Potemkin Mall

A longtime friend of the blog emails:

CM Warsame [of Minneapolis] is trying to push through an African mall on a city owned parking lot. Neighbors and businesses in the area don’t want it.
But, there is a quote from a hopeful woman- “Marian Hersi, a longtime Cedar-Riverside resident, said the idea of a new mall in her neighborhood is reviving her dream of becoming a business owner. Hersi, who grew up selling bread and tomatoes on the streets of Somalia, has been working as a janitor for Macy’s in Edina for the last 17 years. But once the mall opens, she said she wants to own a convenience store.”
I don’t want to rain on anyone’s dreams, especially someone who left horrible conditions to come to our great USA with ideas of living free and making a decent living. But, I have to here.
1- CM Warsame’s African Market isn’t about helping anyone achieve their dreams. It is politically motivated to make it difficult to drive to the community, gut out the community that is there and eventually build unaffordable housing.

“The only way to save the neighborhood is to destroy it”

2- Ms Hersi would be better off starting with a business with low overheard and working her way up if she wants her own business. There are many organizations that help people learn about small businesses. None of them are politicians.


And none of them will be allowed anywhere near the “mall”, because…

3- The American dream allows janitors to move up and start businesses if one chooses, by working hard, making sacrifices, and taking risks. I have my doubts, though, that this African Market and the people involved have any intention of allowing someone like Ms Hersi a spot. 

Minneapolis is a little like Chicago in the sense that this sort of project will be filtered through some assortment of “community organizers” or another. These are people who’ve built their careers running long grifts at the expense of…

…well, everyone who’s not in the political class.

Ms. Hersi, if you get into that mall as anything but a janitor, it’ll be as temporary window-dressing.

22 thoughts on “Potemkin Mall

  1. The Somali member of the city council wants to spend city money to benefit Somalis, at the expense of existing businesses owned by a diverse community of minorities who are not Somalis. Pure tribalism, mine over yours, same as back home.

    I wonder if they’ll open an employee day care in the new mall, and sell shares?

  2. Shes been a janitor for 17 years because her feble incestual brain cant do other work. If she were to open a convinence store itd last 6 months tops because she wouldnt know how to do the books or pay for inventory. But I am the anti-immigrant Islamophobe for pointing this out.Seriously do any Somali immigrants have anything close to basic intelligence or human decency? Because if someone does I have yet to see it.

  3. … the fear that Cedar-Riverside could in the future be gentrified by bourgeoisie yuppies or whoever is a contrived fear.

    The mayor’s support, I would best guess, is a cheap politeness for now.  The moment someone is supposed to step up with $500M of city financing, there’d be zero support.

  4. Maybe the $500k they want the Trump campaign to pay for security is intended to be the downpayment?

  5. Ya talk about ‘malls’ going up in the city.

    I read that Uptown residents are delighted an Aldi is going up there, along with some shops within the ecosystem that commercial property creates.

    There’s an Aldi going up on West 7th that I drive by everyday, this replacing an old Cooper’s grocery store and a run down strip mall.  Bunch of shop space there also, and a Planet Fitness.

    These are “malls”, for all practical purposes, going up in the city at say $100M a pop, and they don’t require city financing (…though I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some breaks here and there.

    If it made sense commercial developers would be on it.

  6. Cedar-Riverside is headed towards North Minneapolis territory. It will be there in 10-15 years, tops.

  7. PD, one can go over board in contemplating race through the IQ prism.

    She grew up in Somalia, probably didn’t go to high school in a meaningful way, had a bushel of kids, is probably her families breadwinner… She’s a janitor… I’m sure she hasn’t had time to learn typing and prepare for college.

    Without knowing her I’d still guess he could operate a bodega to make a living.  This is what she’s talking about.  Lots of immigrants do fine operating bodegas.  The immigrant run bodega is a thing, a legit thing.

  8. “her feble incestual brain cant do other work. If she were to open a convinence store itd last 6 months tops because she wouldnt know how to do the books or pay for inventory.”

    Yeah, I’m gonna have to call foul on that one.

    Lots of Americans spend decades working as janitors, too. And coming here without knowing English, you could be a brain surgeon back home and have to start at the bottom here.

    Let’s not be referring to individual people as products of incest without actual, y’know, proof.

  9. cousin marriage has been approved and Halal in Islam for over a millenia. Is it any wonder you dont see many scientists/PhDs/college professors that grew up Islamic. Sure over 1000 years ago they had amazing things but they havent advanced much since then. They have diluted their own gene pool, I mean it regulary shows up when all of these migrant kids have birth defects. Its also a broad brush because unlike in the US and most other 1st world countries marrying your cousin is accepted, even encouraged in th Islamic world, and dont worry I have proof.






  10. From one of my links…

    “Saudi Arabia is a living genetics laboratory,” Dr. Stephen R. Schroeder, executive director of the Prince Salman Center for Disability Research, told the Times. “Here you can study 10 families to study genetic disorders, where you would need 10,000 families to study genetic disorders in the United States.”

    But it’s not just Saudi Arabia, or the Middle East for that matter. Inbreeding is surprisingly common in many Muslim nations and communities, evidence shows.

    About 40 percent of the population marries a cousin in Egypt, according to a 2016 report in The Economist, while the percentage in Jordan is 32 percent.

    “Rates are thought to be even higher in tribal countries such as Iraq and the Gulf states of Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Kuwait,” says the Economist.

    A 2005 BBC survey found that 55 percent of Britain’s huge Pakistani population was married to a first cousin.

    There are at least two reasons inbreeding is so common in parts of the Muslim world (in addition to ignorance of its link to genetic defects): tradition and religion.

    In many parts of the Islamic world, it’s considered unusual if not offensive to marry someone outside of one’s family or tribe. The pressure to marry a family member can be intense.

    And I bet the numbers are the same, if not worse in Somalia

  11. Isn’t the old Sears building on Chicago exactly the sort of place that an “African Mall” would be?

  12. I went to a very interesting presentation last night about the history of St. Paul’s Swede Hollow.. (The Hollow is a ravine in St. Paul near the old riverboat landing and the train station that was a shanty village collecting immigrants, mainly from Sweden, Italy and Ireland starting about 1860). Newspaper accounts from 1900 described the Swedes as dirty, smelly criminals too intellectually inferior to learn to speak English. 10 years later the paper was saying that the Swedes were mostly alright, but those thieving Italians were another thing altogether.

    One thing the Swedes, Italians and Irish had in common was the desire to get out of the Hollow and “up on the street”. The phrase turns up time and again in the letters and memories of those tied to the place.

    It’s remarkably similar to what the “Okies” experienced migrating to California during the Dust Bowl (as I was reminded while watching the excellent documentary series on Country Music on PBS). The newcomer – even if they share the same color of skin with you – is always suspicious and assumed to be a threat, and considered too ignorant to ever make something of themselves.

  13. ^ NW..  Yes…  I was mulling some similar things yesterday that almost came out in the form of a comment post.

    I’m significantly German-Irish Catholic, and in doing genealogy I was rather alarmed to observe the banal alcoholism, criminality, and lack for industriousness of some of my Irish ancestors in St. Paul circa 1850-1900.  Ya know, people going to prison for theft, dying of fires caused by drunkenness, dying from drinking alcohol from a bad still….  Thing is this stuff in my family I doubt was unusual for its time among the broader class of people…. this was the underclass at the moment, and underclasses are poor and volatile that way, no matter the race.  I’m sure the established WASP upper and middle class here looked down on those people with sentiments that are similar today.

    Your Okie analogy is, I think, key to understanding a common family trajectory here in America, common among white families who were poor and laboring class at the turn of the 20th century, and whose descendants are affluent and prosperous now.  The big thing is they lost their farms in the 20s and 30s, and if they didn’t go to California, they did go to their nearest city, where they entered the workforce as a labor class and made their way up.

  14. Going back to the original question, if she really wants to try her hand selling things like bread, there are at least four farmers’ markets that converge within a mile of Cedar-Riverside. When I was out of work in 2012, I actually bought most of my family’s produce by trading bread and cinnamon rolls for squash, beans, and the like.

    Looking up Somali style foods, you could do this with a portable griddle (or crepe maker) and a turkey frier. You would want a partner to keep it safe, but that would get the name and reputation out there.

    Big question is what is the market. How many non-Somalis would buy from her, and how many Somalis buy as opposed to making it at home? Then you’ve got the question of who is making a LOT of it with an optimized use of capital.

  15. The article says she sold bread and tomatoes in Somalia as a youth.  Its her aspiration here to have a “convenience store” as a step up from being a janitor, but what she means is a ‘bodega’, such that there is a difference.  She’s not getting a Speedway franchise…

    If any amount of new subsidized commercial retail space went up in this spot, she wouldn’t get any space for her bodega anyway.  So, its not terribly truthful of Warsame or this reporter to use her as an example of what kind of uplift comes from the proposed project.

    There’s all kinds of fairy tales at play here, and the Somali’s as an oppressed class singularly deserving of city financing is the big one.

  16. One other thing–I had to look this up–is that even with a “Speedway” or 7-11 franchise, you’re talking about an income of $70k or so. So if you take a tenth of that for a little “developing country style bodega”, you’re at maybe half the wages of a janitor at Southdale. Perhaps it’s easier work, and that’s worth something, and theoretically it’s your own once the mortgage is paid for, but unless you create a premium product, figure out a way to really increase inventory turns, or both, you’re still going to be poor.

    Which is, after all, what most of the people working at actual African markets are, no? I think those who endorse an “African style mall” tend to forget this.

  17. JK – it always takes awhile for “the other” to become normalized with the existing society, even if they are all the same race. Adding color may make it more difficult, but the arcs are the same. The established cultures perceptions of the newcomers always seem to hit on the same things – which may or may not be true, but are comforting assumptions. (One thing the 1900s reporter said about the Swedes was that they didn’t care about educating their children, but census info from the time showed there was, in fact, a high number of people in the Hollow who were sending their kids to the public school. Not that odd, though, when considering that back then, elementary education was compulsory in Sweden, so it was natural for the immigrants to embrace it.)

    To bikebubba’s point – The Pupusaria Manana restaurant on 7th is an excellent example. The owner and founder is a woman from Guatemala. Living in St. Paul years ago she started making her papusas for friends and family. People started coming to her garden-level apartment window to buy them to take to their laborer jobs (even as she was working her own day job). Her landlord said, why not set up in the lobby instead of having people come to the window? Then she eventually got a small store-front, and last year she and her sons opened a “real” restaurant. We’ve been eating her food since the storefront days, and I’m happy she made it “up on the street.” It may take a generation or more for the current groups, and it won’t be easy or pretty.

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