Anchor Fish & Chips
“I wouldn’t leave if you paid me. If you gave me free space downtown, I’d say no,” Kathryn Hayes says defiantly. Together with Luke Kyle and Jenny Crouser, Kathryn owns Anchor Fish & Chips in the Sheridan neighborhood of Northeast Minneapolis. Her commitment to preparing quality pub food parallels her commitment to the neighborhood and making Anchor a, well, anchor institution there.
Luke and Kathryn grew up in Ireland, while Jenny has native Minnesotan roots. Before opening the Anchor, Kathryn didn’t have any experience in the restaurant industry, but she felt she knew enough about how to treat staff and serve food well. She wanted to do something authentic, their current space became available, and they opened in 2009.
Kathryn speaks glowingly of the working relationship she has with her co-owners, as if still stunned by a harmonious success she knows is rare. When they started, they each found their own niche to make their new endeavor function: Kathryn handled the menu, Luke construction, and Jenny accounts. When they needed to decide on the paint color, Kathryn grew apprehensive about the looming discussion—the type of small-but-just-significant-enough decision that had the potential to throw their partnership into chaos.
It was a non-event. “Miraculously, we agreed,” she says. That type of conviviality has defined their relationship. Despite their different personalities, they share the same guiding philosophy, same commitment to the community, and, apparently, the same taste in paint colors.
They bring that philosophy to life by centering their operation on creating a strong community within the Anchor and contributing to the larger one around it. Forty-one out of forty-three staff members come from nearby neighborhoods, part of an insistence on keeping money in the area and reducing the stress on neighborhood parking. They don’t serve hard liquor, keeping rowdiness to a minimum out of respect for the families who live in the Victorian homes surrounding the restaurant. They keep their food affordable because they feel they owe it to the neighborhood, even though they could raise prices.
When we sit down at Maeve’s Café, their next-door neighbor, she makes a point of ordering a coffee. The owner of the café, Mary, stops by and starts chatting with her about the election. By the time Kathryn and I turn to discuss what she loves about the neighborhood, it’s already clear from this interaction.
She feels an attachment to the familiarity of the place, the tight-knit bonds that form here between businesses, artists, and residents. She loves the sense of calm, despite its proximity to downtown. The old brick churches give the neighborhood a European vibe, as does hearing different languages spoken around town. She appreciates the volume of parks and the diversity within them—Latino and Latina kids playing soccer, Somali youths playing basketball. The graciousness of Northeast has made her feel welcome. She and her co-owners feel an obligation through the Anchor to contribute to that graciousness and preserve it.
But she recognizes she isn’t alone in finding Northeast an attractive place to live and work; that what makes it attractive now threatens its viability; that to some extent, despite her community-minded ideology, she represents that threat. Kathryn believes in growth. She emphasizes that it must occur with a focus that has escaped and continues to elude developers: a respect for community integrity. As part of the initial wave of growth in Northeast, she has taken up that challenge as her self-imposed mission, taking measures that put literal meaning behind the phrase, “think globally, act locally.”
“The reality is, the influx is going to come, and it’s already here to a certain degree,” she muses, sipping her coffee. “How do we make it possible for people to come here, keep the businesses happy, and manage the transportation issues?” She does her part to keep community first, but regularly observes tension over the explosion of growth. Preserving affordability while championing growth, developing parking alongside sustainable transportation, keeping a neighborhood’s character whilst letting it evolve—creating a perfect recipe that effectively blends all these dichotomous elements has confounded planners and developers not just in Minneapolis, but across the country.
In some way, perhaps an overly-simplistic one, it’s useful to think about the partnership between Luke, Kathryn and Jenny—disparate people who somehow cooperate in unison. The bedrock of their success, the glue which binds them together in their business, might be the necessary starting point for thinking about development in Northeast: growth that respects, listens to, and incorporates the community.