Monthly Archives: February 2018

Pepitos and Parkway Theater Acquired, New Restaurant Tenant Announced

MINNEAPOLIS, MN, February 14, 2018


Pepitos restaurant and the Parkway Theater, two popular institutions located in the Field Regina Northrop neighborhood of South Minneapolis, have been officially acquired and are scheduled to re-open in June 2018. Pepitos Mexican Restaurant, located on the 48th Street block of Chicago Avenue South, enjoyed a long and revered 46 year-run as a fixture in the neighborhood under the ownership of Joe Minjares, who also owned and operated the adjacent Parkway Theater. Due to a serious illness, Minjares had to close Pepitos Restaurant at the end of 2017, though its nearby deli on Nicollet and 46th Street remains.

Enter local investor/entrepreneurs Ward Johnson and Eddie Landenberger, who live in the neighborhood and saw the potential to renovate both the restaurant and theater, in an effort to bring new life into these two establishments. Both Johnson and Landenberger are longtime fans of Pepitos, and Johnson, in particular, has a special connection to Pepitos. “My wife and I had our first date at Pepitos. And fittingly in 2001 it’s where I proposed,” said Johnson.

After an extensive remodel, Johnson and Landenberger will continue to run the theater as a classic/indie movie and live performance venue. “Our goal is to restore the Parkway Theater to its former glory and bring new energy to the space through renovation, curated movie and speaker series, contemporary chamber music and more,” says Landenberger, a veteran of neighborhood redevelopment projects in South Minneapolis.

As for the restaurant, the pair found another family-owned, neighborhood institution to take over operations. El Burrito Mercado, a fixture in St. Paul’s West Side for 36 years, will open El Burrito Minneapolis in the space formerly occupied by Pepito’s. El Burrito Mercado is led and operated by Milissa Silva-Diaz together with her sister and niece, which makes it a 100% women-owned Latina business. Fittingly, according to Silva-Diaz, the bar portion of the restaurant will carry a theme featuring prominent Latina entertainers, artists, and influential women. Like it’s St. Paul counterpart, El Burrito Minneapolis will feature an award-winning menu of authentic Mexican cuisine, a take-out deli, as well as their popular tamale-making classes.

Minjares, for his part, is happy to be handing off the torch to people with deep connections to the neighborhood, and to his restaurant. “It’s bittersweet to say goodbye,” says Minjares. “But I feel like I’m leaving things in good hands, and there’s a bit of serendipity to be handing over the reins of the restaurant to another family-owned Mexican restaurant with a long history in the Twin Cities.”

Plans for the renovation of the Parkway Theater and the opening of El Burrito Minneapolis are pending approval of all necessary plans, permits, and liquor licenses.


Eddie Landenberger, is a commercial real estate developer, broker and property manager with extensive experience serving arts organizations and non-profits in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Eddie currently serves as Vice President at the Land Bank Twin Cities, overseeing acquisitions and property management of a diverse portfolio of urban properties. Prior to the Land Bank, Eddie spent several years as a business broker and economic development project manager developing restaurants and creative arts spaces in Minneapolis. As an active arts patron, he is strongly connected to the local arts community through Kate Nordstrum, his wife and music curator of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra’s Liquid Music Series. He has an engineering degree from the University of Minnesota.

Ward Johnson has over 20 years of experience in business operations and entrepreneurship. As owner/CEO, he guided local pet food manufacturer Sojos ( from a one-man operation to a manufacturing leader in natural pet products, until their ultimate acquisition by WellPet, LLC in January of 2016. He currently serves in a mentoring, consulting and investing role for local start-ups and seed stage companies. He attended the University of Minnesota and has a BS with an emphasis on Entrepreneurship and Marketing from the University’s Carlson School of Management.

Milissa Silva-Diaz, a Mexican-American, is a passionate diversity advocate with a vision to unite teams through culture, food and music – while infusing a good measure of business savvy. She is the eldest daughter of immigrant, entrepreneur parents, Tomas and Maria Silva. Milissa is most known for her innovative leadership at El Burrito Mercado, the multi-million dollar Mexican & Latino marketplace & restaurant, which employs over 80 staff members in St. Paul. Before taking on her role as El Burrito Mercado CEO and partner- owner, along with her sister Suzanne and niece Analita, she pursued other experiences which heightened her level of education and professional experiences in areas of private label foods, Latino entertainment promotion, and corporate experiences with companies like Target, Supervalu, and General Mills. Milissa currently serves on the board for Latino Chamber of Commerce and is a current board member of the St. Paul Festival & Heritage Foundation. She was recognized as the 2009 recipient of Minnesota’s Hispanic Chamber of Commerce “25 on the Rise”.

President’s Letter, January 2018

Hello FRN,
We are at the end of 2017, another year has almost passed. We have seen so many changes occur in our world and in our Neighborhood as well. Some changes have been positive, and some have been negative. We have seen some old businesses close on Chicago Avenue, and we’ve seen some new businesses open in their place. We have a new bakery on 46th and Bloomington, too.

We’ve seen longtime business owner, Joe Minjares, who will be closing his Pepitos restaurant. Joe has been very active in our community through the years. He has been very sick of late, and we want Joe to know that we’re thinking about him.

This past November, Hale and Field School taught us in the community all about the history of our neighborhood. The young people did a lot of research about our community and educated both themselves and us, about how our neighborhoods were once segregated by design, and what it took to unify and desegregate our schools and neighborhoods.

We’ve talked about crime in our community, and how we can do something about it. FRN you have talked about forming walking groups and walking together, with the strength of unity, looking out for each other.

This November, we voted for a lot of local elected positions that have a direct impact on our community. This new year, we will have two new City Council Members: Andrea Jenkins and Jeremy Schroeder. We are looking forward to working with both of them and having them to hear our concerns for our communities and working on our behalf. They will be replacing our previous Council Members, Elizabeth Glidden, and John Quincy, who gave so much of themselves to preserve and improve our communities. To them, we give our appreciation.

FRN, we have work ahead of as we begin the New Year 2018. How do we work with our local schools to help keep our kids engaged and wanting to stay in school? What is it that we can do to assist those families who need help, in fixing their homes and properties up, when they’ve fallen into worsening disrepair? When do we start the walking groups in our neighborhoods? Who will help organize these group(s)? How do we make sure we are including all our new businesses, in our conversation about the commercial plans and hopes of our community? We need to work with McRae Park on community building, in planning activities for our young people and teenagers. We have our newsletter publication, Close to Home, and we need people to continue to write articles for the paper. We have a great production team for the newsletter, who have won several awards and recognition for being an outstanding newsletter. Let’s continue to share our enthusiasm and talents to maintain this asset.

FRN I’m up to the challenge for 2018 and I need your help to make these things happen. Please consider joining one of our committees that interest you, and making 2018 the best for FRN.

Willie Bridges

Willie Bridges, FRNNG President

If you have new neighbors, please introduce yourself and welcome them to the neighborhood. Be safe and be aware of your surroundings: always lock your car doors, garage doors, and house doors. If you have an elderly person living next door to you, check up on them periodically, to make sure that they’re OK. Practice the Golden Rule.

I wish the Best for you this coming Year 2018, FRN,