School has started, sweater weather is imminent, and pumpkin spice everything seems to be rolling out. If you are planning to head up North later this season to check out fall colors, stop by Bemidji.
There was recently a major renovation to a building on the Bemidji State University campus that I’ve had the pleasure of working on (and learning from) over the past few years. Part of the construction process includes a walk through to ensure things were installed as designed and I was tasked with the electrical walk through.
It’s a 3 hour and 40 minute drive from Minneapolis to Bemidji and the project gave me a hefty amount of square feet to cover, so I knew I’d be needing more than one day. I asked social media to give me suggestions on where to eat and what to see in my down time. Other than Paul and Babe, because that was a given.
@poizenisxkandee Bemidji Brewing is super good, we also love the restaurants Tutto Bene (though it's spendy) and Keg and Cork is good too.— Beth (@TheBethMN) August 25, 2015
One of the nice things about Bemidji is how close everything is to each other. My hotel was near the BSU campus, and Paul and Babe were an easy .9 mile walk (much of it along the lake) from campus…and also about 2 blocks from all the food recommendations from Twitter and the spots on the Downtown Bemidji shopping map.
It may or may not be common knowledge that I hate driving (but mostly parking), so after the ~4 hour drive up to Bemidji from Minneapolis, I opted to take cabs or walk to campus and around town. Huge thank you to Bemidji Cab for being responsive, reliable, and for taking credit cards.
I got to campus and worked until I couldn’t stand it anymore. Luckily, the sun was only barely setting and I still had time for my photo op! A lovely couple from Pennsylvania caught me awkwardly trying to fit Paul and Babe in the background of a selfie and came to my assistance.
Afterwards, I walked to Bemidji Brewing and had the Summer IPA.
People in Bemidji were very welcoming and laid back. I had a great conversation with the gal working behind the bar in the taproom, who also recommended Bar 209. I grabbed a glass of water from the cooler and that’s where I saw the handy Downtown Bemidji map.
On my way to Bar 209, I passed by Chocolates Plus and stopped in. Bemidji residents are very, very friendly and I had an fun conversation with the enthusiastic staff at Chocolates Plus. They had a variety of house made truffles and fudge. I picked up a spicy jelly and peanut butter truffle and their Aztec (chile-chocolate) truffle. Also, obviously could not resist the milk chocolate Babe the Blue Ox truffle:
After the quick detour, I started to notice all the thrift stores, boutiques, and gift shops with surprisingly appealing displays. They were all closed for the night, unfortunately, so I made my way to dinner.
I will say that the food at Bar 209 was good - the scorpion sauce they served was actually spicy, and not just Minnesota spicy.
The long day on my feet tired me out so I went straight back to my hotel to indulge in my favorite guilty pleasure - Food Network shows.
I got up early the next day to make sure I had enough time to finish my walk through before the building was too crowded with students and to make sure I beat traffic back down to Minneapolis. I finished earlier than anticipated and had time to stop by a few shops before heading back.
Kelsey's "As You Like It" Jewelry
Michael Kelsey's jewelry has had a presence in Bemidji for over 40 years. He is based in Bemidji and the store features some other local jewelers, as well as other brands. What struck me about their selection is that everything is fair trade/ethically sourced. They also offer custom pieces, hence the "As You Like It" slogan.
Morell's Chippewa Trading Post
From the outside, the Chippewa Trading Post looks like a tourist trap. And inside, there are a lot of the gift shop keychains, salt and pepper shakers, and other trinkets and tokens you'd expect *cough, cough, Paul and Babe merchandise*. But they also had a lot of copper, agate, gemstone, and beaded jewelry made by local (many Native) artists.
What I really like about Urbanesque is that they carry Krochet Kids and other socially conscious brands. The Krochet Kids tags are all hand signed by the person who made it and you can trace where your clothes are coming from.
Urban Treasures thrift store (108 Third St NW 56601) was not listed on the shopping map, but from what I can tell is a new store. There aren't a lot of fancy decorations and the lighting is a little stark, but they find a way to repurpose preowned clothing, and part of their sales go right back into the Bemidji community. The store owners give part of the proceeds from donated items to the Bemidji School District lunch program.
The items are in great condition and there are a variety of sizes for men, women, and children. Not everything is my style, but I did pick up some fabulous colored jeans. I'm no a stranger to colored denim and had cobalt, red, and grey pairs of Old Navy Rockstars a few years back. Thrifting is a great way to reduce textile waste and update for fall without spending a lot of money.
There's a phase two to the project I'm working on, so I'll be back in Bemidji and plan to check out other shops, both on the shopping guide and not.