After more than 100 years, a Minnetonka family-owned hardware store is shutting its doors and being replaced by a new brewery.

Kraemer’s opened in 1909 as a general store for farmers in the Glen Lake area, one of the area’s first neighborhoods. The store, which had since relocated to a newer building, will close Dec. 1.

“I always joke that the only places that last longer than us are funeral parlors,” said John Kraemer, 61, the store’s owner and grandson of the founder. “I hate to go, but I just decided to go on to other things.”
If the city grants final approval this month, the building at Excelsior Boulevard and Eden Prairie Road will be renovated for Unmapped Brewing Company. The Planning Commission reviewed the plans Thursday and the City Council is slated to vote Oct. 24.

If approved, Unmapped would be Minnetonka’s first taproom.

“We’re pretty honored and excited to continue that tradition ... We won’t be selling hammers and saws but we’ll be a family-owned business,” said JD Park, who is opening the brewery with his wife, Megan.

The couple, who live in Minnetonka, announced in September that they had signed a lease for the 9,000-square-foot facility. They plan to open a 20-barrel brewhouse and taproom next May.

“It’s a pretty daunting task,” Park said of replacing a century-old business.

While the hardware store was still profitable, Kraemer said, his children had gone onto other things and he couldn’t find a suitable buyer. Closing the store is difficult, he said, since it’s been in the family for four generations.

“It was a hard thing to do, but of course you have to say all good things come to an end,” said Kraemer, who grew up a half-mile away and started working at the store when he was 8.

A lengthy history

In 1909, German immigrant and mill worker John (Chris) Kraemer used his savings from reselling farmers’ eggs to open the store on a dirt road and along a streetcar line, halfway between Excelsior and Minneapolis. It sold everything from household goods to hardware, and included a bar and restaurant.

“It was the only thing here,” said John Kraemer. “We just kept with it and we got lucky.”

Over the years, the store moved from corner to corner at the same intersection and gained a loyal following. It has been at its current site for three years.

While it didn’t face any big box competition, Kraemer’s was competing with other nearby hardware stores and John Kraemer said he wasn’t up for “more of a battle.”

He’s retiring, but he’s not going far. He’s going to be one of the investors in the new brewery, and will help out besides.

“Instead of cutting keys, I’ll be pouring beers,” he said.

“We’re really excited to have him as a local celebrity,” Park said of Kraemer.

At a preliminary city review last month of the brewery plans, one resident questioned the impact of possible noise, smells and drunken behavior on an adjacent residential neighborhood.

Park said last week that they’ll work to address residents’ concerns, and have heard from many others who are excited for a new brewery. “We wanted to keep it local,” he said.

Kelly Smith • 612-673-4141
Twitter: @kellystrib