New Business Build on Vibrant W7th Business Climate  [IMAGE]

by Paul Bard

The economy may be down, but you wouldn’t know it from the number of new businesses opening up on West Seventh Street. From Sibley Plaza all the way to the Xcel Center, a diverse mix of stores, restaurants and services continue to make the West Seventh neighborhood their home.

Recent months have seen the opening of the Mojo Monkey donut shop and Claddagh Coffee, to name just two. And we’re happy to tell you about several more that have recently opened or will open in the weeks and months to come.

Traveling from west to east, here is a small sample of what’s new and what’s coming soon to our favorite thoroughfare.

Architect’s rendering of the urgent care animal clinic.
Mississippi Market Co-op in the background.
Animal Emergency & Referral Center
1542 West Seventh St. 651-293-1998
Mon-Thu: 6pm-9am. Fri: 6pm to Mon 9am (continuous).
Opening May, 2012
If you fall and break your arm, you go to the emergency room, no matter what time it is. But what if the medical emergency involves your dog or cat? (Or your parrot or your ferret?) Well, take heart, pet owners. The Animal Emergency & Referral Center, which is breaking ground on West Seventh in December, will be open nights, weekends and holidays — whenever your regular family veterinarian is unavailable. Thus, the business hours you see above are not a misprint. Watch for the Center’s opening next spring. Visit

Little Caesar’s Pizza [IMAGE]
2431 West Seventh St. 651-699-5551
Sun-Thu: 10am-11pm. Fri-Sat: 10:30am-12am.
In the eastern-most building in Sibley Plaza, the new Little Caesar’s Pizza is situated between United Family Medicine and The Buffet King, and just a few doors down from Champp’s. The space is small, but the crowd was big when the Community Reporter visited on a recent Sunday. It looks like fast service, low prices and great pizza (including their signature $5 Hot-N-Ready) are a recipe for success in an area with lots of food choices. Visit

Owner Michael McGuire (r) and Area
Supervisor Jim Amero on Little Caeser’s opening day.
Skylark Dry Cleaning
SW corner of West Seventh & Thurston St.
Mon-Fri: 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Sat: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Opening January, 2012
In January, Skylark Dry Cleaning brings its eco-friendly cleaning methods to St. Paul, relocating its plant and 13 employees from Chanhassen. Skylark will be taking over the building on the southwest corner of West Seventh and Thurston St. right across from the Mississippi Market. They’re ready to grow, and they hope to double their workforce in the near future. Skylark offers a full range of cleaning services, using innovative processes like CO2 cleaning and GreenEarth dry cleaning, that are safe for the environment, the workers, and for your clothes. Skylark offers free pickup and delivery, and you’ll even be able to schedule online. Visit

Soapy Joe’s Express Car Wash & Detail Center
1340 West Seventh St.
Mon-Sat: 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Sun: 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Opening December, 2011
A fresh coat of paint on the outside and all new equipment on the inside are bringing life back to the former River Bluff Car Wash. Davis Olshansky and his sons have purchased the facility and will soon be opening as Soapy Joe’s Car Wash Express Wash and Detail. They plan for a December opening — just in time for the winter months when our cars are so desperately in need of frequent washing. The new owners have spent a lot of time talking to customers of the old car wash, and they promise to provide a better-maintained facility and an even better customer experience. Visit them on Facebook.

Karo’s Steak and Chicken [IMAGE]
1199 West Seventh St. 651-207-5777
Mon-Sat: 10:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Sun: 11:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Hassan Khatib has opened Karo’s Steak and Chicken in the space of the old Ray’s Mediterranean restaurant on the northwest corner of West Seventh and View St. It’s just across View St. from O’Reilly Auto Parts. As the name suggests, Karo’s features steak and chicken, as well as burgers, sandwiches — and even gyros like its Mediterranean predecessor. The restaurant had a “soft opening” in mid-November and will celebrate its grand opening the first week of December — just in time to give busy holiday shoppers another place to stop for a quick, inexpensive lunch or dinner. Visit
Owner Hassan Al Khatib and cook Steve Ramlow
prepare for Karo’s Grand Opening.

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St. Mark Lutheran Church - A Neighborhood Beacon  [IMAGE]

by Jerry Rothstein

It may be hard to believe that a small neighborhood church in a working class neighborhood can have an impact both locally and globally, but as you learn about the history and activities of St. Mark Lutheran Church — a congregation of the ELCA — your horizons expand and your sense of what is possible from a group of devoted, dedicated people grows as well.

This welcoming congregation has deep roots in the West Seventh community. More than 100 years ago, a group of devout German Lutherans found themselves too far from any of the existing congregations. In those times, one’s ability to live, work, learn, worship, shop and engage in community and recreational activities depended on them all being possible within walking distance of the home. The idea of neighborhood was indeed a founding value for the West End community.

Banners representing St. Mark global outreach hang in the sanctuary: (Clockwise from top left): Celebration of marriage from Colombia; youth outreach in England; Russian seminary near St. Petersburg offering higher theological training (Pastor Wietzke’s father helped to establish it); mission trips to Chicago’s inner city; Communion at the Buboka Tanzanian Church.

The historian, Gary Brueggemann, wrote: “[In 1898, this group lived in] St. Paul’s oldest living neighborhood, the old Uppertown/Fort Road/West Seventh Street/West End community, which was once home to as many as six local breweries (two with adjoining landmark beer gardens) and thirty-three ‘bier’ joints.

“Yet the presence of breweries and beer was not the only sign of West Seventh Street’s German flavor. Equally telling was the fact that by 1898 the neighborhood supported five German churches, all located within a mile-an-a-half radius (two Catholic, two Lutheran and one Presbyterian).”

St. Marcus Lutheran Church was the newest of these congregations, originally at St. Clair and Richmond; then, in 1922, at Leech and McBoal; and since 1956 at its present site on West Seventh and Goodhue. Pastors came, contributed and moved on until Rev. Paul Rick arrived in 1911 and stayed until 1940.

In the decades since the new building was dedicated, and especially in the almost thirty years that Pastor Walter Wietzke has served the congregation, the range and intensity of the St. Mark congregation’s involvement in community service has been nourished.

There has been strong support for all United Missions Appeals; participation in the Adopt-a-Highway program and the Dousman Neighborhood Block Club; partnership with about thirty other congregations in the monthly Loaves and Fishes food project; support for United Family Medicine, the Project Noel campaign and other local efforts.

St. Mark collaborated with the West Seventh/Fort Road Federation and Lyngblomsten Care Center to create the Superior Street Cottages. Since 1983, the church has been involved in Global Mission — they have worked with the Iringa Diocese and Buboka’s Northwest Diocese in Tanzania. At the latter, Pastor Wilson Lugakingira, who spent part of his training time at St. Mark, and other community members, maintain a close connection to this day. There is also much support given for education and neighborhood schools and linkage with the West Seventh Boys Club. This year, St. Mark had a table at the West Seventh Community Center’s Health Expo to offer conversation and resources about spiritual health.

St. Mark is committed to the importance of ecumenism: “In its most basic form, ecumenism means befriending your Christian neighbor and worshiping with them,” Wietzke says. St. Mark has combined Thanksgiving and Wednesday Lenten services with St. Stan’s, shared weekly Bible study, been involved in ecumenical women’s luncheons circulating among neighborhood churches, as well as the Crosswalk Project on Good Friday in which members of seven area congregations walk together from church to church, reading from Jesus’ last words at each stop.

St. Mark is clearly happy to present the many examples of mission work illustrated on hand made art banners that hang in the main sanctuary. These symbolize church members’ work in many parts of the world. Wietzke remarks, “Our members find identity and a sense of mission that make sense for their lives. We’re surrounded by signs of others around the world living out their faith in the same way we do.” The advantage of the congregation’s energy and dedication that results in clear impacts in the community and far beyond is a sign of their commitment “to being here for ourselves and reaching out to the stranger. Many church members have traveled on mission trips.”

Wietzke values this sense of connection and resistance to isolation. “We have ideas and share them,” he says; “we receive ideas and join them.” Seeking this kind of connection, and having started a “faith club,” St. Mark has reached out and connected with Catholic, Jewish, Quaker and Muslim congregations. “This is a great way to explore other beliefs and deepen our own — and seeing the similarities is stunning. We look for common values, and for areas where dialogue is possible.”

St. Mark’s work in Africa is a good example of their approach and desire to connect. They have real contacts and relationships in Tanzania. The Africans know the real needs of their communities, so St. Mark sends the funds directly. No intermediaries or brokers have the chance to claim any “administrative fees.” The connection in spirit that these arrangements make possible is also revealed in the sharing of ritual objects. From Africa to St. Mark came a hand-woven rug on which all the congregants had taken Communion. From St. Mark to Africa went a rag rug for the Tanzanians to walk on.

Jackie Brueggemann, President of the Church Council, describes the sense of spiritual leadership that Pastor Wietzke provides, calling it “an anchor, a faith perspective, that helps define our identity and meaning.” And, at the same time, she added, “There are many people in the church who are seen as spiritually nourishing. When Confirmants create their ‘Statements of Faith,’ their mentors and Sunday School teachers can see how they have made a difference and had an impact on young people’s lives.”

St. Mark members, thinking of the next generation coming up in the church, know that an understanding of what it takes to maintain the organization must be conveyed. Setting expectations, assuring involvement, maintaining the mission, educating, caring for, singing, worshiping and serving — “We want to do so much!” is the Church’s message. “We want others to know—we are in the city for ‘Good.’ ”

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Thune Prevails in Ward Two [IMAGE]

Dave Thune survived two rounds of vote redistribution in the first Ranked Voting election in St. Paul, as determined by the 2009 voter referendum.

The four viable candidates in the ward, Thune, Jim Ivey, Bill Hosko and Cynthia Schanno in Ward 2 provided the city’s only test of the new process, as elections in other wards were decided with 50% plus one majorities on Election Day.

After the voting, Thune led with 2078 votes. Ivey was second with 1435 and Hosko third with 1378. Schanno, Anderson and write-in ballots totaled 472, and when these ballots’ second-choice votes were distributed it was Hosko who gained 189 to Ivey’s 86, moving him into second place, and trailing Thune 2153 to 1567. The final reallocation took second-place votes from Ivey’s total and allocated them to Thune or Hosko. In this round, Thune gained 717 to Hosko’s 497, resulting in Thune with 2870 or 58% of the final tally, and Hosko with 2064. The process went fairly smoothly, and the vast majority of voters did record second and third choices.

Remaining a disturbing issue: low turnout among voters. Historically, municipal and midterm election have had lower voter turnout than years in which the mayoralty, governorship or presidency are at stake. But it seems that over the last decade turnout has declined even more. Community Reporter asked the candidates to comment on this phenomenon. See the Letter to the Editor from Bill Hosko on page two. Readers are invited to share their perspective in a Letter to the Editor for January.

Photo: Son Dusty with Dave Thune on election night.

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