Thursday, June 28, 2012

Cobbler On (Or Near) The Roof

Okay, so the last two haven't been paint on brick, so let's try to get back too it.  Somehow I missed this one when I snapped the several signs on its neighbor up the block in Dinkytown.  But the grey sky is still a give away to winter, as I swung back through in February during one of my basketball-related trips back to campus.

In case you can't read it, the sign says, "Campus Cobbler."  And in case you were born sometime in the last century and you don't really know what a cobbler is, it also helpfully says, "shoes."  And in case you worried that they might not carry your Jimmy Choos or Manolo Blahniks (or some other brand featured on a tv show sometime in the last decade), you can barely make out that it also says "men's and women's."

Okay, so I'm going on a bit about the words on the sign because I'm not confident that I'm going to find much research about it, and I need to get this up fairly quickly before heading out to a fancy dinner (Bachelor Farmer, if you're a foodie, which is actually in a building that has been featured on this blog before, so I'll have to check on the state of the signs).  

So it turns out I was sort of wrong about whether I could learn anything.  It seems like the Campus Cobbler is related to the nearby Fast Eddie's Show Repair, which is across the alley (and apparently still there).  It seems the current owner/operator of Fast Eddie's, named Jim, became the manager at Campus Cobbler in 1979, only to move over to Fast Eddie's in 1987 where he's remained.  The original Fast Eddie, took up the shoe repair business in 1936 when hard times forced he and his brother into the big city of Crookston, MN. Eddie's brother went off to the war, but Eddie's flat feet kept him out, leaving him to find a shoe repair shop in Minneapolis in need of help on his way home.  The war, not surprisingly, was good for the repair business, and Fast Eddie's was eventually born.

I've got less on the shoe store itself, except a few old ads in the Minnesota Daily in 19661967, and more 1967.  The Hennepin County Library also has as shot of the street in 1974.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Someone Beat Me To It

We seem to be on a mini-run of signs that aren't paint on brick but this one has been in the news recently, as the building is about to be put back into to use as an interesting new restaurant.  Which is good, because the guy in that real estate ad on the lower left must be sick of replacing his sign after people draw funny mustaches on him.  Note to self: if you're ever going to put your face on an ad (probably one for Mr. Awesome's awesome super fabulous juice -- you don't always need a fabulous juice, but when you do, you need Mr. Awesome's), don't put it at street level where neanderthal sharpy-wielders can deface it's awesomeness.

Okay, so that was silly.  You know what's not silly?  Drugs.  They're bad people.  Well, except when you have a prescription.  Then they're the bomb.  Especially if you stop in and have Pharmacist Burch fill it for you.

It's been empty for awhile.  I think for at least as long as the year and a half or so since I moved back to Minneapolis.  Well, look at that.  It seems that the good folks at KARE 11 did a story about it closing in April of 2010.  So, yeah, a bit before my return.  Back in those days, I was still a hot-shot DC lawyer (or, um, sorta), so I didn't see it at the time.

It seems then place had been there for 80 years or so.  It seems the end was brought on by the lack of interest from potential buyers given the difficulties of the business in the face of competition from the big chains.

The folks from Spy Twin Cities, which I just discovered via Google but will have to keep an eye on, have a bit more for us (I love it when someone else has done the research).  They claim the place actually operated for 97 years, resulting from the combined forces of pharmacists George Ball and George Burch (who is not one of the people named Burch that show's up in the Historical Society photo archives). The Spy Twin Cities article is fabulous (how many times have I used that word?  Eh, it's Pride Weekend, so who cares), so I'll resist the temptation to summarize it here.  Please go read it for yourself.  They've got the kind of research, including old images, I only wish I had. I will, however, give you this shot of the streetscape at Franklin and Hennepin in 1953.  

You might see a pair of smaller signs on either side.  Let's take a closer look, starting on the left:

Oh, drugs aren't good enough for you (seriously, have you tried them?), okay then, let's go for kitschy, over-priced, corporatized "happiness" and "well-wishes":

By which, of course, I mean Kemps Ice Cream.  Those folks really get my dander up.

Update: click here.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Their Mother Wasn't A Hamster

This one might have been obscure and mysterious to non-Midwest readers before Kal Penn started working for the Obama administration.  But president "hopey changey" ruined it all.  How's that working out for ya?

Um, yeah.  Okay.  So, if you happen to be a munchy-fiending stoner, don't head to this place.  I mean, it's still a white castle and all (check out those crenelations), but it's been awhile since it was a White Castle.  Mr. R.L. McPeck may sell stuff by the sack, but it sure sounds like it will run you a lot more than 5 cents per item.

White Castle has a proud Midwestern tradition, although its origins are farther south than Minnesota, even though opening in 1926 in St. Paul isn't bad.  It seems that the building in this picture is No. 8, dating to 1936.

I've not had White Castle in many years, but my personal memories date to my father talking about stopping in with his band mates for late night snacks after playing his trumpet at dance gigs, that same father trying to subject the frozen variety on my brother and me at lunch, and my crew mates gorging themselves when I worked a summer for the county public works department.

I'd say that I should go back of nostalgia sake, but, um, no thanks.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Foreign Lands: Not The Guy From Ulysses

We've been hanging near home lately, so let's take a little trip to the east.  Let's go back to St. Paul, in the very same alley we visited before.  But this sign is going to be a little less iconic than Norwest bank.

This one says "John E. Blomquist Inc.," who apparently did "management" and were "realtors."  It's yet another local Scandinavian name, so I'm not too confident we'll find anything about Mr. Blomquist or his company, but at least this one has a slightly abnormal spelling.

Apparently there is a John E. Bloomquist (note, two Os) from Montana, who shows up in court filings from time to time.  But as there is clearly only one O in our sign, that can't be our guy.  Let's see what else we can find.

Ah hah! This looks to be our guy.  JEBCO Group, Inc., previously known as John E. Blomquist Company, was founded in 1923 in St. Paul by a gentleman of that name.  To this day, they seem to do mortgages and property management, after starting out as a full service real estate firm.  Presumably it was that old guy who commissioned the painting of this sign.  The company was able to avoid a very small award of punitive damages in 1977, when the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that punitive damages weren't available for contract disputes.  It's actually kind of hard to believe that a dispute over $500 could be cost-effective to appeal to the state Supreme Court, but then again, the company's law firm has since folded, so maybe that was typical for them.

It seems that in 2009, someone with the same name, probably not Senior unless he was very old, was the CEO of BancMidwest, which entered into an agreement with the Federal Reserve in connection with its restructuring.  My guess is that this Blomquist is the son or other descendant of our founding Blomquist.

Update:  Shortly after writing this, I began reading Steig Larsson's novels (probably the last to get around to it), and realized I probably should have gone with a reference to his works instead of the strained Joyce reference in the title.  Granted, had the thought occurred to me, I probably would have been tempted to add yet another level of obscurity and gone from Steig to The Stig and Top Gear (or The Stig and Top Gear).

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Look Elsewhere For The Stems And Resin

It's been a busy weekend here at the blog.  We've had to contend with a whole 3 page views in the last couple of days.  Apparently y'all are just way too excited about unknown printing companies.  Well, even though that didn't fire you up, this surely will.

We're off in the southeastern part of the city, right next to the railroad tracks along Hiawatha Ave. that parallel the river.  It's the land of light rail, grain elevators and related businesses, no small number of which seem to be crumbling and in decline.

In that vein, here we have the Minneapolis Seed Company.  It may not be fully legible in the photo, but it was pretty clear when I drove by again today, so take my word for it.  Despite being a bit generically named, the Historical Society has this interesting postcard from 1910.  It seems this is part of the Cargill empire (pdf) and the former Terminal Elevator Company, formed in 1904 and renamed in 1912 amid restructuring brought about by fiscal crisis at the company.

In November of 1920, officials of the company reported that country dealers were holding on to their seed rather than selling it in hope of higher prices.  Later that year, American Seedsman published some interesting images of the interior of the company.

Here's shot of the elevator, just to the left up the tracks in the photo above.  Stick around and I'll show you something quite similar from a bit farther to the southwest.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Short Timer?

I've had this one laying around for awhile, and if I recall, I started to blog about it once before, but really couldn't read what it says so I stopped.  But this building, or more accurately the mostly empty block that it sits on are relevant to current events, so I though I'd get it up now.

This is what's called the McClellan Building, which belongs to the Star Tribune.  It's also part of the five square blocks on the east side of downtown that the Star Tribune has been looking to sell for awhile.  It seems to have found a buyer for this particular block, which was part of the recently-passed plan to build a new Vikings stadium nearby.  I'm not exactly sure what use this block will be put to, but it's a sure bet that this building will be gone at some point in the next few years of construction.

As fan of old buildings and old signs, that's a little bit sad, but I'm also a fan of urban redevelopment, so I'm hoping beyond hope that the stadium plan will finally help revitalize this underused corner of the city.

As for the sign itself, it's not so easy to read, as I mentioned.  Clearly there was a printing and lithography business here, most likely before the Star Tribune acquired it.  Unfortunately, I can't really make out its name.

You would think the name of the building, which is well documented, might be a clue, but it's not really helping me either.