Sidewalk of the Week: 34th Avenue South

The other day I happened across the holy grail of sidewalk wandering: the perfect corner.

Some friends had called a meeting at a local dive bar, somewhere I hadn't been before. It was yet another gorgeous summer day in South Minneapolis, and I was taking my sweet time wandering along the streets on my way there. Not heading in any particular direction, and there it was. I was instantly arrested.

The intersection of 34th Avenue and 50th Street is a nearly perfect streetcorner, quiet sidewalks leading into a neighborhood center containing just the right amount of life, as if Goldilocks lived here. On this crossing, buildings come together and collect at this spot, reaching up just high enough, like picking grapes at a Rococco picnic.

The corner has three or four restaurants, and each one seems tuned to different hours of the day. 3 Tiers is perfect for breakfast, Dominguez will give you tacos for lunch, and you can sit on the patio of Al Vento for dinner before getting a drink at the new Town Hall Lanes late into the evening. 

[A better sidewalk of shops is hard to find in this town.]

[The most amazing Latin American sidewalk pieta.]

[Dentistry and density.]

[Mixed-use mailboxes betray diversity.]
Is this the Keewaydin neighborhood? The name is a breeze tickling my ear. It means "northwest wind" in Ojibwe, the wind that carries autumn far across the prairie and into the city at the equinox. Somehow "keewaydin" was also the name of my high school yearbook, and stepping into this neighborhood it feels somehow like I've been here before. It is uncanny.

A shoe store sits in the middle, large and big-box defiant. It must mean that here people are walking, strolling, running through rubber soles with consistency. A good bookstore and a good shoe store will get you far in life.

More necessities? This corner boasts two intriguing dentistries. Each sits inside its architectural style like a pearl. One dentist, lodged inside an otherwise windowless bit of stucco somehow transcends itself with a simple swoosh. The name on the side of the large blank parking lot wall brings out the only possible beauty one could ever find here. Around the corner, another impossible dentist, art deco and delightfully gaudy.

I have been here before, years ago a friend brought me to the taco place, and it rings a bell. It is a masterpiece of refurbished kitcsh, formerly some sort of a drive-in, now adorned with a sidewalk painted astroturf green and a statuette diorama featuring a donkey.

The commercial stretch, 34th Avenue, boasts the kinds of mixed up shops that reward a stroll: a Pizza Hut sharing a wall with some kind of creative class entrepreneur, an excellent example of a barber shop. Sidewalk cafes and flowers and embedded entrances and windows galore.

[Somehow JR Shand DDS leaves me in a stucco stupor.]

[The art deco dentist "caters to cowards."]

[Pizza Hut meets the creative class.]

[An auto shop house: an excellent fusion of residence and commerce.]

[Oxendale's sidewalk is the best a blank wall can be.]
Capping the block is Oxendales, the kind of large-small local grocery that barely exist nowadays. Like the first dentist, the building is plain: one-story, concrete, and utilitarian.

But here's where the magic of Nokomis appears. Planters sit along the freshly painted blank wall. The parking lot is lined with a small garden, and bike racks appear along the street. Everywhere on this corner, the neighborhood somehow transforms auto shops into sidewalks, drive-thru banks into meaningful places. Care is visible, like laugh wrinkles of an old woman with a good sense of humor. 

Sometimes South Minneapolis can feel too linear, stretching without interruption along its gridded axes. The sidewalks of 34th Avenue rise apart from that, in the shadow of the city's Southeast lake. They are an easter egg at the end of a summer's day.

[Flowers are everywhere on the sidewalks of 34th.]

[Mug & Brush, like a dusty old saloon with a hitching post for bicycles.]


iridia said...

Nice Blog and Horizon Concept fastest growing industry in India. Horizon Concept presenting Hanging Swimming pool concept in India.

Justin Schuetz said...

don't forget McDonald's Liquors! My 16yo nephew from Germany was so tickled with the sign that he posed in front of it to show his friends back home.

Earl Netwal said...

Just recently came across your post on 34th. Well done.

Earl Netwal said...

great idea to celebrate the commercial streets of the city.

Roger said...

Having lived two blocks from the corner, and having shopped and banked their for 45 years, I agree with you. It wasn't always this cool, but nearly so. The restaurants and a refurbished Oxendales grocery store have brought the vitality. You missed the third dentist, Dr. Proschel, located in a sixties box.

katie said...

If you go a little souther, if that is a word?? you will find the newly refurbished Nokomis Library, Post Office, Hardware Store with the solar on top of it's garage, and The Tailor Shop. Also the Hair Salon.. we have it all.

Ed Felien said...

We would like permission to publish your blog on 34th Avenue in our Nokomis edition of Southside Pride. Please contact Ed Felien: edfelien@outhsidepride.com