BIZ BUZZ // New artist-designed pen series unveiled

Updated: September 22, 2011 - 10:39 am

IDS CENTER — Pen dealer Barry Rubin has found a way to marry his passions of pens and designer toys into a single project: the Ink Artist Series limited edition pen line.

Rubin has been in the pen business since 2006, when he launched an upscale pen store Ink in the IDS Center.

When the economy crashed in 2008, the days of corporate clients buying expensive pens came to an end. Rubin knew he had to refocus his business, and he turned to the world of designer toys for inspiration.

Designer toys are collectibles produced in limited editions that rose to popularity in the early 21st century. Typically, a designer toy line features toys all based on the same basic shape but customized by different artists, usually graphic designers, graffiti artists, illustrators or other “low artists.” Rubin realized that the same concept could be applied to a series of pens, and the Ink Artist Series was born.

The first artist Rubin approached, Miq Willmott, turned him down flat. Rubin mailed him a colorful Dr. Seuss pen and its storage box, and Willmott changed his mind in an instant. “There’s a lot of real estate for me to decimate,” Willmott told Rubin.

Willmott came on board as the art director for the project, and with his wife Thuy Kim he designed the first pen, which is available now. As with all future pens in the series, it is numbered and limited to 500 and sells for $295. According to Rubin, 100 of the pens were spoken for before they were even officially available.

“It’s not cheap, it’s not a Bic,” said Rubin. “But it’s not that much for a piece of art, either. And how many piece of art can you use?”

According to Rubin, the pens are a way people in the corporate world can bring a little hipness into their offices. “There a lot of people out there in the corporate world that are under 35, and they’re into being cool,” said Rubin. “The days of the watch and the pen as status symbols are over, but this attracts an age group that isn’t interested in pens.”

Rubin said that many of the people who have ordered the first pen want to make sure they get the same number for each upcoming pen. “They don’t want to miss a number 9,” said Rubin. The next two pens in the series have already been designed, and Rubin and Willmott are targeting about 30 artists for upcoming pens.

“We’ll do three or four pens a year and keep the series going on as long as we can go on,” said Rubin.

Block E loses two more tenants

WAREHOUSE DISTRICT — A representative for the Hard Rock Café has confirmed that the Block E location is scheduled to close on Sept. 30.

“We have run a successful business in Minneapolis, but the current site has created challenges that prevent us from continuing to operate at this location,” said a Hard Rock International PR representative in a prepared statement. The closure of the 9,000-square-foot restaurant is another blow for the struggling complex, which current owner Alatus LLC wants to redevelop into a casino called “Minnesota Live.”

“Our strategy over the past year and a half has been to reposition and re-tenant the building. We continue to work towards a revitalized Block E, contribute to a successful Hennepin Avenue, and carefully and methodically determine the best possible uses for the site,” said Phillip Jaffe, partner at Alatus LLC.

In addition to the Hard Rock, the Cold Stone Creamery franchise across from the movie theater box office has also closed. With its closure, the only remaining tenants on the complex’s second floor are a GameStop location and a Mrs. Fields Cookies franchise. Panchero’s Mexican Grill closed in April, and the Applebee’s shut down in late March. Legislation to allow the expansion of gambling into downtown Minneapolis was not voted upon before the end of the legislative session, and Alatus has thus far revealed no other plans for Block E.

Rosa Mexicano opens its doors

HENNEPIN AVENUE — After a summer of construction, Rosa Mexicano has opened at 609 Hennepin Ave.

The first Midwest location for the upscale Mexican chain, the Hennepin Avenue restaurant was scheduled to open Sept. 22 — after this issue of The Journal went to press.

The restaurant chain focuses on authentic Mexican cuisine such as braised pork belly, short ribs in tomatillo-chipotle sause, and guacamole prepared fresh tableside. The name “Rosa Mexicano” refers to a shade of pink common in Mexico, and the restaurant incorporates it and many other vibrant colors into its décor, which also includes flowing water walls and an electric blue tile pool with sculptural cliff divers.

With 325 seats in 12,000 square feet and an outdoor patio area, the new location is the biggest in the Rosa Mexicano chain. The restaurant features an expansive lounge and multiple dining areas with primarily large tables, as President and CEO Howard Greenstone considers the restaurant to be a social, group-centric dining experience.

“We are, above all else, a restaurant first,” said Greenstone. “We’re hip and cool, but I don’t consider us to be trendy. At the end of the day, we’re about tequila and guacamole.”

Jack Riebel opening new restaurant on Hennepin

HENNEPIN AVENUE — Jack Riebel, veteran of kitchens such as the Dakota, Goodfellows and La Belle Vie, is planning a new restaurant for 1121 Hennepin Avenue. According to a CPED report on the one-story office building, the new restaurant will be called Butcher and the Boar and open before the end of the year. Local restaurant design powerhouse Shea, Inc has been tapped to create the look of the space.

Riebel’s plans for the restaurant are still largely secret, but Butcher and the Boar will reportedly be an American restaurant with a focus on a local farm-driven menu, as well as bourbon and beer. An outdoor beer garden is planned for the spring of 2012.

Details of the new restaurant were first reported by Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl in Minnesota Monthly.

Grumpy’s introduces delivery service

WASHINGTON AVENUE — Downtown residents are now able to get a burger from Grumpy’s Bar & Grill without leaving their homes. The bar at 1111 Washington Ave. S. is now offering complimentary bike delivery via a new partnership with restaurant delivery service MPLS Courier.

MPLS Courier has also partnered with Sorella Wines & Spirits at 1010 Washington Ave S., and will even make a stop at the liquor store to pick up some beverages for your meal. We recommend the mini tacos appetizer and the peanut butter-slathered Elvis burger.

Tour the city with Minneapolis By Bike

It may be late in the season, but that wasn’t about to stop Alyssa Kohn from launching her new tour company Minneapolis By Bike. She came up with the idea for a bicycle tour company nearly four years ago and spent the last year developing the plan and getting everything ready. She wasn’t going to be stopped by something as small as the end of summer.

“After a year of planning, I couldn’t wait anymore,” said Kohn. “Even if I have one tour, that’s a success for me.”

Minneapolis currently offers two different tours: a Farmers Market tour and an historic tour. The Farmers Market tour visits both the Mill City Farmers Market and the Minneapolis Farmers Market. The historic tour visits the Sculpture Garden, St. Anthony Main and areas in between. Each tour covers 10 miles, lasts three to four hours and cost $45 per adult.

One of the unique features of Minneapolis By Bike’s tours is that the helmets have radio receivers in them so Kohn can speak to an entire group of 10 riders through a radio rig without stopping the tour. While each tour does have scheduled stops, she’s able to impart even more information on participants through the transmitter set up. “I want people to really be able to participate in Minneapolis,” said Kohn.   

For more information, go to


The Crooked Pint Ale House, 501 Washington Ave. S., has opened. The pub has a large selection of bar fare, brews, wines and spirits.

St. Paul’s L’Atelier Couture Bridal Boutique has relocated to a new North Loop location at 219 2nd St. N, suite 404. Owner Amanda Kautt was ready to expand her business and the 7,000 square foot space offered room for features like spacious dressing suites and complimentary valet service for appointment-only customers.

The Foiled Again Salon at 2807 Johnson St. NE celebrated its 10-year anniversary in early September. The salon originally opened six blocks south of its current location and moved to its current larger space in 2005. submitted Photos