Julie Ingebretsen, third generation head of Ingebretsen’s, the century-old Scandinavian food and gift store, is leading the way in supporting the takeover of other small businesses on E. Lake Street.
After all, she runs the oldest immigrant business on Lake Street.
Ingebretsen is a pillar of the Lake Street Council board, which has approved and distributed millions in grants to needy businesses for repairs, as well as thousands of hours of volunteer advice and assistance. Lake Street has returned to a state of modest recovery from the pandemic and unrest, though still marred by damaged buildings and vacant land and troubled by crime.
“Ingebretsen’s is in the heart of Lake Street,” said Allison Sharkey, executive director of the board. “I love to see the line of people stretching along the block every holiday season.”
Julie Ingebretsen “reaches out to welcome and hire new business owners. I love that Julie continually invests to ensure that her business’s physical presence elevates the neighborhood, from large storefronts to … wooden spoon carvers who worked outside the store. “
Ingebretsen’s long roots have stabilized him during the tumultuous times since the pandemic and the riots on E. Lake Street that followed the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in May 2020.
“’Optimist’ is the appropriate word,” said Ingebretsen, who joined the family business in 1974 after a few years as a teacher. “Right after the riots we, the members of the Lake Street Council, were worried about the future.
“But our customers are loyal. The businesses on this part of Lake Street had broken windows and vandalism. But no arson. We sustained approximately $ 250,000 in damage. for many businesses that are suffering. “
Admittedly, many small businesses and under-capitalized restaurants remain closed.
“This past year has been tough for us,” said Stacie Genic, manager of San Miguel Bakery at 17.e Avenue and E. Lake, one block east of Ingebretsen. “She told me to get involved with the Lake Street Council. Julie cares about Lake Street and the small businesses, the immigrant businesses.
“We closed for weeks during the pandemic, then after the riots. Julie was encouraging and had some ideas. And our business is slowly improving this year.”
Like Ingebretsen, Genic is pursuing a family business. San Miguel, with stores in Minneapolis and St. Paul, was founded by his parents in 2001. “He’s my parents’ other child,” Genic said.
The Ingebretsen store is one of the last Scandinavian stores that once had a few dozen in the Twin Cities. She has seen her business slowly rebound this year. “The community has gathered around us,” she said.
Ingebretsen, 72, said she was particularly relieved, thanks to local businesses and financiers, that foreigners had not rushed to buy distressed real estate. Instead, local owners kept a number of properties and some previous tenants were able to become owners.
She, and a staff that goes from 25 to 50 between Thanksgiving and New Years, have created a modestly growing business of about $ 3 million in revenue that retails hundreds of Nordic foods and gifts, from cod , from herring and Swedish sausage to hundreds of clothes. , knitting, art and other handicrafts.
Mail order and online activities still represent a minority share, but also the most dynamic areas of Ingebretsen’s business.
And there is a fourth generation Ingebretsen behind the scenes.
Her daughter, Anna Bloomstrand, 42, an artist, is gradually taking her mother’s place in marketing, purchasing and management of the store. Bloomstrand’s cousin Gus Ingebretsen, 31, runs the mail order business and is moving into other roles as well.
Bloomstrand has been with Ingebretsen’s since 2007. In addition to mail order and online business, she runs a wholesale business and creates art and jewelry.
Ingebretsen’s is owned by two families, the Ingebretsens and the Dahl, descendants of the two partners who opened a small meat market in 1921. It was extended to crafts and gifts in 1974 when Julie Ingebretsen joined the business. . Current partner Steve Dahl manages the deli and hands over operations to his daughter Lenae.
Ingebretsen, granddaughter of founder and butcher Charles Ingebretsen, once suggested, partly only jokingly, that she was considering moving what is now a four-door business between 1601 and 1607 E. Lake to the suburbs, before the start of the latest wave of new immigrant businesses. arrived 30 years ago to fill vacant storefronts on then-declining Lake E. Today, she leads by example, offering support and empathy to her trading neighbors with roots in Latin America and Africa.
“Julie is a longtime leader in building a community,” said Sharkey.
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