Officer Elliot Wong has kind of been the Marshal Dillon of the lower Northeast business district for nearly 15 years.
Just as TV’s legendary Matt Dillon walked the streets and visited the shops and saloons daily in Dodge City, Wong knows the merchants, employees and residents along the Central-E. Hennepin Avenue corridor from the Mississippi River.
He knows when something is amiss.
“All the business people have Elliot’s cellphone number,” said Kazoo Branding owner Tom Dupont, president of the neighborhood business association. “You can’t measure Elliot’s value to businesses employees and patrons.”
Wong, 50, as a kid watched beat officers check doorways and alleys of the once rough-hewn commercial district. The neighborhood has evolved into a hip commercial, nightlife and residential nexus. That attracts thieves and the occasional mugger.
Yet the area boasts a low crime rate, partly due to eyes on the street. And also to Wong, who walks the oldest beat on the police force and who has a way of letting suspected troublemakers know he knows who they are and so do the neighbors.
“I’m in crime prevention business,” said Wong, who snaps pictures of suspected offenders, informs them they’re being watched and distributes their photos to area businesses. “I make a lot of ‘field contacts.’ And whether it’s somebody bothering a young woman … or [loitering] in a business, I tell them to move along. Anybody who wants my cellphone number gets it.”
Wong is known for dogging suspected shoplifters a couple of years ago, who finally vacated the neighborhood and were arrested a couple of days later for heisting goods by Edina police.
“He definitely takes ownership,” said Inspector Kathy Waite of the Second Precinct. “He gets teased [by fellow officers] because he has such a significant fan base. There are other officers like him. Beat officers tend to be outgoing and interact with business people, shoppers and residents. It’s a second family to Elliot. He even struggles going on vacation because he feels so responsible.”
Waite said Wong takes pressure off “911 responders” in squad cars because “he works so closely with the community on anything that looks suspicious. Business owners call Elliot on his cellphone and he responds.”
The local business community holds fundraisers to subsidize a police “substation” for Second Precinct officers, and to pay for off-duty officers for entertainment events. Wong picks those officers, who tend to be unflappable veterans.
“Elliot picks officers who know a certain amount of ‘good time’ is OK, but not out-of-control rowdy,” Dupont said.
“Anybody can muscle somebody,” Wong said. “I try to use my brain and can usually move [an unruly character] from point A to B without touching him. People around here help me do my job. It encourages me. They look out for me.”
HidrateMe flush with cash from Kickstarter campaign
CEO Nadya Nguyen of high-tech water bottle HidrateMe.com reports that the June Kickstarter campaign raised $627,000.
Not bad considering the initial goal was $35,000.
The four-person company, recent University of Minnesota graduates who have won a couple of entrepreneurial awards, has started taking online orders and will use the money for preproduction expenses. It expects to start shipping product by January.
The daughter of Vietnamese parents who immigrated to Russia, Nguyen moved to Minnesota from Moscow to attend the university on a partial scholarship. She also worked campus jobs to support herself during the school years.
The product costs $47 and is a “smart water bottle” with a sensor that tracks water consumption, lights up when it’s time for more, and connects to a phone. Each customer programs the system with a simple input that includes gender, height, weight and variables such as exercise level and duration, heat and humidity. Nguyen got the idea when her headaches were traced to low hydration.
I wrote about HidrateMe in June: www.tinyurl.com/pw2mhjc
North Memorial Health Care will open downtown clinic
A small health clinic will soon fill prime retail space recently vacated by Saks Off Fifth in downtown Minneapolis.
North Memorial Health Care is opening a primary care facility at 655 Nicollet Mall in November, according to real estate sources. This will be expanding North Memorial’s 16th primary-care clinic location in the Twin Cities Metro.
In December, United Properties bought 50,000 square feet of retail space in Gaviidae Common from New York-based Nightingale Properties that was previously occupied by Saks. United immediately leased 38,000 square feet to Walgreens. The pharmacy chain plans to build out its first upscale store format in Minnesota on the site, slated to open in September.
Saks plans to open a new Saks Off Fifth store across the street at City Center in April 2016.
North Memorial will occupy 8,000 square feet of space on the skyway-level and will offer advanced imaging, mammography, podiatry and lab services — and walk-in appointments. The lease was signed in April and the deal announced Monday.
“We are thrilled to expand access to North Memorial Health Care’s primary care services into downtown Minneapolis,” said Kelly Macken-Marble, North Memorial Health Care president of population health and ambulatory services, in a news release.
Kristen Leigh Painter
Facebook small-business seminar here this week
Facebook, increasingly a revenue-driven marketing force among members, will host a small-business boot camp for up to 1,000 attendees at Aria in the Warehouse District on Thursday.
Jonathan Czaja, 36, a Rochester native who previously worked in e-commerce for eBay and Wal-Mart until 2014, is Silicon Valley-based Facebook’s North American small business director. He said the Twin Cities is one of four hot markets targeted for a small-business camp this summer.
Facebook, which has surged recently to $268 billion in market value, surpassing General Electric, is finding new revenue sources, including small-business advertising.
“We have more than 1 billion people who use Facebook every day,” Czaja said. “Small businesses can target users, such as a Dinkytown restaurant that can target people in the immediate vicinity. It’s a profitable way to reach the right people.”
More information: www.boostyourbusiness. eventfarm.com.