Espresso Royale closing; Dinkytown's corporatized death spiral hastening

RIP Espresso Royale; hang in there, Al's.

RIP Espresso Royale; hang in there, Al's. Google

Espresso Royale will exit the Twin Cities market on December 21, the Minnesota Daily reported Wednesday.  

The Michigan-based bean roaster operates as a regional chain, with three locations in Minnesota -- St. Paul, downtown Minneapolis, and Dinkytown. The closures are due to low sales and increased competition, Nicolas Sable, assistant manager of the Dinkytown shop, tells the Daily.

"I’m a little bit bummed ... it kind of just seems like the end of an era," Sable says. "There’s definitely going to be a sense of culture that’s going to be lost in Dinkytown."

He's not wrong. Opened in the '80s, Espresso Royale is a popular hangout among University of Minnesota students, and it managed to weather the hastening corporatized takeover of Dinkytown. 

The neighborhood was once known for its quirky, cool, small-biz vibe, but luxury apartments and chain stores have choked out much of its character. 

In just the past decade:

Out with the House of Hanson grocery store, in with Target Express; out with the Dinkytowner Cafe, in with Five Guys and Potbelly; out with the The Podium guitar shop and Biermaier's Books, in with rental offices; and out with Espresso Royale, in with Starbucks and Tim Hortons, it seems. 

And it fucking sucks, man. In 2015, filmmaker Al Milgrom released The Dinkytown Uprising, a documentary that showcases the 40-day student protest of a burger chain, Red Barn, that dared to open a franchise on their turf in 1970. 

"People use the word ‘community’ too much today," Milgrom once told Minneapolis-St. Paul Magazine. "But [Dinkytown] was a very unique busy community, if you looked down the street you knew you were exactly there and nowhere else on earth."

Now, with its cookie-cutter apartment complexes and suburban retail aesthetic, Dinkytown could be anywhere else on earth.

But hey, at least we've still got Al's Breakfast, the beloved pancake joint that is now serving late-night chow. Paul Dzubnar, the CEO of Green Mill Restaurants, acquired the building that houses Espresso Royale and Al's in 2013. Dzubnar -- who also owns Crooked Pint Ale House and co-owns Town Hall Brewery -- promised he "won't touch Al's."