Saint Paul resident and writer/editor Kristal Leebrick is excited to step into a new role close to home.
Position: CBS Executive Office & Administrative Assistant
What did you do before your job in the CBS Dean’s Office?
For the last eight years I was the managing editor of a monthly, nonprofit community newspaper, the Park Bugle, which covers the St. Anthony Park and Como Park neighborhoods of St. Paul and the cities of Lauderdale and Falcon Heights (and the St. Paul campus). I have a background in community news.
Your also have a new book! (Thank You for Shopping: The Golden Age of Minnesota Department Stores comes out next month.) Can you talk a little bit about your path to becoming a published author and what drew you to the topic of Minnesota department stores?
I was contracted to write a book about Dayton’s department store — probably the most famous and most missed Minnesota store — five years ago for a South Carolina publisher that had a book series on landmark department stores. They were looking for a Minnesota writer to write about a Minnesota store and I raised my hand. That project sparked this bigger project with the Minnesota Historical Society Press. Department stores are a dying breed, but they were once the social and cultural centers of many communities. There are all kinds of great stories about people who worked at, shopped at or owned these stores.
As the former editor of the Park Bugle, it’s safe to say you know quite a bit about the neighborhood surrounding the St. Paul campus. In your opinion, what are some of the best things to do nearby?
The first thing that comes to mind? Visit the Bell Museum! What a wonderful place for people of all ages. And Ramsey County Historical Society’s Gibbs Farm across the street from the Bell is a fun place to take children to learn about Jane Gibbs, her early life in the area before Minnesota became a territory and her relationship with the area’s Dakota people.
The immediate area surrounding the campus is a bit sleepy, but if you venture south toward University Avenue, the area is blossoming with new businesses. One of my favorites is Bang Brewing in an industrial area near the railroad tracks at 2320 Capp Road. It’s a tiny brew house operating out of a corrugated metal building that looks just like a grain bin, and their beer is made with all organic ingredients. It’s just a fun little place to hang out in warmer weather, as they have a wonderful garden, a fire pit always going and sometimes music and good food trucks. And one of the proprietors, Sandy Boss Febo, is the great-granddaughter of Andrew Boss, the University of Minnesota professor, who helped establish the first university meat laboratory in the United States here.
Head east to Prior Avenue and check out Can Can Wonderland, an artist-inspired mini-golf and entertainment emporium that offers music, arts activities, group tap dancing and a whole lot of fun.
There are many artist studios dotting the area (the Dow Arts Building, West Hampden Artists, the Raymond Avenue Gallery), but my favorite art venue is the Smallest Museum in St. Paul, a real-life curated museum built into an old firehose cabinet just outside the door to Workhorse Coffee just west of Raymond Avenue on University Avenue.
What do you like best about working on the St. Paul campus?
I enjoy meeting the students and faculty members who come into the Dean’s Office. I’m fascinated by the work being done here. Every time I walk past the Butterfly Brains and Behavior Lab sign, it makes me smile. I need to take advantage of the lab’s welcoming sign that says, “Come in!” I want to know what they are learning in there.
What do you do in your free time?
I am a hobby potter.