Linden Hills Says Good By To "Unofficial Mayor"
Bayers Hardware closing Saturday Sept. 1.
Sure, Bob Bayers will still live in the neighborhood and will still be seen around town, but by his own admission, he'll be absorbed in finding a new line of work to support himself into retirement and deciding the fate of his soon-to-be-former store's building. He and his ex-wife own the building together.
Starting in the mid-1970's, as he took on more roles at what was then his father's store, Bayers took on bigger roles in the neighborhood.
It started small—lending his voice to the Linden Hills Neighborhood Council's yearly auction in pre-silent auction days—but soon expanded.
The neighborhood connection led to his serving on the Council for 15 years, and growing into a leader among the neighborhood's businesses. He also became the "Worshipful Master," or leader, of the Lake Harriet Masonic Lodge. On top of that, he also served on the board of the Minnesota Transportation Museum, and drove the museum's streetcars during the summer.
In between driving the streetcar, being a visible part of the neighborhood's summer festivals, and just forming a regular part of everyone's life as the head man at the neighborhood hardware store, he became known to some as the "unofficial mayor of Linden Hills."
One of the people who knew Bayers this way was Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak.
"I grew up in the neighborhood, and I remember going to his store next to the grocery when I was just a little kid," Rybak told Patch. "My parents ran a corner store and I know it takes an incredible amount of energy and hard work to be able to chart your own path like that."
"He has a studied surliness that's part of his charm and humor," Rybak said.
In other words, he likes to pretend he's grumpy as a way of being friendly.
"He wears his heart on the outside," said Jim Sample, a friend of Bayers'. "He's a big guy, and I'm a big guy. I can identify with his size, but in him, it's all heart."
"He's one of those unusual people who thinks of everybody else first," Sample added.
The 9-11 memorial concerts Bayers organized year-in and year-out were an example, Sample said.
Bayers really came into his own as a neighborhood leader in the months following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., Rybak said.
"At a time when the community was really wrestling" with those horrible events, Rybak said, " He developed one of the more beautiful and ongoing ceremonies."
Rybak said he was surprised to find himself looking forward to Sept. 11.
"It's been a way to take all the rough emotions and elevate ourselves, and not be mired in hatred," Rybak said.
Last year, Bayers handed the concert over to a volunteer committee that included Sample. The sheer scale and depth of Bayers' contacts around Linden Hills and Minneapolis became clear, Sample said, as Bayers briefed the group on who they could turn to for financing and organizing help.
"At one of our first meetings, (Bayers) came up with six type-written sheets of paper that had all the contacts he could think of off the top of his head," Sample said. "They were all people Bob worked with over the years. It was an example of the very nice, winning way he has about him. You just like being around him."
When Bayers announced he was closing his store earlier this summer, long-time customers flooded his store for the closeout sale. While Patch interviewed Bayers about the closing, several interrupted to wish Bayers well. Rybak joined in two weeks later, declaring Aug. 11, 2012 to be "Bob Bayers Day" in Minneapolis, coinciding with Bayers' retirement party.
"I want him to know how much the people of this city appreciate his family's near-century of contributions to our city," he said.