Stories from the corner of 37th and Nicollet

Ten Years Along the Path

As I reach the ten-year mark of owning and operating Butter Bakery Café, I’ve taken the time to think a bit about the changes that have occurred during this small slice of time.  Time has a way of moving along slowly, steadily, and then with a blink, a decade passes.  In the scheme of thinking generationally – we’re sort of halfway through another passing of time.  New descriptors are being put into place – moving from the turn of the century, from X’s and Y’s into the age of the millennial.

Has there been progress? In some ways, certainly; yet in others, the same old-same old seems to hold steady.  Still war and strife continue make the news. Still challenges with environmental degradation are commonplace.  Still groups of people acknowledge the biases and prejudices built into our society.  And yet, I remain hopeful, well planted on this small corner in southwest Minneapolis, connecting with my neighbors, that we are indeed progressing!

Ten years ago, I was one of just a few pioneers trying to suggest that using compostable materials could help us reduce solid waste to our landfills and garbage burners, with only dim hopes that someday the tide would turn.  Indeed ten years later, with a city firmly organized to provide commercial and residential composting, the future looks brighter for managing the waste we create.

Ten years ago, local sourcing for food was a limited feature from a few dedicated restaurateurs.  Now, it seems that it is the way of the world, with seasonal efforts and connections to farms showing up in nearly every place you go to eat. I’m happy to see the strengthening of family farms, urban agriculture, and local gardening.  Local sourcing wasn’t meant to be the realm of a select few – it’s the best way to build a food system and it’s getting better each year. Even the biggest chains are backing away from artificial ingredients, unpronounceable additives, and high salt-high fat menus.  As they look to ways to increase use of naturally grown, more easily sourced foods, local systems will grow further.  Someday I might not be able to place ads that poke fun at places using artificial preservatives and additives.

Ten years ago, food and retail service workers took what they could get, hoped for the best, and tended to be very temporary.  Times have changed, and while not ideal, progress is being made in wages, scheduling, health insurance, and other supports to make even the lowest paid jobs provide a better sense of stability. New alliances of small businesses that hold high values for these workers now offer a challenge to the practices of “profits-first” businesses. Consider the sweeping changes that came to support of same-sex marriage and think how different the conversations were ten years ago.

Ten years ago, Nicollet Avenue was the joke of south Minneapolis, earning the rightly deserved ice cream flavor name, Nicollet Pothole.  Infrastructure and limited business support had created zones of insecurity and hopelessness.  The investments have come, both public and private, and new life is beginning along the Avenue that once flourished commercially as a community corridor.  Years of meetings, support, and planning have paid off. With the design of a re-opened Nicollet and Lake Street intersection ahead in the coming year there is much to celebrate!  The time has arrived! We are seeing it in our lifetime.  Perhaps ten years from now we’ll look back and have a difficult time remembering the block in the road.

Ten years ago, I didn’t know much about the neighborhood I had moved into. I knew only a few of the residents.  As a business owner in this neighborhood for the past ten years, one of the greatest joys has been to get to know so many of my neighbors!  I have been able to watch young children grow up into high schoolers and have watched young adults meet, court, marry and begin families.  I have marked the passing of some truly amazing people over these years and have been introduced to many, many new infants! More than a hundred local musicians have performed for me including two I hear played on my car radio often.

Ten years ago, all I had was the desire to provide a warm, welcoming service for the Lyndale and Kingfield neighborhoods.  I certainly didn’t know a lot about running a business. To all you who have crossed my path these past ten years, as customers, staff, or just friends and neighbors, thank you.  I have been learning. I am so grateful for the opportunity to know you and work with you to make this a vibrant community. And I truly look forward to meeting you in the years ahead along this green path.