Alain Lenne is officially over the Nicollet Mall reconstruction project.
Really over it.
“It has been three years of frustration,” he said. “At first I was mad. Now I’m just tired of it.”
After enduring seemingly endless road and sidewalk construction, the owner of La Belle Crepe shuttered his tiny Medical Arts Building shop on Wednesday.
“It’s fifty/fifty whether or not I reopen,” he said.
His timing might seem off. According to its overseers, the mall’s $50 million remake is set to be “substantially complete” by November.
“But the people at the city say that things will be much better by the spring,” he said. “What about until then? Everybody feels bad, but then they don’t do anything except point the finger at someone else. No one is accountable for anything.”
The 9-year-old shop is an anomaly: a tiny, owner-operated restaurant on the city’s main street and a personable, urbane asset to the city’s streetscape. Lenne said his creperie thrived in the warm weather months, enough to keep it going during the slow winters.
“Three years ago, I was doing really well, on one of the busiest corners in the Midwest,” he said. “Now? No one is walking by. My business is down 70 percent. I’ve spent all of my savings, just to survive. Everyone that I talk to on Nicollet Mall is losing money, but they’re all part of big corporations. They have deep pockets, they can afford it.”
Happily, Lenne’s Come Pho Soup shop – also located in the Medical Arts Building – remains open. “The good thing is, I’m not the kind of guy who give up easily,” he said with a laugh. “We’re working on a spring roll line.”
Lenne is currently in France with his kids, visiting his mother and binging on mussels. And thinking about his next move, and La Belle Crepe’s future.
“I love La Belle Crepe,” he said. “The people who go there are like a big family. But the city is only concerned with big developers. The city doesn’t see dollar signs when they look at small people like me.”