Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Uncle Bill's Fate Being Hotly Debated...

Stock Photo, Lenny "The Heckler" Chism

The infamous "Uncle Bill's" store was apparently just heartbeats away from demolition, but now the word is the store has been purchased for a small sum by Lennie Chism of Springboard Development Corporation, (pictured above, to the right) and there are attempts to rally elements of the community to "Save Uncle Bill's." (The rumor is the property was purchased for a mere $3,000 but this is unconfirmed) There is a community meeting TOMORROW.

The story--as told from a pro-Save Uncle Bill's perspective--is on Don Allen's IBNN blog, click here. The time and place of the community meeting is there, too.

ADDENDUM: February 6, 2011. This blog post was written before I and many others in North Minneapolis discovered what a disreputable con man character Don Allen is. I would advise anybody: Do not trust Don Allen. Seek further information about Don Allen from various online sources before having any contact with him.

I consider myself Don Allen's friend, but I'm not quite ready to jump on this particular bandwagon because...

...Lennie "The Heckler" Chism has a history of announcing big schemes and dreams which don't have quite as much "oomph" as Lenny's superheated hype. So just because it's Lenny "The Heckler" Chism, I'm cynical. Secondly, Uncle Bill's has been an "inconvenience store" to the neighborhood. Just because somebody announces plans to put an organic food store in Uncle Bill's doesn't mean this will actually HAPPEN.

One fear already being articulated in the Willard Homewood neighborhood is that Uncle Bill's will be saved, only to become a new incarnation of ITSELF, rather like what happened with the old Wafana's store in the Hawthorne Neighborhood.

Word is Lenny recently landed some kind of contract with MNDOT. My friend Don Allen swears Lenny Chism is doing a good job with that particular contract. I have no further details except it has something to do with putting contractors in touch with MNDOT.

Members of the community can free to post what more they know about the Uncle Bill's situation.


Johnny Northside said...

The following info circulated by email about the Uncle Bill's situation.
I think we were all expecting to see a pile of bricks from the demolition of Uncle Bill's any day now, but this showed up in my inbox today. Lennie Chism plans to rehabilitate the building -- which was condemned due to substantial structural issues
-- and turn the three contiguous empty lots on the NW corner of Sheridan and Plymouth (across Sheridan from Uncle Bill's) into a greenhouse complex for growing organic produce.

Make sure to follow the link to the web site of Chism's nonprofit Springboard Development
for the details, including some streetscape renderings.

(JNS asks: WHERE on Lenny's website? Haven't found it. Need URL. And, I swear, why can't Lenny put more updates on his website, Mister Big Dreamer and all THAT. UPDATE YOUR WEBSITE, LENNY!!!)

This is completely out of nowhere. It appears that this will get discussed at the WHO (Willard-Homewood Organization) meeting, which
was also just announced today. The city (CPED) owns the three vacant lots.


North Minneapolis Will Gets Its Organic Food Store, Public Meeting

Thurs, July 16th @ 6:30pm, NorthPoint ground floor meeting room

North Minneapolis is getting a what? Yeap!!!
Affordable natural healthy organic foods
2428 Plymouth Ave North,
Minneapolis, MN 55411
Click here for more info

NOTICE OF PUBLIC MEETING -Springboard Economic Development Corporation
will hold a public meeting on Thursday, July 16th at 6:30 p.m. at NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center (1313 Penn Ave North) to discuss the proposed natural healthy organic food enterprise. Jobs Jobs Jobs.

Springboard purchased the once thriving building foreclosed building built by the Jewish Community for $3,000. Come hear of the exciting
plans for the a healthy natural organic foods store with a plans for a greenhouse located across the street on the vacant lots 2500, 2506,
2510 Plymouth Ave North.

For more information contact,
Lennie Chism,

Homewood Confidential said...

Lennie's site is

The confusion amongst those in the neighborhood is that all of the properties in question (2428, 2500, 2506 & 2512 Plymouth) were rezoned residential in the 1970s. As far as I know, the Uncle Bill's building is no longer grandfathered since it has not operated as commercial for so long.

Even if the city was willing to rezone, the neighborhood is worried about reopening Pandora's Box. Most zoning is incapable of dictating what can and can't be sold in an establishment. Note Chism's summary specifies that no tobacco products would be sold, a nod to Willard-Homewood paranoia. However, just because he says that doesn't mean it couldn't happen.

Anonymous said...

If this project is allowed to go forward, it will fail, because in no way does Lennie Chism have the intelligence or experience to make it successful, and in six months time, the space will be rented out to the umpteenth drug dealing convenience store.

It is heartbreaking to see Lennie and his puppetmaster Al (who put together the "community" meeting pushing this project) stepping forward in the attempt to destroy the only positive thing our neighborhood has achieved: getting rid of Uncle Bill's. We are on the finish line, with demolition scheduled for the end of July and here come's Lennie and Al to take us back to square one. Remember, Lennie was a big supporter of Uncle Bill's--he strongly believes that we deserve to have a business that sells crack from behind the counter at the corner of Sheridan and Plymouth, and have absolutely no right to complain about it.

Kenya McPawn has also (coincidentally!) decided to make this project the centerpiece of her campaign (see the article about her in the Spokesman Recorder, where she all of a sudden is interested in helping "small businesses."

As with everything else that Al McFarlane and Lennie Chism touch, the duel purposes are to (a) find a cash cow that they can funnel city money through, and (b) to find a ridiculous ploy for heckling Don Samuels.

It's also sickening to see Don Allen jump into bed with this project that has "poverty pimp" written all over it. This is precisely the kind of dimwitted enterprise that I expect him to be calling out.

Unfortunately, it is those of us who live in the vicinity of the corner who will have to bear the burden of Don's naiivite, Lennie's contentless bombast, and Al's demagoguery.

Anonymous said...

Given the current environment for financing, I predict that this will languish for longer than these guys attention spans will be able to handle. Just like the derelict synagogue (finally just now apparently a temporary home to a Seventh Day Adventist community) and the Asian Arts non-profit which has been trying to fundraise to fix the Berman building for years.

Don Allen said...

Uncle Bills must be able to evolve as a corner store and a cafe with business offices on the upper level.

This is a needed "action move" for north Minneapolis (NoMi). Those of you that are worried about "process" must note that all eyes will be on the redevelopment and success of that corner.

It also shocks me that none of the comments on this blog have talked about the past corruption on that corner as it pertains to Cherryholmes and Asian Media Access.

Is it fair to attack Mr. Chism? What is your solution - tear everything down. This is about race, color and economics. Black people don't have anything in north Minneapolis. This is an opportunity to change the perception of NoMi.

This story-line will be played out with a close watch on the true conspirators that will be exposed and prosecuted.

Johnny Northside said...

Nobody is suggesting "tear everything down." Instead, they are suggesting "tear down Uncle Bill's."

In fact, it's a lot more than SUGGESTING.

However, Don, my links to your story and my printing of Lennie's email and the picture he sent me show my commitment to a fair debate with an airing of all the relevant facts.

Anonymous said...

Right, wrong or indifferent, I think the community should take a look at Lenny's COMPLETE (emphasis on complete- including how it will be funded) plan to determine the feasibility of what he's proposing.

Jordan Neighbor said...

DOn Allen, what is the story of corruption with Cherryhomes and Asian Media Access? Please tell us.

Inquiring minds want to know in NoMi...

Anonymous said...

Like a true poverty pimp, Don Allen is adamantly opposed to even considering the opinion of the people who live in the block. It's not our place to have an opinion, since only Don Allen and his cronies get to make the decision about what we "need." All that matters is that this gives him a platform for his own self aggrandizement. He won't have to live with the effects of his proposal--you won't see him trying his hare-brained experiment on his own block.

And, Don Allen, shut up about Jackie Cherryhomes. Unlike you, Jackie lives on the block. She is the one who actually gave Bill Saningular ("Uncle Bill") a shot at running a convenience store in the first place--an operation which,like this one, began with all kinds of promises and great assurances, and which ended by selling crack from behind the counter.

I understand that you strongly believe that it is impossible that anyone on the block is capable of forming an opinion of our own, based on our own experiences, and that nothing that anyone says or does will dissuade you from proclaiming loudly that Jackie is acting on her own, so there is no point in arguing with you.

However, when your proposed project evolves into a drug corner, Jackie will be there taking the bullets with the rest of us, unlike you, sitting at home in your armchair and laughing, and laughing, and laughing.

Anonymous said...

Finally, the small beginnings of the eventual and long-anticipated feud between Johnny "The hack 'journalist' wannabe voice of NoMi" Northside and Don "Latest in a long line of self-anointed Northside spokespersons" Allen.

This should be good, when these two begin to turn on each other, because it was only a matter of time before they realized that perpetuating their self-loathing styles of attack blogging, which polarizes rather than unites, is the ONLY thing they have in common.

Have at it fellas. Then the rest of us can get on with the real business of North Minneapolis.

Anonymous said...

"Have at it fellas. Then the rest of us can get on with the real business of North Minneapolis."

Wow. I am sure both Johnny and Don would be more than happy if in-fact either one of them was really influential enough to determine the will of NOMI. However, that's not the case.

I find it amusing in a superficial manner, than the OP believes that when Don & Johnny are what's standing in the way of "real prgress". News Flash - HUGE MISTAKE to under-estimate the strength or size of your opponent. Guys like Johnny and Don come and go in scenarios such as this. It's the citizens you have to convince. And you know the old saying - "you can fool some of the people all the time, and all of the people some of the time".......

My word of advice to anonymous - find a different neighborhood to prey upon and suck the life out of.

Anonymous said...

"Have at it fellas. Then the rest of us can get on with the real business of North Minneapolis."

And what exactly IS the REAL business of north minneapolis? Salary increases for neighborhood ED's and larger expense accounts with no accountability? PLEASE enlighten us all. We're dying to know.

That carpet got rolled-up a loongggg time ago and was thrown-out with the other trash.

Anonymous said...

Don Allen said ... This is about race, color and economics. Black people don't have anything in north Minneapolis. This is an opportunity to change the perception of NoMi.

This is a tired old song and completely untrue. Have you met dr John Williams, for example? Dr Laban Otieno, Tim Baylor.... for starters?!?

Anonymous said...

Don Allen Wrote:

"It also shocks me that none of the comments on this blog have talked about the past corruption on that corner as it pertains to Cherryholmes and Asian Media Access.

Is it fair to attack Mr. Chism? What is your solution - tear everything down. This is about race, color and economics. Black people don't have anything in north Minneapolis. This is an opportunity to change the perception of NoMi."

I am sorry Don, this is just wrong-headed logic. Any development plan should stand on its merits as it relates to the plan itself. Not because someone is black or white. If you truly want to see black business owners prgress, than you'll champion their prospective endeavors based upon the merits of the business plan they offer-up. Not because they're black.

I find it unfair that you'd bring-up the argument that the "plan" should be supported by the community because of the two reasons you stated - "potential past corruption/potential past mismanagement and because blacks don't have anything in north Minneapolis".

Residents living in NOMI do not and should not bear the responsibility of supporting unsupportable development projects any longer. Whether they're projects brought forth by BLACK or WHITE entrepeneurs.

If the individuals behind this development project truly do have the funding, the management team AND the business plan in-place that will allow for a reasonable chance of success, I don't personally know of ONE PERSON living in NOMI that would not support it.

Let the individuals behind this project pass muster on what ANY developer would have to pass muster on. But, DON'T support a project because of the color of someone's skin. That doesn't benefit anyone in the long run.

dennis m plante

MeganG. said...

When Senator Obama was campaigning to become the next Prez of USA, he presented himself as best he could, he laid out his visions, his plans, his strategies, his track record, his supporters. He talked somewhat about who he would call on for help on this subject, or that subject.

He was trying to (and suceeded at) convincing the constituency that he was the best choice.

And, oh yeah, he just happened to be black.

He didn't say "you should vote for me because I am black and we haven't had a black president yet, so it's my turn"

It was just something that came along with him and his great qualities, and America saw his potential and embraced his race.

America WANTED a president who came with great qualities, great visions, great track record AND minority racial experience, wisdom, and perspective.

But America won't go for a minority President that isn't ready for the job, doesn't have what it takes and can't convince the people that he/she is the best option.

I see the same thing playing out here: NoMi residents of all walks all life are starting to demand nothing but high standards. We have seen that anything less DOES NOT WORK. We are putting our foot down and holding everyone accountable. And that goes for business owners and developers also, regardless of race.

If someone had the plans, the track record and the backing to convince the people that this development can and will work, then I am sure that northsiders from Willard Homewood, Near North, Jordan, Hawthorne, Bryn Mawr and probably even some adventurous GV'ers would be thrilled to show support. But that's just not the case.

Mr. Chism doesn't seem to be disclosing who is backers are, who he will be calling on for the bricks and mortar, for the organic food, for the (whatever)... he just seems to be saying let me do it because I am black and it's the right thing to do.

I say the right thing to do is to set the bar high and demand nothing but rock solid development deals to pull our community out of the trenches.