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Midway Walmart to close Sept. 20

Posted on 17 September 2019 by Tesha Christensen

St. Paul’s only Walmart store, located in the Midway Marketplace at 1450 University Ave. W., will close Sept. 20. The pharmacy will close one week earlier, on Sept. 13.
The retail giant issued a statement on Aug. 28 citing factors that included poor overall performance. Employees commented on consistently high theft rates at the Midway Marketplace location, and its inability to provide a full scale grocery as also being contributing factors.
The store’s 333 workers will be encouraged to seek positions at other Walmart locations, the company said. The nearest Walmart stores are located in West St. Paul and Roseville. Employees who don’t choose to relocate will be paid through Nov. 8, and subsequently will receive severance pay.
Walmart is one of the world’s largest companies with revenues worth more than $500 billion, according to the 2018 Fortune Global 500 list. It is also the largest private employer in the world with 2.2 million employees, yet it is quietly closing stores across the US and Canada.
Other recent major retail closures in the neighborhood include Herberger’s in the Midway Marketplace, and the Rainbow Foods that was torn down in the adjacent Midway Shopping Center to make room for Allianz Field. It remains to be seen what kind of amenities will be developed to meet the needs of Hamline Midway residents.
Kraus-Anderson Realty is the development division of Kraus-Anderson Construction. They purchased the Midway Marketplace last March. The 324,430-square-foot center has been anchored by national and regional businesses including Walmart, Cub Foods, TJ Maxx, LA Fitness, and Dollar Tree for years. According to Kraus-Anderson Realty, redevelopment plans include the addition of office and retail space, residential and hotel development.

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Krueger writes updated version of ‘Huckleberry Finn’

Krueger writes updated version of ‘Huckleberry Finn’

Posted on 17 September 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Local author of popular Cork O’Connor series considers ‘This Tender Land’ to be his best book


William Kent Krueger said that one thing he knew about this book when he started was that he wanted the kids to be on an epic journey, and the journey he thought most about was Homer’s “Odyssey.” (Photo by Jan Willms)

For years, local author William Kent Krueger has wanted to write an updated version of Huckleberry Finn.
“I knew it would be a story of kids on the river, but an updated version,” he said. “I knew when I wrote the story it would still be in the past, but I wasn’t sure just when.”
The multi-award winning author has spent the past three years researching and writing the book, while still working on his Cork O’Connor fiction series about an Irish and Ojibwe private investigator.
The result is “This Tender Land,” a story of four Minnesota orphans set in the Depression era, who flee from the Indian school they had been sent to and travel by canoe along the river, connecting along the way with others who are trying to survive hard times.
The book was published Sept. 3, and Krueger will have a full schedule of book signings in the Twin Cities area.

Crushing weight of
Krueger wrote “Ordinary Grace” in 2013, a novel about a young man, a small town and a murder, set in 1961. That book garnered him the prestigious Edgar award for best novel, and he contracted to write a second companion novel.
He said the idea for this second novel was to go more deeply into the effects of war on people of his father’s generation, the “Greatest Generation.” “It was an attempt to look at how war affected these men when they came back and tried to live ordinary lives. But it wasn’t the story I thought it would be, and over time my heart just wasn’t in it. I had a contractual deadline, but I wasn’t happy with the manuscript, and I ultimately spoke with my editor and publisher and asked them to pull it and not publish it. They were quite understanding, but reminded me I still owed them a companion novel.”
Krueger said that because “Ordinary Grace” had been so well received, there were extraordinary expectations for his next novel.
“They were crushing, and I was feeling the weight of those expectations the whole time. Once all that weight was off my shoulders, I felt free,” he explained. He put away his original manuscript and started over. “I could write what I wanted,” he said. And “This Tender Land” came into being.

How we remake ourselves in extreme need
“I wish I could tell you what ultimately led me to set the story in the Depression,” Krueger said. “I think one of the things I wanted to explore was how as human beings we react when we are in times of extreme need. The Depression just seemed the perfect backdrop to talk about how we respond to each other in those kinds of circumstances, and the truth is we respond in all kinds of ways.”
With their journey down the river, the kids in Krueger’s book see the broad spectrum of how people cope with harsh reality.
Krueger remembers hearing stories of the Depression from family members. His wife’s grandmother for a period of time lived with her family in an abandoned corn crib. Krueger’s father recalled how his dad was out of work, and families had to move in together. “My father came out of the Oklahoma Dustbowl, and stories of the Depression were certainly fresh in our parents’ minds.
“The Depression reshaped us as a nation,” Krueger said. “So much collapsed and disintegrated, and we had to come out of that and remake ourselves as people and as a nation. It was an epic period, and those children in the book are on an epic journey.”

Seeds of truth
Krueger is acclaimed for his strong characters and strong sense of place, yet he does not necessarily describe his characters in detail but lets the reader form an image in his or her mind.
“Unless something physical about a character is significant to his behavior or the story, I want people to imagine these characters in a way their imaginations create them,” he said. “What I shoot for is showing the weaknesses and strengths of a character.”
For “This Tender Land,” Krueger walked a lot of the land he thought his main characters might have walked. But for this book, he had to create a period of time that no longer exists and situations he has not experienced. For example, the Indian school and the Hooverville shanty towns he describes no longer exist, so he had to rely on extensive research.
“I tried to come up with specific telling details, and then I just imagined. There is a seed of truth in every story, and then the story grows. I tried to put as many seeds of truth in as I could. But it is just a story,” Krueger explained.
He said he always walks over the land he writes about, whether for his novels or for the 18 Cork O’Connor books he has written. “I don’t know how you can write about a place if you have not experienced it,” he said. “There is so much that is sensual and that you need to create movingly for a reader.”
“If you haven’t seen the color of a river, or smelled the river, or heard the sounds of a tree frog or watched the reflection of a bird across the river, how can you write about that? So I kayaked the river and walked the places Odie, the story’s narrator, walked. I climbed the hills.”
He also spent a lot of time in libraries and in Mankato, pored through the Archives of the Pipestone and the Gale Family History and read many old newspapers. When he writes his books, he said he does some research up front, some during the writing, and some at the end when he needs to go back and fill in any missing pieces.

Epic journey inspired by
Krueger said that one thing he knew about this book when he started was that he wanted the kids to be on an epic journey, and the journey he thought most about was Homer’s “Odyssey.” He said he began to think about places his characters could go that would mirror the places Odysseus journeyed. The orphans encounter One Eyed Jack, a flawed but redemptive loner who resembles the Cyclops. They meet Sister Eve, a modern version of Circe. Maybeth, similar to Calypso, tries to lure Odie off the river. The children come to a place that could be compared to the Land of the Lotus Eaters. And like Odysseus, Odie eventually finds his way home to Ithaca.
“With the Odyssey in mind, the story began to coalesce, and it was so much easier. I had all the elements in my mind, and I was able to put them together,” Krueger said.
He writes most of his books in a coffee shop, this time choosing the Caribou on Lexington. He is currently working on another Cork O’Connor book, “Lightning Strike,” which is a prequel to the others and tells of Cork’s boyhood and the people who shaped him into the man he became. “I’m having a ball with it,” Krueger said. He has two more O’Connor books contracted, but he does not see any end to the Cork O’Connor series at this point.
He also plans on writing another separate novel. “I am so grateful “Ordinary Grace” opened the door for me to be able to do the things I want,” Krueger said.
“I thought when I wrote that, it would be the best book I have ever written. I changed my mind. I think “This Tender Land” is better, and I love it just as much, if not more.
“It’s just a good story,” he continued. “It’s a very old-fashioned form of storytelling. I tried not to think of what audience to write for. I just wanted to write the kind of story that would appeal to me.”


Local book signings
by William Kent Krueger
Monday, Sept. 16, 7 p.m.
Barnes and Noble, Har Mar Mall

Friday, Sept. 20, Noon
Lake Country Booksellers
White Bear Lake

Saturday, Oct. 12
Twin Cities Book Festival
Minnesota State Fairgrounds
Saint Paul

Wednesday, Oct. 23, 7 p.m.
Subtext Books
Saint Paul

For a more complete schedule, go to  www.williamkentkrueger.com.


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Matching clients of color with therapists of color

Posted on 17 September 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Midway business owner levels the playing field for people of color with mental health and addiction issues

As an adult, Katy Armendariz has delved into how she lost her cultural identity after being adopted from Korea, and she’s working to help others sort through various types of trauma through that lens. (Photo by Jan Willms)

Katy Armendariz wanted to start an agency that would level the playing field for people of color seeking help with mental health issues, and diminish the disparities between them and the dominant culture.
And so she did.
She started Minnesota CarePartner, located at the old Central medical building at I-94 and Lexington. Starting with a couple of part-time therapists, the agency has grown to 55 employees.
But this did not happen overnight, and along the way, Armendariz has struggled with her own traumas and issues while forging a path forward in building and strengthening Minnesota CarePartner..

Stripped of cultural identity
“I am from Korea,” she said in a recent interview, as she described her background. “My birth mom was homeless and had a mental health condition. She couldn’t parent, so she gave birth and then walked out of the hospital.”
Armendariz was first placed in an orphanage and then foster care, and eventually was adopted by a Minnesota couple.
“There were good intentions, but I was completely stripped of my cultural identity,” she recalled. “They denied any racial experience I had. I was exposed to a lot of comments growing up, and I started to grow very critical of the systems that create disparities between who is adopting and who is being adopted.”
Armendariz noted that oftentimes the child’s adoptive parents did not know how to do their hair, did not know much about their culture, and did not raise them around people who looked like them.

Burn out leads to new business
She attained her master’s degree and became licensed and started working as an Adult Rehabilitative Mental Health Services (ARMHS) worker, then became a therapist. “But I was unfulfilled; it was just a burnout,” she said.
“I wasn’t sure I wanted to stay in the social work field,” she continued, “so I went out and got my real estate license when I was pregnant with my second son. One week after I had given birth to him, I held my first open house. And I hated it, really hated it. I decided I didn’t want to do that.”
Armendariz was drawn back to the field of social work, but she determined she wanted to provide mental health services for individuals who faced disparities and families at risk of child protection services.
“In Minnesota, 85 percent of child protection services are with families of color,” she said, “in a system that is unfair and unequal.”
Armendariz went out and applied for a business name, got a tax ID and got certified for ARMHS and Children’s Therapeutic Services and Supports (CTSS.)
“I hired a therapist part-time, I made some flyers and brochures and set up a website, and I went out to several counties and told them what we wanted to do. And it just exploded. We now have 55 employees.”

Roots in Recovery
Minnesota CarePartner has a unique outpatient program, according to Armendariz.
“It is not a typical Minnesota model,” she said. “We take a social justice approach, where we validate and support.”
The program reaches out to people where they are, staff meeting with them in their homes or homeless shelters or libraries. “A lot of our clients have been underserved and over oppressed,” she said, “and programs designed by the dominant race don’t always work for people of color.”
As well as addressing mental health concerns, Armendariz’s agency has set up its own substance abuse program called Roots in Recovery. The program, which started last December, now admits 200 participants. The substance recovery, also, approaches things from a cultural standpoint, according to Armendariz.
“We deal with the experiences, systematic and traumatic, that contribute to addiction,” she said. “We take some of the more violent clients who have been kicked out of other programs. We will help them.”

Her own addiction
As Armendariz continued to build her organization, she struggled with her own problems with addiction.
“I was doing payroll, billing, hiring, marketing, clinical supervision and compliance, raising a family and dealing with a lot of unresolved trauma, and I started drinking a lot of wine. It became an addiction. I went to treatment, and it was one of the best things I could have done.”

Coffee Rehab
As the substance abuse program for Minnesota CarePartner took off, Armendariz started planning for a project that could employ addicts as they grew in their sobriety. She wanted to start a coffee house called Coffee Rehab, run and operated by individuals in recovery.
“I did a Kickstarter and found a location on East Lake St. in Minneapolis,” she said.
She had support from her Twelth Ward council member Andrew Johnson, who said the following about her proposal: “For anyone struggling with addiction, knowing they are not alone and getting support from others can make a huge difference. Having Coffee Rehab in our neighborhood is going to help many people on their path towards healthier and happier lives. It’s truly an asset for our community.”
Mayor Jacob Frey and Chef Andrew Zimmern were also supporters. She got T-shirts made. But the location fell through.
“It was kind of a sign I needed to slow down,” Armendariz said. ”Í needed to clean up in any areas where we are struggling.” She said that in a couple years, when her current lease is up, she will look again for a location that can house her agency and the coffee house.

Reflecting community they serve
Regarding her agency, Armendariz said, “I wanted to reflect the community we serve.” She said she looks for staff members who may speak the same language, share a similar background and look like the clients they work with.
“It is hard during a therapy session to have to use an interpreter,” she noted.
It is Armendariz’s hope that Minnesota will make an investment in communities of color, offer more opportunities for clinicians of color and help them get into school.
“We apply the same standards to all people, but starting out I had less credibility and more issues getting off the ground,” she said.
Looking back a few years to when she began her agency, Armendariz said she was not certain she had what it took to run a company. “Who am I, to think I can do this?” she recalled asking herself. “But through the process of recovery and sobriety, watching things fall into place and attracting a great staff, I know I can do this.”
Currently Minnesota CarePartner provides addiction services for adults only, but in mid-September this will include an adolescent program that will help children suffering from addiction. For mental health treatment, the agency treats all ages, including babies.

Exactly what she’s supposed to be doing
Armendariz said initially one of her biggest challenges was retaining staff. “There’s a big staff turnover when you don’t offer PTO or benefits,” she said. She also realized she was doing too many things at once and wearing too many hats. “When you do too many things, you can’t do everything with quality,” she said.
“But now I have an administrative team, a clinical supervisor and staff. I can wear the hat of manager.”
She added, “Being a start-up is really hard. People want to judge you and criticize you, and it is hard to build from the ground up.”
Right now, Armendariz said she feels amazing. “I am in a perfect spot, doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing,”
She said one of the greatest rewards she has felt has been seeing a culture at her company that is truly a safe space for clinicians and counselors of color, as well as others. “We have fun.”
“The staff members now stay because they get the mission and they believe in it,” Armendariz said. “Finally, after blood, sweat and tears and being out in the arena, I am glad now things are shaping up.”

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Building Boats, Launching Lives

Building Boats, Launching Lives

Posted on 17 September 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Geri Jwanouskos listened to Matthew McPherson explain canoe building techniques.

Darwin Muzzy tried his hand at lashing a canoe frame.

Darwin Muzzy tries his hand at lashing a canoe frame during an Urban Boatbuilders event at Como Lake Pavillion on Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019. Urban Boatbuilders is a 501(c)(3) non-profit focused on empowering youth to be successful in work and life through woodworking and experiential learning. Urban Boatbuilders was founded in 1995 as a partnership between community leaders who saw an increasing lack of opportunities for youth to learn, develop, and grow through hands-on activities. Last year, the organization served more than 850 youth throughout the Twin Cities. The Como Lake event celebrated the graduation of 20 youth apprentices. At the event, youth launcedh boats they built, told stories from their build, shared their visions for their futures, and led a hands-on community build experience for guests to learn woodworking skills. During a three-month intensive Apprenticeship Program, youth facing barriers to employment developed work skills and stronger visions for their futures while building skin-on-frame canoes. Through coaching, mentorship, and collaborative boatbuilding, Urban Boatbuilders’ apprentices leave the program with enhanced work skills, greater self-confidence, and stronger visions for their futures. (Photo by Terry Faust)


(L-R) Urban Boat builders Damarion Evan and Tamysha Camaco-Estdgillo navigate Lake Como in one of their new canoes.

Kiara Montgomery, a senior Urban Boat Builder, shows (L-R) Carey Montez, Jan Montez, Faith Wisland, and Richard Wisland learned how to lash together a canoe frame on a practice stand during an event at Lake Como Pavillion on Aug. 21, 2019

Canoes built by Urban Boat Bulders line up at Lake Como, ready to take to the water.

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Mobile Market 14Sm

TC Mobile Market fills gaps in local grocery scene

Posted on 17 September 2019 by Tesha Christensen


Twin Cities Mobile Market’s Keshawn Williams (right) finished a transaction with a Hamline Hi-Rise resident. There are no chips, pop, or junk to be found on the Mobile Market, and customers comment that they appreciate not having the temptation. The easy-to-spot Mobile Market brings healthy food directly into Twin Cities neighborhoods on 33 regularly scheduled routes. (Photos by Margie O’Loughlin)

The Midway offers plenty of grocery shopping opportunities, but what if someone is physically unable to get to a grocery store – or just can’t afford the prices?
The residents of Hamline Hi-Rise, a 186 unit St. Paul Public Housing complex located at 777 Hamline Ave. N., are grateful to have another option.
Technically, the residents of the hi-rise live in what has been called a food desert (though the language is changing.) That term has been used to describe urban areas where people are low-income, and live more than one mile from a full-service grocery (or 10 miles from a full-service grocery in rural areas.) Hamline Hi-Rise offers subsidized housing to senior citizens, and is located 12+ blocks from the Midway CUB and Target.
Every Thursday at noon, a retired MTC bus pulls into the Hamline Hi-Rise parking lot and opens its double doors for shoppers. Painted from top to bottom with colorful fruits and vegetables, this grocery store on wheels is called the Twin Cities Mobile Market – and it really gets around.
Leah Porter is the founder and director of the Mobile Market, a social enterprise of the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation. Six years ago, she had just graduated from Hamline University with an MA in non-profit management. Her concentration on food distribution systems had her thinking a lot about how food access could be improved in the Twin Cities.
She thought, “If people are facing barriers such as lack of transportation, affordability, or mobility, why not bring the grocery store to them?”
Porter talked with hundreds of community members, testing the viability of the grocery store on wheels idea. It was important to her that whatever concept emerged from these discussions be community-driven. She wrote a business plan for the Twin Cities Mobile Market, secured funding for her new non-profit organization, was able to buy a retired MTC bus at a public auction, and oversaw its acquisition by the Wilder Foundation in early 2014.
By the end of that year, the first Mobile Market route was launched with 19 stops in St. Paul. A second repurposed bus extended service into Minneapolis in 2017, which brought the total number of stops to 33.
The Hamline Hi-Rise is just one stop on the St. Paul route, but it’s an important one.
Porter said, “We’ve partnered with them from the beginning, ever since their resident council reached out to us. Something unique about the Mobile Market is that where ever we stop, anybody who needs groceries is welcome to come onboard and shop. We don’t check ID or require income verification. We believe there’s a huge gap between food shelves and regular grocery stores. The Mobile Market is filling that gap by bringing healthy, affordable food right into the neighborhoods that need it.”
The Mobile Market stocks more than 200 items in their year-round inventory, and has price points at or below what grocery stores charge. Items for sale include fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, dairy, assorted dry goods, and a limited number of paper products.
To increase affordability, the Mobile Market accepts EBT and participates in a state-funded program called Hunger Solutions. Through that program, for every dollar a customer spends on fresh produce, they receive one Market Buck to spend on fresh produce the next time they visit. In addition to the Market Bucks, anyone who spends $10 with their EBT card at the Mobile Market gets a goodie-bag with free produce donated by Loaves and Fishes. Every first-time customer also receives a free, re-usable tote bag for carrying their groceries home.
Porter said, “We try to provide an excellent value to our customers for their money, as well as friendly, helpful service. We know that many factors contribute to good health – that making positive social connections is very important. For the elderly especially, isolation and loneliness are social determinants that can lead to ill health. We make every effort to get to know our customers, especially the ones who come regularly.”
The Mobile Market has volunteer opportunities for community members interested in leveling the playing field of equitable food distribution. To learn more about volunteering, to check the Mobile Market schedule, or to make a donation toward the cost of food or fuel, visit www.twincitiesmobilemarket.org.

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TCGIS RENDERING German-Immersion-School-03 (2)sm

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Neighbors mourn ‘senseless destruction’ of former Saint Andrew’s

Posted on 11 August 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Twin Cities German Immersion school to demolish church for three-story addition

“This is a day we hoped would never come,” stated Tom Goldstein during a rally on the steps of the former St. Andrew’s Church on Sunday, July 21, 2019.
While the group fighting to save the landmark from destruction received a temporary restraining order to block demolition from Ramsey County District Court Judge Jennifer L. Frisch on July 15, she also ordered the grassroots neighborhood group to come up with a $1.9 million bond by Monday, July 22 to compensate property owner Twin Cities German Immersion School (TCGIS) for what it says would be its damages associated with a construction delay.
The public charter school intends to erect a $7.4 million building on the site of the former church and its parking lot to accommodate additional students. Friends of Warrendale/Save Historic Saint Andrews (SHSA) argued that the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act prevents the destruction of historical resources.
A ruling on July 23 from the Minnesota Court of Appeals left the district court order standing.
SHSA was not able to raise the bond money – which preservationists termed “insurmountable” – and the city issued a demolition permit.
In protest, about 100 historic preservation supporters gathered on a Sunday afternoon outside the 92-year-old Romanesque building designed by the city’s first architect, Charles A. Hausler. Many of those there were former members at the church which was closed in 2011 and sold to TCGIS in 2013.
“I got involved because I think it’s a tragedy for elected officials to take so little interest in preserving history,” said Goldstein.
He added, “We have demonstrated that this church can be re-purposed.”
The school originally bought bonds of $8.5 million to renovate the buildings on site, including the former church sanctuary which it calls the AULA, and still owes most of the funds.

Demolition being funded by taxpayer money
“Demolition of St. Andrew’s will reverberate through the Como Warrendale community for many years to come,” observed preservationists in a statement released by SHSA, which has nominated the building for the National Historic Register. “The school’s claim that wiping out the heritage of the Italian and Hungarian immigrants who built this iconic church building is necessary for young children to immerse themselves in German language and culture will fall on deaf ears as the rancor caused by this unnecessary destruction lingers. That’s often the result of a tragic outcome that is completely avoidable.”
If it proceeds, the school “will be making the choice to wound this community that will never heal,” said Ward 7 Council member Jane Prince, who sidestepped tradition to speak out on an issue outside her district.
She expressed her hope that “sensible minds” would prevail.
Prince honored the city’s great preservationists who “helped us to be different than Minneapolis in this way,” and observed that the city’s historic structures help tell stories of St. Paul.
“The teardown of this building is happening with our property tax dollars,” said Prince.
She shared her belief that the historic Saint Andrew’s Church building could be reused.
Prince recalled how citizens stood in the way of a wrecking ball and saved the Landmark Center in 1972.
City Council President and Ward 5 resident Amy Brendmoen, who lives a few blocks from the school, has supported the TCGIS plan and spoke against historic designation in favor of what she views as a property rights issue.
The K-8 charter school intends to build a new 24,000-square-foot addition with classrooms, a gymnasium, cafeteria and individualized instruction rooms in the footprint of the former church structure. Plans are that it be completed for the 2020-2021 school year.
TCGIS obtained a demolition permit in early August from the city and expected the building tear-down to begin after Aug. 5. The city’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) gave preliminary approval for up to $9 million in conduit revenue bonds that the school will use to fund the building replacement project, with a final vote scheduled for Aug. 14.
The school held a hastily planned open house on July 28 that was attended by about 100 people to say farewell to the building.
Meanwhile, protesters organized outside with signs that read, “Demolition does not heal a community.”
The next week, SHSA organized a protest at the Governor’s mansion on Aug. 3 and a candlelight vigil at St. Andrew’s on Aug. 4.
Father John Forliti has lived across the street for his entire life, and his dad moved to the neighborhood at age 14.
He doesn’t know what he’ll do when the demolition crew shows up.
“I’m not sure I’ll be able to stay in that house and watch it go,” Forliti said.

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St. Paul inventor helps save summer and maybe, the planet


St. Paul inventor helps save summer and maybe, the planet

Posted on 11 August 2019 by Tesha Christensen

By Stephanie Fox
It was just a mishap, or so it seemed at the time. But, in the summer of 2008, while boating on Lake Okoboji in Iowa, Alex Orcutt lost a flip-flop. “I was shoving a ski boat off a sandbar into the lake and when I jumped back, the flip-flop was gone,” he recalled.
And then, it happened again, this time when Orcutt was biking. His flip-flop slipped from the bike petal and off his foot.
It could have been a disaster, but it turned out to be fate. He retreated into his Como Ave. basement to work on a design, something quick and easy, that would help keep flip-flops on people’s feet instead of letting the iconic summer shoe fly off into the unknown. His invention was Toe Tethrs, a do-hicky that attaches to both the sandal strap and to the big toe, keeping the flip-flops firmly on the feet.
“With these, you can run great in flip-flops, you can use them in canoes, kayaks. You can wear flip-flops all the time, you don’t need closed sandals,” Orcutt said.

Made in North Minneapolis of recycled materials
Orcott had no real design experience, but in 2018, he became an inventor, awarded a patent, number 10,070,684, for his Toe Tethrs.
“I worked hard trying to find the right material to make them,” he said. “We tried rubber bands and other things but settled on a silicone blend. It doesn’t irritate, it’s durable, flexible and eco-friendly. And now, we have an eco-friendly business. That’s our real mission.”
Soon, he was selling them through his online company, Tethrco. The Toe Tethrs sell for $10 a pair, with 30 percent of the profits from sales going to environmental charities including Ocean Sole, a non-profit company in Kenya that recycles flip-flops and makes them into colorful pieces of art and functional products, available over the Internet.
“More than 40 tons of discarded flip-flops wash on the shores of Kenya every year,” said Orcott. “People gather them and recycle them which helps clean up beaches and gives people jobs.”
Creating the product and the company was exciting, he said, but the patenting process was long and tedious. He reached out to LegalCORPS, which provides free advice to low-income start-ups and inventors in Minnesota.
“Without their help, I wouldn’t have been able to do this,” he said. “I had to submit information and they set me up with legal representation. It was a five-year process, but working with them was a great experience.”
This is Tethrco’s first summer in sales and so far, they’ve sold more than 1,500 of the bright red Toe Tethrs, all made in North Minneapolis out of recycled material. So far, said Orcutt, it’s been all word-of-mouth generating sales. He quit his job as an EMT last August to work on marketing his product and on his real job, being a single father.

‘Labor of love’
His two daughters, 14-year old Lilly and 12-year old Layla, have been working with him since the beginning. They are featured in the company’s online advertising and have become Toe Tethr models, as well as posting product information to their own social media.
“It’s a labor of love – a family affair,” he said.

More shoreline in Minnesota than California, Oregon and Washinton combined
The family connection goes back a couple of generations. Orcott’s grandfather was president of his local Izaak Walton League, one of the earliest national conservation organizations, founded in 1922. His dad did work for the Sierra Club. “I’m a third generation conservationist,” said Orcutt.
“We’re the land of 10,000 Lakes,” he said. “We have more shoreline than California, Oregon and Washington put together – shoreline and waterways that need protection.”
In addition to the Toe Tethrs (in adult and kid’s sizes) and colorfully designed flip-flops, the Tethrco website also features t-shirts, caps and other items displaying the Tethrco logo. Orcutt also started adding a decorative silvery Hamsa charm, a hand-shaped amulet from the Middle East and North Africa, a protective symbol said to bring happiness and luck, designed to be fastened to Toe Tethrs.
Maybe some of that luck will rub off on the new company. Orcott said he’s trying to find a foothold with the outdoor recreation and adventure customer. In the future, Orcott is hoping to expand, to collaborate with brick and mortar stores like Minnesota-based Target.
“I would love to get in there but I’m still learning to navigate that process, learning marketing and sales,” he remarked.
Orcott said he’s hoping that the Tethrco logo will become widely recognized, so that people wearing it will be immediately identified as supporters of conservation, clean water and clean beaches.
“We’re not just in it for profit,” said Orcott. “We’re in it for a purpose. We’re in it supporting recycling and conservation. Taking care of the planet is a no-brainer.”

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Citizens group reducing pollution in Como Lake

Citizens group reducing pollution in Como Lake

Posted on 11 August 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Anyone who has walked or biked around Como Lake this summer has got to wonder, “What is that smell?”
The short answer is decomposing curly-leaf pondweed.
The long answer is more complicated.
At Capitol Region Watershed District (CRWD), Water Resource Project Manager Britta Belden described the life cycle of this invasive aquatic species, and why it causes such a problem in Como Lake.
She said, “Curly-leaf pondweed was first observed here in the early 1990s, and it now dominates the aquatic plant eco-system – with nearly 100% coverage by early June. It has done so well because Como Lake is a shallow lake with a maximum depth of 15’. Curly-leaf pondweed starts growing in late fall, from seedlings dropped in June. It continues growing through the winter beneath the ice, which gives it a competitive advantage.”

“When the ice goes out and sunlight hits the water in April, these plants really take off and grow rapidly.”
~ Britta Belden
She continued, “Curly-leaf pondweed forms thick mats of vegetation on the lake surface in the spring, and then quickly dies off in late June. This coincides with peak sunlight and high summer temperatures, providing perfect conditions for rapid decomposition – and that’s what people are smelling.”
Despite continued attempts to improve the water quality of Como Lake, its phosphorous levels are about three times higher than the state standards for shallow lakes. Once the curly-leaf pondweed starts to die, it releases a burst of phosphorous back into the water and, in a predictable cycle, is followed by a major algae bloom.

Phosphorous is not only present in Como Lake because of decomposition, it’s also being transported in runoff to the lake.
To address this problem, CRWD invests in projects and partnerships that reduce nutrients and other pollutants in watershed runoff. In one such partnership, CRWD supports a neighborhood group called the Como Active Citizen Network; their Como Curb Clean-Up is a coordinated effort to remove leaves and other organic material from neighborhood streets for six weeks in the fall.
This program has about 100 participants – all of them committed to improving the water quality of Como Lake through this practice.
Janna Caywood is a founding member of the Como Active Citizen Network, and a Como resident for more than 20 years. She said, “We’re a group of neighbors who care about our nearby lake.
“We’re not the leaf police but we believe that, as property owners, we have the ability to impact our neighborhood positively. By keeping the curbs and gutters clean in front of our houses, we can prevent additional phosphorous from getting into Como Lake through run-off.”

“Many people mistakenly believe that phosphorous in commercial lawn fertilizers is the culprit, but it’s decaying organic matter (leaves and grass clippings) that really throw Como Lake out of balance.”
~ Janna Caywood
Part of the problem is that Como Lake is being asked to do more than it realistically can. Caywood explained that there are no longer any natural tributaries delivering fresh water to the 70 acre lake. She said, “With 22 storm sewers draining into such a small lake, it has essentially become a glorified storm water basin. Yet, because of its location, we expect it to perform as a recreational amenity – and a natural amenity, too.”
Caywood said, “This kind of ‘non-source’ pollution is the hardest to address, because it’s coming from St. Paul, Roseville, and Falcon Heights through the storm water system. We see this as a great challenge for our generation, figuring out how to deal responsibly with the impact of human living on our waters.”
Looking ahead, the Capitol Region Watershed District will begin implementing new management strategies for Como Lake next year. Its 20-year Como Lake Management Plan contains 54 actions designed to improve the health of this much-loved neighborhood gathering spot. To better understand Como Lake both past and present, follow the link below to view a story map developed by the Capitol Region Watershed District. www.capitolregionwd.org/comolake


“Minnesota has a great responsibility for managing its lakes wisely. As a state, we are second only to Alaska in the amount of surface water that we have.”
~ Janna Caywood, Como Active Citizen Network

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Chroma Zone Mural & Art Festival coming to town

Chroma Zone Mural & Art Festival coming to town

Posted on 11 August 2019 by Tesha Christensen

For eight days in September, St. Paul’s Creative Enterprise Zone (CEZ), and partner Burlesque of North America, will host something that has never been done before in Minnesota.
The Chroma Zone Mural & Art Festival is a week-long event that will showcase the creation of 12 large outdoor murals, as well as community partner events within the CEZ.
The murals will be produced, more or less, on the spot. While there is no connecting theme between the 12 murals, the content will be “family friendly.”
The CEZ is a coalition of organizations, businesses and individuals working together to make its neighborhood a destination for creative enterprise. This cultural hub is centered around Raymond and University avenues, with its 300+ artist studios and maker spaces extending into the neighborhood in all directions.
Chroma Zone Music & Art Festival board chair Catherine Reid Day, said, “Mural-making has become a global movement because it generates so much community engagement. This kind of large scale public art creates a strong dialogue between the artist and the community. And it gives everyone a chance to live with art nearby.”
Just under 100 mural artists submitted proposals for the competition. The 12 winners were announced at the Urban Growler Brewing Company on June 18, with city officials, community members, event hosts, and sponsors in the audience. Half of the finalists are from the Twin Cities; the others are from CA, NY, and as far away as Norway and Brazil.
Twelve commercial buildings have been selected as mural sites.
Reid Day said, “The Chroma Zone Festival team approached owners of properties we felt would make great canvases – based on scale and visibility.” The mural locations will be announced once all of the details have been finalized. The majority of the properties are between Hwy 280 and Vandalia St.
Festival dates are Sept. 7-14, with artists working on different sites each day. A full schedule of events can be found at www.chromazone.net closer to the festival start.
In addition to the creation of 12 murals, Chroma Zone Mural & Art Festival will feature a week of programming throughout the CEZ. Events will include two nights of the Little Mekong Night Market, open studios, guided mural tours, Chromo Zone-themed beers available at CEZ breweries, and much more.
According to Reid Day, “The idea for a mural festival germinated in the hearts of Theresa Sweetland and Jack Becker (of Forecast Public Arts) years ago. We knew these festivals were happening in many American cities: Denver, Sacramento, Detroit, and Miami, to name a few.
“Something just clicked for me last year, and I said, ‘Let’s do it!’ Two lead donations came rather quickly, and we’ve now met our fundraising goal. Some of our fantastic sponsors include Dual Citizen Brewing Co., Wycliff, Platform Apartments, St. Paul Star Program, Mark Simonsen, Motley, Exeter, NewStudio Architecture, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, Vandalia Tower, All Energy Solar, Xcel Energy, First & First, and Stahl Construction.”
This event is being offered to the community free of charge. Reid Day hopes it will become an annual event, because, she said, “We believe that art fosters a sense of peace and connection within communities.”

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Happy centennial, Grotto House

Posted on 11 August 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Seven years to the day they bought the house at 1012 Grotto St., Emily and Jesse and their 10-pound Chihuahua Buster Busta held a party.
Their home – which they lovingly call the Grotto House – is 100 years old.
And that’s something to celebrate.

Know where you’re coming from
The Bustas bought the house on July 27, six weeks before they wed in 2012.
They met at age 14 while growing up in the east metro, graduated from Tartan High in Oakdale in 2007, and started dating in 2008. They attended school in St. Paul (he at Hamline Law School and she at Bethel University), and decided they wanted to stay in the city.

Emily fostered a love of old houses while growing up inside an 1888-era home in Highwood Hills by Pigs Eye Lake.
“You need to know where you’re coming from to know where you’re going,” Emily stated.
“Emily turned me on to old houses and I love them now,” remarked Jesse.
His dad, Brent Katzemmaier, who grew up near Como Lake, found the foreclosure along Grotto St. They had looked through about five houses before touring this one, and had been looking for an affordable price as Jesse was still in school.
“We saw it and we knew,” Emily recalled.
“I love the character – it’s not a cookie cutter [house],” observed Emily. “No one else has something like this. It’s cozy and not huge.”
They’re not entirely sure of the size of the two-story house, as written reports vary from 900 to 1,200 square feet. There’s an unfinished basement, with main level living room, kitchen, dining room, small bedroom/study and mud room, and two bedrooms with ample walk-in closets and a bathroom upstairs.
The purchase required patience, as the process with the bank took seven months. At one point, they discovered water pooled on the dining room floor. A leak from the second story bathroom trickled down and damaged the ceiling, wall and floor in their dining room. It cost $5,000 to fix, but was covered by the bank.
One of their first steps was gutting and redoing the one bathroom in the house. They worked to match the house’s period and style, but did add the convenience of a heated floor.
Upstairs windows were replaced with new wooden Pella ones. New lights resemble antique ones.
“We tried our hardest to keep original features and the character of the house,” said Jesse.
They ripped the carpet and asbestos tile off the upstairs floors to reveal oak beneath, which they refinished. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to remove the carpet and tile in the living room to reveal the wood there so they settled for new carpet. But just in time for the Centennial, they redid the fir floors in the main level bedroom that had been added to the house at a later time.
“Otherwise it was in pretty good shape,” said Jesse.
The original buffet and plate rail in the dining room stayed, and they didn’t need to make changes to the kitchen.

A big move in 1966
A home inspector clued them in on the fact that their 1919 house had a cinder block foundation, which meant it hadn’t always been at 1012 Grotto.
Last fall they began researching the history of their home’s move. They checked out property tax records, and learned it had been moved from Snelling and Randolph in 1966, and the property transitioned from residential to commercial. It used to sit at what is now the busy intersection of Snelling and University at 475 S. Snelling. The Bustas don’t know what was at 1012 Grotto before their house was moved in.
They do know that the woman, Mary Ann Kester, who moved their home also moved in the house directly south of them. It had originally been at 1510 St. Clair.
From the building permit, they discovered that the house cost $3,000 to construct. Another document from the time of the move showed costs at $1,200 was for concrete block, $2,000 for the movers, $750 for electric, and $1,000 for the plumbers.
Since they bought the house for $88,000, the property value has doubled. “We were in the right place at the right time,” said Emily.

A starter home for many
“I like knowing who came before us in the house,” stated Jesse.
They’re learned that their house has mostly been a starter home for the families that came before them.
Property tax records through the house’s move in the 1940s show that the longest anyone lived at 1012 Grotto was twelve years. “We appear to be the eighth family that has lived here at this site,” said Jesse. They do not have the titles from the time the house was on Snelling Ave.
It was public housing for 13 years after Kester sold the house to the St. Paul Urban Housing and Redevelopment Authority for $1 in 1969.
About five years ago, a car stopped and a woman told them she grew up in their house in the 1970s. She left before they could get any more details. The Bustas hope to learn more about the history of their house, and hope past residents share information with them.

‘They’re not as scary as you think’
Jesse now works for Progressive Insurance in New Brighton, and Emily recently took a job with the state of Minnesota’s education office at Bandana Square. They’ve sold their second car, and Emily enjoys biking to work.
They’re planning to become the longest living family at this address.
“We hope people can grow an appreciation for old houses and keep them in the neighborhood,” said Jesse. “And keep old churches too,” Emily added.
“They’re not as scary as you think they are.”
“They definitely take more work to maintain but it’s worth it in the end,” said Jesse. “The charm wins out.”
~ Contact the editor via email at tesha@MonitorSaintPaul.com.

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