BEST OF EVERYTHING Minneapolis 1999 -
At 92, "Tiger" Jack Rosenbloom is one of St. Paul's great living entrepreneurs--if only for his dogged refusal to change with the times. Operating out of a squat, cramped eight-by-ten-foot shack in the hardscrabble neighborhood just off the Dale Street exit from I-94, Rosenbloom sells a quirky mélange of merchandise: chips, pop, charcoal, candy, and hickory chips. The shop is lit by a single bare bulb and heated by an old-fashioned potbelly stove. Of course, the real attraction is Rosenbloom himself. A former amateur boxer, Rosenbloom got his nickname from the legendary St. Paul prizefighter Mike Gibbons, who was impressed by Rosenbloom's ring performance after young Jack was riled by a racial epithet issued by an opponent. These days, Rosenbloom displays flashes of that old fistic vigor in his spirited pronouncements on politics and religion. He jabs at the air with his gnarled fingers (one of which is missing) as he philosophizes on the virtues of hard work and self-reliance. Yeah, his stories--sprinkled with rapid-fire references to Booker T. Washington, crack, and welfare--can be a bit tough to follow, but they're never dull. Rosenbloom's place was originally located near the old Ryan Hotel on Robert Street. "Old Man Hill used to get his shoes shined there," says Rosenbloom, a reference to St. Paul's famous railroad baron, James J. Hill. Rosenbloom and some friends moved the building to its current location back in 1969. He has no plans to retire.