Cedar Avenue

A Global Bazaar

A history of immigrant entrepreneurship.

For more than a hundred years, Cedar Avenue has hosted immigrant entrepreneurs who created and sold the food, clothing and goods of their home cultures. They have played a central role in making Cedar-Riverside a welcoming place for newcomers and their descendants, by offering familiar foods, news from home and staff who spoke their language.

In the early 1900s, shoppers could get Swedish candies and newspapers at Samuelson's Confectionary, enjoy Danish pastries at Egekvist Bakery or grab some Norwegian cheese and sausage at Ellison's Meat Market. German toys and European trinkets delighted shoppers at Holtzermann's, and the staff spoke German, Norwegian and English. Scandia Bank, on the corner of Cedar and Riverside Avenues, opened in 1883 and provided loans that helped many immigrants start their businesses and led to a building boom in the neighborhood. Scandia Bank also provided space for numerous businesses: a shoe store, a furniture store, a hardware store, a milliner, dentists, physicians, and, in the basement, a Norwegian barber who was also a popular singer and dancer.

By the 1970s, most of the early immigrant-owned businesses were gone, but new shops opened along Cedar Avenue that catered to an emerging counterculture community who were interested in cooperative ownership and communal living. Shoppers could buy natural, organic foods in bulk at the West Bank Co-op Grocery, banana bread and granola at the New Riverside Café and handmade leather goods at the Whale Leather Shop. Eclectic rock and roll and folk records-and marijuana pipes to enjoy while listening to them-were available at the Electric Fetus. The Scholar Coffee House was a popular place for live music and even livelier political discussions.

Today, shoppers can enjoy Somali sambusas at Sagal restaurant, East African cuisine at Baarakallah Restaurant, Chinese pastries at the Keefer Court Bakery and Cafe and Indian curries at Malabari restaurant. They can shop for East African spices and halal meat (meat prepared according to Islamic law) at the Ethiopian family-owned Wadajir Grocery. They can find hijabs, Qurans and prayer rugs, incense and other East African and Middle Eastern household goods at Somali businesses like the Samiya Store or in the Al-Karama Mall. They can pick up newspapers in East African languages at most of the grocery stores, or watch or listen to BBC news reports at restaurants and coffeeshops. Hair salons and barbershops cater to an East African clientele. Some offer henna services for women so they can decorate their hands and face for special occasions. Money-wiring services are available all along Cedar Avenue, allowing newcomers to send money back to families in their home countries. The Associated Bank at the intersection of Cedar and Riverside Avenues, as well as the African Development Center up on Riverside Avenue, continue to provide loans and other support for immigrant entrepreneurs.

Through successive waves of immigration, Cedar Avenue remains what it has always been: a place to shop, socialize and retain a connection to the "old" country.

Images

4th Northwestern National Bank, 401 Cedar Avenue, ca. 1928

4th Northwestern National Bank, 401 Cedar Avenue, ca. 1928

Norwegian immigrant, Reinert Sunde, started Scandia Bank in 1883. It became a financial anchor for the neighborhood, funding a Scandinavian business building boom and providing loans to immigrant entrepreneurs. The bank collapsed during the Panic of 1893, but re-opened in 1899 as the South Side State Bank. In 1927 it became the Fourth Northwestern National Bank, then the Riverside Community Bank in 1972. It is now the Associated Bank. Image courtesy of Hennepin County Library | Source: Many Corners, September 1974 | Creator: 4th Northwestern National Bank View File Details Page

Original Samuelson's Confectionary, 1515 Washington Avenue South, 1890

Original Samuelson's Confectionary, 1515 Washington Avenue South, 1890

Swedish immigrant, Charles Samuelson, stands outside his store in Seven Corners where he sold newspapers, fruit and vegetables, and a variety of Scandinavian goods, including the tobacco, or "snus" in Swedish, which helped give the area its nickname "Snoose Boulevard." Samuelson's catered to Scandinavian residents with ads in the front of the store such as, "Har Talas Svenska" (Swedish spoken here) and "Alla Slags Skandinaviska Tidningar" (All types of Scandinavian Newspapers for sale here). Samuelson's was a popular spot, often staying open till 1:00am. Image courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society | Source: Translation by Kirsten Delegard, Historyapolis View File Details Page

Samuelson Sisters, 1505 Washington Avenue South, 1968

Samuelson Sisters, 1505 Washington Avenue South, 1968

Samuelson's daughters, Mabel Samuelson and Mrs. Hilda Gjerde, took over their father's store, turning it into a soda fountain, offering ice cream, magazines, and candy. they catered to old timers and the students and hippies who moved into the neighborhood, whom they described as "very nice" but "odd-looking." Even as their clientele changed, the Samuelson sisters continued to sell Scandinavian language newspapers, such as Svenska Dagbladet, a daily newspaper published in Sweden. They lived in a small apartment above the store for many years before it passed on to another owner. It remains a private residence today. Image courtesy of Hennepin County Library | Source: Brian Anderson, "Seven Corners Special," Minneapolis Tribune, September 22, 1968 | Creator: Mike Zerby View File Details Page

Holtzermann's Chicago Store Company, 417-425 Cedar Avenue, 1930s

Holtzermann's Chicago Store Company, 417-425 Cedar Avenue, 1930s

Holztermann's was a huge store on Cedar Avenue run by third generation German brothers, Jacob Daniel and Louis. They sold furniture, glass, dinnerware, pottery, dry goods, clothing, shoes, candies, as well as imported European goods, art ware, antiques, wine and food. Holtzermann's became known for its selection of German toys, Deutsche Spielwaarren. A German department store in the middle of "Snoose Boulevard" might seem like an odd fit, but the Holtzermann brothers hired staff that spoke Scandinavian and European languages to cater to local residents. The Holtzermann building spanned half a block. By the 1930s a Woolworth's had moved into part of the building. Holtzermann's was closed by the early 1970s. The West Bank Co-op Grocery opened in 417 Cedar Avenue in 1977 and today the Holtzermann buildings host an East African grocery store and a Somali shopping mall where shoppers can find East African and Middle Eastern furniture, household goods, clothing, hijabs, prayer rugs, religious books, cell phones, incense and foods. | Source: Judith Martin, Recycling the Central City: The Development of a New Town-In Town, 1978 View File Details Page

Toys at Holtzermann's

Toys at Holtzermann's

The toys at Holtzermann's were legendary and Christmas was their most popular season. Journalist Harrison Salisbury recalled Holtzermann's as "the most German of German stores," and every Christmas the store was "crammed" with German toys such as Prussian horseman figures, tin soldiers, and Anchor construction blocks, as well as chimes that played "Stille Nacht," German holiday cookies, Lebkuchen and Pfeffernusse, and Christmas ornaments with German sayings. An ad from 1911 also featured children's books in English, German and French, and imported candies from Germany, Holland, Belgium, France, Spain, Italy, Norway, Russia, Turkey, China and Japan. Image courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society View File Details Page

Egekvist Bakeries, 315 Cedar Avenue

Egekvist Bakeries, 315 Cedar Avenue

Danish immigrants Valdemar and Soren opened Egekvist Brothers bakery in 1914. They sold a wide variety of breads and pastries including kringle (pretzel shaped pastries), Danish coffee cake, pumpernickel bread, sigtebrod (spiced rye bread), kavringer (rye bread), Jule kage (Christmas cake) and sweet rolls with filling made from "Vienna bread," known in America as a "Danish." The Egekvist brothers largely catered to Scandinavian communities and set up new bakeries as Scandinavians moved to other areas of Minneapolis. By 1950 they had thirty bakery locations, and were among the first to create in-store shops in supermarkets, which helped them reach an even larger audience. The Egekvist Brothers first bakery at 315 Cedar Avenue is now part of Midwest Mountaineering. Image courtesy of Phil Anderson | Source: Egekvist Bakeries, Vitality Demands Energy, brochure, 1930s View File Details Page

Ellison's Meat Market, 607 Cedar Avenue

Ellison's Meat Market, 607 Cedar Avenue

Edgar “Duke” Ellison (far right) was a second generation Norwegian who was born and raised in Cedar-Riverside. He started working at this meat market when he was eleven years old. At twenty-four he purchased the store and kept it open into the 1970s. Ellison stocked getost (Scandinavian goat cheese), jarlsbergost (Norwegian cheese) and gammelost, an old cheese that smelled so bad only "old timers" would buy it. Over the Christmas holiday the shop carried specialties such as kalvesylte (jellied veal), kjotrull (beef roll), blodklub (Scandinavian sausage), potatiskorb (potato sausage) and julkorb (cream sausage). For those in a festive mood, Ellison also served Scandinavian fruit drinks mixed with vodka, known as arrak and julglog. Ellison's meat market is now a Somali market, Tawakalexpress. Image courtesy of Hennepin County Library | Source: "The Most Unusual Meat Market in Minnesotaz" Many Corners, August 1973 View File Details Page

The Whale Leather Goods Shop, 521 Cedar Avenue, 1979

The Whale Leather Goods Shop, 521 Cedar Avenue, 1979

The Whale Leather Goods shop was run by Robert Jonah Friedman, a young resident in the neighborhood with long hair and a passion for shoe repair and leather crafts. He employed seven people who lived communally in two groups. The Whale Leather shop is now an international video and cell phone store. Image courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society | Source: "Building on Cedar Avenue South, Cedar-Riverside area, Minneapolis," 1979 | Creator: Henry Benbrooke Hall View File Details Page

Robert Jonah Friedman, owner of Whale Leather Goods Shop, 1971

Robert Jonah Friedman, owner of Whale Leather Goods Shop, 1971

Robert Jonah Friedman, the owner of the Whale Leather Goods Shop on Cedar Avenue, was part of a counterculture community that grew in Cedar-Riverside in the 1960s and 1970s. At the same time, urban renewal projects threatened many of the structures where new residents had established businesses and local developers deplored long-haired hippies like Friedman. But Friedman, like many other new residents, wanted to preserve the neighborhood. "This neighborhood is something really special. It's a community in the real sense of the word." Image courtesy of Hennepin County Library | Source: Minneapolis Tribune, January 31, 1971 | Creator: Earl Seubert View File Details Page

Electric Fetus, 514-518 Cedar Avenue, 1972

Electric Fetus, 514-518 Cedar Avenue, 1972

Dan Foley and Ron Korsh started The Electric Fetus in 1968 to sell rock and roll, folk, blues, funk, and jazz records as well as pipes and drug paraphernalia. It became a popular head shop for the new counterculture community in the area. The Fetus earned notoriety for its "naked sale," (a free album was given to anyone who was nude in the store), but it also lost its lease because of it, triggering a second naked sale before it was kicked out of the neighborhood. The owners relocated Electric Fetus to its current location on 2000 4th Ave South, where it continues to offer eclectic music and goods. This building burned down January 1, 2014. At the time the Otanga Grocery Store, an East African market selling halal meat and spices, occupied the storefront. East African immigrants lived in the apartments above. The Dar Al-Hijrah Mosque and Palmer's Bar, located next door, survived the fire. Image courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society | Creator: Eugene Debs Becker View File Details Page

West Bank Co-op Grocery, 417 Cedar Avenue, 1977

West Bank Co-op Grocery, 417 Cedar Avenue, 1977

The West Bank Co-op Grocery opened in 1977 after several years of planning by a small group of neighborhood residents and activists. Early on they saw the need for a full-service grocery store on Cedar Avenue that could serve senior citizens and counterculture residents. They created a co-op supermarket with a meat counter and canned goods, as well as a bulk foods section and organic produce. The founders chose a cooperative management system where members helped run the store. On the left side of the photo is Eunice Eckerly, one of the co-op organizers, giving a speech at the opening celebration. The West Bank Co-op Grocery is now West Bank Grocery and sells mainstream American food and East African and Middle Eastern foods. Image courtesy of West Bank Community Development Corporation View File Details Page

Keefer Court Bakery and Cafe, 326 Cedar Avenue, 2015

Keefer Court Bakery and Cafe, 326 Cedar Avenue, 2015

While the Chinese community in Cedar-Riverside is small, it can boast of opening the first Chinese bakery in the Twin Cities. Keefer Court Bakery and Cafe has provided baked goods for neighborhood residents, students, and shoppers since 1983. This family-run business started by Paulina and Sunny Kwan offers a wide variety of pastries, breads and buns-its specialties include barbeque pork and curry beef buns. For a long time it was the only place in the Twin Cities to get fresh mooncakes, a special pastry made for the Chinese Moon festival. The Kwans also started the Keefer Court Fortune Cookie Factory and recently opened a new production facility in the Seward neighborhood. The Kwans purchased the building from Mr. Wong, owner of Kwong Tung Noodle Company, which had been in the neighborhood since the 1960s. Image courtesy of Anduin (Andy) Wilhide | Creator: Anduin (Andy) Wilhide View File Details Page

Sunny and Paulina Kwan, 1983

Sunny and Paulina Kwan, 1983

Raised in Hong Kong and having worked in Canada and Chicago, the Kwans moved to Cedar-Riverside in 1982 when they learned that there were no Chinese bakeries or fortune cookie companies in Minnesota. Keefer is named in honor of the Keefer bakery in Toronto, where Paulina was working when she and Sunny lived in Toronto. The owner said that they could use the Keefer name when they started their own bakery. The name derives from the Kee Wah bakery chain in Hong Kong and on the west coast of the U.S. that started in the late 1930s. Image courtesy of Keefer family | Source: Bob Epstein, "Asian Business Report," 1983 View File Details Page

Al-Karama Mall and Al-Karama Cedar Square, 415 & 419 Cedar Avenue, 2015

Al-Karama Mall and Al-Karama Cedar Square, 415 & 419 Cedar Avenue, 2015

Dozens of East African business owners run small shops inside these malls. Shoppers can buy hijabs, Qurans, prayer rugs as well as East African and Middle Eastern household goods, including unsi, a popular Somali incense used after cleaning or on special occasions. A hundred years earlier these buildings were part of the Holtzermann store which offered German toys and European household items. Image courtesy of Anduin (Andy) Wilhide | Creator: Anduin (Andy) Wilhide View File Details Page

Wadajir Grocery and Halal Meat, 525 Cedar Avenue

Wadajir Grocery and Halal Meat, 525 Cedar Avenue

The brightly colored green and red building near Cedar and 6th Street South is hard to miss. Wadajir is family owned and offers many traditional East African specialties. The shelves are stocked with herbs and spices used in East African cuisine, including berbere (an Ethiopian dried chili pepper spice mixture), tikur azmud (Ethiopian cumin), and koraima (cardamom), as well as a variety of mustard seeds and curry powders. Cedar-Riverside continues to be developed and new business owners like Kamaro Ali, owner of Wadajir Grocery, are wary of what will happen to their neighborhood. A new light rail stop was opened in 2014 and plans to widen Cedar Avenue and other street improvements have some residents and business owners worried about gentrification. | Source: Rochelle Olson, "Big Changes Ahead for Minneapolis' Cedar-Riverside area," Star Tribune, November 22, 2014 | Creator: Elizabeth Flores View File Details Page

Video

Egekvist Commercial, 1986

Although the Egekvist company was no longer family owned by 1986, this TV commercial highlights some of the Danish specialities that made the bakery famous. | Source: Bsabas Bennett, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-Pf8j4mY6Y View File Details Page

Street Address:

Cedar Avenue in Cedar-Riverside [map]

Official Website:

West Bank Business Association, http://www.wbba.thewestbank.org/

Cite this Page:

Anduin (Andy) Wilhide, “Cedar Avenue,” Augsburg Digi-Tours, accessed November 19, 2017, http://digitours.augsburg.edu/items/show/10.
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