Small business makeovers: Touring the Victoria and Lexington station areas

November 11, 2015

On September 23rd, the Neighborhood Development Center (NDC) along with community partner organizations and businesses hosted a walking tour from Victoria to Lexington Green Line LRT stations to showcase major exterior improvements being undertaken by nine small businesses in the area.  The targeted focus of these investments is to lift up and make visible anchors of businesses located in the Rondo Arts and Cultural Business District.  In many instances, these businesses are located in historically significant buildings with opportunities to bring back the original character. Owner equity along with funding from the City of Saint Paul, Historic Saint Paul, and the Funders Collaborative and lending from NDC are bringing more than $1 million of improvements to this stretch of the Green Line.   

Tour participants viewed nine different businesses – with five at or near Victoria Station and three at or near Lexington Station.  Eight of the nine projects are owner-operated, locally-owned properties.   All but one business is a minority-owned businesses and/or property.

Several businesses that are currently or will soon be transforming their buildings are:

  • Demera Ethiopian Restaurant: exterior historic revitalization project of the old Ray Bell Film building
  • East African Bakery/University Furniture: improvements to exterior and adjacent parking lot
  • Ashama Deli/Grocery: exterior historic revitalization and interior improvements
  • Best Steak House: new signage, awnings and other exterior improvements
  • East & West Salon/Homi Mexican Restaurant: a refresh of a unique Art Deco exterior
  • Johnny Baby’s: addition of a POPS (privately owned public space), mural, and exterior improvements 
  • Arnellia’s Ultra Lounge: resurfacing the exterior and adding larger windows to invite the community into this performance venue.

In addition to learning a bit about each of the businesses and their planned improvements, participants were delighted by a temporary parklet – a portable, parking spot-sized demonstration, allowing for passers-by to enjoy seating & landscaping – installed at Johnny Baby’s by the Friendly Streets Initiative.  Click here for more photos of the parklet in action. 

At the tour’s conclusion, Isabel Chanslor, NDC’s Business Lab Director, promised another celebration when many of the projects are completed.  For now, these exciting partnerships continue to transform this part of the corridor into a business district that will be even more vibrant, viable, and authentic.