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How Real Is ‘The Craig Finn Curse’?

With news of Party City's bankruptcy, we explore other Finn lyrical references that later met grim fates.

We miss you, Quarry Rainbow. Remember when Chairman Bob became a brand mascot during those final years?
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It’s no secret that Craig Finn can’t resist a good geographic reference. Evocative specifics are a key ingredient to good writing, and Finn’s lyrics, from Lifter Puller to the Hold Steady to the solo stuff, are littered with ’em. So much so, in fact, that Hold Steady stans have assembled a data map that tracks refs from un-sweet Modesto to killer-partying Ybor City.

Over the years, many of those lyrical pin drops have vanished into history, as you’ll see in excessive detail below. The most recent victim: Party City, the party-supply chain whose Minneapolis location served as the scene of a drug deal in the 2006 Hold Steady song “Southtown Girls.” The New Jersey-based company declared bankruptcy on Tuesday; its Quarry shop is listed as “Permanently Closed” on Google.

“It seems like a curse but really it’s clairvoyance,” says local Twitter personality Chris Steller, a longtime student of the Craig Finn Curse theory. “Finn’s lyrics are finely crafted—he selects businesses to name that he suspects will eventually fail. Playing the long game.”

But, as Racket and Steller exchanged feverish DMs of mounting evidence, he had an epiphany: “Now I’m starting to believe in the curse…”

Same! (Finn’s PR rep politely declined our annoying request for comment and/or interview.) We’re big on ginning up hyper-local curses around here.

Enjoy this musical tour of the warpath Finn’s excellent songwriting hath wrought through the Twin Cities and beyond.

Party City

Lyric: “Meet me right in front of the Party City / That two sided tape it gets way too sticky.” (“Southtown Girls,” 2006)

Fate: RIP, Party City. CNN tells us your demise was due, in part, to the proliferation of Spirit Halloweens, the seasonal popup stores whose ubiquity even prank-extended to MPD’s 3rd Precinct.

Rainbow Foods

Lyric: “Meet me right in front of the Rainbow Foods / I got a brown paper bag and black buckle shoes.” (“Southtown Girls,” 2006)

Fate: Almost 40 Rainbow Foods once populated the Twin Cities, but Milwaukee-based parent company Roundy’s Supermarkets pulled out of the market in 2014. The last Rainbow died in 2018; the supermarkets’ earthly remains live on as Cubs and Hy-Vees. (Click here to revisit Racket’s big supermarket priciness breakdown.)

Hancock Fabrics

Lyric: “Take Penn Ave out to the 494 / Meet me right in front of the fabric store.” (“Southtown Girls,” 2006)

Fate: Did you know that said fabric store is a reference to Hancock Fabrics, which exited Bloomington’s Southtown Center and the rest of the metro in 2016? It was news to us this morning! The address is now a Schuler Shoes, where one may be able to buy black buckle shoes.

Riverside Perkins

Lyric: “The devil’s a person / I met him at the Riverside Perkins.” (“No Future,” 2012)

Fate: Finn himself acknowledged this solo entry when our old website, City Pages, authored an obit:

Schatzlein Saddle Shop

Lyric: “He’s coming off some problem block / Later at some party all the girls want to talk about who’s sleeping at the saddle shop.” (“Saddle Shoes,” 2014)

Fate: Schatzlein Saddle Shop, the 115-year-old Minneapolis Western paraphernalia destination, headed to the big glue factory in the sky—aka Retail Heaven—last August. “It is with a heavy heart, we have decided the time has come to close Schatzlein Saddle Shop… now is the time for some of the family members to retire,” the family wrote via Facebook. “It’s been an incredible ride.”

Edina High’s Hornet Logo

Lyric: “Drove the wrong way down 169 / And almost died up by Edina High” (“Hornets! Hornets!,” 2005)

Fate: Finn, a native cake-eater, may or may not have been devasted to learn that Edina Public Schools dropped its hornet logo two weeks ago. Michael Otto designed the piece, which features a vampire-like hornet making direct eye contact with you, as part of a contest in 1981. Is the copyright lawsuit Otto filed in U.S. District Court to blame for its demise? Or is this banger from the best Hold Steady album? Impossible to say.

Blimpie

Lyric: “And those pimps with the shrimps from the Blimpie up on 5th Street.” (“The Flex And The Buff Result,” 2000)

Fate: You need to know two things: 1) This is my favorite Lifter Puller song, even more so than the inexplicable live performance of “The Bears” on The Jenny Jones Show; 2) The Blimpie sub shop in the downtown Minneapolis skyway exited our world without a peep. I couldn’t find any mention of its closure in the Strib/CP archives, and the chain just has one link remaining in Minnesota—way out in Gaylord.

Thunderbird Motel

Lyric: “The carpet at the Thunderbird has a burn for every cowboy that got fenced in.” (“Stevie Nix,” 2005)

Fate: Sure, Bloomington’s Thunderbird Motel had become a Ramada long before Finn wrote “Stevie Nix.” But its once-iconic structure wouldn’t meet the wrecking ball until 2016.

Mary Tyler Moore

Lyric: “When we hit the Twin Cities, I didn’t know that much about it / I knew Mary Tyler Moore and I knew Profane Existence” (“Stevie Nix,” 2005)

Fate: Actress Mary Tyler Moore died at age 80 in 2017, but she’ll live on forever in downtown statue form and, perhaps more prestigiously, also in our winning “Weed Week” art entry form. Anarcho-punk label/zine Profane Existence seems to still be around. We should write a profile one of these days.

City Center

Lyric: “City Center used to be the center of the scene, now City Center’s over.” (“Your Little Hoodrat Friend,” 2005)

Fate: City Center has limped along since 1983, yet another disastrous downtown Minneapolis planning move that rivals the Block E blunder. So, no, it’s not dead, but its pulse hasn’t measurably improved since the two major renovations that came after Finn put it on death watch. The hard-luck indoor mall is also mentioned in “The Swish.”

The Washington Avenue Bridge

Lyric: “They ended up on Washington, talking to the river” (“Stuck Between Stations,” 2006)

Fate: OK, we’re stretching the rules to borderline disingenuous extremes here… THAT SAID, you could argue that the Washington Avenue Bridge died, spiritually speaking, when the U of M quietly killed the decades-long “Paint the Bridge” tradition, as reported last week in Racket.

Circuit City

Lyric: “People call me Circuit City / I’m so well connected / My UPC is dialed into the system” (“The Swish,” 2004)

Fate: Some of us still have fond memories of buying their family’s first home PC at the Edina location of Circuit City, the doomed big-box home electronics chain that closed all of its 567 U.S. locations in 2009.

Nassau Coliseum

Lyric: “Haven’t done any heavy stuff / Since the Nassau Coliseum” (“Nassau Coliseum,” 1997)

Fate: We’re reading the tea leaves with this potentially killer pen stroke from the Lifter Puller era. Long Island’s Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum has apparently fallen on hard times since its pro-sports teams skipped town. Just this month, it was revealed Las Vegas Sands acquired an 80-acre parcel around the coliseum. The casino giant has major redevelopment plans, though its “announcement did not specify if [it] intends to demolish Nassau Coliseum or renovate and redevelop the aging property,” according to local reports.