I don’t know what it is about hipstorical Sears buildings, but they seem to find me. On my recent trip to Minneapolis and Saint Paul for the Travel Blog Exchange (TBEX), I had the opportunity to get a special taste of the world at Minneapolis’s Midtown Global Market.
Built in 1928, what’s now the Midtown Exchange was originally built as distribution center and retail location for Sears and Roebuck. Builders used horse and buggy to haul supplies, and train tracks were built straight through the building to make shipping easier. That old rail trail is now hipstorical, too! It’s been repurposed as the Midtown Greenway Bike Path and is also home to the Freewheel Bike Shop that offers locker rooms for commuters.
The building served the Sears company until 1994 when they moved to the Mall of America, leaving the building vacant for several years until the City of Minneapolis acquired it in 2001. After five years of reconstruction, the Midtown Global Market opened in 2006 and celebrates its 10th anniversary this year!
It’s now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is home to affordable housing, a healthcare company, condos, a DMV, and the Midtown Global Market, a business incubator where local entrepreneurs are invited to open boutique and food counters. Many of the business owners at the Market are immigrants from around the world, which means that their restaurants feature foods from all over the world.
“The Midtown Global Market gives business owners access to things they might not have if they opened a storefront in a strip mall,” says Becky George, Cultural Events and Property Manager at the Market. Those resources include entrepreneurial classes in several languages where business owners can learn about things like how to get food licenses.
Our first stop on the tour was to Salty Tart Bakery. Salty Tart is the brainchild of pastry chef Michelle Gayer, nominated five times for a James Beard Award. This lady is for real. She is known for her signature coconut macaroons, which pair nicely with a cup of hot chai from Mapp’s Tea and Coffee next door where the owners are from Turkey.
Next stop: Jerusalem. We had a fantastic falafel with cucumber sauce at Holy Land. The owners started noticing that that they had lots of Latino customers from the surrounding neighborhood, so they added some special flavors to their menu to attract them. Try the jalapeño and guacamole hummus! The combination of cultures is truly unique.
We strolled past the Halal Meat Market where meat is prepared by religion to cater to the multi-cultural community. We marveled at Tibetan arts and gifts, African drums at Simba Craftware, and Moroccan rugs that our friend Mostafa was selling at Dar Medina. We watched the bakers roll dough at Panaderia y Pasteleria Samantha and caught wind of the camel burgers at Safari.
We passed by the Produce Exchange which sells wholesale to the businesses in the market and stopped at Grassroots Gourmet. We tried a sampling of shortbread with goat cheese and jam, made from locally sourced ingredients just like all of their offerings are.
We also met some fantastic personalities along the way. Hasan, from Morocco, and his wife had just opened Moroccan Flavors five weeks before. Meanwhile, Manny from Mexico City has been at the Midtown Global Market since it opened 10 years ago.
Manny Gonzalez moved to Minnesota 30 years ago after attending culinary school to learn English. He and his sister Victoria sell tortas (Mexican sandwiches) at Manny’s Tortas that are absolutely to die for. It was definitely my favorite taste on the tour! Look for Manny at the Minnesota State Fair where he sells 10,000 pina coladas each year that you can sip out of whole pineapples.
The Global Market is also home to Tacocat, a taco shop that delivers by bike. Kitchen in the Market offers cooking classes and commercial kitchen space to kick start new businesses. Hot Indian gives discounts on their samosas, chicken tikka bowls, and Indi frites (with mango pickle aoili) if you do a Bollywood move (and do it well), and Sabbai serves Cambodian and Thai cuisine. Overall, there are 45 businesses at the Midtown Global Market. 27 of them are first-time business owners, and 16 have been there since it all began 10 years ago.
We had a great time at the Midtown Global Market tasting flavors from all around the world. I bought a scarf from Tibet, and if I’d had room in my suitcase, I would have bought a Moroccan rug from Dar Medina.
With the recent happenings around the world fueled by discrimination, hate, fear, and ignorance, Midtown Global Market gave me hope. It’s a place where all cultures come together in a safe environment. Where anyone can go to learn from each other, share food, stories, and laughter. It’s a trip around the world in just an afternoon. It’s a beautiful bubble in the center of the city, and I’m so glad that I had the chance to explore it.
We left full of good food and inspiration from entrepreneurs from across the globe. Midtown Global Market is a true gem, a unique experience, and worth a visit for anyone coming to the Twin Cities.
Suggestions for more hipstorical places in Minneapolis and Saint Paul? Email me and help me build my archives!