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Independent Businesses Downtown

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Does anyone know the status on how many indiie businesses (vs. chains) are left downtown? It seems we're losing so many of them. Sad to see Let It Be gone now. Guess I'll be shopping at Sam Goody for CD's....

Just curious how everyone feels about this. In some ways I understand the big chains coming in and why the city wants that. As one Tourism official told me, we can stop the rancher's wives in North Dakota from shopping in Chicago if we have a Neiman Marcus here, and such..... Still, I feel like we're losing a lot of the unique aspects of the city.

I remember (revealing my age here) coming downtown as a kid 30 or so years ago and seeing TONS of little shops on The Mall. I really miss that...

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Does anyone know the status on how many indiie businesses (vs. chains) are left downtown?  It seems we're losing so many of them.  Sad to see Let It Be gone now.  Guess I'll be shopping at Sam Goody for CD's....

Just curious how everyone feels about this.  In some ways I understand the big chains coming in and why the city wants that.  As one Tourism official told me, we can stop the rancher's wives in North Dakota from shopping in Chicago if we have a Neiman Marcus here, and such.....  Still, I feel like we're losing a lot of the unique aspects of the city.

I remember (revealing my age here) coming downtown as a kid 30 or so years ago and seeing TONS of little shops on The Mall.  I really miss that...

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The thing is, everything seems to have moved up into the skyways. Whether it be chain or independent (I really don't care) I'd like to see at least ONE street, namely Nicollet Mall develop into a Soho-NYCish shopping street with lots of street traffic. The skyways are just becoming a glorified shopping mall, strewn throughout the office buildings.

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The thing is, everything seems to have moved up into the skyways. Whether it be chain or independent (I really don't care) I'd like to see at least ONE street, namely Nicollet Mall develop into a Soho-NYCish shopping street with lots of street traffic. The skyways are just becoming a glorified shopping mall, strewn throughout the office buildings.

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I completely agree! And I love the way you describe the Soho-NYC thing... We need more character on The Mall and less tables.

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Does anyone know the status on how many indiie businesses (vs. chains) are left downtown?  It seems we're losing so many of them.  Sad to see Let It Be gone now.  Guess I'll be shopping at Sam Goody for CD's....

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I agree. The city is losing a lot of independent stores and it's sad because they add to a city's uniqueness. People were so pissed when they heard Saks was changing to Saks Off 5th, which is currently the chains number one performer. Why isn't there a fuss when stores like Let It Be decide to call it quits?

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And I love the way you describe the Soho-NYC thing... We need more character on The Mall

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Indeed. I'd like to stroll down Nicollet on Saturday and feel some energy. As it is now, its only you, an empty Fritos bag and some dried leaves blowing on the sidewalk. And maybe some puke next to The Local from the night before.

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I agree. The city is losing a lot of independent stores and it's sad because they add to a city's uniqueness.  People were so pissed when they heard Saks was changing to Saks Off 5th, which is currently the chains number one performer.  Why isn't there a fuss when stores like Let It Be decide to call it quits?

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Agreed. I was pretty sure First Avenue was going down at one point as well and was surprised there wasn't more support.

First Avenue is a great example of the corporate vs. indie thing. Clear Channel outbid them (even if it meant losing money) on acts and so First Ave did not do as well - and has been affected. Some acts insisted on playing only there, but many gave in to the Clear Channel way of doing business i.e. we make or break you since we own a zillion radio stations, run the major concerts, etc....

Ultimately, this all affects the individuals like us. Our music is chosen for us by corporations. Our shopping is chosen for us by corporations. And it feels like the character of our city is being chosen for us by corporations.

I want style.

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I don't think the Aquavit/Olive Garden holds much weight. Dining in downtown and Minneapolis as a whole is probably at or around its best in recent history. Look at Solara, 112 Eatery, Babalu, Bellanote', Ikes, Tiburon are all relatively recent additions Keys has expanded, Elliot Park is getting a sister restaurant to the Uptown Diner, Moose and Sadies is adding a Kitchen, the Chambers restuarant and the building that is next to the Patanges are getting new restaurants too. Heck TGI Fridays, Nick & Tony's and Copelands (All Chains) are gone. Overall I think its been a noticeable improvement in dining over the past 7 years I've lived downtown (I miss Red) despite Olive Garden.

As far as retail being non-unique or a comparison to SoHo, corporatization is a national trend. H&M is coming to the MOA and other than Zara's, Kenneth Cole, Deisel and a bunch of real expensive boutiques SoHo has mostly the same stores as the MOA. We don't have the population to support the real cutting edge, high end stuff.

I personally think local retailers should move into the vacant storefronts on Marquette or LaSalle (cheaper rent, revitalize another street since Hennepin, 1st Ave and Nicollet are all pretty active.) and then create some kind of group marketing campaign around their uniqueness. Nicollet Mall simply is not a retail street anymore. There are basically no storefronts on it. Despite that I notice a lot MORE people on it during the weekend than in previous years.

I bought about 2-5 CDs per month at Let it Be. The owner said that sales had dropped something like 75% in the past 5 years. I think that particular casualty is not at all unique to Mineapolis or Downtown as far as competing on price with Best Buy, Amazon and MP3's etc. There unique stuff is now available on line at www.letitberecords.com. In other words there are bigger forces at work here.

Honestly the best things about bigger cities these days in a commercial sense are food, entertainment and convienence rather than unique offerings of material goods. With the internet a farmer in Iowa can buy Kenneth Cole shoes, indie CDs, a Kitchen-Aid mixer and pretty much whatever niche items they want without leaving home. Whereas even 5 years ago this wasn't the case. It is unlikely that the trend will slow or go away.

Its not necessarily my preference either but I don't think its a doom-n-gloom situation for downtown by a long stretch.

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As far as retail being non-unique or a comparison to SoHo, corporatization is a national trend.  H&M is coming to the MOA and other than Zara's, Kenneth Cole, Deisel and a bunch of real expensive boutiques SoHo has mostly the same stores as the MOA.  We don't have the population to support the real cutting edge, high end stuff.

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That's exactly it, we revolve around malls. Could you imagine if all those stores had storefronts downtown? I guess I'm a fan of sidewalk foot traffic. Its more engaging and creates a better vibe for the city (IMO), even if it is Crate and Barrel and Sam Goody. MOA and the skyways depress the living crap out of me. But the most people seem to love it.

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I hear ya about storefronts. I was just trying to address the independent business issue as opposed to urban v. suburban form issues.

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I don't think the Aquavit/Olive Garden holds much weight. 

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I agree, but it was intended to be tounge in cheek. Dining has improved, but I remember thinking as they were installing the Olive Garden that this was going to be the tip of the iceburg. Fortunately I was wrong, as far as dining goes, but I was hoping downtown wouldn't turn into Burnsville.

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There's a dowtown independent clothes retailer called Kuhlman Company in the Gavidae which I really like. It's an example of a successful retailer that started as a Nicollet Mall independent. They are expanding and adding branches in other cities. My Chicago friends already discovered and shop at the Kuhlman in Lakeview and I had the pleasure of informing them that it's a native Minnesota business. Just a counter-example to the trend of local independents leaving downtown.

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Just a couple observations

-- Having lots of bars and restaurants downtown is good because it creates a nightlife after 5pm which allows downtown to be lively all day. I love the smoking ban because it has created so much more outdoor activity/dining

-- Stores would be nice but actually, most downtowns don't have great shopping -- It seems to me that they have shopping districts that are separate from the business districts. Think Montreal, Toronto, LA, Boston.

--Additionally, the funky creative retail is almost never located in downtowns because rent is too high. That's how soho, melrose ave etc. got started. Eventually these areas get more commercial and a new funky area sprouts up.

--In order to really have a huge thriving retail section you need tourists. Think of the best shopping cities (NY, LA, Chicago, Las Vegas). We don't get many tourists and those we do get go to the Mall of America.

My point is that you can't blame Minnesotans (particuarily people from Minneapolis) for not having great shopping downtown -- a lot of it has to do with the Mall of America, our weather and our population size. I can't even think of a city our size which has great urban retail. Is there one? Try and find one with winters like ours and it makes it even more difficult.

In addition you can't simply blame the skyways-- both Toronto and Montreal have thriving retail and they have miles of undergrount tunnels -- but they both get lots of tourists and are large and have subways.

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All this talk of downtown shopping takes me back to the good old days when I lived in Rome, Italy. It's true that a lot of shopping in the big cities is supported by tourists coming from places with no chain stores, but the fact is that both independent stores and chains are able to co- exist can partly become a reality. The main thing that people look for in shopping is price and location.

With all these new condo projects going up in Minneapolis, I believe that every one of them needs to secure retail in their project. Most Americans are used to driving to stores, but once you live downtown, it makes it a bit harder. If the condos have shops at their bases, people can find what they need within a few blocks from where they live and not have to drive 3 miles. Independent businesses are the perfect match for these projects since they do not have a lot a square footage to offer that most chain stores require.

It's something that has to develope over time, but in the end, it builds a neighborhood into a living creative and not just buildings that are side by side.

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I think Minneapolis should help retail by unofficially designating certain areas as retail districts.

For example the warehouse district should be designated for Home items. Encourage Linge Roset and Design within reach and Room and Board to open locations there.

Create a gay disrict along 15th and Nicollet --to create a gay themed shopping and entertainment disrict.

Create an arts quarter etc.

The synergy created by grouping similar stores together would help make downtown a destination.

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Create a gay disrict along 15th  and Nicollet --to create a gay themed shopping and entertainment disrict.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

There's the 19 Bar, what more do you want? LOL.

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