The power of the press is alive and well. Some of you may have seen the nice article on Micawber's by Jim Walsh that ran in the Strib last week. It described our local retailer's efforts to develop a new business plan in the midst of difficult economic times for independent bookstores. It also referenced a group of neighbors supported by the Foundation that have been meeting with owner, Tom Bielenberg, to try to help him navigate the challenging waters and changing times. One of the outcomes of those meetings was the recent Monday night gatherings hosted by various interested neighbors. While they draw primarily from book clubs, they are open to the public and have proved successful in helping Tom stock up his shelves for the holidays. (Look for more info soon on upcoming dates.)

The Strib article brought those messages to a much wider audience of book and bookstore lovers (some from as far away as St. Cloud) who have stopped in to show their support. The combination of local and statewide attention has made a noticeable difference in Micawber's sales picture and the shelves are increasingly replete with new books that will continue to arrive as the fall progresses.

The short term picture is certainly rosier than it was a month ago, but I don't think we can relax and assume that the crisis is over or that come Jan. 1 the road forward will be obvious and fruitful. Not for Tom and Micawber's and not for our other retailers, in north or south St.AP. The Foundation will continue to work with them to try to figure out ways to increase customer visits and new housing options will eventually add to our population which will help, too. But there will always be a need for our own community to be able to provide the solid sales our retailers need to survive the tough years.

So, when purchasing, think our neighborhood first, then expand your search. And go ahead and do price comparisons, not just of single items but across the board. Don't forget to add the cost of driving which AAA averages as $.60/mile. Google tells me the nearest Target is 2.3 miles so that's about 5 miles roundtrip which means you can tack on another $3 per trip, not to mention the time spent and driving hassles.

Now, Target is a fine store and we shop there, but next time you can't find what you want, ask them to order it and see how that works for you. Last time I asked Tom at Speedy for a different blend of lettuce it was there the next time I went in. Or ask the clerk in the Target hardware section who was called over from electronics to answer your question about the intricacies of toilet replacement parts. Steve Garfield over at Noll Hardware on Raymond Ave will not only get you the right part, he'll draw you a diagram and talk you through the repair. That expertise and personal service holds true for most of our merchants.

Everything has a place and independent retailers know they have to provide a needed service at a good price or they will be out of business. That said, once a store goes, it's difficult to get another one like it to take it's place. No matter the circumstances of the failure, the impression left is that the neighborhood would not support that type of store. We've been there and done that. We are fortunate now to have good stores, good merchants and good business neighbors. Let's support them and help them be the best they can be - I wouldn't want to lose any of them.

Speaking of being the best they can be, the Urban Growler Brewery in SSA is really rolling. I was over there last Wednesday evening and the place was packed. A friend I bumped into said it had been packed on Tuesday night as well, so co-owners, Jill and Deb, are doing plenty right since they opened this spring. Go over and check it out, it's a great atmosphere and great beer. If you're there on a weekend and want to have a mellower vibe, try out Bang Brewery right next door and say hi to Jay & Sandy, the owners. It's cozy, friendly and the beer is excellent.

Como High's great boy's soccer season was brought to an end when they lost their state tournament first round game to Chaska last Thursday. They seemed to control much of the game but had an untimely letdown in the 2nd half to allow the first goal of the game. After that, they poured it on but couldn't put one past a good Chaska keeper. To be one of the best teams in the state for the last several years is quite an accomplishment as is getting to the State tournament for first year coach, Jonah Fields. Way to go, Cougars!

Also, congrats to Como for their just released AP test results from last spring. Como had 56 AP Scholars with 10 qualifying as National AP Scholars, the highest category. Como's Debate Team started strong this fall by taking home 3 awards from their season opener at Washington Tech.

St.AP Elementary School's Fall Festival was a big hit last Saturday. A large crowd had fun supporting the school by participating in the games and silent auction. I recently got a random inquiry about how well the school was doing and did a little digging to get the results from their MCA Reading & Math tests. St.AP placed 93 in the state, just a few percentage points behind Capitol Hill (57) and ahead of every other public school in the city. So, yes, they are doing well.

I'm getting ready for another Murray Wolfridge trip coming up next week. This year they will take their 80 or so 7th & 8th graders up from Wednesday to Sunday so they don't miss quite as much class time. I've described this Foundation supported leadership/cultural/environmental intensive program before, but it really is a special opportunity for these kids and makes a difference in the school atmosphere. By the way, they are still looking for a few chaperones for all or part of the Nov. 5-9 stay, so if you're free and want to be challenged in a fun middle school (herding cats) kind of way, let me know.

I had a tour of the Mid-Continent Oceanographic Institute on Monday. That's the tutoring organization at the corner of University & Raymond that placed 2nd in the Foundation's 15th Anniversary Grant Contest. They have a neat space which is still in the process of being completed. The design looks very cool with all sorts of nautical touches which will include a storefront retail area. To help accomplish that, they are at the tail end of a kickstarter campaign to raise money for a matching component to a STAR grant. They need only $8,000 by this Friday to make their $30,000 goal. Here's the link to donate. They do great work in our public schools, including Murray and Como, help them out if you can.

If you haven't noticed, MnDOT is doing some work on the Snelling bridge over 94. They are running all sorts of new electrical conduit under the highway. The westbound exit ramp to Snelling as well as Snelling itself over the highway will be closed starting Nov. 3 through mid-Dec. Here's the link for more info.

There's a nice article in the PiPress about the opening of the Andy Boss Thrust Stage at Park Square Theater in Lowertown. Andy & Linda were instrumental in the success of the campaign and the theater is inviting supporters to celebrate the new space from 5:30-7:30pm next Monday Nov. 3.

You may have recognized the smiling faces of local entrepreneurs, Colin Hirdman and Josh Becerra on the front of the Strib business section Sunday. The friends who grew up together in the Park have been partners in an online-marketing business called Monkey Island, named after their favorite childhood playground, of course. Now they're trying to raise money for an idea that uses wireless technology and the net to track tenant water usage in real time. Good luck, guys!

The October Bugle covers a number of other stories of interest in their typically comprehensive way. A few of the topics are: Kiki's Alley...Halloween activities...arts...candidates...history. Pick it up to find out about everything else that is going on in the neighborhood.

SAVE THE DATE: The Foundation will host their second annual State of the Park Forum and Non-Profit Fair from 6:30-8:30pm on Thursday, Dec. 4 at the St.AP Elementary School.

Last important Reminder: Vote Next Tuesday, Nov. 4! This is one of those off-election years many people sit out. Your candidates need your votes otherwise there could be some unpleasant surprises. So, make sure you vote and your neighbors do as well. Remind them. Insist. There is much at stake and our community needs to uphold our record as a leader in voting percentages. 

That's all for now. Take care of yourself and be a good neighbor.