Location: Northern Sun Merchandising, 2916 East Lake Street
This Tudor-revival, 1924 brick and concrete building on 2916 Lake Street East is on the National Register of Historic Places (ca 2000). It originally was built as one of 15 branch libraries under the direction of the first female director of a public library system, the nationally renowned, Gratia Countryman (directorship 1904-1936). This library featured a skylight and because of its storefront appearance, was known as a ‘reading factory’. The building was one of the last built in the ‘building boom’ era. This remained our neighborhood library until the mid-70s when circulation was so high a larger library building was built. The second East Lake Library was then replaced with our current library.
Meanwhile, this building became a Montessori day care until 1987 when Scott Cramer moved his business in, and it is as we know it today: Northern Sun Merchandising. Cramer came to Minneapolis from Illinois in 1979 on the heals of the Three Mile Island disaster. In protestation of nuclear power, he sold t-shirts at protests. This ultimately became a full-time job. In 1987 he moved from Lyndale Ave to this building. The building remains as it was, including the original built-in shelves from its library days as well as the original floor tiles. Although, Cramer was the first business to install 80 solar panels, in 2004. It’s not surprising that you might find a sticker saying: “Whenever there’s a huge solar energy spill, it’s just called a ‘nice day’!” Northern Sun is the largest message-oriented merchandising company in the country, servicing orders from coast to coast. You can find bumper stickers, signs, T-shirts, magnets and more…way more! While the theme is liberal or free-thinking, there is most certainly something for everyone. I mean, who doesn’t agree with signs that say, “Love your neighbor…” or bumper stickers that say, “Coexist” spelled out in various religious symbols? Messaging that says, “I eat local because I can” with images of Ball canning jars. Or, “Prays well with others”. Then there is the goofy: “What if the hokie pokie is what it’s all about?” or the irreverent: “Want to see God? Keep on texting while you drive.”
And just to remember from whence it came? There’s a Little Free Library out front — covered in stickers, of course!
Photo: Jean Des Marais