Mother Clucker’s opens in Minneapolis, owners bet on success opening several neighborhood businesses

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The founders of several businesses in the Loring Park neighborhood of Minneapolis have opened another venture, offering more options in an area they’re heavily invested in seeing succeed.

The founders of several businesses in the Loring Park neighborhood of Minneapolis have opened another venture in Mother Clucker’s Pizza, offering more food options in an area they’re heavily invested in seeing succeed.

Together Sam and Dion Turner are the owners of the Muffin Top Café (1424 Nicollet Ave.), Nicollet Diner (1333 Nicollet Mall) and On the RoX/Roxy’s Cabaret (above Nicollet Diner). In total, the couple own four separate and distinct businesses within a four-block stretch of Loring Park, an area they both love and believe in.

"I moved here when I was 20, and 20 years later I still love the neighborhood more than ever," said Sam Turner, who also works as the managing partner of the businesses. Prior to their opening he’s been a server and manager of other restaurants.

The two began with Muffin Top Café, which opened in March 2014. Its initial success quickly led to an opportunity to open the Nicollet Diner in its original conjoining location in September 2014 – creating a one-two punch for those hoping to find all day (and all night) American diner food, with coffee and pastry accompaniments.

"It took a little while to catch on, but when it did, it really took off. Even during the pandemic we never really closed and offered delivery around the clock," said Sam.

The decision to be a 24/7 location, open 365 days a year has always been a deal-breaker, according to Sam.

"I’m just an overnight guy. Any city our size has tons of options, and we’re really the only one without 24/7/365. Some do late nights, but we’re really the only ones that never close," said Sam.

The success of Nicollet Diner led to a location expansion into what was formerly Ichiban Japanese Steak House and Sushi Bar on Nicollet Mall in December 2019, though it took until August 2021 to clear permits and construction, and finally open.

Building on the success of those, the two took another gamble and dove into the nightlife scene, opening the On the RoX/Roxy Cabaret in September 2022.

"I’ve always wanted to do a drag venue. We knew we wanted to redevelop the location in a building we now owned in the former Ichiban site," said Sam. "We’ve proven the 24-hour model, and now it was time to put our own spin with something equally as iconic."

Not done expanding their empire, the two are betting on the neighborhood they know and love after opening Mother Clucker’s Pizza in April 2023, serving its namesake staples along with subs and appetizers, with delivery until 4:30 a.m. daily.

"We’ve invested a lot in this building and space already, with a long-term lease. Even though it was a great idea for Nicollet Diner to move, we still had this great space to use," said Sam of the spot that formerly held the first iteration of the diner. "It was just a matter of what concept to put in it. Like we did with the Diner when we first came into the neighborhood, we asked ourselves ‘What did the neighborhood need the most?’"

Their answer was a fast-serve location that also offers dartboards and pinball, providing a hangout until 2 a.m. for patrons who choose to dine-in instead of opting for delivery. 

"We were familiar with the space already, and knew what we wanted to do with it as soon as we were ready. Between bureaucracy and contractors it took about 18 months to get up and running, but now the challenge has been making it not just Loring Park’s best kept secret," Sam said. "We want to be a well-known neighborhood dive."

The decision to center all their operations in the Loring Park neighborhood was one borne from statistics and density population in addition to their affection for the neighborhood itself, according to Sam.

"Minneapolis is 59-square miles, and 11.4% of the population lives within this one square mile. There’s a lot of tall apartment buildings around here and people need to eat," said Sam.

Cognizant of the narrative that Minneapolis has faced increased crime in recent years, Sam implores anyone who might be weary of visiting the neighborhood, and any of their locations, to venture into an area on the rebound.

"There’s been a big uptick in foot traffic from the Convention Center, the Taste of Minnesota is coming back, Holidazzle is back – come check it out," said Sam. "I don’t recommend going to 5th and Hennepin at 2 a.m. with your head in your phone. We all live and work here, and although incidents do happen, if you use common sense there’s a good chance you will be fine. Crime has gotten a lot better. If all you read is negative headlines you’ll likely be scared forever. There’s typically an uptick in the warmer months, but as long as you’re aware of your surroundings we have a pretty safe city."

In the future, the Turners could consider franchising one of its brands, should another entrepreneur show interest in adding a new location in a different area.

In any case, they’re likely not done expanding and investing in Minneapolis.