By Sonjie Johnson
JO Thompson, Inc. has been in the Como Park flooring business for almost 60 years. The family first owned property on Robert St in the 1950s, then on University and Snelling in the 60s. In 1965, Jim Thompson, Sr., bought what is now Nelson’s Cheese Shop. Shortly thereafter, he purchased the property that is J.O Thompson Inc. flooring business, currently owned and managed by his son, Jim. Having worked in the shop at a very young age, Jim says that a multitude of businesses have come and gone over the years.
Built in 1957 to accommodate the trains that passed at that time, the Snelling overpass permanently displaced the once thriving Como/Snelling Avenue business community. Jim remembers most of them and he points out their past locations as we talk.
Bergland Lumber and Axel Neuman Plumbing, (both established in the 1800s), Shiely Concrete, Smyth Printing – all large businesses – now gone. There was a large creamery across from Jim’s shop. Then there were the smaller businesses, like Mrs. Hagerty’s Corner Bakery. Gold Metal Grocery became a Tom Thumb, became Shanghai Market and most currently, Spirit Gymnastics.
Kitty corner across the street to the east was Sugar Dan’s Drive-in, a burger and root beer stop. That property is now Caring Hands, a home health care business. Next door to Sugar Dan’s there was a gas station, which is now a car lot. A movie theater became a racquetball club, then a church.
As the owner of most of the buildings on the JO Thompson, Inc. side of the block, Jim is active in rentals, leases, building maintenance and necessary code meetings with the city. He is committed to upkeep and stability. His buildings include Nelson’s Cheese Shop, JO Thompson Flooring, El Aguila Restaurant, Spirit Gymnastics, a single-family dwelling and a duplex (both with long term tenants). Although Nelson’s Cheese Shop has been successful for many years, Jim’s property right next door has seen a succession of food-related businesses – Como Park Pizza, Basqualis, Café 99, Lisu and now El Aguila.
Once the creamery mentioned above, the large brick building across the street bears the State Farm logo. It currently houses apartments and other small businesses. The
storefronts to the east house a variety of health and wellness businesses that he hopes will be successful.
Jim provided me with a number of pictures of old Como Avenue. He says that he has no plans to leave this small Como Park neighborhood. The family has an emotional, as well as a financial connection to the community and he is committed to seeing it remain stable and continue to grow and prosper.
Do you know some interesting history about your home, your neighbor or about the Como neighborhood? Anyone is welcome to do an interview, share historic photos or do a write up for the Know Your Como segment of our newsletter! For more information on how to submit go to our Know Your Como page.