Archive | NEWS


Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

Posted on 08 October 2014 by robwas66

Community table stretched for half a mile on Victoria St.


The table stretched for six blocks along Victoria St., from University to Minnehaha Ave. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

On Sun., Sept. 14, places were set for 2,000 guests along Victoria St. in St. Paul’s Frogtown neighborhood. The community table, and the joy that surrounded it, stretched for half a mile from end to end.
Artist Seitu Jones, in collaboration with Public Art St. Paul, local foundations and countless volunteers, worked  together to create this very special meal. In Jones’s words, “We gather together as beloved community in a work of art. We tell our food stories. We celebrate the bounty of the earth, and the labor of those who bring food from farm to table. We share a meal prepared with love by gifted chefs. We gather in an act of love to intervene in our food system so that all may have access to healthy food and healthy life.”
Over two years ago, Public Art Saint Paul commissioned Jones to do a living work of art that would make a real impact on the community. “CREATE: The Community Meal”  aimed to encourage making healthy food choices and lowering barriers to buying and preparing healthy food. Arising from the Central Corridor Public Art Plan, CREATE illuminated how artists and their collaborators could help transform the urban food system – which is no small undertaking.
CREATE drew its inspiration from Jones’s on-going collection of food stories and spoke of food traditions and rituals of the world’s cultures. This multi-media experience engaged a host of artistic partners:
—Mobile Art Kitchens by Emily Stover
—Handmade paper placemats by Mary Hark & Community
—Spoken Word by TouSaiko Lee, Deeq Abdi, Laurine Chang, Nimo Farah, & Rodrigo Sanchez-Chavarria with youth of the community
—Poetic grace by G. E. Patterson —Choreography by Ananya Dance Theatre
Jones worked with new immigrant farmers from the Minnesota Food Association, who planned their summer season to grow crops for the community meal. Guided by Melvin Giles, veteran peace and diversity educator, Victoria St. neighbors prepared to host guests for this free event in their neighborhood.
Cooks of Crocus Hill co-owners Marie Dwyer and Karl Benson, along with their staff, were invaluable. Dwyer said, “It felt great to be involved in CREATE from both a food and a community perspective. It was a beautiful day in every way.”
Chef James Baker and his team of 15 cooks made it possible for 2,000 people to sit down at a very large table and enjoy a delicious meal together. He and his wife Alice own the Sunnyside Café and Elite Catering in North Minneapolis. “We’ve had to deal with 500 chickens, 60 cases of collard greens, six cases of cabbage, 40-50 pounds of black beans and 100 pounds of rice,” said chef Baker. Preparing a meal on that scale took a lot of thought and coordination.
Food justice. Transforming the urban food system. Food infrastructure and better access to it. What does all this new language mean? It’s about communities exercising their right to grow, sell, and eat healthy food. Healthy food is fresh, nutritious, affordable, culturally-appropriate and grown locally with care for the well-being of the land, workers and animals. Practicing food justice leads to a stronger local food system, a more self-reliant community and a healthier environment. This isn’t something that only the wealthy deserve.
Jones is well-poised to deliver this message. “I’m a visual artist using ceramics, metal, glass and wood.  On a core level, my practice is about social  engagement and creative place-making,” he said.
“I have been exhibiting and creating works of public art for 40 years. I have partnered with Public Art Saint Paul for more than 20 years on projects in Frogtown and the Central Corridor, and am excited about our collaboration to make the food system more visible and accessible,” added Jones.
The sun was shining in Frogtown as the guests streamed in from all directions for the community meal. People seemed to greet strangers and old friends with equal ease.  
“At its heart,” Jones concluded, CREATE was really about love. And as Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us,  the “beloved community” is the basis for a healthy society.”

Comments Off


Neighbors express frustration over Hamline U. demolitions

Posted on 08 October 2014 by robwas66


Andy Dawkins, current Green Party candidate for Minnesota attorney general, spoke briefly towards the end of the meeting in support of Historic Hamline Village. (Photo by Kyle Mianulli)

A one-year moratorium on demolition of almost two dozen structures near the Hamline University campus will give university officials, neighborhood residents and city officials more time to review university expansion plans. And, although the fate of 1549 Minnehaha was originally in doubt, it has been learned that Hamline has agreed to add that address to the moratorium list after the meeting.
Lack of information about campus expansion plans, recent building demolitions and notice to neighborhood residents are hot-button issues in Hamline-Midway, drawing about 140 people to Hamline Church United Methodist for a meeting Sept. 17. The ad hoc group, Historic Hamline Village, which is working to put the brakes on the campus plans, invited university officials to outline their next steps.
As the Monitor went to press, Ward Four Council Member Russ Stark was working with neighbors and university officials. Historic Hamline Village hopes to schedule a follow-up meeting.


Russ Stark, 4th Ward Council Member, said the university, which is planning a change in administration, shouldn’t move forward with its plans until new leadership is in place and a new relationship can be forged with the neighbors. (Photo by Kyle Mianulli)

Stark noted that administrative changes, including a new president, are coming to Hamline University. He said the university shouldn’t move forward with its plans until new leadership is in place and a new relationship can be forged.
“Obviously Hamline University has been an asset to the neighborhood for a very long time,” said Stark. “But we also need to recognize that the neighborhood is also an asset to Hamline University.” He expressed support for the moratorium and said that 1549 Minnehaha should be part of those plans.

Hamline officials made it clear they still wish to expand south to Minnehaha Ave. and west to Pascal St. Some neighbors question why that is needed and why the university is continuing to pursue a 2008 plan. They threw out a number of ideas, ranging from online learning to car sharing to reduce parking needs, to reuse of houses as “honor” houses or language houses.
Doug Anderson, who has since stepped down as Hamline University’s senior vice present and chief financial officer, apologized to those who felt the recent home teardowns were a surprise. But while saying the university is open to a one-year moratorium on 22 other structures, “1549 Minnehaha is a separate topic.” Anderson said the house is in a “significant state of disrepair.” Some neighbors countered that Hamline University neglects properties and then uses that as a reason to tear them down.
Anderson said the 2008 expansion plan was set aside during the recession. He said the campus needs to grow to support its students. Generally, the plans call for added parking in a ramp and new lot, more academic space including fine arts space, and more housing. Plans for the southeast area called for underground parking and a commons at the southwest corner.
One priority need that has been built since 2008 is the new Anderson Student Center at Snelling and Englewood avenues. Plans to “green up” Snelling are also in the works. Anderson said the university does need new housing, as its enrollment is stable.


Doug Anderson spoke to the group as a senior vice president and chief financial officer for Hamline University. He said Hamline needs to expand now that the recession has ended and that their long-term wish and plan is to expand down to Minnehaha Ave. The meeting was one of the last for Anderson, who had planned to step down from his position at HU before the current neighborhood controversy occurred. (Photo by Kyle Mianulli)

The university also intends to keep two converted houses it owns west of Snelling, said Anderson.
The Sept. 17 meeting grew heated at times. Several neighbors, alumni, students and current and former faculty are angry about the demolition of the White House, the historic president’s house on campus.  When a picture was shown, some in the crowd booed its demolition.
“We have a right to talk about what the impacts on the neighborhood are,” said Tom Goldstein, one of the Historic Hamline Village members. He urged the university to work with neighbors and save, and possibly repurpose, buildings through a series of meetings.
Several neighbors said they cannot trust the university and that they are tired of seeing houses snatched up. Others said it’s concerning to see properties not owned by Hamline identified as future teardowns.
“It’s really insulting to us to hear you need green space when we all know your agenda,” said Diane Novotny. She lives on Pascal and expressed frustration about lack of clarity about plans.


“We have a right to talk about what the impacts on the neighborhood are,” said Tom Goldstein, one of the Historic Hamline Village members. He urged the university to work with neighbors and save, and possibly re-purpose, buildings through a series of meetings. (Photo by Kyle Mianulli)

“I’m a fan of Hamline University,” said neighbor Alan Ickler. His parents met there. But he is disappointed in how the campus plan is unfolding. “I think this has implications for the economic vitality of the community.”
City Planner Josh Williams explained the city’s role. All of the city’s colleges and universities have conditional use permits that set boundaries, building heights and setbacks, parking requirements and other limitations. While schools can buy property outside of those boundaries and demolish those houses (as Hamline has), uses are limited if properties aren’t within the boundaries.
Williams also noted that in 1997, Hamline University requested a greater expansion than the city would allow.

Comments Off


Blight hitting apple trees hard

Posted on 08 October 2014 by robwas66


Varieties resistant to apple scab are still holding their fruits and leaves.

Have you been wondering what’s wrong with the apple and crab apple trees around town lately?
Our cool, wet spring contributed mightily to a disease called apple scab. The symptoms of apple scab are as dismal as the name sounds. Susceptible tree crowns thin, with withering leaves dropping rapidly to the ground.
Unlike the fungi involved in most other leaf spot diseases, the apply scab fungus remains active throughout  the season. As long as there is sufficient moisture, new infections multiply quickly, creating an epidemic among susceptible hosts. Susceptible tree species include apple, crabapple, hawthorn and mountain ash.
The apple scab fungus over-winters in leaves that have fallen to the ground. So, to stop the spread of apple scab, it’s important to rake up fallen leaves. Don’t postpone – the time is now! Spores develop during the winter and mature in the spring. Spores are released into the air when it rains, with peak spore release occurring during bloom time. Winds carry the spores to new buds, where a film of water is necessary for successful spore germination. Infection occurs most rapidly when fruits and leaves remain wet for a minimum of 9 hours, and temperatures are between 55° and 75°F.
If spring weather is dry, apple scab will not likely be a problem. During years with especially wet springs, such as the one we’ve just had, entire trees can be defoliated by the end of June.
For home owners, it’s important to note that apple scab doesn’t usually affect the long-term health of trees. So don’t cut the trees down! The disease can cause severe defoliation and a loss of fruit crop. It also can lead to reduced growth, susceptibility to secondary pest problems and sensitivity to winter injury. However, the trees are not likely to die and will recover during years with less rain. Karen Zumach, community forester with the organization Tree Trust says, “With luck and a dryer season next year, the affected trees will come around.”
How to avoid apple scab in future plantings? Apple and crab apple trees are available in a wide range of sizes and colors, so gardeners can choose those that work best for their yard. Be sure to check for susceptibility to fire blight and Japanese beetle, as well as resistance to apple scab, before making a choice. Reputable nursery staff can tell you which varieties are going to best meet these criteria.
If you have a susceptible or infected tree, the best strategy is good, thorough raking. It’s important to rake fallen leaves before they have a chance to dry and break up into bits too small to gather.
Prune or thin your trees during the winter months to maintain open canopies. This will improve air circulation and shorten the time necessary to dry leaf surfaces. Use watering practices that saturate the roots, not the leaves, to promote optimum tree health.
What to do with all those infected leaves you’ll be raking up? According to Audrey Matson, co-owner of Egg Plant Urban Farm Supply (1771 Selby Ave.), home compost piles are the best solution. “Just make sure your compost pile is good and hot, so the spores won’t survive the winter and contaminate your compost,” she says.

Comments Off

Pick your state representative at the polls

Posted on 08 October 2014 by robwas66


When you head out to the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 4, you’ll get the opportunity to select your top picks for the top state offices, including Governor, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State, State Auditor and Attorney General, as well as U.S. Senator, and U.S. Representative.
Also on the ballot will be State Representative for Districts 64A, 65A, 66A and 66B, those areas within the Monitor coverage area.


Andrew Brown – R

Andrew Brown’s campaign platform is this: fix our horrible roads, stop wasteful spending, lower property taxes, careers not jobs, reduce the tax strain and level college costs.
Brown works for his family’s funeral product business as a welder and a salesman. He was born before the Berlin Wall was torn down and during President Reagan’s second term in office. Brown currently attends the University of St. Thomas where he studies business management. From fall of 2013 to spring of 2014 he was the Vice-Chair of the University of St. Thomas College Republicans. He will graduate in the spring of 2015 and then continue working with his family’s business. He has been endorsed by the Minnesota Gun Owners Political Action Committee.

Erin Murphy – DFL

Murphy graduated from high school in Janesville, Wis., and later attended the University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh, receiving her B.S. in nursing in 1984. She earned her M.A. in organizational leadership in health care at the College of St. Catherine in 2005, and also attended the Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota from 2005 to 2006.
Murphy is a former executive director of the Minnesota Nurses Association and has also worked for the organization as a lobbyist and organizer. She previously worked in state government as legislative director for former Minnesota Attorney General Hubert H. Humphrey III, and as community relations director for the Minnesota Department of Children, Families and Learning. She was also an operating room nurse at the University of Minnesota Medical Center.
Murphy served on the board of directors of Citizens for a Safer Minnesota from 1999 to 2001, and as a member of the board of trustees of the American Nurses Association political action committee. She was also an executive board member of the Minnesota chapter of the AFL–CIO.
Murphy was first elected in 2006, and has served four terms. After the 2012 elections, Murphy was elected by the DFL House caucus to be Majority Leader.
She is married to Joe Faust, and has two children.

Lena Buggs – Green

Lena Buggs’s campaign platform includes five areas of focus: living wages and union rights, affordable housing, job and economic development, education, and environment.
Buggs was born in South Minneapolis, but she has lived in St. Paul for nearly six years. She resides with her wife Nicki and their two children, Amy and Aubrey, in the Lexington-Hamline neighborhood.
She has served the community as a member of the small business community, as co-founder of African American Women In Politics – an organization created to empower American Women of color in understanding the electoral process, political affiliations, and the voting process. She serves as a member of the Lexington-Hamline Housing Committee, facilitating loan programs that are designed to offer market or below market rate financing to the community.
As an organizer, she worked to defeat Voter ID and Marriage Amendments. She co-organized with the Welfare Rights Committee, and pushed for living wages, housing, and a fair economy for all. Most recently, she organized with The 15 Now Campaign, along with the 4th Congressional District of the Green Party, to coordinate labor efforts promoting a $15 an hour living wage.

Anthony Meschke – R


Anthony Meschke’s platform includes five areas of focus: privacy rights and government spying, decriminalization of victimless crimes, responsible government spending, public-private partnerships, and education and school choice.
Meschke was born and raised in a small southern Minnesota town. He grew up working on the family and neighbors’ farms. His mother ran a daycare and his father was a mechanic. After his high school graduation from a small, Lutheran school, he joined the Marine Corps and was stationed in Okinawa, Japan for 2 years and other bases in the United States. He graduated from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul with a Mechanical Engineering degree. Menschke is currently employed as a Project Engineer at Flint Hills Resources in Rosemount, Minn.
He has been married to his high school sweetheart since 2011. They have a two-year-old daughter and are expecting their second child in December. They have lived in St. Paul since 2010. In his spare time he likes to tinker in the garage and work on projects. He installed electric and hot air solar panels on his house and works on other energy saving projects. With his wife, he also gardens and makes wine from the fruits in their yard.

Rena Moran – DFL


Rena Moran has seven areas of focus: education, women’s economic security, minimum wage, healthcare, seniors, taxes and Giving Minnesotans a Second Chance.
Moran is the mother of seven children. Ten years ago, she moved to the Twin Cities in search of a better life for her kids. Homeless, she and her children stayed in a Minneapolis shelter for several months. It wasn’t long before she and her family went from homeless to homeowners. She found her first job in Minnesota earning minimum wage at Camp Snoopy, then at the YMCA on University Ave. before moving on to work at a commodities trading firm in downtown Minneapolis for five years. During this time, she began to get involved in social change work. After five years, she left the comforts of her corporate job to become a Wellstone Organizing Fellow and embark on her new vocation of community organizing. Moran was sworn into office as the representative from Dist. 65A on Jan. 4, 2011 as the First African American to represent St. Paul at the Capitol.
She is a member of the following committees: Health and Human Services Policy Committee (Vice Chair), Health and Human Services Finance Committee, Early Childhood and Youth Development Policy Committee, Education Finance Committee, and Housing Finance and Policy Committee. Also, Governor Mark Dayton appointed Moran to serve on: Minnesota Task Force on Prematurity, Council of Black Minnesotans and Visible Child Work Group.

Alice Hausman – DFL


Hausman was first elected in a 1989 special election. She has been re-elected every two years since then. Hausman was born in Breman, Kansas and raised on a farm. She moved to St. Paul in 1977. She earned both her B.S. in education and her M.A. in education from Concordia University. She is a former St. Paul teacher. Hausman is married and has two children.
Hausman serves on these House committees: Capital Investment (Chair), Legacy, Transportation Finance and Ways and Means.
Last session, in a continued effort to support Minnesota’s improving economic health and address our aging infrastructure, Hausman sponsored a bipartisan capital investment package containing $1.046 billion in strategic investments spread across the state. These measures will fund investments in college campuses, transportation, clean water and wastewater system improvements, flood prevention and mitigation, parks and trails, housing, public safety, and important economic development infrastructure. After a 10-year effort to construct a new facility to house the state’s natural history museum, Hausman was successful in getting legislation enacted that authorizes funding for a new Bell Museum and Planetarium. Hausman also sponsored a bill to invest $100 million in permanent supportive and affordable housing located throughout the state to help end homelessness. A long-term solution to improving the state’s transportation system will be a top priority in 2015.

Jon Heyer – R


Jon Heyer is a Minnesota native, the eldest of five children. Heyer grew up in the Roseville area, and graduated from the former Alexander Ramsey High School in 1974.  
A recently retired educator with over 35 years of experience, Heyer has a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Minnesota and a M.A. in Theology from Saint Catherine University. He understands the importance of a solid education, strong family values, vigilance and providing our children and future generations with a brighter tomorrow.
Heyer and his wife Teri, who works for the United State Forest Service, have been married for 29 years. They have lived in St. Paul for 29 years and have two daughters and one grandchild. Jon’s two son-in-laws are both in the service – one in the United States Air Force and the other with the Minnesota Army National Guard.
Heyer’s call to political service is grounded in his belief that we need to restore fiscal sense and personal responsibility to our local government. Time to put into practice JFK’s famous quote: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”

John Lesch – DFL


John Lesch was first elected as State Representative in November of 2002. His focus in the legislature is on consumer protection, crime and public safety, and economic justice issues. Lesch currently serves as chairman of the House Committee on Civil Law. In addition to his role as a legislator, he also prosecutes domestic assault crimes as an Assistant City Attorney for Saint Paul. In 2009, Lesch enlisted in the Minnesota National Guard where he currently serves as a staff officer in the 2-135 Light Infantry Battalion.
Lesch’s past community involvement includes a term as Chair of the Senate District 66 DFL party from 2000-2002, as well as staff to various local and statewide candidates. He has been a Sunday School teacher and a member of his church finance council. Lesch was a founding member of South Como Block Clubs and an active participant with the District 6 Community Council, North End Area Revitalization, and the Great Northern Corridor redevelopment.
Lesch earned his B.A. from Saint Louis University in 1995 with a double major in Philosophy and Psychology, and a J.D. from Hamline University School of Law in 1998 with a concentration in Government and Regulatory Affairs.
He lives with his wife, Melissa and his daughter, Alice, in St. Paul’s Como Park neighborhood.

Elizabeth “ Lizz” Paulson – R


Lizz Paulson’s campaign platform includes these goals: prioritize private sector job creation, reform (fair) taxes, prioritize quality public safety services, roads and education for all, reform current education, reduce government regulations and reduce irresponsible spending.
Paulson is a long-time, east side St. Paul resident. She is a licensed teacher (Elementary English Language Arts) with 34 years of regular and special education experience in preschool through elementary, with 10 of those years in the St. Paul Public Schools. As a professional reading tutor at the East Side Learning Center (ESLC), she works every day to reduce the achievement gap, one child at a time, and the program delivers: students make significant gains in reading through individualized, flexible curriculum and model/teach parents how to use similar teaching games/activities at home. Because the ESLC  involves the community and is very responsible with financial resources, costs remain low.

Comments Off


Two square off in Ramsey County Dist 3 Commissioner race

Posted on 08 October 2014 by robwas66


Girard Goder lists jobs, safer communities, improved parks, revitalizing vacant and underutilized properties, and an end to chronic homelessness among his priorities. Janice Rettman ranks quality affordable housing for all, effective service delivery, environmental protection, and being creative in developing solutions, as priorities.


Ramsey County District 3 residents have two options this year: re-elect incumbent Janice Rettman or vote for challenger Girard Goder.
District 3 includes Falcon Heights, and St. Paul neighborhoods North End, South Como, Como Park, Frogtown, Summit University and Hamline-Midway.
Girard Goder
A lifelong Minnesota resident, Godor graduated from the University of Minnesota with a B.S. in geophysics and a B.S. in geology.  The economic recession cut short his career as a project geologist, and he found himself working two jobs, barely able to cover his expenses. He now oversees a team of environmental health professionals and works with local government. Godor is running for office in order to improve the quality of life for the people of Ramsey County.
Goder lists his top five priorities on his website:
1) Job growth and economic development: “Finding a job should not be more difficult than the job itself.  I will strive to enact policies and programs to draw new businesses into the area to create new jobs and new opportunities across a variety of industries.”
2) Create safer communities: “I will support programs and policies that reduce crime on our streets, reduce pollution in the water we drink and the air we breathe and reduce unnecessary governmental intrusion into our private lives.”
3) Revitalize vacant and underutilized properties: “There are over 1,000 vacant buildings in the City of Saint Paul alone. … I will support projects that clean up and revitalize these vacant properties to attract new businesses and new residents to Ramsey County while creating livable wage jobs and improving the aesthetics of our neighborhoods.”
4) Improve parks and recreational areas: “When I was little, the house my family lived in bordered a 15 acre park.  When my brothers and I needed more space to roam, we ventured out into that park where we had a seemingly endless expanse to explore.  All these years later, I still enjoy the respite from daily life that parks can provide. … I will seek to invest in these important resources so that future generations can enjoy this same sense of freedom that I did as a youngster and still do to this day.”
5) End chronic homelessness: “The economic burden to the community of ignoring chronic homelessness far exceeds the cost of implementing a solution.  Communities all across the nation are making a concerted effort to help those least able to help themselves.”
Janice Rettman
Rettman has been on the County Board since April 1997. Prior to that, she served over 11 years on the St. Paul City Council representing the North End, South Como and Como Park areas and part of the Eastside.
At the county, Rettman serves as Vice-Chair of the County Board, chair of the Ramsey County Housing and Redevelopment Authority, and Chair of the county Health Services Committee. Other committee activities include a Law Library Trustee, the Ramsey/Washington County Resource Recovery Project Board, the State of Minnesota Community Health Board Services Advisory Committee, the Metropolitan Area Library Service Agency (MELSA), the Metropolitan Mosquito Control District and the National Association Of Counties Health Steering Committee.
While on the Saint Paul City Council, Rettman worked closely with community residents and other council members to create legislation to deal with problem properties and to make city neighborhoods cleaner and safer.
As a county commissioner and city councilmember she is proud of her work to create equal opportunities in hiring practices, for civil service testing that reflects the duties of the position, for requiring living wages for county contracts, for requiring real opportunities for disadvantaged businesses to access county contracts, for the re-institution of the Environmental Response Fund (ERF) to clean up polluted lands and create new jobs for area residents, and for the implementation of a fiscally responsible budget review process that focuses on completing identified goals and adopted priorities.
Rettman believes that government should be responsive to its citizens and provide opportunities for meaningful public input. She works toward improving the fiscal policies and management practices of the county to reflect that input.  
At the county, Rettman ranks quality affordable housing for all, effective service delivery, environmental protection, and being creative in developing solutions, as priorities.
Previously, Rettman served as director of the St. Paul Housing Information Office, chair and board member of the District 10 Community Council and a VISTA Program volunteer.

Comments Off


“Our pies are more from the heart”

Posted on 08 October 2014 by robwas66

Mexican Chocolate, Apple Crunch, Coconut Macaroon, and Peanut Butter Chess among the flavors


Krista Craven and Christina Rogan serve a customer at their booth at Afton Art in the Park on a recent weekend. (Photo by Jan Willms)

When her oldest son Nick was growing up, he always asked his mom Krista Craven for chocolate fried pie instead of cake on his birthday.  Craven, a Como area resident, indulged his wish with the pies she learned to make from her grandmother Flossie.
“My grandma was from northeast Arkansas, and I grew up eating her chocolate fried pie,” Craven said.  Craven sometimes changed the recipes over the years, but the pies were a favorite dessert item in her household.
Then in September 2012 her husband, Andrew, emailed her about a Twin Cities Pie Experiment cooking contest, sponsored by Brooklyn Brewery in New York and taking place at the Fine Line Café in Minneapolis.
Enlisting her friend, Christina Rogan of Fridley, to help her, Craven entered the contest, and the two won first place. Winning first place gave them a chance to compete in a national contest in New York, called Best Bite. They were competing against restaurants from major cities across the United States, and one from Sweden. Rogan and Craven took third place.
While in New York, they did some touring.
“What inspired us was visiting the old Pfizer drug building, which had been transformed to house several start-up food businesses,” Craven recalled. “We thought that if people can start up businesses in New York City, we can certainly do something in St. Paul.”
And so Cravin’ Pie was launched, with the help of a Kickstarter campaign to assist in getting the business off the ground.
Co-owners Craven and Rogan use family recipes, adding their own twist to create the pies.
“We won the contest with Mexican Chocolate pies that we baked,” Craven explained. She said that during the summer at a couple of  festivals, they serve their chocolate variety pies fried, since that is how her grandmother made them, but  for the rest of the year the pies are baked.
Craven said their pies are not influenced only by her grandmother’s recipes, but other family members.
“Christina’s dad was a baker for his unit in Vietnam, and the filling for our Apple Crunch pie comes from him,” she noted. Coconut Macaroon and Peanut Butter Chess pies are some other creations of Cravin’ Pie. They have also served some savory meat pies at summer events, but all their online products are desserts.
“We also take inspiration from other things,” Craven stated. She recently visited Magnolia’s Bakery in Los Angeles and tasted its pies made with fresh blueberries.
“I would love to add a pie we make using fresh blueberries,” she said.  “And we’re thinking about making a cherry pie for the holidays.”
The ideas for the creation of the pies may come from anywhere, but the actual baking process takes place in a rented commercial kitchen that is licensed by the Department of Agriculture, and is within walking distance of Craven’s house.  “We meet at the kitchen and both bake and assemble,” Craven said.
She said she has been a stay-at-home mom, but as her children got older she needed to decide what she wanted to be when she grew up.  And expanding on her baking seemed a natural fit.
Rogan has a catering background. She worked several years in human resources, but now is back in the food industry.
“Our husbands also help us,”  Craven added. She said she and Christina are both foodies through and through.
“I am really inspired by my southern roots,” Craven explained. “And Christina can taste a recipe and determine what it needs.  We may try a recipe, and she will say it is not a Cravin’ Pie, and we don’t serve it. We want each one to be special.”
Craven said the most challenging part for her, since she does not come from the food industry, is understanding the business aspect and finding affordable kitchen space.
“But we don’t feel like we are completely on our own,” she said. “I belong to a group called Women Who Really Cook, and it’s a great networking group.  My neighbors, also, have been so supportive and were very instrumental in getting our Kickstarter going.”
The most rewarding part of the business, according to Craven, is when somebody orders a pie and walks away with it, then returns to say how good it is, like nothing they have ever tasted.
She said that down the road, Cravin’ Pie would like to have its pies on grocery shelves, and she and Christina are considering a booth at the new Saints Stadium and the Minnesota State Fair.
But for now, they are satisfied with taking their time to expand the business. Thanksgiving is not far off, a busy time of the year for them.
“It’s okay to grow slowly at first to maintain that unique quality,” Craven said. “We want to stay true to what we envision and not become a cookie cutter business.  Our pies are more from the heart.”
To find out more about the products, visit the business website at www.cravinpie.com.

Comments Off


Minnesota Foodcrafters kitchen home to artisan food and drink businesses

Posted on 08 October 2014 by robwas66

The shared kitchen cuts down the cost of starting and running a business


Ryan Meyers, kitchen manager for Origin Foods, preps in the Minnesota Foodcrafters kitchen for a meal delivery. Right now, there are about a dozen mid-tier food and beverage companies using the kitchen. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Some of the St. Paul’s best artisan food and drink can be traced back to Minnesota Foodcrafters at 865 Pierce Butler Route.
In this commercial kitchen, food and drink companies are perfecting flavors that will hit local farmers’ markets, coffee shops, restaurants, and grocery stores.
Among the dozen companies currently using the kitchen is Grey Duck Chai, based in south Minneapolis. Owned by Jon Alden and Katey Niebur, Grey Duck Chai prides itself on balancing bitter, spice, sweet, and milk. The duo sold their first bottle of small batch, traditionally crafted chai in June 2012. They can now be found in over 30 businesses in the Twin Cities and Seattle.

Bistro Meringue owner Martha Glass (center) bags up cherry meringues with employees Heather Rivera and Brandie Mitchell. Bistro Meringue uses the gluten-free area of the kitchen when mixing up and bagging cookies. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

“We share the space (Minnesota Foodcrafters) with a few other companies that make wonderful products. We chose to go this route because all of the equipment we need is already there instead of dropping tens of thousands of dollars on new pieces,” explained Alden.

“Also, it is nice working alongside other professionals that we can discuss common issues with.”

Lesley Powers of Bliss Gourmet Foods specializes in unique blends of granola and muesli. Powers got her start in food as the chef and proprietor of The Metro, a restaurant in Queensland, Australia. Early on, Powers identified a winning formula: offer customers healthy and delicious food made from ingredients obtained from local farmers. Now based in St. Paul, Powers uses local fruits, grains and honey to create Bliss Granola and Bliss Bircher Muesli in the Foodcrafters kitchen.

Sisters Becky Biederman and Beth Aarness of Stillwater wanted their families’ favorite meal to be healthier. And so, in 2013, they started making their own line of organic and gluten-free pizza crusts and flatbreads. True Dough: The Pure Pizza Company features local, organic flours with high nutritional profiles in seven flavors.
Bistro Meringues is also a tenant at Minnesota Foodcrafters. Three years ago, owner/baker Martha Glass had an idea: to make small batch, French-style meringue cookies. Now every week, Glass is at Foodcrafters, whipping up batches of the gluten-free treats that are low in sugar, carbs, fat and calories. She mixes up nine flavors (cherry chocolate, almond, cocoa, coffee, maple cinnamon, mint, mint chocolate, lemon and coconut), as well as meringue cups.
“I love that the space is arranged for mid-tier producers,” said Glass. “We have space to work, and we have the much-needed storage space. I also love that we have a loading dock which allows us to easily receive orders (ingredients, etc.) and ship pallets. I also love that the kitchen is focused on getting the right assortment of producers, so that the kitchen is full but still able to accommodate the tenants we have.”
The Foodcrafters Kitchen is a licensed, shared, commercial kitchen, renting to the mid-tier food manufacturer who needs more space (production, warehouse, cooler, freezer and office) than is typical in shared kitchens, but is not yet ready to own or lease their own space.


A barista at Parka restaurant brews up a cup of Grey Duck Chai. The chai tea is manufactured by owners Jon Alden and Katey Niebur at the Minnesota Foodcrafters facility and distributed to more than 30 locations throughout Minnesota and Seattle WA. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

“My experience is that we have really nice people working in the space. When you work together, you learn more about other businesses and can share what has worked (or has not worked!),” remarked Glass. “People have shared information about reducing ingredient or shipping costs, successful retail or industry shows, packaging expertise, and in some cases, even sharing equipment.”

Standard kitchen equipment includes mixers, ovens, large stock pot burners, stovetops, tilting skillet, automatic dishwasher, and more. There is both gluten and non-gluten space in the kitchen. “Each tenant receives ample dry storage space, as well as refrigerator and freezer space as part of their rent,” said Glass. “The building includes loading docks, making the loading and unloading of orders more efficient.  And we have a fully functioning ‘Test Kitchen’ that can be rented by anyone for demonstrations, classes, media events, etc. – very fun!”

In addition to renting the kitchen, Glass manages the space for owners Tom Kigin and Donna Avery. Find out more by emailing Martha@bistrotreats.com.

This space had been a licensed commercial kitchen in the past. The owners, with ongoing discussion from a small group of food manufacturers, updated the space and focused on the needs of the mid-tier food manufacturer. They began renting out the kitchen in early 2014.

Items crafted in the kitchen are also sold in Sunrise Market, a shop at the front of the building. Sunrise Market features local food manufacturers, as well as their own line of Sunrise Creative Gourmet products out of Hibbing. Items on the shelves include fresh, dry and frozen pasta, sauces, porketta, beef and pork pasties, sarma and quiche, as well as potica, biscotti, banana flips, cookies and coffee cakes.  Drop by Monday to Friday 9:30am to 5:30pm and Saturdays 10amto 3pm.

Comments Off


Students and Elders meet up

Posted on 08 October 2014 by robwas66


Sixteen Hamline University students met up with area seniors for one to one interviews on a day in September. Everyone was surprised how easily conversations flowed, and some were reluctant to break up their conversations for this group photo.

By TOM FITZPATRICK, Program Director at Hamline Midway Elders

What happens when you have 16 Hamline University freshmen have 1:1 interviews with 16 senior citizens from the Hamline Midway neighborhood? That’s what Monica Gallagher (Service Director) and I wanted to find out when we developed a project at Hamline Midway Elders as part of Hamline University’s “LEAP into St. Paul” project in September. They hoped that the freshmen would learn about the elders’ lives and their feelings about the neighborhood, and we hoped the elders would enjoy sharing their experiences with some new neighbors. The results were even greater than we hoped.
We designed the project to have the 16 freshmen meet the 16 senior citizens in one large room at the Hamline United Methodist Church building just across the street from campus. Students were not matched with elders — they were just asked to sit next to each other at tables. One of the Hamline Midway Elders volunteers (Kathy Lilly) baked muffins and banana bread which we served with coffee and juice to help the folks get comfortable. We supplied a list of questions (thanks to Hamline professor David Davies) to help get things started, and we were pleasantly surprised at how easily conversations flowed.
The conversations were supposed to stop after one hour, but most pairs were reluctant to stop talking to take a group photo. Several students and elders took time to exchange phone numbers, and most pairs had long goodbyes. The senior citizens were thanked for coming and left, but the students were then given the task of writing their thoughts about the experience.
And it was extremely moving to read the students’ comments. One student wrote “This activity was a very fun and interesting way to get to know the seniors in the community. I really enjoyed this experience because it allowed us to connect with the seniors and feel more comfortable with the people in the neighborhood. I really liked talking with Annette since my grandparents passed away before I ever met them, so it was great to connect with someone from her generation because I have never really had the opportunity prior to this experience.”
One elder shared the following advice: “Life is a flower garden, but there are thorns.” The student commented “that is some of the best advice that I’ve ever received. Enjoy the flowers, but be aware of the thorns.” The freshman that I spoke with wrote about “our interesting conversation on the way the generations change and how people’s opinions change on things such as tattoos and piercings and crazy colored hair. While there are stereotypical misconceptions on youth and elders, there tends to be common ground of humanity and tolerance.”
Another student summarized the feelings of many freshmen: “It became evident that older people in our community really are just a bank of wisdom and knowledge. They may seem a bit out of touch to some but their information is priceless.”
We at Hamline Midway Elders were overwhelmed with the writings of the Hamline freshmen along with the verbal comments we’ve received from the senior citizens, and we’re looking forward to repeating this experience at next year’s “LEAP into St. Paul” project.

Comments Off