St. Paul City Council to Boost West Indies Soul Food Restaurant at University and Victoria – Twin Cities
One of the most emotional food vendors at the Minnesota State Fair plans to open a physical store in St. Paul before the summer ends.
St. Paul City Council has offered a helping hand to West Indies Soul Food, Inc., a restaurant planning a $500,000 construction in Model Cities’ Brownstone Lofts building at University Avenue and Victoria Street.
The board held a public hearing before approving a $200,000 business grant for the restaurant’s capital improvements. Split equally between a grant and a low-interest loan, the funds will come from the city’s Neighborhood Sales Tax Revitalization Program, which supports physical improvements through local sales tax funding. half a cent from the city.
Nearly 30 years ago, founder and owner Sharon Richards-Noel operated West Indies Soul Food out of space at Dale Street and University Avenue in St. Paul, before the death of her son Emanual Richards – a vital part of the restaurant – in a car accident.
She then moved to Midtown Global Market on Lake Street in Minneapolis, leaving that space about a decade ago. She worked at the Minnesota State Fair International Bazaar for over 17 years, as well as a food truck.
“We rented several kitchens,” said Richards-Noel, who recently cooked at the High School for Recording Arts in St. Paul, where his “Caribbean Wednesdays” attracted a student before the pandemic. “We were caterers. This project turned out to be a little over our budget.
Construction at 839 University Ave W. is expected to begin around Feb. 21 and take about three to four months. Richards-Noel said she hopes to open a boutique before the start of the State Fair on August 25. She works closely with the Neighborhood Development Center, a St. Paul-based non-profit organization focused on economic development.
Of the 24 STAR awards granted in the city’s last funding round, all but two fell below the $150,000 threshold triggering a public hearing before city council approval. In November, the board authorized a $100,000 grant and $100,000 loan to OMG Studios/Digital Media Solutions, which is planning a live broadcast studio and digital performance venue at 550 Vandalia St.
Dionne Sims, founder of Black Garnet Books, recently received $100,000 in STAR funds to open the state’s first black-owned bookstore on University and Hamline Avenues next summer.
On Smith Avenue, the Stone Saloon, otherwise known as the Waldmann Brewery, received $40,000 in STAR grants and loans last fall to add vegetable garden boxes, crushed stone paths and seating, as well as several trees, native grasses, bike racks, retaining wall and fence.
Recent STAR grant recipients include the Lower Phalen Creek/Wakan Tipi Project, the Victoria Theater Arts Centre, the North End District 6 Planning Council and the Sanneh Foundation.