Trailblazers 2017: Craig Cohen

Craig Cohen // Photo by Aaron Job

Craig Cohen // Photo by Aaron Job, The Growler

When Craig Cohen and his father Jeffrey first emerged as interested buyers of the old Schmidt Brewery in 2007, their partnership was initially unexpected for many in the West Seventh neighborhood. Jeffrey, a well-known real estate developer in the 1980s, was located in Maine, and Craig had returned to Minnesota nine years prior to recover from addiction. But the junior Cohen saw huge potential in the 15-acre complex to be something the neighborhood could actually benefit from.

From then until now, Cohen has overseen the entire revitalization of the old brewery, from the renovation of the artists lofts to the upcoming unveiling of Keg & Case Market, his most ambitious undertaking yet. The market, to be located in the brewery’s old keg house, pulls inspiration from other indoor markets of the like such as Pike Place in Seattle and San Francisco’s Ferry Building that offer fresh market goods, high-quality restaurants, coffee vendors, and more year-round.

Once the market is up and running, Cohen will have succeeded in bringing together businesses including a new restaurant by Thomas Boemer and Nick Rancone of Corner Table and Revival, Five Watt Coffee, and the new Clutch Brewing under one roof, as well as short-term lease stalls for smaller individual vendors. But it’s his focus on local growers and fresh produce that will set the indoor market apart from existing spaces like the Midtown Global Market.

And if that wasn’t enough of a project, Cohen has also purchased another building on-site that will operate as a German-style beer hall and outdoor cafe. He says he intends to keep the function and design of the space as it was when it was first built in the 1935 as office space and a rathskeller, giving life to the historical site for residents and visitors to enjoy, and for small business to thrive. “The vision initially was to provide a marketplace, anchor it with an exceptional restaurant, and to find other operators that are the best at whatever they do,” says Cohen. “I think it will anchor Seventh Street in a really special way.”

While much of the history of the Twin Cities has been erased by developers to make space for the new, Cohen is doing something rare: shaping and securing the future of West Seventh, and St. Paul as a whole, by preserving and building off of its past.

Trailblazers are the people, ideas, businesses, and organizations doing necessary, important, and groundbreaking work in the realms of food, drink, and culture. See the rest of The Growler’s 2017 Trailblazers here.