Rustica, which has been dazzling bread and sweets fans with its premium artisan output since 2004, is getting ready to open a branch at Southdale.
Owner Greg Hoyt can explain his decision to invest in a suburban shopping center by invoking a single word: parking.
"I have very strong convictions about parking," he said. "To be successful in this business, parking is a necessity. Let's face it: today, people in Minnesota drive. And we drive alone. If we want to open another Rustica location, we know that we need parking, and lots of it. Southdale has a cornfield of parking. It goes on, and on."
OK, there were other reasons, too.
"That part of Edina also feels like a city, with all the density in that area," said Hoyt. "It's also about demographics. Our customers live there. I also like the idea of being connected to a co-working space."
Rustica is taking a berth in the Life Time Work building, a component of the massive, fully loaded Life Time fitness facility that's opening soon on the site that was formerly home to J.C. Penney. Rustica's location in the complex is adjacent to Southdale's northwest entrance. Shoppers will have to exit the mall to enter the bakery/cafe.
"It will have its own entrance, and its own outdoor seating," said Hoyt.
A cool design detail: The space will feature interior windows that overlook Life Time's indoor soccer field. Yes, there will be an indoor soccer field.
What the 2,000-square-foot Rustica space won't have is a kitchen. Everything edible will be produced in Minneapolis and trucked to Edina, from the bakery cases' entire line of breads and pastries to a full range of grab-and-go salads and sandwiches. A complete line of coffee products will also be available.
Rustica's 70-seat Southdale location will keep longer hours than its Minneapolis counterpart at 3220 W. Lake St. Doors will open at 6:30 a.m. and 7 a.m. on weekends, and remain open to 9 p.m., two hours longer than the Minneapolis location's closing time.
"That's going to force us to be interesting in the evenings," said Hoyt. Rather than offering beer and wine ("I'm not interested in that," said Hoyt), the plan will be to emphasize desserts, along with an abundance of tech-friendly electrical outlets.
"We hope to be known as a great place to study," said Hoyt. "We want to be comfortable, to encourage people to linger. I love it when people linger — it creates a vibe, it creates an energy."
Three cheers to Simon, the mall's ownership, for recruiting a local, quality-obsessed quick-service food tenant. It's a welcome foil to the Panda Expresses, Qdobas and Jimmy John's that frequently populate the mall landscape.
Hoyt hopes that the Southdale Rustica will be up and running by year's end.