It’s Labor Day every day on Lake Street.
Work crews in hard hats, hauling away rubble and replacing smashed glass. The smell of lunch wafting out every time someone opens a restaurant’s plywood-patched front door. Mile after mile of hand-lettered signs between hand-painted murals: We’re open. We’re open. We’re opening soon.
This was always going to be a make-or-break year for Tiwanna Jackson.
She set up shop on Lake Street in January, finally able to move her growing beauty business, Tweak the Glam Studio, into a storefront of her own, just off the intersection of Lyndale and Lake.
Then came the pandemic. Then came the shutdown order. A week before shops and salons were set to reopen in Minneapolis, George Floyd died under a policeman’s knee, 2½ miles away.
Then came the looters, crashing through her new windows, smashing past every Black-owned business sign on this stretch of Lyn-Lake. Six years of dreaming and planning, shattered.
“I broke down and cried a few times,” said Jackson, who opened Tweak the Glam in the North Loop in 2014, offering lash, brow and makeup treatments. The Lyn-Lake location is the first of many she hopes to open, anchored by a training school. “I feel like I’m starting all over again. I was very unsure. I prayed to God, ‘Please don’t let me fail.’ ”
And with that, Jackson set about not failing.
She rebuilt, she repaired and she threw an amazing party for Tweak the Glam’s long-delayed grand opening on Aug. 20.
“I took the leap of faith,” she said, looking out at Lake Street through her repaired front window. “I’m here. I’m going to be here. I’m going to do just what I said I’m going to do.”
Now her business, and hundreds more, are waiting to see if their customers will keep faith with them.
At least 2,500 businesses crowd Lake Street as it stretches the long miles from the Chain of Lakes to the Mississippi River. Through Uptown, through Midtown, past the charred husk of the Third Police Precinct.
Here you’ll find restaurants, bike shops, halal groceries, business incubators like the Karmel Mall and Midtown Global Market, gift shops, pawnshops, liquor stores, apartments, big-box shops and mom and pops.
The uprising damaged at least 400 businesses on or near Lake Street.
More than 70,000 people donated more than $10 million to the effort to rebuild Lake Street.
Now, the Lake Street Council says, what businesses really need to see is some of those generous supporters walk into their shops.
“Don’t be afraid. Come take a look,” Allison Sharkey, executive director of the Lake Street Council.
“It’s interesting to come and get a sense of what’s happening in the history of our community.
But, it’s also important to bring your pocketbook and to support a business while you’re there.”
There’s nothing open on Lake Street, people sometimes tell Cesia Abigail Baires, who then explains how wrong they are.
“I’m still here,” said Baires, who opened her restaurant, Abi’s Cafe, on E. Lake Street six years ago, when she was 25. It offers Minnesota a taste of El Salvador: handmade pupusas, plantain empanadas, yucca fry bread soaked in syrup.
“Success is the only thing in my vision,” she said.
“I’m going to keep pushing and hopefully myself and all the other businesses get through these hard times and the whole city can get back to normal.”
When the riots gutted Abi’s Cafe, Baires turned the space into a community drop-off for donations to south Minneapolis, where she works, and north Minneapolis, where she lives.
Rebuilding and reopening has been brutally hard.
The restaurant has been robbed three times, new windows smashed almost as soon as they’re installed.
A man was killed in front of the restaurant.
“A lot of people are telling me to leave Minneapolis,” she said. “But I believe the South Side is a very strong community.”
When she showed up to clean up the damage, her customers showed up too, with brooms.
“Why am I going to leave, when I know I’m going to get the support, and we are all going to get the support, from the community?” said Baires, whose food truck and its delicious pupusas can also be found outside Lakes and Legends in Loring Park several times a week.
She had to keep going, she said.
Her employees are depending on her, and so are all the small vendors in her supply chain. She just wishes Lake Street shoppers knew how many people are depending on them, too.
“I wish people had the same mentality as businesses: ‘We have to keep going, we have to keep supporting these people,’ ” she said.
“It’s going to take all of us to do it, to get Lake Street back to normal — and the whole city, not just Lake Street.”
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