Journey to the East Side

22 Feb 2022

Every day, we drive, walk or ride along streets that teem with life, drinking in the stories and cultures that ever-growing communities and entrepreneurial individuals have lovingly placed in our paths. The concrete alleyways, rushing avenues and bright boulevards of the Twin Cities are never still. Even in the midst of the pandemic, this place, our home, thrives. Businesses bustle. People start new things. Shops grow, and visitors explore. But one area is not recognized for this the way it should be. One area's voice is being drowned out by misinformation and rumor so that the public at large doesn't notice the bright-burning, blossoming space that dances with unexplored magic only a few moments away. I'm talking, of course, about the East Side.

The East Side is full of healthy, thriving businesses run by determined people who pour their whole heart and history into what they do. You can find everything from vegan shops to record stores, Hmong markets, and places to rent a room or fix your car. The options are almost endless. But, the East Side also has a reputation for violence and crime, a reputation that prevents many from looking there for a place to eat, get necessities or simply enjoy themselves. That's where we come in.

The authors and coordinators of this blog are a small group of students from Metropolitan State University who are currently studying how to effectively communicate with various types of media, and we're lucky to be partnering with the East Side Area Business Association (ESABA) to highlight all the wonder and warmth this treasure of a neighborhood has to offer. Over the next several months, we'll be interviewing some of the amazing spots under ESABA’s membership to learn more about the East Side as a whole, and gathering some incredible individual stories in the process. But first, we wanted to introduce ourselves, to give you a taste of who we are, where we come from, and why we're here. In no particular order, here are the people who will be taking you on this magic carpet ride, if you stick with us for the fun.

Hello fellow readers, my name is Anissa Alvarado and I am a full-time student at Metropolitan State University. Also, a mother to a beautiful one-year-old boy. I used to live in East St. Paul throughout my childhood in a cozy apartment surrounded by many small businesses and people. This is where my love for small businesses came about. Not only with businesses themselves, but the individuals behind them and their stories. As time has passed, the East Side has not been the same as what I, and many others, used to remember. It was a lively area when I resided there and people didn’t fear it. To restore this liveliness and rid of the fear, I joined ESABAs mission to help the East Side become what it once was and is capable of becoming again. 

My name is Nathan Arrell and I am a Senior at Metro State University in St. Paul. I am on the path of  majoring in Communications. In my 5 long years split between Minneapolis College and Metropolitan State, I have heard very little about the East Side of St. Paul. So, when I was given the opportunity to work with ESABA, I jumped on it. I'm from Maple Grove, Minnesota. If you don't know, Maple Grove is a wealthy suburb. After 18 years there though, I became pretty sick of it. I've always been drawn towards smaller and local businesses. I think that it's because I was deprived of it for most of my life. I'm excited to visit the area, meet the people, and figure out for myself what the east side of St. Paul has to offer while also spreading that with everyone else. That is why I am so excited to be partnering with ESABA and its mission. 

My name is Choice Pickins Newstrom. I live on the East Side, in the Historic neighborhood of Dayton’s Bluff by Mounds Park. I work in Saint Paul as an addiction counselor. I consider myself a lifelong learner as I am a student at Metropolitan State University. I love playing tennis, walking, bicycling and cross-country skiing in the wonderful parks on the East Side. I truly love the beauty, history, and cultural diversity of the East Side and am excited to work with ESABA to help the East Side thrive and prosper in any way I can.

My name is Michael Vendittelli. As an avid enthusiast of history and a dabbling entrepreneur, I’ve always been captivated by the stories of struggling businesses and the heritage of diverse neighborhoods. ESABA and the businesses that it represents are the home to a culturally rich spectrum of local enterprises. It personifies the struggle of hard-working people and their journey. My goal over the next few weeks is to get to know the people of the East Side and have the opportunity to tell their stories. I hope that we can make ESABAs vision a reality. 

My name is Awa Mally, and I have chosen to partner with ESABA. You may be asking why I decided to do so. Well, I chose to be a part of supporting ESABA because of its mission; supporting the East Side businesses and sharing their unique stories of excellence. Particularly, Black stories of excellence. I have many friends that went to school or have lived in East St. Paul. It’s also home to many Black families, and other minorities. Because of this, I really value ESABAs mission want to do what I can to contribute to it. There has been a negative light that has been beaming over this community. Most people think of East St. Paul as this dangerous and violent place. But, I think quite the opposite. I want to change this thought process. That is why I am here, to make a change for the betterment of this community. 

My childhood was centered around the East Side of Saint Paul. When I think of it, I am reminded of all the fond memories I created in that small part of Minnesota. My name is Alayna Vang. I was born and raised here but moved out of town six years ago to the edge of Oakdale. It’s not very far out, however, there is an incredible difference between the two. One city is bustling, crowded, full of culture and community. The other is calm, uncongested, competitive, and orderly. Both of these places are great but living in Oakdale for so long has caused me to neglect the beauty of the East Side. I have lost sight of what it has to offer and the richness in its culture. The East Side doesn’t have the greatest reputation and for that, I look forward to helping ESABA tell the stories of the amazing businesses in its community. I hope to bring more people to explore this part of town and to also help ESABA create meaningful connections.

I'm Jessica Hodges, a 25-year-old student kept afloat by copious amounts of tea and ambient music as I pursue a major in communications and a minor in creative writing. Though I'm not familiar with the East Side and its vibrant community, I have always had a passion for small businesses. Every aspect of them, from startup to daily operations to customers and product, overflows with so much heart and sheer humanity, and I'm excited to be a part of exploring what that looks like on both the individual and public levels. Helping to tell important stories of place and personhood in the process. Hopefully, what we're doing with this blog and related media will help create new connections, strengthen old ones, and let people know just how amazing the East Side really is. I'm excited to learn and excited to work.

So, now that we're not total strangers, what do you say? Will you come with us on this journey? Will you, too, explore the greatness, the uniqueness, the incredible scope of the East Side's heart and learn all the ways this vital place helps everyone within and around it? If your answer is yes, stay tuned because there is so much more to come.