By E Kitzenberg, owner of Picnic

Hello. I’m E Kitzenberg and I’m here to take you behind the scenes into the how and why of opening Picnic, my neighborhood bar in Linden Hills.  In this ongoing series, you'll get my point of view on what it's like to open and operate a new business in Minneapolis with two young kids.

One of the first big hurdles in making Picnic come to life was finding a bank to finance my vision.  If you really want to make sure you have the bankers’ attention, here’s my pro tip: bring a newborn.  They will be too nervous to snooze through the pitch. Pulling perfectly clean pitch decks out of a diaper bag, I could see the fear in their eyes that the baby would wake up any minute.  I have two kids, so I’m familiar with that look at this point. Whether they ask aloud or just silently judge, everyone is asking the same question–‘Why are you doing this with two small children?’  

Picnic is happening now, not in spite of being a mom but because I am a mom.

Let me explain, using bourbon, and rewinding to the COVID-19 summer of 2020.  My husband Kitz and I had a quintessential New England wedding planned. Think lobster rolls with an intimidatingly large group of friends and family. I had picked a spot to bury a bottle. As bourbon lovers, there was no doubt we would bury a special bottle of brown liquor for good luck at our wedding. I first experienced this tradition at my best friend’s wedding in Virginia, where a mud clad bottle of Elmer T. Lee was resurrected and swigged on the dance floor.  Best laid plans set aside, we pivoted on a dime when COVID-19 hit, downsized the guest list, and moved the wedding to my parents place in North Carolina.  Needing all the luck we could muster, we buried a bottle in the yard.  

Burying a bottle of bourbon in my parents' backyard in North Carolina.

In my research on the history of the tradition, one phrase struck me.  It suggested burying a bottle could help “control the conditions.” This stopped me in my tracks and induced a deep, dark, belly laugh. Our original wedding was thwarted by an actual pandemic. The tailor doing my alterations in Boston was shut down and holding my outfit hostage. The store where our wedding rings were purchased back in Minneapolis had been looted. There was no controlling the conditions, and yet we had the best damn party and a mud clad foundation for our marriage.

Even with this forced exercise in loosening up, the transition into being a parent was hard for me. As someone who prefers things in order, it was disorienting and isolating to lose that control. I wanted my confidence back, my time, my chemical balance, my body.  It was a long first Minnesota winter stuck inside on Zoom calls. I wanted somewhere to go where maybe just for an hour I could be the one off-duty and being taken care of.  

Fast forward. My daughter is almost two years old and I am seven-months pregnant, driving down Upton Avenue when I see the ‘For Lease’ sign in Clancey’s window. I knew that was it. It was time for me to build that place I wanted that long winter.

Picnic is happening now because my kids have changed me into someone comfortable enough with ambiguity to know I can navigate the challenge. They’ve also made me far more efficient. Being a parent is a constant juggling act: glass balls you can’t drop, like picking them up from daycare on time, teaching them safety, and how to not be terrible people. Then there are the plastic balls that you can drop, like putting them in socks that match. Those plastic balls will be ok. They bounce.  

It is outside of my comfort zone to put all of this out in the world, because to state the obvious, it could still be a total bust.  The hospitality industry is notoriously difficult and I still have enough healthy fear to know this. I’ve created Picnic because I believe our great team is poised to do something very different.  I also suspect I’m not alone in that feeling that maybe a little neighborhood bar could be what somebody else out there needs to move forward into the next chapter. I have my endlessly supportive husband Kitz to thank for juggling with me everyday and giving me a shove into the unknown.  

So that’s a little background on who I am and why Picnic is coming to Linden Hills.  I am going to keep this series going, so what do you want to learn about next?  Grease traps?  Tip culture? Zoning ordinances? Lasagna research & development?

Leave a comment on what else you’d like to read about in starting a neighborhood bar and I will try to address it in an upcoming article.