Highlights of a District Full of Art and Community
Juxtaposition ArtsCredit: Rebecca Rabb
History in the Making Along West Broadway Avenue
By Harry Colbert Jr.
It’s Friday night and history is about to be made. But it’s not just any Friday night: it’s January 5, 1979, at 8 p.m. and doors at the soon-to-be world-famous Capri Theater at 2027 West Broadway Avenue in North Minneapolis have just opened. Royalty is about to take the stage—and the world will never be the same.
The royalty, of course, is Prince Rogers Nelson, or simply Prince because greatness such as his only needs one name. The West Broadway theater was home to his first-ever solo show on this date, the start of a remarkable career.
Today, history continues to be made daily along the West Broadway corridor. Bordering Interstate 94 to the east and Penn Avenue North to the west, the West Broadway corridor is a vital residential and commercial district that highlights the diversity, history, and hope of Minneapolis.
Too often maligned, the West Broadway corridor—now designated the West Broadway Cultural District—is an area of resilience and brilliance. Take the nearly two-mile walk with me along West Broadway, and you’ll most certainly come away with the same level of appreciation and affection for the area and, more importantly, the people who make up the cultural district.
When I talk about the West Broadway Cultural District, I talk about it with a certain familiarity. I know many of the business owners along the thoroughfare that serves as the main artery through North Minneapolis. I’m a proud resident of North Minneapolis … I’m a Northsider. Or as we say on the Northside, I live “Over North.” So please pardon my gushing about one of Minneapolis' hidden gems.
4th St Saloon Mural by Charles Caldwell | Credit: Rebecca Rabb
Celebrate Minneapolis Music Icons
Come spend a day with me experiencing the joys of West Broadway.
One of the many (and probably best known) jewels of West Broadway is the Capri. Gracing West Broadway since 1927, the Capri has undergone several transformations, including a recent $13 million renovation that added some 20,000 square feet to the theater and event space. Operated by the Plymouth Christian Youth Center, the Capri celebrated its official grand reopening in October 2021. Returning audience favorites included Capri Glee, a community choir presented by J.D. Steele and Fred Steele of the acclaimed gospel/R&B family; the Steeles (who performed with Prince, Mavis Staples, George Clinton, Sounds of Blackness, and more); and Legends, a show curated by Dennis Spears. The ultra-popular band (and one of my favorite bands in the world) MPLS also performed at the re-opening ceremonies. MPLS is touring as the band for soul chart-topping artist Stokley Williams and features Jesse Larson, a finalist of NBC’s “The Voice.”
Capri Theater | Credit: Rebecca Rabb
After we exit the Capri, we’ll walk a few short steps up the street to where MPLS’ music can often be heard across the radio waves at 89.9 FM. The station’s dial is well known, but its call letters are even better known: KMOJ.
“The People’s Station” sits atop the Five Points Building at the intersection of West Broadway and Penn avenues. Started in 1976 with support from the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority, KMOJ is the go-to radio station for Black-centered news, views, music, and more. Everything about KMOJ is Black-centered, including its name. Commonly pronounced ka-mo-ja, KMOJ is a take on the Swahili word umoja, which translates to “unity.” KMOJ has launched the careers of many homegrown artists and is home to one of the most recognizable voices in radio, Walter “Q Bear” Banks, Jr., a beloved figure in the Twin Cities.
Let’s Eat, and Meet Some of West Broadway’s Business Owners
The sounds KMOJ emits can often be heard at two of my dining favorites, Sammy’s Avenue Eatery and Breaking Bread Café. Both serve as restaurants that offer great dishes as well as mini cultural centers. Copies of local periodicals fill newsstands inside each establishment and bulletin boards are filled with flyers promoting community happenings. Step into either at any given time on any given day and you may run into leaders in business, entertainment, and politics. I say we stop inside both.
Breaking Bread Cafe | Credit: Rebecca Rabb
Sammy’s was featured on the sixth season of the Emmy-nominated television show Small Business Revolution hosted by Amanda Brinkman and former NBA star Baron Davis.
Operated by Appetite for Change, Breaking Bread is back after a hiatus due to reorganization and COVID-19. Appetite for Change, a nonprofit with the mission to “use food as a tool to build health, wealth, and social change in North Minneapolis” also operates the West Broadway Farmers’ Market, which takes place every Friday (June - Oct.).
That mural is breathtaking! What’s that building?
Oh, you’re talking about JXTA.
Just across the street from Sammy’s, skateboarders jump ramps and perform ollies at the skatepark outside of Juxtaposition Arts (JXTA), a teen-staffed art and design center, gallery, retail shop, and artists’ studio space offering area youth an opportunity to ply their craft—and get paid for doing it—in all forms of the visual and design arts. JXTA youth have scored contracts with major corporations and outlets, including Target, BMO Harris Bank, and Upper Harbor Terminal. Vibrant murals celebrating North Minneapolis adorn the side of JXTA’s exterior and offer a wonderful backdrop for street photography.
Juxtaposition Arts | Credit: Rebecca Rabb
All in all, West Broadway is more than a place, because it’s really about the people.
After all that good eating, it’s time to work off those calories.
Just doors down from Teto, Dr. Tara Watson offers patients chiropractic relief from back and neck ailments and gives residents exercise opportunities with her Anytime Fitness franchise—the only 24-hour fitness franchise, in this state, located in a zip code with a majority of people of color.
The West Broadway Cultural District is not without its challenges, but with investments in nonprofit, public, and private entities, the main thoroughfare in North Minneapolis is poised to become one of the city’s commercial, residential, and entertainment hubs. New development also is underway, further making the avenue on which Prince first performed poised for more history-making moments.
Wilson's Image Barbers and Stylists | Credit: Rebecca Rabb
We packed in a lot for just one day, and we still didn’t see it all. Guess we’ll have to do it again. How’s next week sound?
4th Street Saloon - Home of the iconic "Welcome to North Minneapolis" mural by Charles Caldwell that you can't miss while on West Broadway. A local restaurant and bar with pool tables, bar games, and live music with room to dance.
Bar Brava- Natural wine bar and scratch kitchen. The menu changes several times per week based on seasonality, so there is always something new to try.
Hook Fish & Chips - Southern style restaurant with a second location in Brooklyn Center. Founder's Ibrahim Said food preparation mantra is simple: keep it crisp outside and moist inside!