Isn’t That Grand?


On its own, it’s just an avenue; it’s the businesses that make it grand. The owners of four Grand Avenue businesses share why it’s worth your while to stop in.

Walking down Grand Avenue, there really is one word that comes to mind: grand. With seemingly endless coffee shops, boutiques, restaurants, and bars, Grand Avenue has a lot to brag about, but I’ll do it for them. Here are four businesses that put the “grand” in Grand Avenue.

Charlemagne Fine Jewelry offers both traditional and alternative jewelry products, and offers an emphasis on custom design. Photo courtesy of Charlemagne Fine Jewelry

Charlemagne Fine Jewelry

Starting in 1974 as a corner store, Charlemagne Fine Jewelry has always had roots on Grand Avenue. Though the business moved down the street in 1993 with expanded offerings of original designs and custom jewelry, it remains a staple jewelry store of Grand Avenue to this day.

“We were drawn to Grand Avenue for its central location within the Twin Cities metro area and the attractive alternative to downtown retail.  It is also central to where we live and shop in St. Paul,” says owner Charles Fogarty.

What sets Charlemagne Fine Jewelry apart from other jewelry stores in town, Fogarty points out, is their “designer direct” style. “There are no third parties in our design process, just our customers and our expert staff.  Everything happens in house: from wax model making and casting to stone setting and final polish—and our customers are involved every step of the way,” he adds.

Fogarty says Charlemagne has always been a welcoming place for people of all backgrounds. They offer both traditional and alternative jewelry products, and with their emphasis on custom design, they work with customers to create jewelry that reflects everyone’s individual style.

“Some of our favorite designs have been made working together with customers in the GLBT community,” he says. “Grand Avenue is a shopping destination known throughout the Twin Cities. This affords us a diversity of clients and the opportunity to be a step ahead in offering a unique jewelry experience.”

Allen, Quanny, and Toya are three of the amazing folks who will make Dixie’s on Grand a fabulous experience for you. Photo courtesy of Dixie’s on Grand

Dixie’s on Grand

I have a feeling we’re not in Minnesota anymore, Toto! At Dixie’s on Grand, the southern comfort food will have you gastronomically transported to the south. In 1985, Dixie’s on Grand came to the now-popular St. Paul street when it was transitioning from car dealers and run-down businesses to all types of new businesses with affordable rents with a great location and a client-base right in the neighborhood.

“Every year the world, our state and our area become more and more diverse and ever-changing. If we don’t change and keep up with what is happening around us, we will be done as individuals, as a business and an organization,” says John Wolf, owner and general manager. “Also, our work staff is very diverse, and that helps us better accept and understand the needs and wants of the community.”

Wolf says what sets Dixie’s on Grand apart from other restaurants in the area is their ability as a small business to change and adapt the business climate, weather conditions, trends and what the leadership team feels is important to address.

“We love Grand Avenue because of its people, businesses, tradition and charm. When you say ‘We’re located on Grand Avenue,’ everyone knows exactly where you are talking about,” Wolf says. “Grand Avenue also has its challenges, but we are proud to call it home.”

Grand Avenue Dental has been a Grand Avenue mainstay for three decades. Photo by Jake Armour of Armour Photography

Grand Avenue Dental

After graduating from the University of Minnesota Dental School, Dr. Paul Amble opened his own private dental practice in February 1985 in Lowertown St. Paul, but after practicing there for a couple of years, he started looking for a place to purchase and call his own. In October 1989, he ended up at 960 Grand Ave., and they haven’t looked back since.

“At the time, Grand Avenue had several compelling attractions. Firstly, it was (and still is) a solidly integrated neighborhood with a strong sense of self. It’s full of families (both traditional and not-so-traditional) as well as young people in secondary education or recently graduated,” says Bob Tyler, business manager. “Secondly, the vibe of the area was one that encouraged startup businesses including restaurants and cool clothes. Stuff that wasn’t available at every mall in town. Lastly, it was affordable, which of course fed the first and second reasons.”

Tyler says he has always strived to run a relationship-based dental clinic. “While it’s difficult to know everyone’s name these days simply from a glance at their face, it’s something we try for, and I hire staff that clearly understands my motivation regarding serving and treating all people with dignity and friendship,” he says.

Additionally, Tyler says they work hard to make their patients as comfortable as possible and to bring humor into the practice when it’s appropriate.

“Grand Avenue Dental is gay-owned, but more than that, I’m proud of the way all my staff take care of all of our patients. We take our responsibility to provide quality, nurturing, care to everyone who choses to have us help with their dental care very seriously,” Tyler says.

As a part of the GLBT community, Tyler says he is especially proud to work somewhere with such a welcoming atmosphere.

“I feel good about serving GLBT clients, but more than that, I am highly driven to provide a safe, caring environment for everyone that walks into my practice. It has been a core principal that has only grown stronger as I’ve continued to practice over the years,” he says.

Specs Appeal has been a sight for sore eyes on Grand Avenue for over 20 years. Photo courtesy of Specs Appeal

Specs Appeal

Ted LeClair first got started in optical at a very young age working at a lab, then as a rep, and then after years of partnering with a local optical, he decided it was time to start his own business: Specs Appeal.

“I’ve always been drawn to the Grand Avenue area of St. Paul and its historic charm. This is actually our second location on Grand, and we have now been here for over 20 years,” LeClair says. “The eclectic nature of the area brings in the most wonderful and diverse array of customers—many of whom are lifelong patrons and have been with us since the beginning. Grand Avenue has the appeal of a small town with the buzz and artistic flair of the city.”

LeClair says they have always been a strong supporter of the GLBT community and have the loyalty to prove it.

“Just like frames come in all sizes, shapes, and colors, so do people, and we want to be here to help everyone look and feel their best,” he says.

The store has been highly curated to meet the taste of their clientele, which they maintain by carrying many exclusive brands (some frames are even one of a kind), only working with companies that are privately owned, and keeping their selection eclectic and exciting. “Customers can be almost certain to not see anyone else in their same frame! Our staff is also very knowledgeable and artistic. We are NOT afraid to push boundaries!”

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