The Death of Sunnyside Market

As told by doodledee.

Last weekend our little Sunnyside Market officially went down in a blaze of buyout glory courtesy of the Russell T. Lund empire. It’d been a tumultuous couple of weeks leading up to the actual closing, as rumors and speculation blew through the neighborhood like an angry tornado, flipping over Volvos and scattering speculation and misinformation in its wake. They were closing?! The building was going to be vacant? For 2 years?! What about the workers? Kowalski’s wanted it, too? What’s Lund’s going to do with it? Empty? Warehouse? New Lund’s? Year round fresh cut fry booth?! (As hard as I tried, that one never stuck.)

Mass emails were sent, public “hearings” were scheduled, The People were mobilized… it was all very enthusiastic and honest and sincere. There was talk of boycotting and yard signs and impact analysis studies and “is this even legal?” and all sorts of stuff, though oddly no hunger strikes, a move that would have been at once ironic and [apparently] trendy, but in retrospect, maybe a little too Linden Hills for us.

He sums it up pretty well, I think. The market kind of sucked anyway, though I suspect it was probably better than most corner groceries in Minneapolis. (I’m looking at you Cup Foods.) Folks in the neighborhood were paying attention and suitably outraged. Those same folks will have no problem going to the next closest Kowalski’s, Lunds, or co-op and probably have been doing that anyway. The business transaction was pretty distasteful if perfectly legal. You hate to see the little guy bullied by the big guy.

All the elements of a good civic drama, without the dry fuck feeling a stadium leaves you with.

28 Comments so far

  1. Janet (unregistered) on September 20th, 2007 @ 12:31 pm


    I’m inclined to comment on this, as a longtime resident of the neighborhood, but I won’t as long as you’ve still got that last sentence in your original posting. The gratuitous use of the the F-word is very HBO-like, but very uncalled for here. And I don’t want to be associated with that.

    (I invite you to delete this comment of mine once you’ve cleaned up you original posting.)

  2. Erica M (unregistered) on September 20th, 2007 @ 12:44 pm

    Well, the point was to contrast the Sunnyside Market situation (what I know of it, anyway) with another “civic drama” and to indicate my opinion that in the grand scheme the stadium situations as they’ve played out here have far greater unwanted consequences for the city residents that are impacted by it. It’s a metaphor.

    Your disagreement with my choice of words is so noted. It’s certainly clear that I’m the one that used the dirty word and not you.

    If there’s something about the Sunnyside Market story that you really feel is important to say, I encourage you to say it and I wish you would. I’m going to assume that if you don’t, it’s not that important to you to expound on what I’ve said or to correct me if I’m wrong.

    So I am not going to censor myself and retract what I said. Nor am I going to delete your comment (nor would I delete your comment even if I did revise the post).

  3. Ang (unregistered) on September 20th, 2007 @ 12:50 pm

    The f-bomb on the internet? Why, I never!

  4. Aaron (unregistered) on September 20th, 2007 @ 12:58 pm

    Well, the F-Bomb is one thing, but that “dry fuck feeling” is another.

    Either way, maybe Janet should go visit these other clean blogs:

    MNspeak… er, no… they’re vulgar when they’re not swearing even…
    Minnesota Monitor… er, I’ve seen swears there too…
    The Daily Mole… er, not launched yet, but I bet they’ll say fuck…

    Shit, where to go, where to go. Even I swear on my blog.

    Maybe visit MFR.

  5. sean bonner (unregistered) on September 20th, 2007 @ 1:05 pm

    At Metroblogging we love all incarnations of fuck.

  6. noodleman (unregistered) on September 20th, 2007 @ 1:34 pm

    You hate to see the little guy bullied by the big guy.

    You mean Kowalski’s vs. Lunds? It certainly wasn’t Sunnyside Market that was bullied. Because, as I understand it, the owner of Sunnyside Market was going was going to sell regardless of who the buyer was. The political misstep he took was to agree to a tentative buyout from Kowalski’s and, later, changed his mind when more dollars was offered to him by Lunds.

  7. Jess (unregistered) on September 20th, 2007 @ 2:17 pm

    I really can’t fucking comment with all the swearing in here.

  8. Jason (unregistered) on September 20th, 2007 @ 4:50 pm

    My blog has been profanity-free since two-thousand-ought-three! Not to agree with the anti-swearer, but I don’t recall seeing the efinheimer very often around here. Maybe I haven’t been looking for it.

  9. Erica M (unregistered) on September 20th, 2007 @ 5:03 pm

    I don’t recall seeing the efinheimer very often around here

    You don’t really, but it’s not because we’re particularly opposed to it.

    I’d say it was impactful.

  10. Jason (unregistered) on September 20th, 2007 @ 5:27 pm

    That’s cool. It’s your house, you’re free to swear at will!

  11. Aliecat (unregistered) on September 20th, 2007 @ 7:30 pm

    Fuck, fuck, fuckity fuck…

    And a shitty goddamn thrown in for good measure.


  12. dav3 (unregistered) on September 20th, 2007 @ 8:55 pm

    i’m not really sure anybody got bullied, though the neighborhood kinda got the shaft in that we’ll have a dark warehouse instead of a nice little corner grocery store. but i’m certainly not asking for sympathy. it won’t kill us, it will only make us stronger. you’ve been warned.

    i wonder what simon deliver’s take on all this was. if i had to bet, i’d guess: “sweet!”

    fwiw, i don’t curse much – certainly not when it comes to silly grocery store drama – but man, when somebody spells my blog’s name wrong, all bets are off.

  13. Erica M (unregistered) on September 20th, 2007 @ 10:50 pm

    when somebody spells my blog’s name wrong, all bets are off

    Dammit. Fixed it.

  14. Janet (unregistered) on September 20th, 2007 @ 11:16 pm

    Sorry. I mistook this for a grown-up, rather than junior-high, website. My mistake. Carry on, without me, juveniles.

  15. Janet (unregistered) on September 20th, 2007 @ 11:16 pm

    Sorry. I mistook this for a grown-up, rather than junior-high, website. My mistake. Carry on, without me, juveniles.

  16. Erica M (unregistered) on September 21st, 2007 @ 7:24 am

    To be perfectly honest, Janet, I’d say you set the tone with your first comment. People don’t respond well to scolding.

    There are on-topic responses which I found interesting and I would still like to hear what you have to say on the matter as someone who probably knows a lot more about it than I do.

    However, it is certainly your prerogative to move on.

  17. Erica M (unregistered) on September 21st, 2007 @ 7:31 am

    In addition, people will respond to what’s in the comments already, so if you (as someone who probably knows more about this than I do) have something on-topic to contribute, I (and others, I imagine) would be happy to respond to that appropriately.

  18. Pete (unregistered) on September 21st, 2007 @ 10:56 am

    I’m another longtime resident of the neighborhood, and I agree with the above remarks by NOODLEMAN and Dav3.

    At his blog, Dav3 has the link for the good article in the Southwest Journal about the matter.

    This story is noteworthy because for a long time Linden Hills has very progressively promoted the idea of residents shopping locally, and doing so on foot or by bike, to reduce traffic and parking problems. The loss of the neighborhood’s only supermarket is a big blow to that effort.

    The departing owner, Mr. Almstead, contends that this supermarket location is no longer a viable one, because the neighborhood failed to adequately patronize it. On the other hand, Kowalski’s must have been thinking otherwise, or they wouldn’t have been so eager to buy out Almstead.

    Almstead operated there for about 15 years. Before that, it had been, for decades, a Country Club Market. It was the original location in that chain (named for the Country Club residential district, immediately to the west, in Edina), which went out of business in the early ’90s, in the wake of a strike by its employees. Almstead undertook a major remodeling of the store a few years ago. That project included expanding the square footage slightly, at the front, for the addition of a deli area.

    Presumably, another attempt will eventually be made to open a market at that shopping node. And then it will become more clear whether Almstead’s pessimism is correct, or else that he was running his business ineffectively. Perhaps any next market will be more like a smaller, corner-grocery/convenience-store rather than a supermarket.

    Besides the shuttered store location, another possible location for a replacement supermarket could be the large commercial building one block west (44th & Drew). It’s my understanding that decades ago it housed a Red Owl supermarket. Currently the space is subdivided into three storefronts; the tenants there have turned over quite a bit in recent years.

    Another factor that may have hurt Almstead’s business somewhat would be that four of Linden Hills’ largest apartment buildings got converted to condos a couple of years ago. The total number of converted units is probably at least 200. The demographics of those buildings changed considerably; most of the residents are young adults. A lot of middle-aged and retired apartment dwellers moved elsewhere rather than buying their units.

    Linden Hills’ houses are famously pricey. But what’s not well-known is that the neighborhood does have a lot of renters, in the many apartment buildings not converted to condos, and in duplexes; and rents aren’t high. And there are a number of low-income renters whose rent is subsidized via the Section 8 program. All these renters are the ones who will be most adversely affected by the store’s closing.

    The neighborhood still has the Linden Hills food co-op, and the Lunds store is just beyond the outer edge of the neighborhood, seven blocks from the closed store. But the co-op caters mainly to those happy to pay a premium for organically grown foods. And Lunds caters to the upscale market. (Though in recent years Almstead’s prices crept up and up, to around Lunds’ prices.) The gas station next to the closed store does a have a small selection of convenience-store-type groceries.

    Almstead says he sold out to Lunds in order to assure that all of his displaced employees would get interviewed for new jobs, with Lunds. But, presumably, if Kowalski’s had taken over the store, Kowalski’s would’ve wanted to retain most of the existing staff.

    Almstead has two remaining stores. I don’t know how well they’re doing. If they’re not doing all that well, I can see why Almstead would want to arrange the deal he made with Lunds, in which many of his displaced employees would get hired by Lunds. Seeing that would be reassuring to the understandably nervous employees at his two remaining stores; otherwise they could be expected to consider jumping ship.

    At 43rd & Upton, Linden Hills’ central shopping district, the lineup of shops has remained quite stable. The big changes there occurred 10-15 years ago: Famous Dave’s BBQ replaced a gas station. The food co-op expanded, displacing a Tom Thumb convenience store, a dance studio, and a pizza joint. And Dunn Brothers went in where Butler Drug had been for decades. (Earlier, a Starbucks was maybe going to go in at the SE corner of the intersection, but there was neighborhood opposition to that.) Three drug stores went away around the time that Walgreens arrived at 50th & France: Butler, Snyders (44th & Drew), and Clancy’s (50th & France).

    The loss of the Tom Thumb plus Butler Drug has meant that for about a decade now it’s no longer been possible to buy cigarettes, pop, or candy anywhere within the 43rd-&-Upton shopping district. The nearest option for those things is the gas station at 44th & France.

  19. Erica M (unregistered) on September 21st, 2007 @ 11:18 am

    Wow. Thanks, Pete. This is exactly the sort of thing I was hoping to hear more about.

    I was only recently clued in to how cheap it is to rent in Linden Hills. Never would have guessed.

    One of the things that makes a neighborhood a great place to live is how easily you can get to the grocery store. A common beef about North Minneapolis is the dearth of grocery options. It’s also been a stated concern in the development of the Hiawatha corridor. So it’s interesting to see the level of concern about grocery options in such a relatively small area, considering residents of Linden Hills could walk or drive to a viable option in far less time than it takes to drive out of North Minneapolis.

  20. TK (unregistered) on September 21st, 2007 @ 11:49 am

    Since Pete got just-way-too-relevant, I felt it necessary to counter with this. Sorry about the audio quality; obviously, they weren’t using the best recording equipment.

    (Since I can’t seem to embed the video here…)

    And on a personal note, fuck off, Janet, you self-righteous gasbag. Juveniles say “fuck” over and over again for nothing but the shock value; adults use “fuck” the way God intended – as a very descriptive, all-purpose word with a lot of built-in connotations. Get the fuck over it. :)

  21. Pete (unregistered) on September 21st, 2007 @ 1:03 pm

    My sense is that a lot of young would-be renters skip over Linden Hills, from regarding the neighborhood as too tame, as compared to Uptown. (That might change a bit, with a Chatterbox Pub coming to 44th & France.) But the many renters I know out here love it. Usually with them, the biggest problem is that once they’re ready to buy a single-family house, they’ve fallen in love with Linden Hills, but in most cases they can’t afford Linden Hills’ house prices. So, disappointed, they typically wind up buying across town, over in the Nokomis/Longfellow area, or else south of Linden Hills, close to the Richfield border.

    Another renting option to consider out here would be in any of the recently converted condo buildings. There are always some condo owners living elsewhere, due to job relocations. And it’s to be expected that there are probably also some foreclosed-upon and never-sold units for rent.

    As far as the other nearest grocery options in Linden Hills, that you’d drive to instead of walking to:

    The top choice for stocking up inexpensively on staples is Cub Foods. Especially the one across from Southdale. (There’s also one just north of where the Crosstown Hwy. passes over Nicollet Ave.; that location has somewhat of a bad reputation, mainly due to the neighboring large apartment complex, which has a long history of a lot of police calls.)

    Closest is the Lunds, at 50th & France. Then there’s a Byerly’s by Southdale, and another Byerly’s in eastern St. Louis Park, between the Target and the AAA, along Hwy. 100. (Across Hwy. 100 is where Almstead has one of his two remaining SuperValu stores.) The specialty market Trader Joe’s is on Excelsior Blvd., about a half-mile west of the NW corner of Linden Hills. About a mile south, in Edina, on Vernon, a little west of Hwy. 100, there’s a Jerry’s, which is like an independent version of Lunds/Byerlys. The nearest Rainbow supermarket is the one in Uptown.

  22. Erica M (unregistered) on September 21st, 2007 @ 1:16 pm

    My sense is that a lot of young would-be renters skip over Linden Hills, from regarding the neighborhood as too tame, as compared to Uptown.

    This must be a sign that I’m getting old, because I’d be okay with that. I don’t need the joint to be jumping, but I really like being able to walk (or bike) to stuff.

    Usually with them, the biggest problem is that once they’re ready to buy a single-family house, they’ve fallen in love with Linden Hills, but in most cases they can’t afford Linden Hills’ house prices.

    This is exactly the problem I’m expecting to have. When next I apartment search in Minneapolis (next summer), I’m looking to rent in a neighborhood that I would consider buying in. I like living in Uptown, but I know I can’t afford to buy in Uptown.

  23. Pete (unregistered) on September 21st, 2007 @ 2:14 pm

    Aside from the loss of the supermarket, Linden Hills has got to be just about the most walking-friendly and biking-friendly neighborhood.

    You’ve got two shopping districts that are within easy walking distance. Right by the main one there’s a terrific public library and the neighborhood’s main park. That main shopping district has a bakery, hardware store, meat market, the food co-op, coffee shops, and restaurants. The other shopping district has a gas station, a liquor store, a coffee shop, restaurants, and two dry-cleaning places; it also used to have a laundromat, but now I think the nearest one is at 50th & Xerxes.

    For a post office, supermarket (Lunds), and drug store (Walgreens), you just have to go on to the next shopping district, not that far away: 50th & France.

    And of course you’ve got the extensive walking and biking/rollerblading paths along the east and north edges of the neighborhood: Lakes Harriet and Calhoun.

    Also, bus service is excellent; easy to get to Uptown and downtown, and in the other direction, Southdale. The buses run often. The line splits at the stoplight at 39th; half of the buses head south along Sheridan/Upton and then Xerxes, the other half go over to France Ave. before turning south.

    The popular new retail/housing development, Excelsior & Grand (Trader Joes, etc.), is not many blocks to the west of Linden Hills. Not that much further down Excelsior, close to Hwy. 100, there are lots more shops and places to eat, and a multiplex movie theater. A couple blocks north of that there’s a Target store, along Hwy. 100.

  24. Pete (unregistered) on September 21st, 2007 @ 3:14 pm

    Also, there are a couple more, smallish, shopping nodes at the southern edge of Linden Hills: at 50th & Xerxes, and 50th & Penn.

    (Technically, Linden Hills’ southern border is three blocks north, at 47th; but most residents out here regard the practical boundary as the busiest street: 50th. Meaning that the next nice neighborhood park, Pershing, at 48th & Chowen, is widely regarded as being part of Linden Hills.)

    50th & Xerxes has traditionally been mainly antique stores and tire and auto-repair places. But I’ve read that the internet is dramatically affecting the antiques business, such that a lot of longtime antique stores are destined to close. 50th & Xerxes has a Dunn Bros. coffee shop, but not much else going for it. There used to be a Tom Thumb convenience store, but that got replaced by the UPS store.

    50th & Penn is known mainly for the Broder family’s two very popular Italian-food outlets, across the street from each other. One’s a deli, the other’s a restaurant. The Broder family lives just a couple of blocks away; so they’re a genuine neighborhood-business success story.

    In an earlier comment, I neglected to mention the very popular Turtle Bread bakery/coffee-shop, on 44th, four blocks east of the closed supermarket. It’s the original Turtle Bread location.

    Also along 44th, on either side of Turtle Bread there are two auto-repair shops that always seem busy: Dunrite, and Van’s. I’ve never tried, Dunrite, but I’ve been relying on Van’s for the past half-dozen years, and highly recommend it. (Van is long gone; for many years Paul has been the prorprietor.)

  25. Erica M (unregistered) on September 21st, 2007 @ 3:24 pm

    I have to say, I like the other Turtle Bread at 48th & Chicago better.

  26. Bill K (unregistered) on September 23rd, 2007 @ 5:18 pm

    What does(did) Sunnyside Market, Kowalskis and Lunds all have in common?

    They all use Supervalu as a distributor.

    Same shit, different store.

  27. Bill K (unregistered) on September 23rd, 2007 @ 5:20 pm

    and I meant to say they all use Supervalu as a supplier.

  28. frazgo (unregistered) on October 1st, 2007 @ 10:22 am

    Awe…I’m gonna miss that market on my next visit. Not that it was the greatest thing on the planet but it was cutesy and local.

    The “f-bomb”? Someone was upset by that? Horror.
    I like the “C” bomb better for inciting riots.

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