With hundreds of businesses in our community, you never have to go far to get what you need. By shopping locally, you are also making our community a more vibrant place. Union Park has several distinct business districts:
Cleveland and Marshall
This business node is home to Choo Choo Bob's toy store, Trotter's Cafe, Koplin's Coffee, and many other businesses.
University Avenue, home to the Green Line, is a central corridor for the Twin Cities and has always had a thriving business presence. Today the area known as Little Africa and the Midway are home to diverse small businesses as well as large grocery and retail stores. Little Africa is a collection of African owned businesses on Snelling Avenue just north of Union Park, such as Fasika, Sunshine Beauty Salon, Snelling Café, to name a few. The area is also home to Allianz Field, home to Minnesota United FC, the city's Major League Soccer team.
Selby and Fairview
Grab a legendary juicy lucy at Blue Door Pub and take a stroll through the Mall of St. Paul, Blue Bicycle, and the many other antique stores along this stretch of Selby.
Selby and Snelling
This growing business node is home to boutique shops and vintage clothing stores. The area encompasses a diverse group of small locally owned businesses like Cahoots Coffee Bar, The Naughty Greek, Flirt and Teeny Bee, as well as the district's newest grocery, Whole Foods. Visit the business association website, Selby at Snelling, for a full listing of shops and restaurants.
Business Happenings and Profiles
Paul Johnson, Blue Bicycle
Blue Bicycle was featured as one of the best vintage shops in Minnesota. Click here to read about how owner Paul Johnson started Blue Bicycle and where the vintage store gets its name.
Saed Kakish, Cahoots Coffee Bar
To help celebrate local Union Park history, local business owner Saed Kakish participated in Feburary's “heart bombing” at Cahoots Coffee Bar (1562 Selby). During that month customers decorated a heart with the names of places in our community that matter most to them! This annual tradition is celebrated by preservation groups across the country to keep the tradition of preservation alive in our communities and inspire residents to fall in love with their neighborhood historic places.
Saed Kakish, owner of Cahoots, loves coffee as much as historic places and antiques. “I’ve tried to make sure that the shop reflects the history of the neighborhood and the friendly atmosphere of the area. Since becoming the owner of the store in 1997, I’ve made sure to try to preserve what the costumershave loved best about this space and use their input to build a place everyone enjoys. For instance, we had paint swatches on display in the shop for customers to choose what colors they’d like to see the walls painted. People like to be a part of change when it happens, and so I think that when change is inevitable we should still try to include them as much as possible.”
Kakish had been a longtime costumer at Cahoots since its inception in 1994, drawn to the neighborhood originally because of “a great Mexican restaurant called La Corvina that had the best mole sauce!” After becoming a regular at Cahoots, Saed was approached one day by the previous owner and asked if he wanted to take over the shop. He was given three days to decide whether or not to accept ownership of Cahoots, otherwise it would be closed. “I had absolutely no idea about coffee when I first bought the shop; I didn’t know how to brew it or anything! I still decided to take the chance and since then have learned so much about the history of coffee itself and how to roast it well.”
The combination of good coffee and specialty drinks, an antique ambiance, and friendly service must be what draws customers in from near and far – some regulars come all the way from Hopkins on the weekends. “That’s something new to the neighborhood; more and more people outside of the neighborhood have been attracted to the area because of the eclectic small shops and quirky businesses.” Saed hopes that as the neighborhood changes, those who are a part of it continue to value the character that the older buildings bring to the area so that the area keeps its charm. “When I take a break from being at Cahoots, my favorite pastime is to walk around the neighborhood and look at the variance in the homes in the area. It’s fun to see how the lawns reflect the people who live here; some people raise chickens or grow different plants in their front yards and you can tell they all really care about where they live. That’s special to this neighborhood and one of the reasons why I love being here. It’s a great neighborhood, if I had to leave I’d really miss it. My plan for now is to be here forever!”
You can find Saed’s smile and good humor behind the counter at Cahoots.
Kada Goalan, Mural Artist
Local Hamline-Midway artist, Kada Goalen, was chosen to paint murals on the new Whole Foods building and Selby and Snelling, one facing Selby and the other facing Dayton. The art will reflect the historic features of the neighborhood. For Kada, bringing happiness to the community is just one reason why she loves to paint murals. She hopes her two murals will do the same for the Union Park neighborhood, which she plans to will have completed by the end of June.
About the Artist
Fifteen years ago, Kada didn’t necessarily plan to paint murals as a full-time profession: the opportunity to do so simply fell into her lap. While going to school for her Bachelors of Fine Arts degree, the St. Paul native studied painting in Florence, Italy for six months. Upon returning to St. Paul, she worked in a family-owned Italian restaurant in North Oaks. This is where she serendipitously received her first commission to paint a mural, which is still intact to this day. “I was working as a server at Panino’s and one day the owner heard that I’d studied painting in Florence. He immediately asked me to paint a mural and I agreed, even though I’d never done it before!” This first project was not only the beginning of Kada’s career as a muralist, but also where she was introduced to her first clientele. “It was great, I’d wait tables during the day and then paint afterwards. While I was serving, people would ask about the mural artist and I was able to talk to them about it. The customers would ask if I could do art for them as well, so when I gave them the bill I just wrote my phone number on the other side and get commissions that way.”
Kada continued to refine her talent in painting murals over the years and was commissioned to work on other home renovation projects as well. Her advertising method hasn’t change since day one: she gets her clients via word of mouth. “Usually I end up making my way through neighborhoods and work on houses all the way down a single block. It’s come to the point where the other day I drove down a street where I’d done projects and realized I’d done a different project in just about every-other household!”
Aside from transforming household interiors, Kada also has worked as an artist in residences at four different schools in the Twin Cities. “I come in and work with the kids on basic art concepts and techniques in addition to painting a mural. I love the teaching element of it and seeing how excited the students are when the project is finished. They are so excited to see their work on the wall, it gives them a sense of ownership in their school that they really cherish.”
Behind the design
Kada wants to capture the same sense of ownership and pride about the art while working with the community on the murals at Whole Foods. “I think public art is an act of beautifying the originality of a place and adds value to a place. Public murals in particular make buildings stand out and become more noticeable, acting as landmarks for locals to reference. For instance, Selby & Snelling is a distinguishable intersection because of the shops around the area that people recognize as unique to the area.” She also added that “public art projects are not only investments in neighborhoods and buildings, but also in local artists. I’m glad those at the Vintage on Selby decided to invest in local artists and adding to the rich culture of the area. It brings such happiness to people.”
The existing culture and historical significance of the area were large influences in the design that Kada created for the murals. “I wanted to mix the old with the new in this design in order to reflect the character of the neighborhood, while still embodying the vibrancy of the neighborhood with bright colors and fresh elements.” The rail car that once ran along Selby is referenced in the design, as well as old-fashioned bicycles and modern cars in order to reflect the importance of the intersection as a commercial and transportation hub. Viewers can keep an eye out for original buildings of the area incorporated in the design, as well as faces of people from historic photos from the Minnesota Historical Society. “The fact that Union Park is distinguishable because of its family-oriented community and the locally-owned businesses, and not by only by the colleges in the area, is what I admire about the area,” added Marisa, who is another local artist helping Kada with the project. Kada agrees and hopes that shows through to others when they view the murals.
Kada hopes for sunlight and many volunteers in attendance at the community paint day to help bring her design to life. “I’m hopeful that many people from the neighborhood will be there to participate in the painting and gain a sense of ownership about the work they’ll have contributed to.”
For more information, check out Kada's portfolio on her website.
This profile was written by our UPDC intern, Karah VueBenson.