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Claddagh Coffee Opens on West Seventh  [IMAGE]

by Paul Bard

“Mom!” he said. “You want something that sounds Irish and friendly, right? Okay, here’s the name — Claddagh Coffee!” And that, explained Mary Hogan-Bard, is how her teenage son Liam picked the name for the West End’s newest coffee shop, Claddagh Coffee, at 459 West Seventh.

The Claddagh (pronounced kla’-dah) is the familiar Irish symbol of two hands holding a heart, surmounted by a crown. The symbol represents love, friendship and loyalty — qualities that Mary and her staff hope their new enterprise, which opened its doors on August 13, will come to represent for all of their customers and neighbors. “We want Claddagh Coffee to be a cheerful, relaxing place where people can come in, meet with friends and have really great coffee, tea and food at affordable prices,” said Mary.

Mary Hogan-Bard grew up in Minneapolis, but she’s lived in St. Paul since 1983. She dreamed of running her own coffee shop for years. But raising four children (and restoring the family’s three-story Victorian home) took priority. Then, a year and a half ago, as her youngest was preparing to enter high school, she decided it was time to take the plunge. Mary and husband Bill Bard began putting together a business plan and scouting locations. An acquaintance told her about a storefront in the historic Otto W. Rohland building on West Seventh, so she went to have a look. When she saw the space, with its exposed brick walls and soaring 14-foot ceilings, it was love at first sight.

Jeff Austin and Scott Syberlic, the buildings owners, thought a coffee shop was a perfect fit. Their help was indispensible in both designing and building out the space, including Claddagh’s basement conference room, which can be reserved for meetings. “Jeff and Scott have been just great,” said Mary. “They went the extra mile to make sure that everything was done right. Look at the beautiful wrought-iron railings on the stairway. I love details like that.”

From its brand new kitchen, featuring top-of-the-line equipment such as a La Marzocco espresso machine, Claddagh serves coffee from three different roasters, so there’s always something new to try. In addition, Claddagh prepares coffee using the “pour over” brewing method, which brings out the best in the coffee.

Customers can pick up a quick coffee to go, or linger at one of the church pews that line the walls, and enjoy one of the signature specialty drinks with names like “Drop-Kick Murphy,” “Sister Mary Claddagh,” and “St. Paddy’s Aloha” (made with coconut milk). Along with the many varieties of coffee and tea, Claddagh will also offer panini sandwiches, soups, salads, pastries and small plates.

Mary credits numerous friends, business professionals and coffee experts for helping her get this far. But from now on, in running the business day to day, she will depend on managers (and long-time friends) Patrick Gavin and Candace Gislason. “I absolutely could not have done it without them,” Mary said. “Their dedication, along with all the great young people we have working here, is what will bring us success in the long run.” Mary’s confidence is also buoyed by the warm welcome she’s received from customers and especially from her immediate neighbors at Sophie Joe’s Emporium, RiverGarden Yoga Center, and St. Vincent de Paul’s. “We only just started,” Mary said. “But they’ve already made us feel like old friends.”

Claddagh Coffee is open daily. Summer hours are Monday-Thursday 6:30am-8pm.; Friday-Saturday, 6:30am-10pm; Sunday, 7:30am-5pm. 651-600-3400.

Editor’s Note: Paul Bard is a freelance writer and editor. Although he is Mary Hogan-Bard’s brother in law, and thus partial to her enterprise, you can verify his information by visiting Claddagh yourself.

José Castro Farmers Insurance Agency [IMAGE]

by Jerry Rothstein

José Castro opened his new Farmer’s Insurance Agency in April, after several years of preparation, and education at the University of Farmers in California He worked at the head office in Minneapolis before deciding to go out on his own. His daughter Jheimy Castro is working with him, while preparing to earn her own agent’s license.

The agency offers a full range of insurance products — property, casualty, health and life. As he progressed in his studies and gained experience with Farmers, José began to think where best to locate his office. He chose West Seventh for its easy accessibility and the significant Hispanic population here and in nearby areas, and he is a resident himself. Farmers supported him with a grant to help with startup costs after he successfully completed his course work at the University of Farmers.

He is actively searching potential customers through the Internet and Farmers’ own referrals. Word of mouth, especially in the Hispanic community, is probably is probably his most effective tool. José is happy to be in the West End and confident that local people will support his business. He has a growing clientele and is surpassing Farmers expectations.

José Castro Farmers Insurance, 1250 West Seventh, 651-222-7710

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Highland Nursery: An Urban Oasis [IMAGE]

by Sharon Mccord

As you walk into Highland Nursery on 1742 West Seventh amid shady oak trees, flowers and plants artfully integrated with metal work, statuaries, running fountains, and gazebos, you forget about the busy street a few steps away. Highland Nursery is known both for its extensive plant selection and unique accessories that people can’t find anywhere else. “We try to make every inch of space the best it can be,” said owner Sue Hustings.

As we walked through the 1.5 acre gardens, she pointed out the unique offerings of her business. A large circular hosta collection sits under a tall bur oak tree. Hustings said that they are known for healthy hosta plants because they maintain the proper acidity in the soil, which rids it of the slugs. In the nearby herb and vegetable garden are 20 types of basil and 15 types of mint. As we approached the water plant area, peaceful running fountains gurgled in the background. The Asian garden features foo dog statues, lanterns, and yew trees. A wide variety of perennials, roses and unusual vines are offered. There are alpine plants that grow no bigger than six inches tall, miniature dish gardens, decorative bamboo poles in all sizes and many varieties of trellises.

But running a gardening business does not come without major challenges, such as fewer customer purchases in a down economy and competing with big box stores like Home Depot and Menards. However, Ramsey County property tax assessments and increases have been the biggest headache for Hustings the past few years. Recently Hustings reconciled with the County to have 80% of her property classified as agriculture and 20% as commercial which led to a 2/3 reduction in her tax bill. But the property tax battle has been ongoing for almost three years with increases of 1000% in 2009 and a feeling that the assessments along West Seventh have been done unfairly.

Sculptor Kevin Showall used landmark bur oak that graced this site for almost two centuries
to commemorate the pioneer family that settled the area.

Hustings said that other businesses on West Seventh have been assessed at considerably lower rates than hers. Furthermore, she has been told by the county assessor that the Highland Nursery is not the best use of the land. Hustings said her business should have had the agricultural classification earlier than now, but the county said they did not know she was a “nursery.” The 2/3 reduction that she just received “will just keep us in business,” said Hustings, “but we are still over-paying.”

Highland Nursery has been in the family since Lois and Henry Harich, Hustings’ parents, opened their business on Cleveland Avenue with a borrowed tent and a cigar box as a cash box. In 1978 the business moved to the current location. Hustings took over full ownership of the business in 1993, and now her daughter, Teri Otteness works at the nursery as well.
A bur oak statue sets Highland Nursery apart from other garden centers. Carved from a landmark bur oak, the sculpture commemorates John Smith and Elizabeth Ryan Smith, early pioneers who cleared this area in 1850 so they could plant crops. The remaining bur oaks at the nursery are likely saplings that they preserved.

Open year-round, the nursery offers something for every season and holiday. For Halloween they offer heart-shaped and blue pumpkins. Displayed in the winter are 32 varieties of amaryllis bulbs and winter twigs and berries. The cedar siding and shakes shop, reminiscent of a rural setting, features a cupola and squirrel weather vane on the rooftop. The shop is filled with pots and artwork, flower fairy dolls and houses, wall sculptures, and wreaths that are all color coordinated. The bathrooms are decorated like ones in an expensive home and every accessory in them is for sale.

According to Hustings, some customers compare Highland Nursery to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum or the McNeely Conservatory because of the garden layout and plant variety. Others come for solace when a loved one dies. The nursery received praise by a partner of architect Ian Baldwin, who said it was one of his two favorite garden centers in the world. Hustings feels honored that Midwest Magazine asked Highland Nursery to exhibit at the Home Show this coming November at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Their display will include flower fairies, a large giraffe, and pergolas and many other offerings. “We are all word of mouth, we do not advertise,” said Hustings. She encourages customers to come every month to see something they haven’t seen before. However, the accolades and her love of gardening don’t remove tax worries. She said, “If they keep raising the taxes, it will be a problem.”

Highland Nursery, 1742 West Seventh. Information at or 651-698-1708.

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[IMAGE]As Skylark Dry Cleaning prepares to open at 1456 West Seventh, they are “in business” through a free pickup and delivery service to homes, apartments and offices. See or call 612-DRY-CLEAN (612-379-2532).

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Perspectives on Small Business: Metro IBA [IMAGE]

In this and the coming months, Community Reporter features some of the entrepreneurs who are investing in the West End. The importance of communities supporting small, local businesses has been clear for decades, and there has been a revival of efforts to organize and promote this insight.

One of the most energetic and active groups in the Twin Cities is called MetroIBA (Independent Business Association), a nonprofit organization working to support and preserve locally owned, independent businesses. Its mission is to provide continuing opportunities for entrepreneurs, to build economic strength, and to create an environment where locally owned, independent businesses grow and flourish. MetroIBA’s goals are to promote local independents, to educate consumers on the value of shopping at locals and to improve conditions for local independents by influencing public policy.

MetroIBA’s core message is that supporting locally owned, independent businesses keeps more money in our own communities. When one dollar spent at a local independent, an average of 68 cents is recirculated into the local economy. In contrast, when a dollar is spent at a national chain, only about 43 cents stays at home. If Twin Cities’ consumers shift even 10% of their spending from chains to locals for one day, the Twin Cities economy gains some $2 million.

MetroIBA membership is open to businesses, nonprofits and individuals. Business members must have their primary place of business in the seven-county Twin Cities Metro area and be at least 51% locally owned. For detailed membership information see or call Executive Director Mary Hamel at 651-387-0738.
Information from the U.S. Department of Commerce; U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics; and the Bureau of the Census, reinforce the MetroIBA message.

How important are small businesses to the U.S. economy? Small firms:
  • Represent 99.7% of all employer firms.
  • Employ just over half of all private sector employees.
  • Pay 44% of total U.S. private payroll.
  • Have generated 64% of net new jobs over the past 15 years.
  • Create more than half of the nonfarm private gross domestic product (GDP).
  • Hire 40% of high tech workers (such as scientists, engineers, and computer programmers).
  • Are 52% home-based and 2% franchises.
  • Made up 97.3% of all identified exporters and produced 30.2%of the known export value in FY 2007.
  • Produce 13 times more patents per employee than large patenting firms; these patents are twice as likely as large firm patents to be among the one percent most cited.
What share of net new jobs do small businesses create? Firms with fewer than 500 employees accounted for 64% (or 14.5 million) of the 22.5 million net new jobs (gains minus losses) between 1993 and the third quarter of 2008. Continuing firms accounted for 68% of net new jobs, and the other 32% reflect net new jobs from firm births minus those lost in firm closures (1993 to 2007).

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Solar America Communities
The largest solar thermal installation in the Midwest sits atop the St. Paul RiverCentre and was made possible by a $1 million grant from the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s “Solar America Communities” program and matching funds from District Energy St. Paul. District Energy’s high-performing collectors generate hot water to be used for space heating and domestic hot water in the St. Paul RiverCentre. Once the building’s needs are met, the system exports excess solar energy to the hot water distribution network serving downtown St. Paul.

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Timberwolf CrossFit Opens on West Seventh [IMAGE]
by Joel Vadnais

Early in June, Tony Koens opened Timberwolf CrossFit at 1044 West Seventh at Randolph. The new fitness center is small, but provides a niche workout facility. With kettle bells, gymnastic strings, plyometric boxes and massive tires, Cross Fit is aimed at a different kind of fitness. With multidirectional movement and fast movement exercises, workouts here are aimed at getting potential customers into the kind of shape Olympic athletes possess.

Tony trained with two medal winners in the Vancouver Olympics in 2010 and many other contenders on a professional level. He is certified by three different accreditation associations. Tony grew up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and later moved to Orlando to join a personal training school, later receiving certification from the National Personal Training Institute. While there, he also taught as an assistant instructor, and later in Champlain, Minnesota, training others at the Velocity Sports Performance center. He then moved to Utah, where for three years he taught at the Utah Olympic Park. Now married with two small children, he decided to open a gym of his own here in St. Paul, bringing his expert knowledge of the art of fast movement and multidirectional movement.

photo: Tony Koens practices on the rings.

In high school, Tony found himself weighing more than 220 pounds, but through exercise and a complete change in eating habits, lost weight and now is a rock solid 185. He does not use the word diet as, to him, the word seems temporary. In high school he did not know about weightlifting, but cut out sugars and binge eating by the age of 17. He began lifting weights ten years ago, and now at 28, he has been teaching professionally for the last five.

A certification with the international CrossFit organization is required to run a CrossFit gym — there are more than two thousand CrossFit gyms worldwide. His exercise routines are intense; starting with 21 tire flips (truck-sized tires), 21 plyometric box jumps and 21 medicine ball squats and tosses, he keeps up the intensity by repeating this grueling pace down to sets of 15, then to sets of nine each. By doing this as fast as possible and charting your progress, this is about as different from a normal gym as you can find. No Nautilus machines here.

Tony is intimidating to look at, just by his upper and lower body bulk, but when he demonstrated his power on the gymnastic strings he became suddenly graceful. He jokingly said, “I want to be able to get my grandmother up to this level by slowly working up to it [on the pull up bars].”

Tony’s passion for helping others sprang from his high school days of intense self-study. He has nine clients now, with the capacity to work with many more. He has been up and down West Seventh putting up flyers and has felt welcomed by local small business owners
Training plans run from $100 to $150 per person per month, with discounts available for police and firefighters at $95 per month. These plans involve three sessions per week in any class. Regular specials include $125 for three times per week and $155 for unlimited classes. Weekly group classes start at 5:30, 6:30 and 7:30 a.m. and 12:30, 4:30, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. Open gym is 3:30 and 8:30 p.m. Saturdays Timberwolf CrossFit is open from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

More information is available at or 651-329-6089.

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La Limeña Market: Spicy! | 6.11

by Jo Heinz

What hits the eye when first glancing at the signage at La Limeña Market, 1211 West Seventh, is that it offers many conveniences such as paying bills, phone cards, money orders and airplane tickets. What isn’t so visible from the outside is the large array of grocery items one commonly finds in a supermarket. The layout is simple, the shelves well stocked, and the place is immaculate.

It has the feel of the nostalgic Ma and Pa grocery store but with a unique twist: Hispanic products from Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, and Peru. Near the entryway, fresh baked breads, cookies, and other sweet treats are delivered daily from the El Guanaco Bakery on East Seventh, which specializes in El Salvadorian baked goods.

About four years ago, owners Elias and Flory Salvador purchased this store, formerly known as La Palma Mercado, from Luis Gutierrez. Next door to La Limeña Market is Flory’s Beauty Salon, which they opened May 1 of last year. Both have beauty operator’s licenses from their native El Salvador as well as those obtained from California and Minnesota.

Elias began his career as a butcher in California, arriving new to this country. Much later he had worked for ConAgra, here in Minnesota, for seven years and was eager to open a butcher shop of his own. His butcher shop has been open several years now. He prides himself on good specialty meats such as fajita, sesina (cow’s neck, skinny cut and seasoned with a rub of different spices and salt), chorizo, and other meats with special, sweet meat seasoning like cinnamon, his recipe of chili salsa, and traditional guacamole sauce. Beside specialty meats, one can buy Angus steak, and fish like tilapia and mackerel as well as ham bones. In the freezer area, frozen shrimp and home-made tamales can be found.

Some of Elias’ meat customers come in from different areas, knowing the quality and tenderness of his products. It is important to Elias to have a smaller quantity of meat, but maintain a higher quality. His weekend special (Friday–Sunday) consists of carnitas, a traditional Mexican dish made of pork seasoned with cilantro, cumin, and onion.

People from the neighborhood tend to stop in and try the more familiar food items, such as tostadas, donuts, snacks and sauces. However, there are seasonings of all kinds to choose from, such as dried red chili peppers called guajillo, that smell like paprika, varieties of corn tortillas, beans, flours, and canned goods. Unlike many specialty food stores, Elias makes sure all of his canned goods are fresh — indeed, there are no products in this store past their expiration date.

For information, call 651-224-6825. Hours are Mon-Sat 8am-9pm, Sundays 8am-7pm. If you are looking for good prices and fresh wholesome food with great variety, they have not only the hot, but also the tasty food you’re sure to like!

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Lady and the Lion Hair Salon | 5.11 

by Jerry Rothstein

Jaymes Taylor has opened Lady and the Lion at 489 West Seventh (651-644-5898) and has been busy recreating the former tattoo parlor into a welcoming and stylish salon that has room for four stylists now, and five eventually.

Jaymes is a Master Barber who has been practicing in St. Paul for more than 35 years. He worked at The Barbers with Joe Francis, who also started the Cost Cutters chain of family hair salons, and in 2008 opened Lady and the Lion Hair Institute on Selby. Jaymes was also a model and product development expert for the Lustra Silk line of products. With Lady and the Lion, he can take on apprentices to help them get a start.

Jaymes’ clientele includes people of all ages and ethnic backgrounds — he offers a place where everyone is welcome. Widely known in St. Paul, his regulars include Police Chief Tom Smith, State Senator John Harrington, University of Minnesota Oncologist Dr. Stan Williams and former Minnesota Viking Joey Browner.

Stylists include Nika and Topaz (braids, weaves, dreadlocks, twists and extensions), Tracy (barber/stylist), Robert Keim, who is also an instructor at the Minnesota School of Cosmetology and Shirley Williams (experienced master barber and stylist).

Jaymes points out that a hair stylist is really an “artist-craftsman” whose goal is for the customer to have the right look and to feel like a work of art.

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Prototype Career Service | 2.11 [IMAGE]

by Jerry Rothstein

By the time she was 23, Amy Lindgren had worked at 50 different jobs. “I’m really good at getting jobs!” she says. As a very young girl she recalls pulling a wagon around her White Bear Lake neighborhood, finding cans and bottles to redeem or buying and selling things and setting up some trades. Her urge to do business was so strong that she would buy candy bars and sell them at a profit to her Girl Scout Troop before their meetings. For this she was expelled, but later in life was asked to serve on the Council board, which she did for five years.

As a college student, Amy started two businesses — a house cleaning service that lasted a year, followed by a house painting and tiling business for another year. With all her jobs and enterprises, she put herself through St. Kate’s, eventually (it took almost seven years!) graduating with a degree in English.

In 1985 she started Prototype Career Services to help others find the right job for them. At the same time she launched Banfil Street Press, which provided a business framework for her freelance writing, editorial coaching for writers, and publishing efforts. Banfil Street Press has also published a book for health professionals to help them understand the life issues of former prisoners of war (“Life after Liberation: Understanding the Former Prisoner of War,” 1992). With Prototype, Amy concentrates on helping clients find their career direction and strategizing their job searching process. Once she has a clear idea of what the client wants to do for a living, she also helps them to create focused résumés that strengthen the impression they make with potential employers.

Prototype also publishes books to help people with their job transitions. Their Pocket Job Series offers focused guides for job searching, including: “Five Steps to your Next Job,” “Résumés Etc.,” “Job Interviews,” “Job Search Over 40” and “Financial Survival Between Jobs.” In the Making the Leap Job Search series are “Job Search for Students” and “Job Search for Transitioning Military Personnel.” Customized newsletters and curriculum sold to government job search programs broaden the field of coverage so that resources are offered for just about any aspect of job seeking.

In her spare time, Amy teaches at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis and writes a weekly column published in the St. Paul Pioneer Press and other papers, called “Working Strategies” (see

She and her husband Bruce Peterson live on Banfil. His bonsai are known around the neighborhood, and he took part in the 2010 West Seventh Neighbors Garden Tour.

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Libraries connect residents to today’s job market
| 2.11 [IMAGE]

The St. Paul Public Library, James J. Hill Reference Library and Goodwill/Easter Seals, in partnership with Workforce Solutions, are hosting free job seminars in February to help job seekers improve their networking and job searching skills.
  • Between Jobs: Connect to Today’s Job Market seminars feature presenters with a wide variety of career and job-seeking skills and experiences to share. Registration is not required, and all programs are free. For more information, visit
  • Entrepreneurship: The Famous Dave’s Story: February 2, 6:30 p.m., at James J Hill Library, 80 West Fourth Street. Famous Dave Anderson tells his amazing story of how he followed his dreams to become America’s Rib King! Call 651-265-5500 for  info.
  • How a Staffing Agency Can Help You: February 10, 6:30 p.m. at James J Hill Library, 80 W. 4th Street. Representatives from local staffing agencies discuss the benefits to job seekers of applying and working with them. Using this approach can diversify and strengthen your employability, as well as connecting you with opportunities you may not otherwise uncover. Call 651-265-5500 for further information.
  • What are Green Careers All About? February 17, 6:30 p.m. at Arlington Hills Library, 1105 Greenbrier Street. This session with Trina Maldonado highlights training opportunities for a career in various “green” industries and how to conduct a job search for a “green” career. Call 651-793-3930 for further information.
  • How Social Networking Can Help Your Job Search: February 24, 6:30 p.m. at Rondo Library, 461 Dale Street N. Ivan E. Nunez, web professional with extensive experience developing interactive marketing solutions, explores strategies and offers tips for promoting your professional skills while developing your personal brand online. Call 651-266-7400 for further information.
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West 7th Business Association
To learn about the West 7th Business Association, email info@west7thbusinessassociation, or visit The W7BA Enhancement Coalition meets the first Thursday of the month, 11 a.m., at Mancini’s Char House, 531 West Seventh. Any resident, proprietor or stakeholder is welcome to attend.

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