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Brooks: Our beloved Twin Cities business is back in business thanks to you

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Letters have arrived every month since Mickey’s Diner closed.

A note from a loyal customer during check-in. Make sure he knows how much he misses his favorite restaurant and how happy he will be when Mickey’s doors open again.

On hard days, Melissa Mattson rereads those letters. Days of contractors grappling with Depression-era ductwork in diners. When the supply chain is not supplying. When the window closed sign has been there for years.

“He writes once a month, ‘I can’t wait.’ ‘I’m looking forward to it,’ said Mattson, president of the business her grandfather started. I have been going to Mickey’s for over 60 years. “It’s very exciting, and when you’re overwhelmed, [one of the letters] until everyone can see it. “We can do this! It’s like, ‘

Bert Mattson and Mickey Crimmons opened Mickey’s in downtown St. Paul in 1939. Designed to look like a railroad dining car, it is dedicated to proposing that any time is the perfect time to come and enjoy a big bowl of pancakes or Mulligan stew. Mickey’s continued to operate around the clock for most of his next 80-plus years. Until the pandemic and everything after.

But Mickey will probably reopen by the end of the summer, possibly by the end of the year.

Thanks to you, Mickey will resume.

When the restaurant closed, customers opened their wallets and donated over $70,000 to an online fundraiser to keep Mickey’s neon glowing. Thousands of donors have reminded staff why they work so hard and who they work for.

“It made me cry and it made my dad cry,” Mattson said.

Across the river is another beloved small business that’s nearly gone by 2020.

Uncle Hugo’s Sci-Fi Bookstore and Uncle Edgar’s Mystery Bookstore are reopening soon.

Two years ago, Don Briley’s bookstore burned down during the riots that swept Minneapolis after the murder of George Floyd. Today, he opened a new shop in a new location, filled with tens of thousands of new and used books. Many of them were donated by grieving patrons of his twin bookstore.

Ecko the shop dog is back at work and napping between the shelves of the bookstore’s new home at 2716 E. 31st St., one block down from Moon Palace Books.

“I had just retired and had enough insurance to never work again,” Bligh said.

But with the flood of support, including nearly $200,000 in online donations, he realized just how big a hole his uncle had left in the hearts of Twin Cities readers.

“In independent bookstores, each one reflects the personality of the owner, and what the owner thinks is important,” he said. “None of them did anything close to what I was doing. So I decided to go ahead and give it a try. ”

Bligh set to work restoring what he had lost. Books, bookshelves, shops, computers, staff. He toughened it through months of shipping snafus and bureaucratic red tape, and is almost ready to resume, perhaps next week.

Back at Mickey, the work continues. The diner is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, so workers walked carefully and upgraded his HVAC system, which is appreciated when it’s 30 degrees below him, while preserving the environment his customers love. increase.

While they are at work, Cheryl Ader is working on a scrapbook of Mickey’s Diner. Her father, Frank LaPlante, was one of her managers when the restaurant first opened, and the diner’s story has been part of her family’s story ever since.

She filled her 32-page scrapbook with family photos, postcards, and newspaper and magazine clippings. She took note of every time Mickey appeared in a Hollywood movie and documented what it was like when her grandson built a Lego diner replica.

“I’m really interested in this business,” said 69-year-old Ader. “It’s family.”

For decades, Mickey’s door has been open every hour, every day, every holiday. In recent years, Mickey Mouse in the sky has been a strange and sad sight.

But a new booth is in preparation. Once customers have a seat, the opening date isn’t too far behind. Ader is already dreaming of his first meal back. Maybe hamburgers. It could be one of Mickey’s legendary breakfasts.

“I can’t wait,” she said. “The food is very good. The atmosphere is very pleasant. And there is a lot of history.”