Minneapolis Travel Guide
Christine Fruechte, an ad agency CEO, gives a tour of her hometown of Minneapolis.
It was 1996 and the Minnesota winter was just closing in when Christine Fruechte, then a rising star in the advertising world, got a job offer in Honolulu. She jumped at the chance. “When I got there,” Fruechte recalls, “it was 20 below in Minneapolis and 90 degrees in Hawaii. People said, ‘That’s over 100 degrees difference. I can’t even imagine it!’”
Fruechte could imagine it. She even enjoyed it. And just a few years later the lure of the Twin Cities pulled her back. “Hawaii had a lot of sunshine and adventures,” she says. “But it didn’t have the same cultural or corporate infrastructure. There are so many Fortune 500 companies here to partner with. And you also have this great creative community and an artistic mecca.”
Indeed, while Hawaii currently has no Fortune 500 companies, the Twin Cities have 19, including those with deep roots like General Mills and Land O’Lakes, retail heavyweights Target and Best Buy, and technology-driven companies like 3M and Medtronic. These are just a few of the firms that make up the $190 billion metro area economy, the 14th largest in the country.
On her return, Fruechte’s career continued its upward arc, and in 2004, Fruechte was hired by the advertising agency Colle + McVoy; she was made president in 2006 and became CEO two years after that. But though she was excited about the business prospects the area offered, Fruechte was even more thrilled to get back to the kind of life she loved. “As far as the lifestyle we were used to,” she says, “we couldn’t afford it in Hawaii. The same is true of Manhattan. It costs a lot more to live there. But at the same time, you can find a lot of the things a big city has to offer here.”
Some of those things include world-class art museums and theater (Minneapolis has the most theater seats per capita outside New York City) as well as a dining scene that is coming into its own. “We’re blessed in the Twin Cities with a lot of amazing chefs, a lot of homegrown talent and a lot of farm-to-table opportunities,” says Fruechte.
The area is also blessed with an extremely active population. In 2011, the American College of Sports Medicine found Minneapolis-St. Paul to be the fittest and healthiest metro area in the country. That may be in part thanks to the 46 miles of bicycle lanes and 84 miles of bike trails winding along the city lakes and rivers. Last year, Bicycling Magazine crowned Minneapolis the best bike city in America, and the city also installed new Nice Ride bikes that can be rented by the hour. Colle + McVoy keeps a fleet of bikes for its employees to use.
“I think it’s just an amazing quality of life,” says Fruechte. “I’m a big water person, and living here, I can go riding around the lakes, go canoeing or go fishing. You can be in a metropolitan city, but within 10 or 15 minutes, you can be out in the middle of nature. Not many people know this, but Minnesota actually has more shoreline than Hawaii, California and Florida combined.”
When she became president of Colle + McVoy in 2006, Fruechte made another move. At the time, the agency was based in the nearby suburb of Bloomington. Its windows overlooked a lake and a park. But Fruechte helped push the company to pull up stakes and move downtown to the up-and-coming warehouse district.
“Believe it or not, it was actually more cost effective to move downtown than to stay in the same space we had,” she says. “And it gave me an opportunity to redesign how we worked, with an open floor plan and no offices. I don’t even have an office.
“But [also], moving downtown brought us more into the heart of the city, where a lot of culture and production happens. The suburbs are great and beautiful, but for our industry, [moving downtown] allowed us to open our eyes more and see the pulse of what’s going on.”
The new location was close to the Hiawatha Light Rail, which opened in 2004 and added a new level of accessibility (and commuting options) to the downtown. The line also travels directly from the center of the city to the airport, which is a major hub with direct flights throughout the country and the world, making the Colle + McVoy location even more convenient. “Being in the center of the United States [makes this] a great jumping-off point to a lot of places,” says Fruechte. “I travel so much. In June alone I was in France, New York, Alaska and Iowa.”
The move downtown was a good one, and will likely be even better when a second light-rail line between Minneapolis and St. Paul opens in 2014. Since relocating, the company has seen steady growth every year throughout the recession, and in 2010 Colle + McVoy won more than 100 local and national awards, adding to Fruechte’s long list of Effies (for effectiveness), Webbies and an Emmy. She also spearheaded the integration of digital media throughout the company, which has since been internationally recognized for its work on accounts with Caribou Coffee, DuPont, General Mills, Land O’Lakes, Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort, Old Navy and others.
Meanwhile, downtown Minneapolis has continued to boom.
The same year the company moved in, a new three-stage Guthrie Theater, designed by “starchitect” Jean Nouvel, opened. There’s also a farmer’s market in the Mill City Museum, and another one on the pedestrian Nicollet Mall. “Minneapolis, especially the warehouse district, over the last few years, has become more vibrant,” say Fruechte. “There’s much more renovation going on, and a lot of that was driven by Target Field.”
Target Field is the new 40,000-seat baseball stadium that opened in 2010 and began drawing thousands of people to that formerly derelict part of downtown. Last year it was selected by ESPN Magazine as the best stadium of any kind in the country, and it’s widely seen as both a commercial and aesthetic success, driving a downtown renaissance. Nearby, the Cowles Center for Dance and Performing Arts was scheduled to open in September on Hennepin Avenue, an entire street that has just been slated to become an “arts-inspired cultural corridor” running from the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden to the Mississippi River.
“Our office overlooks Target Field,” says Fruechte. “So when the fireworks go off, and we have our windows open, you can see and hear it all. There’s so much great energy that comes from there.”
There are, of course, some disadvantages to being located in the Twin Cities.
“We don’t get as many friends visiting in the winter,” says Fruechte.
FRUECHTE’S ADDRESS BOOK
Where to Sleep
Saint Paul Hotel
350 Market St. (St. Paul)
A place rich in history, this landmark 1910 luxury hotel has been a mainstay since a major restoration in 1982.
W Minneapolis – The Foshay
821 Marquette Ave.
Set in Minneapolis in an iconic 32-story Art Deco skyscraper built in 1929, this is a premier property that looks backward and forward.
601 1st Ave. North
A sleek, modern, classy boutique hotel that puts you right in the middle of things.
Le Meridien Chambers Minneapolis
901 Hennepin Ave.
A luxury art hotel with more than 200 pieces of original contemporary art by Damien Hirst, Angus Fairhurst, Gary Hume and others.
Where to Eat
1624 Harmon Pl. on Loring Park
Part of the New American food movement, with a seasonal menu that reinterprets classic dishes.
2726 W. 43rd St.
A small new restaurant just off Lake Harriet, with an eclectic menu and an accent on “historical cuisines.”
Meritage 410 St. Peter St. (St. Paul)
Features an ever-changing seasonal menu made with local fare and a slight East Coast influence.
Where to Play
818 S. 2nd St.
This fall sees Nobel Prize–winner Seamus Heaney’s Burial at Thebes (based on Antigone), Adam Rapp’s Edge of Our Bodies and Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol.
326 7th St. North
Since it opened in 2010 in the heart of downtown, the stadium has won even more fans than the Twins.
Minneapolis Sculpture Garden Walker Art Center
1750 Hennepin Ave.
The Sculpture Garden is a must-see, and a good place to take in the skyline as well as some fantastic, larger-than-life art.
Bike the trails to Minnehaha Falls/Sea Salt
4801 Minnehaha Ave. South
Hop on a Nice Ride bike, and pedal down the Mississippi River to Minnehaha Falls, the inspiration for Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha,” and now the location of a fantastic outdoor seafood restaurant, Sea Salt (open April through October).
Frank Bures's work has appeared in Harper's, Esquire, Outside, Bicycling, and Wired. He is based in Minneapolis.