Birchwood Cafe Request for Support

Dear Neighbors~

My name is Tracy Singleton and I write to you as both neighbor and neighborhood businessperson. I own three adjoining properties in Seward: my home of almost 18 years at 2501 33rd Ave South, the neighboring house at 2505 33rd Avenue South, and the Birchwood Cafe, the business I’ve operated for almost 17 years at 3311 East 25th Street.

As the Birchwood Cafe approaches our 17th anniversary, I am truly grateful to the Seward community. I’ve been able to grow a neighborhood business and support a burgeoning local foods movement, literally in my own back yard. Raising my daughter in the embrace of both the Birchwood and Seward communities is part of the good fortune of owning a local business with deep roots; roots that stretch back to the original Birchwood owners and stewards of this important neighborhood legacy.
As we move into our 18th year, I need you to help me write the next chapter of the Birchwood story. As many of you are aware, I have spent the last several years exploring my possibilities for expansion. Your input has been invaluable in this process.As I looked at my options, I have worked hard to determine the best way to continue to operate sustainably in a residential neighborhood. It is clear that our business has grown beyond what our current, outdated facility can support. It is also clear that a large expansion that would double the size of the current cafe is not feasible. Our quaint corner of the neighborhood would be too burdened by the impact, and that kind ofbusiness growth isn’t what I want.

I have carefully considered all the ideas generated from our first conversations at the January 2010 community meeting. I have tried my best to find a way to manage growth within our current footprint. I have consulted with architects, structural engineers and contractors to look at expanding with a second floor or digging a deeper basement level. I have met with developers and considered other sites, but my heart and the heart of the Birchwood lies in the Seward neighborhood. For my part, I have reorganized the structure of the business, expanded internally and built better systems to alleviate the stress of our growth. This past March I entered into a short-term lease in the old Seward Co-op building on Franklin Avenue, as a temporary solution, for more kitchen space. These measures reflect my goal to find the right solution that squarely intersects the continued well being of the neighborhood and the needs of my business so that we, as a community, can continue to support and sustain one another for many years to come.

The decision of how to move forward with my business is enormous and important to our community. I am grateful for all the input I have received. When Cy and Del, the original owners of the Birchwood, decided to retire, they too were faced with a big decision. I have great appreciation for their thoughtfulness and the time they took when considering with whom they could entrust the Birchwood legacy. It was their desire that the next incarnation of Birchwood give back to the neighborhood that had both trusted and supported them their entire lives. I feel the same way. The Birchwood has played an integral and positive role in this neighborhood and community for almost 90 years and I want the cafe to continue this legacy far into the future. To do so, we simply need more physical space.

The Birchwood Cafe currently operates with R1A Residential zoning and a conditional use permit. After weighing the many factors involved, it is my plan to expand the cafe by up to 1,700 square feet for storage, more refrigeration, an additional bathroom, an entryway vestibule, office space, and a little more capacity in our dining room. To do so, we are required to submit a Land Use application to the City of Minneapolis to rezone the Birchwood Cafe property from its current R1A zoning to C1 Commercial Zoning. For reference, The Donut Cooperative located at 2929 east 25th street is zoned C1. Concurrently, I will be asking to subdivide the neighboring residential property I own at 2505 33rd Ave S and add that additional square footage to the Birchwood Cafe lot. I am proposing to remove the garage on that lot to make room for the cafe addition. Both houses at 2505 and 2501 33rd Avenue (my personal residence) would remain R1A Residential. I believe this is the best option as it will pro vide the functional space the Birchwood Cafe needs, while maintaining the current character and feel of the our part of the neighborhood. The view from the street and the alley access will remain the same with more room in back to mitigate alley congestion.

It is my passion and purpose to continue to own and operate the Birchwood Cafe in our corner of Seward. I will always make choices that reflect my support of sustainability and local foods values. I know from my conversations with you that many of you share my desire to support our local farmers and encourage more people to think about where their food comes from. It is such an important calling in this time. Most importantly for me, I want the Birchwood Cafe to carry on as a trusted neighborhood institution. I love that the Birchwood is a container for our community – a place where memories are made, ideas are generated, and friends and family connect over good real food. To continue this vision, I need your support and engagement.

I’d like to invite all of you to a meeting on Tuesday, September 4th, at Matthews Center, from 6:30-8:30 pm. I’m excited to share my proposed plans for the Birchwood Cafe and have the opportunity to answer your questions and hear your feedback. If you cannot attend, you can contact me directly via email, or by calling the Birchwood Cafe office at 612-722-4325.

The following Tuesday, September 11th, these same plans will be presented to the Seward Neighborhood Group Community Development Committee, also held at Matthews Center. This meeting will start at 7pm. I will be asking for formal SNG support, which is essential to move forward in the city’s process. If you support the Birchwood Cafe and our desire to continue to grow community through food in Seward, I encourage you to attend the meeting to let the Seward Neighborhood Group know where you stand. If you are unable to attend, you can still support the Birchwood Cafe by writing a letter outlining your support to the Seward Neighborhood Group.

Letters may be addressed to:
Seward Neighborhood Group
Attn: Doug Wise & Ken Webb
2323 E. Franklin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55406

Emails may be addressed to both:
Doug Wise; and Ken Webb;
Please also cc me at: I want to hear what you have to say.

Please direct inquiries about the city’s process for a Land Use Application to Council Member Cam Gordon and his aide Robin Garwood.

In closing, I want to once again express my gratitude for the shared experience and journey of the Birchwood Cafe. It is all of you who have made it possible. I look forward to our future together.

Tracy Singleton

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