There are various theories, and two involve the Grodnik brothers.
One of them, Louis, built a commercial structure on the corner of 4th Street and 14th Avenue SE., and had his name put over the door. His building still stands. (Old U students may remember it as Gray’s Drug; now it’s the Loring Bar & Restaurant.) But another brother, Hela — well, he took credit for naming Dinkytown, claiming he said the neighborhood was “getting to be a real ‘Dinky Town.’ ” Well … maybe, Hela, but it’s more likely that the term came from their Slavic surname written over his brother’s building. Loosely translated, Grod means town. Nik: a suffix meaning little. Dinkytown!
That’s a theory, anyway. Hela ended up working at the jewelry store of a third brother, Jacob, in the 1880s Mitchell Building, which also still stands. Perhaps Hela saw “Grodnik’s Credit” on the matchbook and groused a little: that’s what he deserved for naming Dinkytown! (Cue his brothers, rolling their eyes.)
James Lileks collects matchbooks for their unique graphics and stories they tell.