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The Booming, Shifting Ecosystem of Twin Cities Supermarkets

Plus meet Queen Spinner of Shell Shock, Hennepin Theatre Trust rebrands, and Jon Stewart slams Target in today's Flyover news roundup.

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Kowalski’s just opened a fancy-ass shop inside Edina’s Southdale Center. Racket’s Jay Boller has already visited, and he considers it “nice.”

Welcome back to The Flyover, your daily digest of important, overlooked, and/or interesting Minnesota news stories.

We're So in Our Grocery Store Era

So reports Adam Platt at Twin Cities Business in this deep-dive into the complex, evolving, and growing business of selling food. Ya know, the stuff we all eat.

It'll bring no pleasure to any lingering fans of Chairman Bob to learn that, around 20 years ago, Rainbow Foods exiting our "under-grocered" market catalyzed the current grocery boom. "Rainbow’s closing created a vacuum in the market,” Josh Resnik, ex-CEO of Wedge co-ops, tells Platt. “They took up a lot of space but had very little following." (Speak for yourself, bozo! My mom loved the HUB Rainbow.) In any case, newbies came flooding in (Aldi, Hy-Vee, Trader Joe’s, Fresh Thyme) while existing stores beefed up (Whole Foods, Coborn's, Costco, Walmart, Target, Kowalski's, Lunds & Byerlys) to satisfy our region's growing and hungry population.

In recent years Walmart came for the king, Cub, and didn't miss: The big-box retailer dethroned Consumers United in Buying's formerly dominant market share (once 36%, now 17%) by a couple of points. The absence of two U.S. grocery titans—Minnesota is the only state without a Kroger or an Albertson’s—benefits Cub, though some industry observers feel it's only a matter of time before the behemoths merge and invade. (Biden's administration has sued to block a proposed Kroger-Albertson’s merger, and both Minnesota senators have voiced their opposition to it.)

Our blurby recap really just scratches the surface of Platt's fascinating, broad-appeal read; we suggest you dig into the rest. "It’s still a tough business to make money in, but it constantly attracts new entrants because everyone buys groceries," Resnik notes, accurately.

MPR Interviewed the Queen Spinner of Shell Shock

If the phrase above means nothing to you, congratulations! You spend far less time than I do scrolling TikTok.

The Queen Spinner of Shell Shock, Tara Maldonado, is a local legend at Nickelodeon Universe, where she rides the Ninja Turtles-themed ride Shell Shock twice a week (and has for the last 12 years). She's the self-proclaimed Queen Spinner because she's perfected the art of getting the ride—two seats in particular—to do a 360-degree rotation, and she cyclones around like a damn top. She tracks her rides and spins in a notepad, and according to MPR's Nicole Ki, averages 60 spins a ride and about 500 spins in one day.

The first Queen Spinner TikTok I saw, and the first post of hers to go mega viral, with more than 5 million views, was this one from May, using the "I'm ____, of course ____" construction. Ki reports that TikTok launched the 33-year-old from Prior Lake from 9,000 to over 22,000 followers in a month.

These days, Maldonado (who's approaching 1 million total spins!) gets recognized during just about every ride on Shell Shock, and folks are always asking her for selfies and even autographs.

The whole story is delightful, and you can read it here. Or, more appropriately, watch MPR's Ki take a spin with the queen below.

@mprnews

Almost a MILLION spins later and you can still find @Tara in seat 2 taking on Shell Shock at the @Mall of America. She counts the spins during each ride and keeps track of them on her phone. She also shares her spinning adventures on TikTok where she’s gone viral, attracting spectators and fans. Tara goes a couple times a week to the mall to see how many spins she can get in one ride. Amazingly, she’s never gotten sick and she doesn’t get dizzy. The same could not be said for our reporter and video producer. #queenspinner #tmntshellshockride #mallofamerica #reverbmpr Follow the link in our bio to learn more. 📝 by Nicole Ki, 📹 by Nicole Ki and Anne Guttridge

♬ original sound - MPR News

Hennepin Theatre Trust Bravely, Boldly Rebrands

You read that right. Hennepin Theatre Trust, the nonprofit org that brings all kinds of shows to the Orpheum, State, and Pantages theaters is no more. You may henceforth refer to it as: Hennepin Arts. Hey, that new name makes sense; in addition to hosting traveling Broadway productions, it also brings in touring comedians, YouTube stars, podcasters, authors, and musical acts to downtown Minneapolis. "The name Hennepin Theatre Trust created a tight box that just restricted us, and the trust in the name created confusion," CEO Todd Duesing tells Rohan Preston at the Strib.

Oddly, the announcement was made without a lot of hubbub. There was no press release (at least nothing was sent to us), and there’s no additional info on the press site. This morning, Hennepin Arts simply changed its name on Facebook and uploaded a bunch of art proclaiming it to be “Braver Brighter Bolder.” Can a company that brings in shows like Back To the Future–The Musical, a Sonic the Hedgehog orchestral concert, and noted dipshit Bill Maher be braver, bolder, or brighter? We shall see!

But, in the end, the new name and tagline might have more to do with dazzling stakeholders and less to do with audiences. Hennepin Arts is in the process of merging with Historic Theatre Group, which is an actual big change, and in the Star Tribune piece Duesing teases that purchasing the Cowles Center could be in the cards down the line. Sounds like braver, more corporately consolidated business moves are coming.

Happy Pride! Watch Jon Stewart Bash Target's Phony Corporate Allyship.

We've got grownup readers 'round these parts; you guys know that brands don't believe in anything. But it's still fun to watch somebody like Jon Stewart take Minneapolis-based Target Corp. to task for folding faster than Super Man on laundry day at the slightest hint of bad-faith conservative outrage related to its Pride trinkets. (Enjoy Target bashing? Revisit the company's cartoonishly ham-fisted anti-union propaganda here.) And enjoy that recent Daily Show clip here:

And another thing! (While I have you here...) I saw somebody online this week observe (I think correctly) that Stewart is the ultra-rare example of a liberal commentator whose brain wasn't completely shattered by Donald Trump's political rise. Like his former coworker John Oliver, he remains a razor-sharp satirist, one whose politics feel broadly left and never DNC-pleasing. It has been a real treat to see him back in the saddle, both on a part-time Daily Show basis and, as of last week, a new regular podcast basis.

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