B usiness Black Dog Cafe from page 1
into details, Sara simply said that the first year the Black Dog was open for business the landlord wouldn’t let them serve alcohol. They also noticed that it was like a ghost town in Lowertown, with few businesses and residents. “We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into,” said Sara. But their space looked promising with its high ceilings, north and west walls lined with windows, hardwood floors and more space than the typical coffee shop. Their learning curve started slow, with coffee vendors training them in on how to make a variety of specialty brews. By year two, they added beer and wine to the menu, which created confusion for some patrons. “Are you a coffee shop or a bar?” they asked. “We’re both!” became their mantra. “The first two years we didn’t have enough experience, and there was not enough of a population
Your community news and information source base in Lowertown,” said Sara. “We realized we had to take charge and forge our own identity. The eclectic atmosphere of the restaurant defied any label. It’s not a bar, not a coffee shop. It’s something unusual. We created our own identity, became more of ourselves, and it drew people.” It wasn’t part of their business plan to add food to their already apparently confusing Lowertown cafe but patrons were asking for it. Andy took over the kitchen and started with a simple breakfast menu of pastries and donuts. Soon he was making sandwiches as part of a lunch menu, and eventually stocked the shelves with ingredients for soups, salads and pizza. He also added waffles, yogurt and granola to the breakfast menu.
The kitchen table A big butcher block table located just inside the entryway quickly became a meeting place for Lowertown artists. They described it as their beloved “kitchen table,” where they could gather around to talk, work,
sip java or enjoy a bowl of soup, and encourage each other in their work. Noticing that the nearby Farmers’ Market was attracting thousands of people during the summer, the three siblings decided to capitalize on that potential customer base. They stood outside with free samples of coffee and brownies, and urged Farmers’ Market customers to stop by. To attract larger crowds, Sara became an entertainment and event planner and invited bands to perform on occasion, then more frequently as word spread. The St. Paul Almanac started using the Black Dog as its gathering spot for poetry readings. Next, the entrepreneurs invited artists to use the walls as a gallery, with new art on display each month. The Black Dog began participating in the Art Crawl as a venue for art work, and as the Crawl grew, so did the visibility of the Black Dog. “Artists need a lot of support on how to be business people,” said Sara. “Last year it was nice to see new collaborations of artists
forming to support each other. Lowertown First Fridays, another artist-led event, is helping. Sometimes artists are timid about asking for help. What I see is that what’s good for the artist is good for us, what’s good for us is good for the artists. Businesses can help each other. We let them sell their artwork from our sidewalk during the Farmers’ Market. I like the street life atmosphere that is created. It has a kind of a European feel to it.” Now the Black Dog caters to early morning coffee patrons, the lunch crowd, artists who hang out at the big wooden table in the afternoon, and the evening crowd that comes for a glass of wine or beer and to listen to music. “We are an urban neighborhood,” said Sara. “The problem is that we have a ‘government downtown,’ which means government employees get in their cars and leave town after work. Evenings and holidays are very quiet around here. Having people move into Lowertown helps the most.”
LRT and stadium: ‘Bring it on’ By 2005, more condos and apartment complexes were popping up in Lowertown and the number of residents in the city’s artists’ haven began to climb. Things were starting to look even better, but then came light rail construction. “It was catastrophic,” said Sara. “The streets were blocked off for two years. We somehow survived, and now we are looking forward to the start of light rail. Bring it on. Bring people down here! Let’s see what happens. It’s good for commerce, safety and makes for a more interesting neighborhood.” She pointed out that the Lowertown Jazz Festival adds more life to the neighborhood and that new restaurants like the Barrio and the Bull Dog are bringing in more people, which in the long run is good for her business. “But it’s a very fine line,” she said. “They are competition, but no one can go to the same place to eat every day. We hope to reap the
rewards of the growth. I am feeling rather optimistic right now. Anything that brings vitality and energy brings more people. We are looking forward to the new baseball stadium. If Lowertown can handle five thousand people at the Farmers’ Market on the weekend then we can handle a baseball stadium of seven thousand people.” When others ask if she is an artist, Sara says, “This is my art: all the events that take place under this roof. It takes a lot of creativity to devise new ways to entertain our loyal customers.” The Black Dog Café coffee and wine bar, located at 308 Prince St., features a variety of affordable wines from around the world, local and regional craft beers, locally roasted coffee and espresso, homemade soups, salsa, baked items, and salads and sandwiches with organic and/or locally grown produce. The Black Dog offers a regular schedule of live music, and a daily happy hour, 4 p.m.-7 p.m., seven days a week.
Instead of watching TV, make TV!
If you have the desire to produce television to express and other delicious dishes! yourself, to get your point across, to help your neighbors, or to change your community for the better, we can help!
EVENT & BANQUET FACILI T IES LUNCH BUFFET
served 11 am - 2 pm, Monday - Friday
served 4 - 8 pm Wednesday - Friday
375 Jackson St., Ste 250
Saint Paul, MN 55101
Ring in the New Year with us!
4 - 6 pm Wednesday - Friday
Call today for reservations
Restaurant open 4-9 pm on Saturdays when private events are not scheduled. Please call ahead.
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St. Paul Publishing Co.
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Page 2 - Downtown St. Paul Voice - January 2014
Business Delivery! We also offer salads for large groups.
Tuesday - Friday 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. Must order 4 or more large pizzas. One day advance notice recommended.
Call 651-731-1068 520 White Bear Ave.