My professional career in Minneapolis began in the late 1950s, almost sixty five years ago. I’ve been a part of many changes/improvements in Minneapolis – and I’ve been an interested spectator at many more. During that time, there are several persons who particularly influenced me and played a very important part in Minneapolis, as it was and as it is. The were fascinating personalities and certainly memorable.
Amos Deinard – one of the greatest attorneys ever! And I know most of them – representing and controlling me – or on the opposite side. Amos was blind! His brother Benedict, helped him as the two of them went through Harvard Law School. They were partners in the highly respected law firm Leonard, Street and Deinard. Amos had a “photographic memory” – remembered every word of legal documents – or important speeches. He was a great scrabble and anagram player – seldom lost. An avid participant in general community and Jewish community affairs, he was selected to lead in both. A brilliant and compassionate community leader.
Barbara Flanagan – Depending on your point of view, Barbara was “far ahead of her time – the community conscience – a visionary” – OR “a burr under the saddle – entirely unrealistic – a wildly enthusiastic gadfly.” Barbara hated automobiles and the vacant lots used for parking them. She thought everyone should eat outside and encouraged rehabilitation of old buildings – usually urban and sometimes salvageable. Barbara wrote a regular column in the daily paper. Everyone read her column and some even agreed with her. Barbara loved Calhoun Square – with its hidden auto parking facility, outside eating , rehabbed buildings and window shopping for her beloved pedestrians.
For me, Barbara was the Minneapolis version of Jane Jacobs, the world famous urbanologist and visionary author (Death and life of Great American Cities)
Harry Davis – I met Harry while the fires were burning on Plymouth Ave. during the riots in 1968. Harry was the person who connected with the protestors (mostly African-American) and the white business community – and succeeded in calming the furor. He was a leader in the Urban Coalition in its efforts to respond to the urban unrest.
Harry was tough, and kind, and determined to put out the fires that existed on the streets and in people’s minds. A former boxer, Harry fought to bring people together and was tireless in striving to forge a single community from its disparate parts. Harry was on the Minneapolis School Board, a candidate for mayor and many more – an important piece of the history of Minneapolis. Too bad he isn’t around now!
Ted Mann – Whenever I received a phone call at the ungodly hour of 3:23 AM or 4:17 AM, I knew it was not a crank call or an emergency. It was Ted Mann! “Ray, I’ve decided to buy (or sell) ________.” Ted lived 24/7 and expected the same from others. In all of my real estate years when I represented clients, Ted was the most unpredictable and one of my favorites. He was a theater magnate – the Mann Theater, the Mann Drive-In theater on France Avenue etc. and was also buyer and seller of real estate. He asked a lot of questions and sometimes listened. He started with nothing and multiplied his successes. Ted was charming and could be a fearless negotiator – success was his! He was also philanthropic – a fanatic in his support of the community and the arts (The Mann Theater for the Arts) – a wonderful human being!
Others who are unforgettable; who made my career interesting –
- Lou Zelle – the creator of St. Anthony Main, for whom I assembled the old mattress factory and the other required properties.
- Mayor George Latimer – The wonderful St. Paul leader, who tried repeatedly to lure me to develop in his city – without success.
- Rudy Boschwitz – The king of Plywood, Minnesota – very active in Jewish community activities and even the Republican Senator for Minnesota.
- Chuck Denny – a classmate of mine at Stanford University, a highly successful business leader – always available to help wannabe entrepreneurs and the world’s nicest guy!
- The Chalfen family – owned the Nankin restaurant, built the Summit House Towers (one of the earliest high rise residential complexes, brought the aqua follies to Minneapolis.