One of my family’s favorite local activities is the annual meander along Grand Avenue in St. Paul — sipping hot cocoa, visiting reindeer and getting a start on holiday shopping.
As charming as Chapel Hill, North Carolina was, it just didn’t boast a shopping district as energetic and unique as Grand Avenue in St. Paul. Franklin Street in Chapel Hill is home to one of my favorite Pizza restaurants — IP 3 aka Italian Pizzeria III and it does lead to another favorite haunt — the Weaver Street Market lawn. But there are a lot of closed store fronts and the annual events don’t seem to support new business.
On the other hand, Grand Avenue on Saturday was bustling with families and shoppers. We made glittery snowflakes at Creative Kidstuff out of craft sticks and a lot of glue, ogled cakes at Wuollet’s bakery, and munched on cookies at the UPS store. Everywhere we went there were smiling kids and full shopping bags. I don’t think I ever saw Franklin Street so full of shoppers.
I think what makes Grand Avenue so popular is that you can find everything there from practical goods like milk and cheese at Kowalski’s grocery store and new laces at George’s Shoe Repair to the fanciful such as Cafe Latte’s desserts, Irish on Grand’s vast music selection, or performances by the St. Paul City Ballet. I don’t think any local homeowner could go more than a few months (weeks?) without needing something from one of the Frattallone’s Ace Hardware Stores.