Stories from the corner of 37th and Nicollet

Rooting on to Nicollet Ave.

One year ago we dug up butter bakery café from its home on Grand Ave. and transplanted it onto Nicollet Ave.  This has been a long year of re-rooting into a new space along a new road.  Trying to sink our roots into the 3700 block has been an adventure that has required a little bit of pruning, a lot of extra watering, and lots and lots of patience as we have waited for our roots to take hold.  As with most plants, devoting so much energy to one’s roots does limit energy for its flowers and fruits.  So, as I look at my final to-do list from the opening construction, it does have a lot of the cutesy things left to complete still.  And due to the roadwork, I feel a lot like the trees along the Avenue whose roots have suffered a bit and felt the stress of a change in environment.  Are my roots deep enough?  Am I getting enough water?  Do I need a bit of fertilizer? Good questions to ask for any business owner but especially ones that have such a big transplant.

Just down the road from Hungry Jack Lake is a spur trail along the Border Route Trail leading to Caribou Rock.  The trail is a short climb to a lovely vista overlooking a pair of lakes and a stretch of wilderness.  I have made this climb nearly every summer and although the view never really changes, there have been shifts due to the 1999 Blowdown, to an outbreak of spruce-bud-worm, and to a general aging and re-balancing of conifer to poplar and back again.   Any photos from this vantage point capture the largeness of the area.   Yet, close to view, clinging to the cliff, is a cedar that has been at Caribou Rock since I’ve made the first climb, and was certainly there long before my first visit. 

In my pictures the cedar is usually a part of the frame of the view.  It is easy to look past it, but it is there, hanging on.  Somehow, it has found a hold in the rock - roots digging into crevices, hugging boulders.  Although there is little or no soil, it collects whatever it can amongst its roots to build a small nutrient base.  Growth is slow, but the cedar seems patient, in no hurry.  It’s here for the long term, enjoying the view.

I have a length of new sod across the front of the shop.  I have been sternly advised to water it frequently and thoroughly.  It needs to take root and without water the contact with the soil below is not a friendly meeting.  So we pull out the hose and water, cheer each rainfall, and hope it will take hold. In the long run, though, I’d actually prefer something with a bit more stability, like prairie grass or perennial flowers that will set down deep roots and withstand the challenging soil conditions presented by any boulevard.  That bit of transplanting is yet to come, once new trees are settled in and I can get a better sense of how to help our front area become a welcoming beautiful stretch of Nicollet Ave. 


Last month, neighbors and restaurants joined together to raise funds for artwork along our streetscapes with the same intention of adding more beauty to our everyday world.  I look forward to creating another sweet seating space much like my former space along the shady, cozy Grand Ave. A bit of art work, more plantings?  Bench seating? Planter benches? Bench Art? Something will take root along the sidewalk.


Gladyce was in again this week for a bit of lunch, but really, she mostly comes for some time to socialize and tell stories.  At 98, she shares with us that her purpose is to hold on to her roots, and to be sure her stories are well rooted in us.  Her parents, both from Norway, “though they didn’t know each other over there,” she reports, planted deep roots in her that help her hang on to a life rich with people, beauty, and service.  She shares her joy of a life well lived with us each week so that we too can appreciate the roots we are forming here and now. 


Someday, many, many, years from now, I hope to walk along the 3700 block of Nicollet Avenue, its boulevard trees shading a lively patio space with tables of friends and neighbors, rooting themselves to each other and to a life of beauty, and I will smile to myself and think, it took a lot of water and a lot of patience, but beautiful, yes, it is.


Walk the path.  Be green. Take root.