One less refuge for rich white lake aristocracy, according to some

Something doesn't quite track...

This time it is the Birchwood Cafe‘s turn on the spotlight of infamy:

Long a darling of vegetarian and vegan foodies in the Twin Cities, it is now under the microscope as the owner summarily fired the entire staff including the GM on June 21st:

Instagram comment by @royale_withcheese

Myself the last time I ate there was years ago. I met a few people who worked there over the years but I personally had no idea of what management and ownership was like, other than I was never hired despite applying for kitchen positions multiple times.

The gist of it:

  • Tracy Singleton fired almost all the staff after setting up for Juneteenth.
  • Then she proceeded to post about it on Facebook and Instagram in a way that everyone says misrepresents her actions.
  • She declared this as a “prairie burn”; a chance to clean house.
  • When negative comments started coming in, she deleted them.
  • Then she deleted the original posts themselves.
  • She created new posts with comments disabled and people blocked.

There are a few screenshots going around but somehow no one thought (or refused) to take screenshots of those original posts so we will have to do without them. The fact this happened over two weeks ago means local food media is actively ignoring the story since most reporters probably want to stay in the good graces of the ownership.

Just the fact she used the term “prairie burn” as most of the western United States is under extreme drought, record high temperatures, and already started what will be a horrifying wildfire season… someone didn’t bother to read the room.

I found out about it via Twitter when someone retweeted @OhDionne onto my timeline, bringing up posts from Instagram and Facebook where the owner immediately set about deleting all comments from employees and those who would support them, so everyone will have to settle for screenshots of those posts.

However, activity elsewhere is still happening:

Former employee of Birchwood here and one of the many who were fired last week. It looks like you’ve read through the comments and have the gist of it. We were fired because the owner was paranoid that we were actively working against her and that we didn’t like her (which we don’t). The Juneteenth block party was just a convenient excuse for the public despite our questions on the logistics being legitimate. She truly believes she is a white savior while still making racist comments and tokenizing her POC employees. She’s received over a million dollars in PPP money and restaurant relief funds just to fire everyone.

As you’ve probably gathered from the comments, the owner is going through a mental health crisis combined with a drinking problem, but that’s no excuse for how she’s treated us this week and this year. I sincerely doubt the restaurant will reopen this summer if ever based on what we’re seeing here and her lack of staff. I’m happy to elaborate more on anything!

Update: the owner has deleted the Instagram and Facebook posts and reposted a similar message without our comments.

plantsaspets on Reddit

Not sure if it’s still there, but it was fun watching the owner and ex-employees go back and forth on the Birchwood facebook page. As a complete bystander, it looked like the owner came unhinged.

Michelle Zajec on Service Industry MSP

Still plenty of activity on Twitter itself based on the results of a quick search.

It makes me happy to see the support being shown by the rest of the community for the people who now find themselves unemployed! A lot of these people are deserving of a better workplace under better employers.

As for the Cafe and its owners we’ll probably hear about them in a few months when local food media breathlessly writes about the reopening of the place with a new-to-town chef and all-new staff.

Hopefully this time they will actually season their food.

An intersection: Lyndale Ave & Lake St

Lyndale Avenue South at Lake Street West

From what I hear the rent costs at this intersection have been wildly out of line with the true costs for years now, if what I’ve heard is right. Setting that aside for a moment, there is plenty of story to be had. Heck, someone on even did a photo essay of all the vacant storefronts back in 2016.

Not a lot has changed… but with the pandemic some things are definitely changing here

Northeast Corner

It’s Greek To Me used to live here until it closed in September 8, 2019 after a stellar 37 year run. They tried a few different things at the end but… didn’t really make a difference, blaming the sale of the parking lot behind them as one big factor of the closure. Not going to say much about the service, which we found hit or miss over time.

To the north (past Jungle Theater) you’d find Muddy Waters, which just closed on May 2, 2020. To the east you find Trio Plant-Based, holding down one of the “cursed” locations of the intersection.

But the corner itself has been sitting empty for 8 months and there is no word of any new restaurants opening there, or any redevelopment.

Southeast Corner

Held down by Iron Door Pub since 2015 after much drama, we’ve found it a good place for decently priced strong drinks. It’s not Cause… but it turned out to be a great place to watch the game.

The stores to the south of it have come and gone without much fuss.

Southwest Corner

Currently held down by Prieto Taqueria Bar, opened last year. This corner has a story of being a really hard spot to hold down for any length of time after the demise of Falafel King. Not quite cursed… yet.

Next door to the south you have Blue Door Pub which took over the spot from the much-missed Country Bar & Grill, then Caffrey’s Deli & Subs, which along with Cause saw its share of drama.

Only Caffrey’s looks like it’ll come out of pandemic closure more or less unscathed.

Northwest Corner

Most people don’t even think of this corner at this point except for the big ole sign built on its roof:

It’s been empty for years after Milio’s closed. Redfin has it off market and valued around 825K… but doesn’t actually say if anything is being developed anymore.

It’d make a hell of a rooftop if it weren’t for the sign.

Next door to the north you have Moto-i—which does have one hell of a rooftop, and Lyn-Lake Brewery, which also has a great rooftop.

So what now?

The big worry for a lot of people around here is having Lyn-Lake turn into another Uptown. We have heard people refer to this part of town as Uptown and… it just doesn’t sit right, really. The main similarity they’ll have is multiple empty storefronts all over.

It is not one we appreciate. Here is hoping this intersection rebounds sooner rather than later. I’m sure there are more intersections in other cities that have complicated histories and complicated stories.

Tell us in the comments.