[Two spotted cows hang out on the corner of 42nd and 28th and gaze longingly Eastward. Why? Why not.]
One of the real tests of a walkable neighborhood is if you can go to your corner and find all the “basics," all the necessities that you might need in your everyday life. The idea being that your neighborhood streetcorner, the collection of shops gathered there, can stand in for the Walmart out on the freeway. This is the "old fashioned" idea that you can actually walk around your city in order to do your shopping. This is the idea that, only a half mile away, connected via sidewalk, sit a cluster of buildings run by business owners with actual names who will sell you milk or bread, or maybe there's a café that you can walk to from your house.
And of all the little corner clumps in South Minneapolis, there's nowhere that I've been that comes so perfectly close to having everything you need as the oft-overlooked corner of 28th Avenue and 42nd Street. Here you will find everything one could possibly need, and all in perfect proportion, and everything at near-ideal levels of human-scale and local ownership and charm and propriety. Yes, this corner has everything you need. If I was stranded on a desert island and could choose only one Minneapolis intersection to take with me, this would be the corner I'd choose.
You will find a bike shop that serves amazing coffee, the most charming little bakery with fresh loaves of bread, tasty cookies, croissants and muffins at can't-be-beat prices, a barber shop, a “chow mein” style chinese restaurant, a sporting goods store, a well-stocked hardware with a host of old dudes ready to answer any questions, a mid-sized grocery store, a bar with outdoor tables, a great selection of tap beer, and delicious burgers.
A typical visit to the corner goes like this: I went there to check out a bicycle but stopped and grabbed a croissant at the Baker's Wife, got a wonderful single-source coffee from the Angry Catfish, finally bought the basketball that I'd been meaning to get from the sporting goods store, and then read a book over a pint of beer at Buster's. While I was sitting there I witnessed one of the corner's more delightful economic rituals, as pair of bakers emerged from the bakery bearing large bags of fresh hamburger buns, walked around the corner, and delivered them into the front door of Buster's. That's about the most local supply chain possible.
[A woman waits to cross 28th Avenue holding her bag of just-made Chinese takeout from Bill's Chinese Gourmet. Why Bill's? Why not.]
South Minneapolis is dotted with wonderful little commercial corners like this one, just about every spot where two streetcar lines intersected. But few corners can offer so much of what you need in so few store fronts as this corner. And that's why 28th and 42nd is this week's sidewalk of the week.