Audrey Kennedy
Oct 14, 2021 - Business

More Twin Cities businesses embrace low-waste practices

Recycling symbol made of plastic utensils
Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

We're well aware of the need for a reusable tote after Minneapolis' single-use bag fee took effect this month. But that's not the only low-waste option shoppers have in the Twin Cities.

What's happening: More retailers and restaurants are embracing a number of trash-free practices, from offering reusable takeout containers to selling products in bulk.

Why it matters: We produce a lot of garbage. The Twin Cities metro alone generates around 3.3 million tons of waste each year.

  • And we're dumping more and more. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency expanded four metro landfills this summer in response to a 30% increase in garbage in the last year.

This Minneapolis brewery's beer can is about more than a laugh

The art for Forbidden Islands New England IPA. Image courtesy of Modist Brewing
The art for Forbidden Islands New England IPA. Image courtesy of Modist Brewing

My husband recently came home with a four-pack of Modist Brewing's new Forbidden Islands New England IPA and she found herself mesmerized by the can's label.

  • Fog rises from islands dotting a turquoise sea, as an orca jumps from the water. A backpacked adventurer takes in the scene from atop a ridge of — wait — are those land masses made of ... fried chicken?

After I stopped giggling, I called Modist to learn the backstory of the IPA's trompe-l'œil.

Nick Halter
Oct 7, 2021 - Business

Why buying a car is nuts right now

An aerial view of a mostly empty car lot
Many Minnesota dealers have empty lots, like this one in California. Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Minnesotans trying to buy a vehicle before winter are finding bare dealer lots and long delays.

  • I learned that first-hand, and fast, while shopping for a car to accommodate my third child on the way.

Why it matters: There's a national vehicle shortage tied to a shortage of semiconductor chips, so people are having to wait for their preferred vehicle and pay more when they get it.

  • "Everybody's paying sticker price or above sticker to get something they want," said Scott Lambert, president of the Minnesota Auto Dealers Association. "In my 30 years doing this, I've never seen anything like this."

I was interested in buying a used vehicle, but the prices were so high that it didn't make a lot of sense.

  • Used car prices are up 34% compared to last year. Why spend a few thousand dollars less on a four-year-old vehicle with 50,000 miles and no warranty?

What they're saying: Reader Deb Halvorson wanted to buy a used Subaru Crosstrek, but her dealership didn't have any. She ended up buying a new one.

  • Reader Brian Powers also opted for new over used for the same reason when buying a Volkswagen Altas. The good news: The dealership gave him $1,000 more for his Subaru Forester than what he would've gotten when he considered trading it in last year.

State of play: Auto makers are focusing on building trucks and SUVs, which are more profitable, Lambert said.

  • Before the chip shortage, 86% of new vehicle sales in Minnesota were trucks and SUVs, but now that number is 90%, he said.

What's ahead: It could be a while before the market balances out, Lambert said. Many of the vehicles rolling into dealerships this fall have already been spoken for and the chip shortage is now expected to last through 2022.

  • "The Upper Midwest market gets slower in January and February," Lambert said. "That's usually when we catch up on inventory and get ready for spring sales. I don't know that we're going to be given the luxury of getting caught up this year."

I ended up buying a Honda Pilot after finding the right trim on I then called Inver Grove Heights Honda and put down a deposit. Now, I'm the midst of waiting six weeks for the vehicle to be built and shipped from Alabama.

  • I paid sticker price.
Torey Van Oot
Updated Oct 6, 2021 - News

St. Paul City Council considers "pioneering" anti-tobacco proposal

cigarette sales
The ordinance would effectively ban promotions that lower the cost of tobacco products below a mandatory minimum, like the ones seen here in a store in Califorinia. Photo: Michael Macor/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

St. Paul is poised to adopt some of the nation's toughest rules aimed at reducing tobacco sales.

What's happening: All seven City Council members will formally introduce a proposed ordinance Wednesday that would set a $10 minimum price for packs of cigarettes and ban coupons and discounts for all other tobacco products, including vape pens.

  • The proposal, which already has the backing of Mayor Melvin Carter, would also significantly reduce the number of tobacco licenses moving forward.

Why it matters: Supporters say raising prices is one of the most effective tactics for reducing use of tobacco, which causes cancer and other adverse health effects.

  • They argue the promotions ban will close a loophole shops and wholesalers use now to get around minimum prices set by a state formula.
Nick Halter
Oct 5, 2021 - Sports

What the MLS All-Star Game could mean for Minnesota

The Allianz field soccer pitch with players on green grass
Allianz Field could host the MLS All-Star Game next summer. Photo: Jean Pieri / MediaNews Group / St. Paul Pioneer Press via Getty Images

The Major League Soccer commissioner is in town Tuesday for a major announcement, and many expect he'll name Allianz Field in St. Paul as the location of the annual MLS All-Star Game next summer.

Why it matters: The festivities would be a shot in the arm for metro hotels and restaurants that depend on tourism, but have seen few visitors in the past 19 months.

  • It could also help grow the soccer fan base here in the Twin Cities. In July, outgoing MNUFC CEO Chris Wright applauded events like the All-Star Game as "opportunities to grow the club."
Torey Van Oot
Updated Sep 21, 2021 - News

Twin Cities acupuncture clinic faces wage theft suit

Illustration of a pattern of gavels.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

A Twin Cities acupuncture clinic with ties to a school whose massage program was shuttered by the state last year over suspicions of sex trafficking is facing questions about its practices, Axios has learned.

What's happening: A class action suit filed in April against the American Academy of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AAAOM) alleges that the clinic's owner engaged in an "illegal, intentional, and systematic scheme" to steal wages from its acupuncturists.

  • The federal complaint, which hasn't been previously reported, claims the owner didn't pay overtime or provide meal breaks, and illegally withheld 5% of employees' salaries. The plaintiffs' attorney says pay was withheld to offset losses from canceled appointments.
  • Three named plaintiffs, who either currently work at the clinic or once did, are seeking unspecified damages on behalf of all impacted employees.
Torey Van Oot
Sep 21, 2021 - Business

Southwest Voices seeks to bring news, connection to Minneapolis neighborhoods

Illustration of a location pin icon with a newspaper in the center
Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Southwest Minneapolis is getting a new hyper-local site.

Driving the news: Southwest Voices, a news source meant to help fill the void created when the Southwest Journal newspaper folded at the end of 2020, is now live, Axios has learned.

Hy-Vee's new "smart store" model coming to the Twin Cities

A green and write kiosk, where a person orders a salad that is made inside
The new Hy-Vee smart stores have vending machines that make a salad for you. Photo: Linh Ta/Axios Des Moines

Hy-Vee's got a new "smart store" model, and the Twin Cities is going to get the company's biggest yet, reports Linh Ta of Axios Des Moines.

What's happening: Hy-Vee CEO Randy Edeker told Axios that the forthcoming store will be 147,000 square feet, providing ample space for experimentation. It will also have an e-commerce hub and micro-fulfillment center.

Details: The new smart stores have kiosks to help you do everything from order a custom cake to buy an elliptical machine.

  • Looking for high-end wines? You can find $1,000+ bottles in the store's wine and spirits section, plus a cigar room.
  • There's a hot food area that functions like a food hall. Order at a kiosk, sit down and someone will bring out your Hy-Chi (Hy-Vee's Chinese restaurant).
  • And yes, a vending machine will even make you a custom salad.

The intrigue: A location has not been finalized yet, said Hy-Vee spokesperson Tina Potthoff.

Nick's thought bubble: Hy-Vee's not saying, but this is almost certainly the grocer's planned Bloomington/Southtown location that Axios Twin Cities reported about last week.

  • Site plans call for a 132,500-square-foot Hy-Vee store with a 21,000-square-foot additional retail space that would be a logical fit for the fulfillment center.
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