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Local Reactions to the Coronavirus Pandemic at the Urban-Suburban Edge

How has Coronavirus affected your neighborhood? There are several components to the way neighborhoods react: people, business, transportation, etc. Some reactions are common, some unique to each neighborhood. So yesterday I decided to document the most public & specific of these reactions: businesses. Everyone needs to shop & run errands, so how does the pandemic affect us as we move about our daily lives?

As someone who lives & works near the urban-suburban edge, in first ring suburbs, I want to see how we react locally compared to denser areas. This coronavirus is known to affect the elderly more than youth, and the first ring suburbs are demographically quite old—people who’re staying in the house they raised their kids in, people who might’ve downsized into a nearby apartment or condo. So any impact could be large in the area surrounding Minneapolis, the largest city & urban area in the United States’ Upper Midwest.

What area are we talking about? We’re looking at the business reactions in two suburbs: the Elmwood neighborhood of St. Louis Park, near a future SWLRT/Green Line Extension light rail station; and at the Edina-Minneapolis border at 44th St. & France Ave. in the Morningside & Linden Hills neighborhoods, near the future E Line aBRT. These two areas are about 2 miles apart, on the western edge of Minneapolis.

The two neighborhoods at the intersection of a city & its suburbs: 36th & Hwy 100, and 44th & France Ave.

First, let’s see what happened in St. Louis Park. I own a shop on 36th Street. When we were closing up for the day on Tuesday, the owner of a nearby salon stopped by to tell us they closed temporarily due to Governor Walz’s emergency declaration. Would other shops close? What would they ask of customers? I wanted to know, so the next morning I decided to see what notices the shops & services on my block had posted. Here is a smattering of the posted signs:

One of the salons near us had this sign up, explaining their closing.

When the schools closed, there was no point in this business being open

Fitness service? Yep, also closed.

Not shown: Mama’s Happy, which has 3 locations, and now has customized hours for each one; another exercise/barre salon, which I assume is closed. The chiropractor is open as is the dialysis center. Across Hwy 100, a Target store and Lunds & Byerly’s supermarket are open with reduced hours.

What about construction projects? A mixed use building being built on the south side of 36th Street had workers toiling away on site, so no effect there. This building will have “55+” apartments, aimed at soon-to-be and recent retirees.

Construction still happening at the mixed-use building being built across the street.

What about traffic—are people staying at home? 36th Street, shown in the photo of the building under construction, was devoid of moving cars, even though it’s usually quite busy as it’s a cut-through connector between Hwy 100 and Hwy 7. So, despite media reports, at least some people are heeding the calls to remain at home.

My shop was closed due to sick employees, so I headed home. After hearing about the potential of barbers being asked to close, I walked over to 44th & France to get a haircut at Dick’s Barbers. I was taken aback by signs on the chairs when I went to sit down:

Warning signs on customer waiting area chairs at Dick’s Sports Barbers

Signs placed on alternate chairs to keep customers at a distance from each other

The signs make perfect sense, of course, but they suddenly jolt you into the present strange reality, even if all you were thinking about was something as ordinary as how your hair is cut.

After getting a haircut, I walked my reusable grocery bag across the street to the Linden Hills Co-op. Despite fewer people being out, it was gratifying to see some customers were still biking for their groceries.

One of the customer bike racks at the co-op.

After seeing signs at the barber’s, I wasn’t surprised to see them at the co-op, but the store had a different way of controlling how far apart customers stayed.

Linden Hills Food Co-op sign limiting the number of customers at one time for safety

There were additional signs that showed the co-op put a good amount of effort into keeping customers safe, such as bag recycling and bulk liquid items.

Plastic bag recycling on hold for customer safety

Self-serve kombucha on hold. Also, notice one of the customer cyclists standing in the background

As I left the co-op to walk home with my groceries, I noticed a chalk message on the sidewalk. There’s a palpable sense of people wanting to help out. We’re all in this together.

Local residents showing support for their local co-op

Photographs of warnings about the virus may seem like strange content for a site about streets. But how people, businesses, & neighborhoods pull together in crisis is a core part of who we are and how successful we’ll be reacting to this pandemic. It’s an indicator of how serious the emergency is, and how many businesses, employees, & neighbors will be affected. Lives changed. The images may seem strange now, but in retrospect they will seem ordinary & expected after we’ve lived through a pandemic for weeks and months.

I wanted to save this moment in time, when these signs are new, when their appearance jolts you out of your ordinary day into the realization that suddenly—everything has changed.

About Lou Miranda

Lou is a board member at Streets.mn, newly (2019) appointed to the Hennepin County Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC), and has been on the Edina Planning Commission since 2018. He was formerly Vice Chair of the Edina Transportation Commission. He tweets at @TheNewLou

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6 thoughts on “Local Reactions to the Coronavirus Pandemic at the Urban-Suburban Edge

    1. Lou Miranda Post author

      Despite all the disruption, it’s good to know we don’t have to panic about the food or water supply or the people who give us access to it.

      Perhaps it gives society a new perspective on the value of these hard workers.

  1. Tim BrackettModerator  

    I’m jealous, because I didn’t think to get to the barber before it was too late. Also, as someone who used to live blocks away from Hwy. 100 in Golden Valley I appreciated the perspective of this piece. Thanks Lou.

    1. Lou Miranda Post author

      Depending how long this lasts (almost certainly more than just weeks), I think we’re all going to come out looking a lot shaggier!

  2. Mark

    Thought about a haircut before the order came down but I just wasn’t willing to risk it since my barber is interacting with so many people during the week. I’ll just let it go long for the next few months.

  3. John AbrahamJohn Abraham

    Great walk and nice report, Lou! Gives a good idea of how things are radically shifting. The bookstore where I work in SLP is closed to the public until April 1 and it seems most people seem to think two weeks is still an acceptable amount of time for a pandemic that may last over a year. Now that Dear Leader is taking advice more from Serious Economists and not those notorious fools the public health professionals I fear we are entering a dangerous part of this sequence.

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