.  There’s a regular email newsletter with the latest from EFC.


Plan to join with the over 3000 member households who are members and owners of EFC in the celebratory events on December 11 – enjoy the music, raffles, door prizes, fabulous baked treats, the winter farmer’s market, even a book sale sponsored by the Friends of the Northeast Library which just happens to be going on at the same time at the Co-op.


Add ECF to the unique treasures of Northeast.



St Anthony of Padua High School – Northeast Minneapolis

A black and white picture of a class from St Anthony High School.(This article originally appeared in The Northeaster)

“Strong and strident women” is the memory that Carolyn Puccio has of her years at St. Anthony High School  Now a leader in the Sisters of St. Joseph Carondelet community, she is a proud graduate of St. Anthony which decades until it was closed in 1971.  At that time nearby DeLaSalle, operated by the Christian Brothers,  became a co-ed high school.

Unlike most of the Catholic high schools in the area St. Anthony High School was operated by the parish itself.  The original building still stands at 8th Street and 2nd Avenue Northeast where it houses one of the Catholic Eldercare sites. St Anthony High School was actually co-educational until DeLaSalle opened in 1900.

St. Anthony’s High School grew out of the parish of St. Anthony of Padua which was established in 1849.  In 1853 the Sisters of St. Joseph opened the school, which was known for a time as St. Mary’s Convent. The name change came when the school was merged with the parish school across the street some years later.  The new facility  which provided a home for the first church, the convent that housed the first parochial teachers in Minneapolis, continued to be known as St. Mary’s for many years. Though tuition was just fifty cents a month several of the young scholars were admitted free.  Receipts for 1854 were $197.58, with expenses at $203.70, leaving a deficit to begin the school year in 1855.  In his book Lighting New Fires, published by the National Catholic Educational Association, historian Michael Guera notes that “this item of information is of interest only to show how poorly and simply our predecessors lived, their wants were few and even those were supplied with difficulty; their spirit of self-sacrifice was great and their contentment in making sacrifices was still greater.

The first school had just five school rooms and a residence for the Sisters on the second floor. Sister Gregory LeMay, one of the original teachers, was the first Sister to receive the habit of the Sisters of St. Joseph in St. Paul. For most of its history St. Anthony was staffed almost entirely by the Sisters of St. Joseph.

St. Anthony, unlike most other high schools of the Sisters of St. Joseph, remained a parish-owned school.  Although the three year diploma offered at the high school for many years did not qualify students for college entrance, many students were admitted by taking entrance exams. At that time it was uncommon for young people to go to college, but most of the St. Anthony graduates did. In 1915 the building for St. Anthony’s High School was opened.  For decades it educated the young Catholic women of Northeast.

Graduates of St. Anthony of Padua High School have happy and amusing stories of their experience.  They agree that attendance at the school was “always a special advantage to families in the area.”  Graduates of St. Anthony of Padua elementary school were assured of admission to the high school.  They tell stories of threadbare blue jumpers  and blue oxfords commonly known as Happy Hikers, of playing basketball – and “usually losing” – against other Catholic girls’ schools in the Twin Cities, of dramatic productions in which boys from DeLaSalle were recruited to play the male roles.  1954 graduate Rose Vennewitz, now living in Fridley, remembers the experience of being checked out by the Sisters before going to the Prom.

One common memory is of the May processions to the Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, constructed in 1947 and still a on the grounds of St. Anthony of Padua church.

Though the school is closed the spirit remains as countless graduates of St. Anthony continue to lead the Northeast community.

The Flavors of Annona Gourmet in Saint Anthony Village

According to the infallible Wikipedia  Annona is a genus of flowering plants in the pawpaw sugar apple sugar apple family cultivated in Mexico since 1000 BC. Currently, seven Annona species and one hybrid are grown for domestic or commercial use mostly for the edible and nutritious fruits; several others also produce edible fruits. Many of the species are used in traditional medicines for the treatment of a variety of diseases. Several annonacaeous species have been found to contain annona.   Annona is also a goddess, personification of plenty or the produce of the yearly harvest.

Picture of the Annona plant

Botany and mythology aside, for increasing numbers of Twin Citians Annona is becoming a household word, not because of the flowering plant but because of Annona Gourmet.  Annona is a gastronomic treasure trove of taste-satisfying treats for the gourmet and for lurkers who want to know about subtle tastes.

James Norton, writing for the gourmet’s delight, Heavy Table, tempts the tastebuds with his description of Annona Gourmet:  “In terms of sheer impact, few gastronomic experiences rival letting a few drops of flavored balsamic vinegar slide across your palate.  The result can be a fig-tinted sledgehammer, a pomegranate wrecking ball, a blueberry uppercut;  vivid , slashing, barn-burning flavor that demands bread, or tonic, or vegetables to act as a catcher’s mitt for the vinegar’s flavor fastball.”  (Heavy Table, February 13, 2009)

In just two years Annona owner and Windom Park  resident Jean Rarick has made her welcoming shop an essential destination for many and a the hub of the community.  Visitors will find gourmet delicacies accented with neighborhood news and a glimpse of what’s next in Northeast Minneapolis, St. Anthony Village and environs.
Several years ago, while pondering a career change from the international business world of fine paper, Jean was laid off.  Having traveled extensively with her previous job, she had seen the gourmet shop concept in other countries and states.  Knowing there was nothing just  like she craved in Minnesota, she decided to open Annona Gourmet in The Village, a relatively nondescript strip mall that straddles St. Anthony Village and Northeast Minneapolis.

Annona Gourmet fills the gustatory gap while the community benefits by Jean’s commitment to stay in Northeast where she has lived for the past 25 years and where she has had family in the area since the late 1800’s.  Annona Gourmet also provides a lively outlet for local entrepreneurs with ideas, kitchens and workshops and a pitch to local customers.

Annona Gourmet offers an endlessly tempting array of gourmet delicacies – a rich assortment of vinegars that Jean rotates on a regular basis, extra virgin olive oils from around the world, pasta, sea salt and a mix of locally produced products.  Shoppers will find such local products as honey, jams, salsas and snacks plus a variety of art, pottery, jewelry and crafts, including handsome woodcrafts – and of course aprons — created by local artists and crafters.  Recent additions to the gourmet shelves include  coffee from Café Palmira, biscotti from LindaLiscious and seasonings from Kayak Kitchens.

Visitors to Annona Gourmet, 2807 Pentagon Drive in the Village Shopping Center, will also find a warm welcome, taste tests of fine vinegars and virgin oils, and a new appreciation of gustatory subtleties introduced by Jean who loves fine cuisine, her adventuresome customers, her community and good music as played on her favorite KFAI – not necessarily in that order.  Shoppers and shopper wannabes will  also find a busy shopkeeper and community resource, currently making big plans for the St Anthony Village holiday special set for December 10 – more on the traditional SAV carriage rides, vendors and entertainment in future posts.

Contact Jean and Annona at 612 354 2027 or sales@annonagourmet.com

New restaurant in NE MPLS: Hazel’s

The buzz in Northeast Minneapolis this week is all about what’s cooking at 29th and Johnson.  For the past  months the neighborhood has mourned the passing of first of Snap, the pizza and ice cream hangout, and more recently, of Pop!  Tears were shed as neighbors lamented the loss to the community and to their gustatory options.


The buzz—Hazel’s Northeast will fill the culinary gap.  Hazel’s is a family friendly home-style cuisine dream of brothers Andrew and Adam Sieve who hale from Alexandria, MN.  Though Hazel’s is their first independent venture, they’ve worked their way up the eatery chain, starting as bus boys in the family restaurant, The Traveler’s Inn, Alexandria’s most venerable family-owned restaurant, opened in 1928 by their grandmother Hazel whose pie-baking enterprise had outgrown her kitchen on the family farm.


Both brothers tried other professions, but are returning to their restaurant roots.  They’re working now on décor and delicacies including traditional comfort food that meet the “three square” basics six days a week.  They will be open early December – a holiday gift to Northeast residents and to hungry folks throughout the area who prefer a quiet neighborhood haven to the predictable strip mall chain or  downtown haute cuisine .

The MN Polish Fair was Wonderful!

The Polish music still plays in my head as review the mental – and digital – images of polka dancers, red and white memorabilia everywhere, and the ambient aroma of fine Polish cuisine.  My original intent was to capture the story of a young couple’s surprise engagement on stage during the Dolina Dancers.   The unanticipated delight was a perfect August afternoon at the Twin Cities Polish Festival at St. Anthony Main on the Mississippi – notepad in hand and camera at the ready.

According to plan, I did my best to capture the delightful experience in a piece for the following day’s Twin Cities Daily Planet.  This was a quintessential Poking Around experience to be shared with readers of this blog committed to that precise purpose.

Hum a polka and tap a toe as you read along.

Farmer’s Markets Sprout

Farmer’s Markets are sprouting (to coin a phrase) on every church, parking, and vacant lot, it seems.  It’s great.  What I’m learning in my poking around is about the unique nature of many of these sites.  Thanks to Twin Cities Daily Planet shared penchant for poking around, I’ve had a chance to dig a bit deeper into just a couple – so far.

The Village Farmer’s Market, opening July 12 in my community, is the fulfillment of one woman’s dream.  Wendy Huebner is the dreamer who now has the whole community abuzz.  The VFM will feature a generous array of locally produced vegetables and fruit along with a rich assortment of entertainment/educational programs that range from accordions to jugglers to a talk about the history of cookbooks, with emphasis on delicacies created from locally grown produce.  Details on TCDP.

Another community building market is the fulfillment of Toua Xiong’s dream.  The Hmongtown Marketplace in St. Paul’s Frogtown is the hub of the Hmong community.  The nine-acre site features locally grown produce, much of which is new to oldtime Minnesotans.  The Market also features several restaurants and foodstands, acres of purchasable items ranging from clothing to videos to bubble blowing gear.  Again, details on TCDP.

The summer isn’t long enough to poke around all of the market opportunities, but I’ve got a good start on a most delightful and delicious poke!