This is part of the “Moving Forward” series offering advice to small business owners on technology, mentorship, productivity, and growth. “Moving Forward” is sponsored by Ink from Chase®. More posts in the series »
Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota’s famous Twin Cities, have a lot of love for their local culture, from beer to bands to food trucks. Put together, there’s little you can’t find.
The Twin City small-business scene is thriving, with everything from an “Alice in Wonderland”-themed Korean restaurant to a custom hair-dye bar to a regional sake brewery.
We found 27 cool small businesses that show the best and brightest of the Twin Cities’ innovation and creativity.
What it is: A trendy clothing store/restaurant/bar owned by the sons of Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton.
Popular with hip diners, the Bachelor Farmer honours Minnesota's Nordic heritage and grows its produce on the roof. While they do great wine pairings, for cocktails you'll want to pop over to Marvel Bar, where whimsical mixed drinks dominate.
Waiting to be seated at either? Browse the racks at Askov Finlayson, a chic clothing and home-decor store that showcases brands one can't typically find in Minneapolis.
What it is: Raw and local honey, delivered by bike.
Why it's cool: The Beez Kneez is an urban apiary, community beekeeping program, and educational honey house in the middle of Minneapolis. Run by two friends with a passion for cycling and sustainable beekeeping, they make it their responsibility to teach the community about the importance of bees to our food system and how to keep a hive.
They also fill orders of honey from their own hives and deliver it, by bicycle, wearing antennaed helmets.
What it is: A stylish specialised shoelace company.
Why it's cool: Ben Hertz makes shoelaces that allow the wearer to express his or her individuality. It started years ago when he replaced some broken laces in Rome with a red pair, and the compliments started pouring in. But because Hertz couldn't find anything similar in the U.S., he decided to make his own so that he and others could add a cool, new punctuation of style detail with this distinct wardrobe addition.
What it is: A radical bookstore staffed entirely by volunteers.
Why it's cool: Popular among progressive thinkers, Boneshaker Books specialises in radical, forward-thinking literature, children's books, and a carefully curated fiction section. Any book you can imagine on LGBTQ issues, international politics, and green living can be found on Boneshaker's shelves. The store hosts readings, book signings, and story time for kids -- and is completely volunteer-run.
Boneshaker can do special online orders for pick-up or arrange for book delivery by bicycle.
What it is: A self- and full-service pet spa and grooming parlor.
Why it's cool: Bubbly Paws takes the stresses -- like making a huge mess and having the right equipment -- out of grooming your dog at home. Take your pet to Bubbly Paws where you can give your dog the grooming it needs, or have a professional take over. Grooming services are priced by the size of the dog. Bubbly Paws also donates to the local animal community, and posts photos on social media of their adorably fluffy clients.
What it is: A restaurant service-style gourmet food truck.
Why it's cool: It's one part catering company, one part gourmet restaurant, and one part good old-fashioned food truck. Thursday through Sunday they're parked out back by the patio of Dr. Chocolate's Chocolate Chateau, and they use the patio tables to service customers like a traditional restaurant.
And good news for those who like booze: The Craft Mobile Kitchen is also a full-service bar with artisanal cocktails.
What it is: DryBar for at-home hair colour.
Why it's cool: In the Minneapolis suburb of Edina, dpHUE gives you the perfect, custom hair colour every time. Book and speak with an expert colour consultant, who helps you mix a great, custom colour for your hair. The consultant can apply it for you or give you the colour, instructions, and all the tools you need to apply the colour yourself at home without spending extra on professional colouring services.
What it is: An organic and natural restaurant, grocery store, spa, and art gallery.
Why it's cool: Ecopolitan is the ultimate one-stop shop for those who lead wholesome, green lives. It's a grocery store that specialises in organic, raw, and vegan foods; it also sells natural home and beauty products and functions as a restaurant and organic educational center. Between errands, head to Ecopolitan's infrared sauna for green spa treatments, an oxygen bar, and to browse their eco-art gallery.
What it is: A pizzeria that wants to save the world.
Why it's cool: Galactic Pizza is committed to making great pizza and making a good-for-the-earth business. The restaurant is powered by renewable wind energy. Pizzas are made with organic ingredients when possible, and mozzarella cheese from cows not treated with the hormone rBGH. The packaging is made from recycled or biodegradable materials, and pizzas are delivered -- hot, fresh, and delicious -- to your door by a superhero-costume-wearing delivery boy or girl by electric vehicle.
What it is: One building, six different gay bars.
Why it's cool: Since the 1920s, gay Minnesotans and allies have found a diverse place to drink, dance, and meet new people at Gay 90's -- diverse in that the place functions as six differently themed gay bars, from the 'Men's Room' to 'Dance Annex' to 'Retro Bar.' A few times a month Gay 90's also hosts over-18 nights for those who want to party, even if they can't drink.
What it is: A hip downtown build-your-own-bike store.
Why it's cool: In addition to a wide selection of cycling apparel and accessories, Handsome Cycles allows you to design your own bike from the ground -- or wheels -- up. Select each individual component from tires to pedals, seats, gears, and handlebars, and in a week pick up or ride your new creation home.
What it is: A gallery and museum of all-round things.
Why it's cool: Created by artist Allen Christian more than 25 years ago, the House of Balls is a gallery, museum, and local attraction of round objects for people who aren't keen on traditional museums. Balls, yes, but clocks, globes, sculptures, and antiques also adorn the home of the man known as the Willy Wonka of Twin Cities art.
The House of Balls doesn't keep set hours; Christian says part of the excitement and mystery for those who visit 'is not knowing when you're going to get in.'
What it is: An e-commerce brand for conservative fashion.
Why it's cool: Just because religion or culture dictates a certain style of dress doesn't mean one can't still dress stylishly. Mode-sty is an online, Minneapolis-based retailer that sells clothing that is both conservative and fashionable. Owned and operated by women, Mode-sty caters especially to Somali and Hmong women, as the Twin Cities has the largest of these two populations in the U.S.
What it is: A Japanese restaurant that brews sake.
Why it's cool: Moto-i allows diners to enjoy a cold glass of sake alongside items from the expansive menu, like miso popcorn or a popular ramen dish. What makes Moto-i unique is that it serves only in-house made sake, and is one of just a few sake breweries in the U.S.
What it is: A bean roastery and local coffee chain that supports the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.
Why it's cool: Peace Coffee ensures that its coffee does more good than just waking you up in the morning. Started after talks between the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and a group of Mexican farmers, this fair-trade coffee company buys organic beans straight from the source.
The result is a delicious, fresh, and sustainable product that supports the farmers who grow and roast it.
1500 NE Fillmore St., Minneapolis
What it is: A quirky cider brewery.
Why it's cool: The founders over at Sociable Cider Werks understand that good hard cider takes more than just a little apple juice and yeast. Unhappy with the weak cider selection available in stores and bars, this cider brewery searched for (and found) the key to awesome cider. Just like beer, Sociable uses hops and grains to make some ciders, giving the drinker a delicious blend of sweet, sharp, bitter, and tart.
What it is: A popular beer brewery and tap room housed in a former truck-parts factory.
Why it's cool: Summit Brewing Co. was founded in 1986 at the start of the craft beer boom and has been growing impressively ever since. Started humbly in an old factory that used to manufacture truck parts, Summit has increased production capacity to 240,000 barrels a year.
Customers can take tours of the brewery, or stop in on Fridays and Saturdays when the Beer Hall features different food trucks and special beers on taps each week.
What it is: A store that sells everything beer-related minus the beer.
Why it's cool: Beer lovers may not be able to buy a drink in The Beer Dabbler Store, but they can immerse themselves in the beer culture and stock up on an array of merchandise to enhance their drinking experience.
The Beer Dabbler is a business committed to more than just sales; they also host craft-beer festivals throughout Minnesota, and print a craft beer lifestyle magazine called the Growler.
What it is: An artisan cosmetics manufacturer and boutique.
Why it's cool: The Elixery is dedicated to creating completely original makeup, a practice that often seems old-fashioned to our modern department store mindset. The careful and intelligent design that goes into developing unique colours and final products gives The Elixery the advantage of truly knowing exactly what goes into their store. Elixery experts search for only the best cruelty-free raw ingredients for all of their products.
9555 James Ave. S., Suite 245, Minneapolis
What it is: A nerdy, award-winning web-development company.
Why it's cool: The Nerdery employs intelligent, creative experts who team up with businesses and individuals to develop cool, interactive projects. They pride themselves on being the best place in the world for nerds to work, and with a dog-friendly workplace, a perpetual chess tournament, Pentathanerd D20 bocce-ball games, and a 250-seat 'Rock Band' venue, we have to agree.
What it is: A Korean 'Alice in Wonderland'-inspired restaurant.
Why it's cool: While there aren't any Cheshire Cats or hookah-smoking caterpillars in sight, the Rabbit Hole brings the experience of Korean street food tents to the upscale, 'AIW'-themed restaurant. Between the funky decor, creative drinks, and killer menu, the Rabbit Hole is a Korean culinary experience that delights in the fantastic and whimsical.
What it is: A children's bookstore that lives the stories it sells.
Why it's cool: The children's classic 'Where the Wild Things Are' proclaims 'Let the wild rumpus start!' And so it does in this unique bookstore, where chickens, cats, chinchillas, and tarantulas reside. The real-life animal characters enhance the kid customers' reading experience, and the wildly designed bookstores make customers feel as if they're outside. Kids can also enjoy stories read aloud each week during Tail Time.
What it is: A gastropub that artfully plays with food.
Why it's cool: Don't expect an ordinary plate of food to arrive at your Travail table. The food is just as pretty as it is delicious, aiming for an aesthetically impressive design with each item on the menu. Their tasting menu allows diners to enjoy a variety of treats from spring salad micro-terrariums to bite-size BLTs to chocolate dessert lollipops.
What it is: A sustainable food-packaging products company.
Why it's cool: Ultra Green makes food service packaging products that are more than just your average recycled material. The company is truly sustainable, developing products that are made from only the most renewable natural resources.
Beyond their paper supplies made from wheat straw and bio-plastics from cornstarch, Ultra Green was also the first of its kind to bring its manufacturing inside the U.S.
What it is: A zombie food truck.
Why it's cool: From the dudes behind Psycho Suzi's and Donny Dirk's, Undead Frank's Zombie Bites brings brain-lovers out of doors for tasty street treats. The truck's namesake nibble is a mozzarella-stick snack with 'very red sauce' and chopped pepperoni. 'Danger: Zombie Inside' reads the truck's exterior.
What it is: A crafting company that makes art out of wood otherwise destined for the trash.
Why it's cool: Wood from the Hood makes use of local Twin Cities trees that would normally be sent to the scrap pile. The company creates high-quality home-improvement pieces and accessories that are mutually beneficial to the environment and your household. By reclaiming this wood, trees can live on in their new forms, whether that's as a floorboard, cabinet, or picture frame.
NOW WATCH: Ideas videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.