Apr 032010
 

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26th & Lyndale, Minneapolis: Yesterday and Today

 

The Deal That Wrecked Rex
When she ended her 67-year run at 2601 Lyndale in 2005, Anne Shom sold the Rex property to Rainier Properties, the owner of nearby French Meadow Bakery. Rainier also purchased 2607 Lyndale next door to Rex and razed the house that stood there—reportedly as parking for the bakery and possibly for an eco-friendly home-supply shop to be launched by French Meadow owner Lynne Gordon.

But Rainier went on to sell both properties (although reportedly keeping an option on the retail space). The buyer was Hopkins-based SMJ Investments. A June 2007 article in Finance and Commerce describes SMJ as “a development company founded by the Norling family, whose Hopkins-based operations have supported religious missions and hospital and school development overseas.” (Read on for more on the Norlings.)

SMJ paid $1,075,000 in April 2007 for 2601 and 2607 Lyndale. The firm planned to redevelop the parcels as a 16-unit condo-and-retail complex. But SMJ couldn’t line up financing; worse, it watched the value of the parcels drop as the market soured. (As of January 2011, county tax records show the market value of the two properties as $560,000, barely better than half of what SMJ originally paid.) Eventually getting city permission to wreck the Rex, the firm demolished the 91-year-old building in August 2010.

More on SMJ: Siblings Machelle Norling, Joel Norling, and Scott Norling own SMJ Investments. Public records show Machelle Norling as the contact for two Minnesota tax-exempt orgs, one a Christian charitable organization and the other an AIDS research agency called Living India. Scott Norling fronts a religious nonprofit called Gospel Mission of India.

Living India claims as founders Rev. Scott Norling, Machelle Norling, and Rabbi Joseph Edelheit (a St. Cloud State University professor and the spouse of Machelle). Machelle is described as a “journalist, writer, and social activist whose commitment to HIV/AIDS began when her brother came home to die of AIDS.”

Photo of southwest corner of 26th & Lyndale, Minneapolis, in 1961; Dependable Tire and C C Tap

SW corner of 26th & Lyndale, 1961: C C Tap and Dependable Tire (now French Meadow).

WITH THE REX HARDWARE BUILDING razed for nothing but a dirt lot, it’s worth taking inventory of the surviving buildings on the corner of 26th and Lyndale in Minneapolis.

 

Even with one of its anchor businesses gone, the intersection still offers a glimpse of the streetcar-era development patterns that underpin nearly every commercial district in the city.

The three intact corners are anchored by two-story masonry buildings notably fancier than the Rex was; boasting “corbelled cornices,” each is “typical of vernacular Italianate commercial buildings,” according to the historic designation report.


WHAT REMAINS: 26th & Lyndale Inventory

Here’s a summary of what SpyTC has been able to find out (through vintage newspapers, sleuthwork at City Hall, etc.) about the history of the buildings that make up the intersection.

Dates in parentheses give full life span of business, e.g., 1914–44 … or else give the earliest and latest years of operation I’ve been able to verify).

Southeast corner
2601–03 Lyndale | 1914–2010

Owner: SMJ Investments/Machelle Norling et al.

Now: Vacant lot

History:

  • Allen & Company Hardware—1914–44
  • Rex Hardware & Glass—1944–2005

Building demolished by developer August 10, 2010; future of vacant lot is unknown.

Northeast corner
2555–57 Lyndale | 1910–present

Owner: Thirteenth Floor LLC/Mark Trehus

Now: Treehouse Records(since April 2001)

History:
2-story “brick and store building” erected early 1910 by M.A. Scheldrup (a Minneapolis pharmacy magnate who resided at 2424 Pleasant when he died in 1921) at a cost of $6,000, per city records; in 1906, Scheldrup operated a drugstore across the street at 2556–58 Lyndale

    The drugstores:

  • F. X. Kerker & Sons—1910–1912
  • Pratt (or Pratt’s) Pharmacy —1912–1916
  • B.C. Leemhuis Pharmacy—1916–? (1922 ad)
  • C. Caron Pharmacy—1932, 1948 ads
  • Nelson Pharmacy—1950s?–1972
    The music stores:

  • North Country Music (?–1973)
  • Oar Folkjokeopus Records, owner Vern Sanden—1973–2001
  • Treehouse Records—2001–ongoing
2551–53 Lyndale | 1907–present

Now: Lyndale Grocery & Deli [closed as of April 2011]

History:
Grocery in building continuously since building constructed in 1907:

  • H.P. McBride Grocery—?1916–1920; part of a chain with locations across the city)
  • National Tea Company Grocery & Meats—1920–?1938?
    (at some point seems to have moved across street to 2556 Lyndale)
  • Olson Food Market—?1948?
  • Varpness Bros. grocery—by 1960?; still there in 1980?
  • New Mill Foods—?1982?–1987?
  • Lyndale Country Boy—?1987?–?
  • Lyndale Grocery & Deli—2004–ongoing
Vintage ads, 26th & Lyndale businesses

Ads for early businesses, 26th & Lyndale (click to enlarge)

2547–49 Lyndale | 1910–present

Owner: Bulldog Investments
Now: Bulldog Restaurant

History:

  • 1910–?1940s: Unclear
  • Lyndale Cafe, owned by Agda C. Kvistberg—?1948–? (by 1960, owners listed as Louis W. Barley and Olive S. Nelson)
  • Mud Pie Vegetarian Restaurant—1972–2002
Northwest corner
2556–58 Lyndale | 1888–present

Now: Common Roots Cafe—since 2007; owner Danny Schwartzman

History:
Building permit taken out May 29, 1888 for a “brick store, hall, and dwelling;” the second story was added in 1914 (per city records)
Drugstore and pharmacy in the building concurrently at the beginning:

    The drugstores:

  • Thompson Bros. Druggist—1893–?1896
  • J.H. Kinports Druggist —?1896–1906? (John Kinports [real name Kinporta] died in 1906; Annie Kinports is listed as widow of John in 1909 city directory, residing in a rented apartment at 2558 Lyndale. In 1904, Annie Kinports was run over by a livery rig in downtown Minneapolis and nearly crushed to death while on her way with John to attend a performance at the grand Metropolitan building.)
  • M.A. Scheldrup Drugs, Sundries, and Confections—?1906–? (Scheldrup is the pharmacist who owns building at 2557 Lyndale directly across the street; he owned 20+ drugstores at the time of his death in 1921)

Also tenants for an uncertain length of time:
Allen & Company hardware—?1909–1914 (the original store, before it moved across Lyndale to 2601–03; could Allen & Company have occupied part of the Kinports drugstore space after the death of John Kinports in 1906? [see above])
Madame Weingarten Embroideries—?1916–?
Also: a beauty shop (?1914–?) (referenced in city records)

    The grocers:

  • Waldron Fancy Groceries & Meat Market—?1909–1920
    (owned by Harry B. & Charles J. Waldron; Waldron & Co. on the corner as early as 1888, per ads)
  • … succeeded by a travel agency run by Charles Waldron
  • National Tea Grocery & Meats—1934?–?
  • … in 1938 Minneapolis City Directory, listed as Great A & P Co. National Tea listed at this location in 1948 (seems to have moved across the street from 2551 Lyndale); part of a chain with 200 Midwestern stores

Historical footnote: Harry Waldron died in 1919; the Waldrons’ early 20th-century bungalows on East Lake of the Isles Parkway were at the center of a preservation battle in 2007–2009 that ended with the City Council greenlighting demolition.

There was a dry cleaner (and dye shop) at 2556 Lyndale early on (referenced in city records as early as 1912); operated by a William Waldron, it appears to have been part of Waldron Grocery

Second floor was a dentist’s office for many years (Dr. Russell D. Backus there as early as 1909, with the delightfully named Vava A. Backus as his stenographer)—?1909–?

Mrs. Ann H. Scott took out a building permit in 1936 to remodel the storefront

1950s–1970s

  • Linoleum Louie, a floor covering store, occupied 2558 Lyndale from late 1950s? to the early 1970s. A second Linoleum Louie store was located at 719 E. Lake Street. The stores were owned by Louis Frank who resided at 625 Sheridan Ave. N.
  • 1975?–1984: Furniture Exchange, a used furniture store.

1980s–present

  • Poulet restaurant—1984?-1995
  • … and the wonderful Soba restaurant—1995-2007
  • … and then Common Roots Cafe—2007–ongoing
Newspaper clipping on Minneapolis Baking Company fire, 1893

The original 1887 building housing the Minneapolis Baking Company suffered a fire in 1893 (it was repaired within weeks). Mpls. Morning Tribune, 12/24/1893.

Southwest corner
2600–2606 Lyndale | 1887/1893–present

Owner: 2600 Lyndale: TMMS Inc. (Lester J. “Moe” Emard and Linda Rauen)
2604 Lyndale: Ranier Properties (French Meadow/Lynne Gordon)

Now: 2600: CC Club—since 1934, under different owners; 2604: French Meadow Bakery warehouse—since 1985

Overview: The two buildings nearest the corner (now bearing the addresses 2600 and 2604 Lyndale) were built in the late 19th century as home to the Minneapolis Baking Company, until 1920 a wholesaler of bread and pies (“domestic milk bread 8 cents a loaf at all groceries,” read an ad in 1894).

2600–02 Lyndale (corner; lot 1, Twenty-Sixth Addition to Minneapolis): City has listed as built in 1900, but city building records show original property owner John Ludlum (president of the baking company) renovating the building on corner lot in spring 1893.

2604–06 Lyndale (2nd building; lot 2, Twenty-Sixth Addition to Minneapolis): “Two-story brick store” built 1887 by John Ludlum (at a cost of $8,000, per city records); rebuilt 1894 after a fire caused by a lantern explosion.

Discrepancy alert: city inexplicably has original construction date listed as 1900)

History:
1887–1920

  • Minneapolis Baking Company occupied both buildings.

Original 1887 city building permit, John Ludlum, 2604–06 Lyndale

2604–06 Lyndale building permit, 1887 (click to enlarge)

From what I’ve been able to ascertain, the 2604 building may have been the main bakery, while 2600 Lyndale held office space and also rented storefront space to a grocery store. But we found one reference (1891) to 2604 as a “cow warehouse and office space.”

It’s unclear why the bakery folded—possibly competitive pressure from the growing Flour City Milling Company (formed in 1916 by the merger of several leading bakery firms)—? In any case, Minneapolis Baking Company advertised on Jan. 20, 1920, that it was selling off every one of its “horse wagon, cake pans, barns, and buildings.”

    Storefront tenant, 2600 Lyndale: 

  • G. Brennen Grocery? (referenced in newspaper article and a couple of ads between 1893–1905); by 1909, Brennen’s apparently had moved to 2652 Lyndale

Mrs. Catherine Bohn remodeled the storefront in 1917; she happens to be the widow of James Bohn, the president of Waldron Grocery (formerly at 2551 Lyndale) … but it is unclear what was in the space from 1894–1920).

1920–1934

  • 2600 Lyndale, owned by D.E. Allen, was home to a grocery and a furniture store (we’re trying to nail down details)
  • 2604 Lyndale was home to Anderson & Nelson Body Manufacturing Company, an auto body business owned by Gustaf H. Anderson and Iver A. Nelson

1934–present

  • 2600 Lyndale:
  • Lyndale CC Tavern , which opened in 1934 (owner Clarence Campbell—hence the CC, just in case you’ve ever wondered. Campbell and his spouse, Myrtle, resided at 4936 Penn Ave. S.)

The CC Tavern (also called the CC Cafe) was among the many beer halls that opened across the U.S. after prohibition repeal.

A.H. Downing shows up as building owner in 1944, per city records (unclear if this included the tavern as well as the building). Ray and Mary M. Abel of Richfield owned the business by 1948, operating it as CC Tap. Mary may have become a widow by the early 1950s. In 1975, the business obtained a liquor license (not clear if the Abel family still owned it).

Since 1985, the business (renamed the CC Club) has been owned by Moe Emard and Linda Rauen; an account in Vita.Mn suggests Moe started there as a bartender in 1956.

  • 2604 Lyndale:
  • Anderson-Nelson Body Manufacturing Co. continued to roughly 1950.
  • By 1952: Dependable Tire Co. occupied 2604–06 Lyndale (owner/president Julian Q. Monson; vice president Mrs. O’en T. Monson)
  • By 1970: Larry’s Tire Service (Larry Kreck)
  • By 1972: Minneapolis Tire Co. warehouse (the Minneapolis Tire Co.’s sales showroom was next door at 2612 Lyndale)
  • 1978–1979: Booth Brite (phone booths maintenance service)/strong>
  • 1979–presentUpstairs—Olympia Gym weight room/health and fitness center (Ken Sherman)
  • 1985: French Meadow Bakery (warehouse space); continuing as of 2011
Dependable Tire, now French Meadow Bakery, Minneapolis

2612 Lyndale in 1961: Dependable Tire then; now home to French Meadow Bakery.

2610–12 Lyndale | 1916–present

Owner: Rainier Properties (French Meadow Bakery)
Now: French Meadow Bakery—since 1985

History:
Built November 1916 (architect: F.W. Kinney) as a “block-and-brick public garage,” per city records; building owned by M. E. Barry (G.C. Barry and Tom Berry also are listed on city records) into the 1930s.

Replaced a frame bicycle shop on part of the property built in 1911 by Mrs. Harriet Dewey.

Discrepancy alert: City records have date of construction as 1972, obviously an error. The 1924 City of Minneapolis Land Survey has the construction date as 1911— contradicted by original building permits.

  • Culbertson Bros. was operating in the building by July 1917; auto storage and service garage.
  • By 1920: Lyndale Service Garage; Maxwell roadsters and coupes were advertised for sale in 1921.
  • By 1946: Baston-Barrington Chevrolet Co. (later Hansford Pontiac)
  • By 1955: Lend Lease Transportation Co. (Automobile Rental)
  • By 1961–1970?: Dependable Tire Co., which had its salesroom at 2612 Lyndale and its warehouse at 2604 Lyndale.
  • 1970?–1976?: Minneapolis Tire Company in 1970 and 1972; unclear if this is still Dependable Tire.)
  • 1976?–1985: Small Engine City, motorcycle and small-engine sales
  • 1977–1985: Quality Coaches auto repair listed at 2614 Lyndale (today located at 38th and Nicollet)

In 1985, 2612 (aka 2610–2614) Lyndale became French Meadow Bakery, which marks its 26th year on the corner in 2011.

by K.M. Tyler for Spy Twin Cities.
©2014 SpyTwinCities.com.
Thanks for reading … if you have details to add, please leave a comment. And if you borrow or quote from this article, please include a shout-out and link to Spy Twin Cities.

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  2 Responses to “History Interrupted (or Rex Wrecked): Rex Hardware, 1914–2010”

  1. Thanks for this very interesting and well-researched historical article. You may have seen that City Pages named 26th and Lyndale “best corner” a few months back. I just found the link, you will appreciate the last line:
    “Even the wreckage of former mainstay Rex Hardware, less an eyesore than a monument to a gilded past, serves as a fond reminder of what Uptown looked like in its pre-Soho salad days.”

  2. I was an employee of Rex Hardware for 10 years(80-90) and am so sorry and sad the building and business are gone. It was a iconic place that even the rich and famous shopped. Politicians, sports heroes and TV celebs needed toilet parts and window repairs and many made Rex their go to store.. They meshed in well on many a busy Saturday with the loyal locals who shopped there everyday and sometimes just stopped to chat. I did manage to obtain an extra sign that hung on the north side of the building that we decided not to rehang in 85′ after painting the others and I still have it in my garage along with the clippings from the best of Twin Cities articles. My favorite Rex phrase is “WE SHARPEN EVERYTHING BUT YOUR WITS” As I did a majority of the sharpening in those days, It still remains a favorite in my vocabulary. Minneapolis and Minnesota lost a piece of its soul with the demolition of 2601 Lyndale S.

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