Blondie’s: Brooklyn Park, MN

June 27, 2012

Warning – this post is kind of depressing.

Blondie’s kept the Brooklyn Park police department on their toes.

A few weeks ago, a reader tipped me off that the famous (infamous?) Blondie’s bar in Brooklyn Park is slated for demolition this month. He invited me to photograph the demolition, but unfortunately it’s occurring when I am out of town.

So instead, I headed over to the now-vacant bar to photograph it before it turns to rubble. And probably by the time you’re reading this, it *is* a pile of broken bricks and smashed boards.

Blondie’s is a Brooklyn Park icon and I’m sure a lot of you current/former BP/BC residents tied one on here a time or two. As for me? Well, you’re going to be disappointed. I’ve never been to Blondies. That’s right. Me, a blogger who blogs about old Brooklyn Park/Brooklyn Center iconic establishments never went to this place.

But can you blame me? Keep in mind, I grew up in Brooklyn Park. I was a kid/teen when I lived here. Blondies, as you know, isn’t really a place for kids. It’s a bar located next to the notorious Century Court Apartments, which even back in the day, were always pretty shady. Can you really blame my parents for not taking us here? By the time I became of age to drink, I didn’t live in the area anymore.

The history of this place is pretty simple. Blondie’s used to be a Mr. Steak, which, like its name indicates, was a steakhouse chain restaurant. Mr. Steak opened in 1969 and in 1990, the owner changed it over to Blondie’s (the Mr. Steak franchise as a whole had financial woes since the mid-’80s but didn’t disappear entirely until the mid ’90s). Personally, I don’t remember this as a Mr. Steak — I only remember this location as a Blondie’s. The owner, Dick Gunderson, expanded the building in 1996 and in 2001 added the outdoor patio.

Blondies

This is where the story gets depressing. See, Blondie’s isn’t exactly located in a nice area. It never has been a nice area, for that matter, but despite this, the bar kept on, keepin’ on. It’s said to be the longest running business in Brooklyn Park that is still owned by its original owners — absolutely amazing! But all of those troubled apartments near this bar were a recipe for crime. Night after night, frequent calls into the Brooklyn Park PD placed this watering hole high on the 5-0′s radar. The owner approached this problem with an unconventional solution: build a high wall around the parking lot and slather grease over the top to keep the riff raff from jumping the wall.

In 2008, Blondie’s hit rock bottom. A murder happened in the bar’s outdoor patio in September, 2008. Some residents demanded that the bar be shut down – or at least step up their security.

Blondies

Now, I’m not sure what happened after that, but Blondie’s did not shut down because of the murder. Blondie’s would remain open for several more years.

2008 wasn’t a good year for Blondie’s — the murder wasn’t the only tragedy to happen. In the summer of ’08, Thor, the owner’s adult son, died at age 42 of a heart attack.

A December 2008 look at Blondie’s

And in December 2011, Dick Gunderson, the bar owner, committed suicide. According to the StarTribune, “Friends say he was heartbroken over the July 2008 death of his son, Thor, 42, who was in line to take over the bar.” After his death, Blondie’s closed, though I could not find out an exact date.

Another photo of Blondie’s, circa 2008

Dick Gunderson was passionate about the community and served on many committees in the city of Brooklyn Park including serving on the committee for developing the former Village North area.

In April 2012, the city of Brooklyn Park purchased Blondie’s. The bar is slated for demolition and redevelopment as we speak.

Memories of Blondies? Share in the comments!

Photos below taken June 2012

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5 Responses to Blondie’s: Brooklyn Park, MN

  1. TheOldScowl on June 27, 2012 at 1:50 PM

    I’d like to step up. I never went to Blondie’s. I was there when it was a Mr. Steak. I remember going there with my parents, siblings and grandparents (my grandfather treated us). My grandfather always bought a steak, my grandmother the chicken teriyaki. It could be 90 degrees out and my father and grandfather would be in 3 piece suits after church drinking 3-4 cups of coffee and looking placid (those low-key Swedes!) with all of that caffeine in them.
    I can understand the reasoning Dick Gunderson had when switching over the format in the that area of Brooklyn Park, and while I never knew him, I give him points for staying on while others pulled up stakes.

  2. Chad Davis on July 3, 2012 at 1:53 PM

    When is this set to be torn down?

  3. Jill on July 7, 2012 at 3:30 PM

    Wow, I had no idea any of that srs bsns bsns happened. Like you, I moved from BP before I was of legal drinking age, so I never frequented this establishment. I think my dad brought me there for lunch once when. The waitress brought our bill but after 15 minutes hadn’t returned to the table, so my dad scrounged in his pocket to make exact change and we left. Awkward memory is awkward.

  4. Stevie B. on July 17, 2012 at 8:58 AM

    I think the Gundersons moved to town right before I started Third Grade. Thor was in my class that year and several more throughout grade school. We became friends and I spent quite a bit of time at his house. It’s funny because in BP at that time, everyone was so lower-middle-class economically that the Gundersons were considered rich because they owned Mr. Steak. Dick Gunderson was great and I remember several times where he would pile a bunch of us into his Mach I Mustang and take us to Twins games or North Stars games. I went to Blondies only once, when it was relatively new. At that time it was more of a sports bar, comparable to a Benchwarmer Bob’s or Joe Senser’s. As if your story isn’t depressing enough, Thor’s mom actually preceded him in death and Thor was an only child, so the entire family is now gone.

  5. Jim on September 2, 2012 at 8:57 AM

    I found out Blondie’s closed and was demolished just this past week.

    I worked for Dick Gunderson when it was Mr Steak. I knew Thor, but not very well. I had friends that worked at Mr Steak throughout high school and during college. They all say the same thing. “‘G’ was a great guy.” I disagree with the posters that say that Brooklyn Park was always a dump. In the early 70′s it was the place to move to. It was growing and people were excited to live there. The problem wasn’t even Village North. It was Circus. Once it opened you now had a lot of young kids hanging out there. With that came more kids that just wanted to hang out and cause trouble. Stores started losing business because of it. Then the whole neighborhood went down hill.

    Only made it to Blondie’s once. For me, it just wasn’t the same for me. Having worked there when it was Mr Steak. Too much of a change. The food wasn’t that good either.

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