A DMV Grows in Saint Paul (Inside the Sears Department Store!)

Saint Paul is a weird city. One of its many quirks, which may go largely undetected, is that it has a DMV located deep in the recesses of a Sears Department Store.

It’s easy to miss. First you would have to find a reason to go inside a dated looking Sears at Rice Street just north of I94. If on foot or bike this would require crossing a mammoth parking lot that I imagine could easily fit 500 cars. If you’ve ever been inside a Sears, you know that is wildly optimistic number of customers. The lot is never even close to full unless people are using it illegally for Capitol parking or, as Bill Lindeke reports, as an impromptu drag racing gathering area.

Bill Lindeke witnessed a possible drag rally one night in the Sears parking lot.

Bill Lindeke witnessed a possible drag rally one night in the Sears parking lot.

 

So crossing this concrete desert of the mostly deserted parking lot, you reach the entrance and stumble in and are greeted by some Kardashians (not to be confused with Cardassians). Past the giant Kardashian Collection ad, a field of clothing rack as high as July corn spreads out before you. You find the Sear checkout counter and ask incredulously if there really is a DMV in here like you’ve been led to believe? They point you up the escalators.

On the second floor you wander past the mattresses, kitchenware and bedding and finally emerging from the vertical walls of drape samples is the sad oasis of the License Bureau with its unmistakable crowd of grumpy supplicants awaiting their time of reckoning at the gates of vehicular purgatory. You take you paper number and wait your turn to conduct your motor vehicle related business.

Drapes? Check. Suit cases? Check. Shower curtains? Check.  License Bureau? Check.

Drapes? Check. Suit cases? Check. Shower curtains? Check. License Bureau? Check.

 

Now, if the wait is long, and it often is, in theory you could do a little shopping in the meantime. The integration of the Sears and the DMV isn’t seamless though. The DMV doesn’t announce your name on the Sears intercom when it’s your turn so you’d have to stay close lest you get passed over. That leaves you with drapes—alas, not an exciting thing to browse.

I haven’t done any research as to how this Sear/DMV arrangement came about. It’s more fun to speculate. Perhaps an enterprising bureaucrat sought to do the city a service by increasing errand running efficiency? Maybe the city repossessed the space for back taxes? Maybe license bureau management just really likes Sears and wanted office space as close as possible to a Sears? Mission accomplished if that was the goal.

Kitchenware shopping is just a hop, skip and a jump away from the Saint Paul DMV.

Kitchenware shopping is just a hop, skip and a jump away from the Saint Paul DMV.

 

Theoretically, the Sears employees benefit too. They don’t have to make a special trip to the DMV. They can just wander over during a break, perhaps even grabbing a number ahead of time to cut down wait time. Or, they can be the first ones in line in the morning. There’s some pretty unfettered access.

I don’t know the how or the why. I just know that there is a DMV inside of the Rice Street Sears, and it’s bizarre. Not in a bad way. And what else would you expect from the city of Saint Paul?

Doug Trumm

About Doug Trumm

Doug lives in the Saint Anthony Park neighborhood of Saint Paul, blogs for the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition, and freelances as a dogwalker or political researcher, depending on the season. He enjoys living blocks from the U of M transitway bike facility and a mile from the Green Line. He loves to cook, see live music, and travel.

4 thoughts on “A DMV Grows in Saint Paul (Inside the Sears Department Store!)

  1. Phil

    Funny. There’s also a DMV in the old Sears building (Midtown Global Market) on Lake St. I wonder if that was also there when it actually was a Sears.

  2. Reuben CollinsReuben Collins

    Weird? Yep.
    Awesome? You bet. I love this DMV (as much as anybody can love a DMV). It’s my DMV of choice.

    Last time I went to the DMV, I also bought a belt.

  3. Scott

    That DMV has been there over 20 years. It’s been so long, and I’ve been there so many times that it’s come to seem completely normal. Of course, it’s time to renew, go to Sears. Where else would one go for a new license?

  4. Other Chuck

    On my one and only visit, I saw the luggage display as a wry comment. As in, “You should have packed a change of clothes for this little errand.”

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