St. Paul beat: Liquor store owner is sold on downtown

  • Article by: JAMES WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 15, 2014 - 7:25 PM

 

Jeffrey Huff used to make a living appraising real estate. Then he sold wine at a little shop in St. Anthony Park.

So when the chance came along to open a shop in the historic and newly renovated Pioneer Building in downtown St. Paul, at a time when nearby Lowertown is considered hip and the rest of downtown is increasingly desirable, well, the appraiser in him just couldn’t resist.

Meet Revival Wine Beer and Spirits.

“It’s beautiful,” he said recently, looking out the shop windows at the U.S. Courthouse to the south and at the First National Bank to the west. “And I wanted to have a store in downtown St. Paul.”

The former Philadelphian who has called St. Paul home for 17 years admits there was a time when locating downtown was NOT deemed a wise business strategy. He’s heard the jokes about shooting a cannon at one end of downtown after 5 p.m. and not hitting a soul.

But few seem to be laughing now.

A $243 million train depot with new Amtrak service, a light-rail line on 4th Street, a soon-to-be built Lowertown ballpark, plus investments in restaurants, nightclubs, coffee shops, lofts and a new Lund’s grocery store are all making the tight little semi-bohemian enclaves of downtown St. Paul and Lowertown increasingly attractive, he said.

“This is a prime spot, in my opinion,” he said of his second-floor, 2,200-square-foot shop with more than 200 new Pioneer Building tenants and 7,000 more downtown residents within walking distance. “I understand growth and upswing.”

Lowertown is so hot, in fact, that USA Today recently deemed it one of America’s 10 hippest neighborhoods.

Property owner Richard Pakonen considers Huff’s shop a safe bet, as well. He and his partners have made a sizable investment in converting the former Pioneer Press and Endicott Buildings into luxury apartments. He said the time is right for a shop like Huff’s in a neighborhood that is gaining buzz.

“This is going to do well,” he said of the shop. “The whole area is exciting.”

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