Sidewalk sales in Minneapolis?

  • Article by: BRIAN AROLA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 19, 2013 - 9:28 PM

Proposal would allow owners to sell and display items on the sidewalks in front of their stores.

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Jack Arora, owner of Groceries on Harmon at 1301 Harmon Place, says the proposed change would give his store more visibility.

Photo: Joel Koyama, Star Tribune

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Jack Arora said his small grocery store can seem hidden away in downtown Minneapolis so he'd like a way to attract passersby.

Arora looked into ice cream and hot dog stands to attract walkers in the summer but was frustrated to learn that a city ordinance doesn't allow that.

"We have a lot of people walking by in the summertime," said Arora, owner of Groceries on Harmon. "And that would give us real good staging to sell products."

Urged by business owners like Arora from across Minneapolis, city officials are now considering changing the ordinance to allow businesses to display and sell goods outside of their stores.

The city is in the early stages of looking at ways to make that happen, said Grant Wilson, the city's manager of business licensing. The current ordinance states a business must display all of its goods in an enclosed building, he said.

The proposal is being pushed by City Council Member Elizabeth Glidden, who said she'd like Minneapolis to become as enjoyable to walk in as New York City.

"We're really trying to encourage walkable neighborhoods and walkable business districts," she said. "I think this fits right into the sensibility of those goals and I'm really excited about the opportunity."

Glidden said small grocery stores, bookstores and stores selling secondhand goods would benefit from being allowed to display their goods outside.

Kristen Eide-Tollefson, owner of The Bookhouse in Dinkytown, said she could display T-shirts and records, items many people who go by might not realize she sells. "I think it's a delightful thing to be thinking of in terms of enhancing the experience of customers," she said.

Arnetta Dill said she'd love to display racks of clothing outside her south Minneapolis resale shop to help attract new customers.

"If they see my products outside, it welcomes them in," said Dill, who recently moved her business, Better Than Ever Resale Boutique, to its current location in the 4300 block of Nicollet Avenue.

Arora said displaying goods outside the store can also help save small business owners on advertising.

Glidden said along with sidewalk cafes, retail goods on the sidewalk can really add to the environment of a city.

"Having that retail/dining experience right in the midst of the urban environment can be a really fun and enjoyable thing," she said.

Glidden said she's looking forward to talking to businesses as well as disability, pedestrian and bicycle committees on how to best implement the ordinance change.

Brian Arola is a University of Minnesota student intern on assignment for the Star Tribune.

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