BY DEBRA KEEFER RAMAGE
Richfield – suburban or urban, but mostly rectangular and growing
In a previous year, I wrote about the fact that Richfield was once much larger, and if things had continued as they were, the twin towns might have been Richfield and St. Paul. But through his good nature (allowing Minneapolis to annex chunks of the north – four times!) and bad luck (airport growth meant Richfield’s shrinkage) and even generosity (Richfield dug his own western edges into the villages of St. Louis Park and Edina), Richfield was reduced.
It is now just a small, tidy rectangle bounded on three sides by relatively straight highways (Crosstown Hwy. 62 to the north, I-494 to the south, and Xerxes Avenue, a county highway, to the west) and to the east by the airport. Although Richfield has no urban areas or what might be called a “downtown”, there is a growing population and a degree of ethnic and cultural diversity.
The 2020 census put Richfield’s population at just under 37,000. Demographics are only available from the 2010 census, but at that time Richfield was 69% white (compared to over 80 %, over 88%, and over 60% white for neighboring Bloomington, Edina, and Minneapolis, respectively). Richfield has a population of over 18% Latinos of all races, over 6% Asian, and over 10% “other”. Richfield is currently governed by the first Latina mayor in Minnesota history, Maria Regan Gonzalez.
Richfield Parks and the Ice Arena Ecosystem
For such a small suburban town, Richfield has plenty of parks — 23 of them, according to Wikipedia. Downtown is Veterans Memorial Park and the area around it, including City Hall, one block south. Veterans Park is the largest park in the city, except for the Wood Lake Nature Center.
The Richfield Ice Arena complex is in the southwest corner of the town square containing the Veterans Park, along with VFW Post 5555 and a private elite sports training facility called ETS Performance. The ice arena was built in 1971 by the town of Richfield. It is home to a large number of teams, associations and clubs, including the Adult Hockey Association (AHA, established in 2001), Richfield Skating School, Richfield (youth) Hockey Association, Richfield High hockey teams School and Holy Angels High School. , and the Richfield Curling Club (established in 2018). Despite all this official activity, with two regulation-sized rinks, the arena manages to offer many hours of free skating and free hockey.
Diversity in restaurants and groceries
Richfield doesn’t have many restaurants, but what it does include a wide diversity in the cuisines on offer. There are countless small taquerias and Mexican spots in Richfield, but I’ll highlight a few other ethnic dining options here.
One is the heavily Greek-influenced Mediterranean/Middle Eastern cuisine, including things like gyros, tabbouleh, hummus, and falafel. A small restaurant that used to be called Aida and is now called Tazzah is a good source for this type of food. In addition to these standards, they offer flambé falafel with a spicy sauce, Greek lamb sausages, grilled vegetables and a syrupy Egyptian semolina cake called basbousa. Tazzah is located at 2208 W. 66th St., just east of Penn Avenue.
Another dining establishment that caught my eye is called Soul Bowl. While there is some overlap with barbecue soul food and American South African cuisine, there are also significant differences, as its staple cuisine is that of the West Indies. This food route is influenced in part by the same African roots as US-based soul food, but also by the large influx of East Indians and the longest tradition of association with British colonization and British cuisine than the United States.
The Soul Bowl, unlike many soul food restaurants, does not offer any pork main courses. “Build-Your-Own” bowls consist of a starchy base – yellow rice, mac and cheese or roast potatoes – with a choice of protein and one or more sides and sauces. All items are priced individually. Accompaniments include green cabbage, but also plantains, candied yams or smoked mushrooms. Protein choices are three types of chicken (jerk, barbecue, or fried), vegan soy-based chicken the same three ways, and salmon, Cajun or mambo style.
Soul Bowl is located in a small Caribbean and Indian grocery store called Galaxy Foods. This place looks intriguing and I am planning a visit in the near future. They offer an incredible range of specialty foods including canned and groceries, Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, British brands, Caribbean vegetables and frozen meat and fish. They are located at 7128 Chicago Ave.
Lots of choices for car maintenance and repair
Richfield is spoiled for choice when it comes to auto repairs. Two that we will mention are quite close to each other on East 66th Street. The first is Repair-Rite Automotive. This shop also has a partner location in Eagan. In addition to offering all types of auto repair, with a one-year parts warranty and all ASE-certified mechanics, they have a gas station with Marathon gas, a convenience store with fresh coffee, and a car wash. They are open six days a week, Monday to Saturday, until 6 p.m.
The other one a block away, also on East 66th Street, is Crest Auto Service, where the owner personally guarantees his work. Crest specializes in all types of automotive repair services, as well as brake shops and fuel pump servicing. Open five days a week, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., they’ve been in business for over 20 years and have a phenomenal 4.9 rating on Google, with 40 of 41 reviewers giving it a 5. /5.
Another store popular with customers is John’s Auto Shop at 6958 Cedar Ave. (This parallels and just west of Highway 77 near the Diagonal Boulevard exit.) Owners Clint and Jon are the fourth generation in their family to run an auto repair shop, having started their careers at a young age while working for their father Kurt at Action Auto in South Minneapolis. In 2017 Jon and Clint purchased HomeTown Auto in Lakeville, and in 2020 they acquired John’s Auto Shop. The added values of this shop are a two-year warranty on spare parts and ready-to-use cars while you work on yours. They also have very high ratings, close to 5/5, on Google, Consumers’ Checkbook and Facebook.
Some other local businesses for animal lovers, artisans and more
A very interesting business in Richfield is Johnston’s Vac & Sew. The vacuums they sell are so high end I’ve only heard of one of their brands, Miele – I had one in England, and it was brilliant. They also repair vacuums of all brands and install central vacuums, a technology I’ve only heard legends about but never knew anyone who had one.
And then there are the sewing machines. Granted, I’m not a textile craftsman of any kind, but I have friends who are, and yet I’ve never heard of any of the brands of sewing machines they sell. They look very spacey, that’s all I can say. But what I love about this side of the business is that they sponsor a group of artisans called Valley West Sewing Sharing Group. (The sewing side of the business is called Valley West Sewing Center.) This group meets monthly in the store and also has a Facebook page, newsletter, and periodic social gatherings.
For pet owners and animal lovers in Richfield and south Minneapolis, there is a VCA Animal Care Hospital located at 1208 E. 66th St. VCA, short for Veterinary Centers of America Inc., is a nationwide network of hospitals and veterinary clinics promoting the best practices and advanced techniques. Richfield Hospital, along with several community partners including the Animal Humane Society and Pet Haven, Minnesota’s first foster rescue organization (founded in 1952!) offer all the basic services of a clinic /veterinary hospital, as well as preventive care and a wellness center. club” for pets and their owners.
Education from early childhood to adulthood
Richfield is known for its excellent public schools, but it is also home to a few parochial and private schools. The former we’re going to mention covers the preschool and extracurricular crowd from infancy to grade three, and the latter offers post-secondary education and more to a particular population.
The first is Creative Early Learning, founded in 1974 by the Richfield Lutheran Church as a non-religious outreach ministry. It is housed in the church but operates as an independent entity and provides childcare services with educational and artistic enrichment. They welcome families from all cultural and religious backgrounds, offering learning and childcare services for children aged six weeks to 10 years. Their stated mission is to provide a learning environment “where every child feels love and success every day”. Although school readiness is their primary focus, their programs are designed to help children succeed socially and emotionally as well.
The other educational institution is Minnesota Independence College and Community. It is located inside the Colony Apartments at 7501 Logan Ave. This interesting educational nonprofit aims to help high school graduates with extreme neurodivergence or developmental disabilities progress to independent adulthood. They have a three-year program culminating in independent living skills, vocational training and certification, and social-emotional skills. The program is complemented by a community program and a summer program.