Uptown's Changing Retail Scene

Weighing the pros and cons of a changing retail scene

I grew up in a handful of small towns some 30 miles away from the Twin Cities, far from the cosmopolitan trappings of city life. But Minneapolis always beckoned me with its alluringly eclectic mix of culture, art, music, and fashion. And for me, its epicenter was Uptown. Heck, Prince even named a song after it.

It was the site of some of my earliest Minneapolis memories: spending afternoons shopping at Ragstock, Lava Lounge, Tatters, Bay Street Shoes, Cheapo, and Oar Folkjokeopus Records or lounging around Lake Calhoun, and nights at coffee shops Cafe Wyrd and Pandora’s Cup. If downtown was the slick, too-cool-for-school big brother, Uptown was its bohemian, pierced, pink-haired little sister.

Eventually, I found myself living where it all began. But during my eight-plus years as an Uptown resident, I’ve developed an unsettling feeling about where it’s headed. National chains including Victoria’s Secret, H&M, the North Face, Urban Outfitters, and American Apparel began popping up at the intersection of Hennepin and Lake. The most glaring example of Uptown’s increasingly corporate transition was the 2009 closing of the legendary Uptown Bar and the gleaming, glass-walled Apple store that popped up in its place.

One of the latest casualties: Tatters, a fixture of the Twin Cities vintage circuit for more than 34 years. The store cited increasing costs as the primary reason for closing. “The incessant raising of property taxes in the Lyn-Lake area tends to squeeze out independent retailers,” longtime manager Doug Denham tells me. Other sellers recently have been pushed out of the area due to rising rents, such as furniture store Theatre Antiques in 2006, clothing exchange store Everyday People last year, and Bay Street Shoes this fall.

Uptown, I love you, but you’re bringing me down.

It seems that burgeoning areas such as the North Loop, Eat Street, and Northeast Minneapolis, as well as various neighborhoods in St. Paul, are picking up the slack. But what of the quirky, independent Uptown that I had grown up loving?

Fortunately, some signs of that individualistic Uptown spirit are shining through. Lyndale and Lake has recently seen the opening of two new locally owned clothing shops, Kisa Boutique and Showroom, as well as the fashion-forward home-goods store Pharmacie and clothing boutique Proper & Prim just down the street. Hennepin-Lake shops such as Magers & Quinn Booksellers, Goorin Bros. Hat Shop, and John Fluevog Shoes are still going strong, as are area shops Local Motion, Cliché, Covered, Ragstock, and Rewind Vintage. And with the openings of foodie-pleasing restaurants such as Coup d’État, Libertine, Heyday, and Nightingale, as well as the newly renovated Walker Library (not to mention a new café, Twin Cities Leather & Latte, that doubles as a leather bondage shop), Uptown still has bragging rights.

Despite the neighborhood’s changing face, the Purple One’s words—“Everybody’s going Uptown; that’s where I wanna be, Uptown”—still ring true. What can I say? I’m an Uptown girl at heart.

Related: Jahna’s November 2014 Style Picks