Photos By John Hoff
After writing so much about 1901 Glenwood Ave. N., the office of Lenny Chism--the guy in a blue shirt who heckled Council Member Don Samuels during the 5th Ward DFL Convention--I became incredibly curious to see the building in question where so many schemes and dreams were hatched. A virtual walk on the Google Earth didn't reveal much; I wanted to get a "boots on the ground" grunt view of reality.
Reality was, indeed, a revelation...
The building sits on a corner and it is small. It's really small. How small is it?
Well, when my son Alex was little he once asked me, "Dad, how big is big?" Once I figured out what he was trying to understand, I had to explain the concept of size being RELATIVE. If something was this large--demonstrating with one's hands--it would be a BIG mouse, but it would be a very SMALL melon, because people have a certain sense of what is normal size for different objects. Likewise, even a "small" car is very big considering almost every normal household object. Incredibly, there are objects in the universe which can be called "small" though they are larger than the whole earth...
Anyway, getting back to Lennie's former building at 1901 Glenwood Ave, let me say this:
It would make a very LARGE hot dog stand.
The building is obscured on Google maps street view because, at street level, there is a roughly-constructed billboard display which features, inter alia, a sign for Lennie's real estate business. So, I realized, my hunch was right: Lennie is the same Twin Cities real estate agent who received only one review of one star, calling him "shady."
Now, some might wonder why I have this intense interest in Lennie "Heckler" Chism. Recently, somebody suggested I was making a play on words because "Lennie Heckler" sounds like "Denny Hecker," the very well known local car dealer. First, I'll say such a play on words was not deliberate, though it kind of works: Denny Hecker says "Nobody walks." What does Lennie say? "Nobody TALKS." At least, no public official talks without Lennie shouting and interrupting--over and over--until every person in the room must turn from the OFFICIAL process and take in the UNOFFICIAL disruption.
Lennie made himself a public figure--at least more of a public figure than he already was with his relentless efforts to distribute the ideas in his brochure about building wealth--so I'm just giving this public figure the kind of inquiry and attention he merits, at least on a blog about North Minneapolis. At the end of this post, I'll give Lennie his say again--via an email he sent--and the comment threads, as always, are available for substantive comment.
WHERE WAS I? Oh, yeah, 1901 Glenwood Ave. which has no business licenses on record with the city--not from what I could find online, anyway. (If somebody knows different, tell me different)
The whole building appears capable of housing one fairly good-sized office. I'm not sure if it has a basement level. One could keep files down there. The building may be small but it has EIGHT MAIL BOXES on the exterior.
The building has fallen on hard times. A pellet gun scored multiple hits on a plate glass window near the door. (Sorry, however, pellet gun damage doesn't count as "bullet holes." Pellet gun damage is nowhere near as sexy as digging a bullet out of the wall of your house and showing it to a bunch of your friends at Broadway Pizza)
Broken glass--not from the pellet gun damage, it appears--litters the grass embankment near the door. Some floodlights at the base of the small building have been damaged, possibly kicked out. A pile of leaves has blown into a corner near the front door. In the small, cute backyard (which is surrounded with a tall white fence, a very attractive and sturdy fence, I should say) a small shed has two gas cans sitting in plain sight. One of the wooden steps leading up to the elevated back yard is broken.
When I heard Lennie Chism had paid $100, 000 for a commercial building, my first impression was, "That's not so bad, for a commercial building." Now I look at the building and think "Well, this isn't really what I pictured."
I will explain the photos above, and then (as before, in a spirit of fairness) I am printing a recent email from Lennie which gives his point of view about--among other things--why some of his business ventures failed.
From top to bottom: the first photo shows a view of the building from the street, at a slight angle. It would have been nice to put somebody in the picture for scale, but I didn't want to trespass. However, you can probably get some idea of the size of the building from the tree out front. That tree is RIGHT NEXT TO THE BUILDING. It is not ten, twenty feet away from the building, closer to the viewer. The building reminded me of the cute-as-cute-can-be "little church by the highway" chapels one sometimes happens upon if you drive a lot of midwestern countryside, only this building is...well, a real estate office and some kind of headquarters for--what?--about half a dozen organizations at one time or another?
Second photo: eight mailboxes on the exterior. Count 'em up, Sesame Street-style, if you don't believe me. The first mailbox says "Lennie Chism."
Third and fourth photos; the array of signs, front and back, including one which invites potential customers to get a beautiful home with NO MONEY DOWN.
Next, some of the pellet gun damage. There are about as many pellet gun holes as mailboxes. The next photo shows one of the busted flood lights. Last two photos: gas cans visible underneath the shed in the back yard, broken glass littering the grassy embankment.
Now, in a spirit of fair play, here is a recent email from Lennie with some of his points of view:
JNS, I am more impressed with each passing comment from your readership.
In my defense of heckling Don Samuels, well, that was the first DFL event I ever attended. They were cheering him, so I booed him and I cheered for Kenya. My bad.
Some have asked for specifics from me as to how I might make an economic change.
One underlying theme is that my business skill are lacking due to perceived failures. My answer is simple; I have been on that corner for years combined with over 20 years of self employment. Many long time entrepreneurs are failing today not due to any overall deficiency, GM, Circuit City, Denny Hecker, and so on resulting in millions of layoffs. I have watched many go under, beauty shops, clothing stores, etc. Enough said about that.
Basic strategy of capturing the wealth that is generated by our impoverished community that flows out to other communities.
First, currently we have only one MN DOT certified DBE (Disadvantage Business Enterprise) that can bid on the millions of dollars of MN DOT (MN Department of Transportation) contracts to build the roads and bridges from the stimulus money along with the new 8.5 cent gas tax passed last year located in North Minneapolis. We need capacity building grants and business incubators to grow businesses to employ more of our residents. Do we have any MN DOT workers in our community?
Second, we need prison contracts to provide basics supplies such as toiletries, food to MN prison system. We supply the commodity - inmates to Stillwater, Lino Lakes, Shakopee. The correctional system puts millions of dollars into those communities by farming inmates out of North Minneapolis--providing jobs to their communities.
In summary, where do all those proceeds from the lottery, new Heritage Sales tax, new gas tax go? What roll does the city and state government play in creating economics opportunities--have you seen the new home of the Guthrie? Ask the city council; ask the Mayor, ask Senator Higgins, and now ask Bobby Champion. Ask for our share of those proceeds. I invite anyone to come with me to the capital to see the process.
Are we receiving any of the stimulus money? If not, why not?
1901 Glenwood Ave North
Minneapolis, MN 55405