COLUMN: A Senior Moment with Barry ZeVan: Hennepin Avenue

Updated: 02/18/2014 9:29 AM KSTP.com By: Barry ZeVan

I’m Barry ZeVan, age 75, having another Senior Moment, and here it is:

Almost every winter morning for the past several years, I’ve driven to downtown Minneapolis from the western suburb in which we live, usually between 6 and 7 o’clock. A family member appreciates the ride into work during those cold and dark mornings, and I’m happy to do it.

Something about which I’m NOT too happy is seeing a very dead Hennepin Avenue at that early hour. Obviously, as people arrive at work an hour or two later, that part of the city becomes alive again. However, driving at that early hour, when one passes the almost empty Block “E” and sees OTHER individual businesses that are OUT of business, the darkness and the lack of activity reinforces the reminder it wasn’t always that way on Minneapolis’s equivalent to Broadway in New York City.

When I moved here the first time, in November, 1970, Minneapolis was bustling, energetic, wholesome and so very much alive, not only on Hennepin Avenue, but all over downtown. When I moved here, The Foshay Tower was the tallest building in Minneapolis.

The IDS Building’s foundation had just been dug and quality first-class restaurants abounded. My favorites were The Nankin, Charlie’s Café Exceptionale, Harry’s, Murray’s (thankfully still with us) and The Haberdashery in the downtown Radisson Hotel. The Haberdashery, in my opinion,  was home to the best hamburgers in the universe, let alone the world. There were peanut shells all over the floor, which made it even more special.

All one did was decimate those free peanuts in the baskets on the tables and life was more than good. Those restaurants truly paralleled the finest anywhere, as did the city’s nightlife. The same was true of St. Paul, regarding restaurants.

The Blue Horse, Gallivan’s and Don, The Beachcomber’s, the latter in the downtown St. Paul Radisson, were also as first class as any, anywhere. Everything was done correctly in those days when I joined KSTP-TV to be their lead weathercaster.

The cities were replete with quality, good taste and great fun. It’s no accident The Mary Tyler Moore Show’s producers chose the Twin Cities to make at least one of those cities, Minneapolis, the fictional Mary Richards’s home. I’m glad her statue stands near the intersection where she tossed her hat in the air for millions to eventually see around the world.

I just wish someone with the means to do so would throw their hat in the ring to get Hennepin Avenue thriving once again for the entire length of its downtown presence. One could reflect for hours about how it used to be and how it is now, but no measure of nostalgia could ever illustrate how truly “magic” those days were. Thanks for reading, thinking and sharing in this Senior Moment. Was I supposed to write all that? Senior Moment! Oh, just kidding, just kidding. See you next time!

Barry ZeVan is a columnist for KSTP.com.