Paper Trail

How five loudmouth newsies built an information dynasty.

The Depression was Hennepin Avenue's first serious kick in the teeth, and throughout the 1930s and '40s many of downtown's most storied theaters, bars, and hotels disappeared. The Shinder's newsstand, however, continued to expand. Economic collapse, labor strife, war, even local newspaper strikes were all good for business. Four times a day the Shinder brothers would make trips to the post office or the railroad station to pick up incoming papers and magazines, and at least one of them was out there on the corner at Sixth and Hennepin 24 hours a day. By the mid-'40s they were selling upwards of 3,000 daily newspapers and 900 magazines a day.

Morton Silverman remembers the Shinder's newsstand as one of Minneapolis's postwar focal points, during the avenue's last real boom days. The brothers were Silverman's uncles on his mother's side; his father, Ruben, was the owner of the huge Great Northern Market on the same corner of Hennepin as the newsstand. "There were at least five full-service markets on Hennepin Avenue back then," Silverman says, "and my father's store had a meat case 100 feet long, with 100 butchers working side by side. Everything was full-service in those days. My mother Mary was a Shinder, and my father was very close to my uncle Hy in particular. They did a lot of things together, both socially and as businessmen.

"There was then no such thing as Minnesota Nice. Minneapolis was at that time a hotbed of anti-Semitism. Jews couldn't belong to certain clubs, and my father found he couldn't get a job with a chemistry degree. So Jews basically had to create their own opportunities, and in doing so they made a lot of good things happen on Hennepin Avenue. People like my uncle Hy and my father really broke down a lot of the barriers. They'd throw big parties at the Grain Belt brewery for the police department, as appreciation for the work the beat cops did on the avenue. And my father and Hy were both very active in the Masons--there was a lodge right downtown then, Minneapolis 19, the Sunlight Lodge--and they'd put on big turkey dinners for Christmas.

Craig Lassig

"Shinder's was just a tremendously important force on Hennepin Avenue, and there was still such a vibrant scene down there then. When you got on the streetcar to go downtown there were a lot of different languages being spoken. My parents wouldn't think twice about letting me take the streetcar downtown on my own from North Minneapolis. It was completely safe, and as soon as I got off that streetcar on the avenue everybody knew my name."

In 1946 the Minneapolis Tribune observed the brothers' 35th anniversary of selling newspapers on Hennepin Avenue. "Few popular men can count as rich a cross section of people as friends, acquaintances and customers," the article noted. "'We know bankers, grain merchants, clergy and the underworld as well,' Albert admits. 'Nobody knows the trouble we've seen on this corner.' The Shinders watched Moss Hart and Roy Rogers engage in a running gun battle along Sixth Street, observed the truck drivers' strike, saw men fall from buildings to their death in suicide jumps, witnessed violent traffic smash-ups and sold papers during hundreds of parades."

BY THE LATE 1950s the Shinders' business had expanded to include a lunch counter Daniel ran inside the old cigar store on Sixth Street and a magic and novelty store Al had opened across the avenue. But already downtown Minneapolis and the news business were changing in ways that would ultimately make both all but unrecognizable to the brothers themselves.

"There was a lot of rapid growth after the war," Silverman recalls. "There were huge demographic changes in the city's core, and the cities were spreading out, taking the population and the jobs further out of the city as we knew it. The buses that were introduced after World War II were proving to be more flexible and more efficient than the light rail." The "Great White Way" downtown model of the boom years was giving way to a sort of creeping Times Square squalor, and new developments like Apache Plaza in the Northeast and Southdale in Edina were providing places for people to shop in the areas where they now increasingly lived.

In 1958 Al, the oldest of the Shinder brothers and the first to sell papers on Hennepin Avenue, joined the suburban flight and opened a newsstand in Southdale. Hy was now clearly in charge on Hennepin, and announced plans to expand the newsstand inside, taking over the diner that was being run by his younger brother, Daniel. Soon thereafter, Daniel broke away from his brothers to open his own store on the opposite corner of Block E.

From then on, media reports of the Shinders' various milestones and accomplishments regularly alluded to a "family feud" between the brothers. Though no one seems entirely clear about the reasons anymore, they probably had something to do with the fact that it had become unrealistic for all the brothers and their progeny to make a living off one family newsstand.

In 1964, Harry's son, Dale, sued his uncle Hy over a purported failure to honor a verbal agreement and for alleged termination "without justification." According to court papers Hy Shinder was at that time the sole owner of the family business, which had a "stock value" of $100,000. By 1967 Harry was dead and Hy had retired to Arizona; his son Allan took over the newsstand, moving it indoors permanently and cutting back its hours. For the first time in more than 50 years, Shinder's would no longer be selling newspapers on the corner 24 hours a day.

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