Community Spotlight

A new initiative from Highland District Council

Each month, the Highland District Council will feature a Highland Park resident, business or organization. Community Spotlight honorees may have deep roots in Highland Park or might be new to the neighborhood. Our goal with this initiative is to build community and showcase the good work happening around us.

We look forward to highlighting the positive stories and the people who make our neighborhood a more vibrant, welcoming and safe place to live, work and play.

Watch our e-enewsletter and social media for monthly Community Spotlight announcements.

Community Spotlight honorees

December 2023: Soul Lao

We offer food from our Lao background, bold flavors, and a food experience that brings conversation and good memories for all adventurous foodies looking to have the best kept secret at your service. Our team is small but we offer a lot when it comes to the passion we have for Lao food and food in general. Behind our pass through window you can catch us singing, joking, keeping the energy high and focused on giving our customer the full experience “Soul Lao” has to offer. With our rotating playlist jamming, soup season, and rotisserie dreams becoming reality we try to give it 100 percent each day.

When did your business open in Highland Park?

August 28, 2023

What was the inspiration for doing the work you do?

Our inspiration is our family. The journey has always been about the process never the destination, this is what held us to our “quality versus quantity” motto. We challenge ourselves and continue to add to our menu to give more opportunities to share memories & shape our skills as young chef learning from one another.

What’s your favorite thing about Highland Park?

The connection this plaza has to our family, the people, our neighbors & the support we’ve received has been a huge wind under our wings. We love that we get to open our world to this community, it’s been a long road and we’re just getting started as a brick and mortar restaurant.

November 2023: Wandering Leaf Brewing Company

Wandering Leaf Brewing Company was designed to reflect the beautiful Minnesota environment, and created to showcase both well-loved brews and introduce visitors to new and exciting varieties, featuring up to 16 beers made on-site as well as a variety of plants and greenery, including a living plant wall. The brewery offers a rotating taplist of hand-crafted beers with a wide variety of beers to cater to every beer drinker and highlight the love of the outdoors all year round. For non-drinkers, there are several NA options such as hop water, craft soda, kombucha and sparkling tea.

When did your business open in Highland Park?

April 27, 2023

What was the inspiration for doing the work you do?

Creating a safe space that is inclusive and fun for everyone!

What’s your favorite thing about Highland Park?

Sense of Community and a passionate community that supports and is proud of their local businesses!

October 2023: Friends of the Mississippi River

Friends of the Mississippi River (FMR) is a St. Paul environmental nonprofit that works to engage people to protect, restore and enhance the Mississippi River and its watershed in the Twin Cities region. 

Each year FMR works with community partners to create and install a water quality-themed mural near a storm drain at a park in St. Paul. These murals serve as reminders that our city landscape connects to the river through storm drains and that we can all work together to keep our water clean. This year, we installed our Water Mural at Highland Park’s Mississippi River Gorge Overlook.

To create the mural, FMR engaged the talents of St. Paul artist Precious Wallace. Wallace is an artist and creative who has been making art since her adolescence. She went on to create a remote design studio named King P studio where she has done design work for nonprofits, corporations, agencies and many entrepreneurs. You can see more about her and her studio at

As part of the mural creation process, FMR invited community input at the Spirit of Water Festival at Hidden Falls and workshops with youth. As Precious puts it, the community process “allowed us to really see what other people imagined for the dream mural, and how they wanted to actually educate the community on not putting things down the storm drains because they affect our Mississippi River.” 

FMR identified a storm drain at the Mississippi River Gorge Scenic Overlook in the 600 block of Mississippi River Boulevard South as a great location for a mural. FMR was grateful that the Highland District Council approved that mural location and Precious’s proposed mural design. On August 7, 2023, Precious painted a bright, colorful mural, with support and assistance from her assistant, FMR staff, and youth from FMR’s Environmental Stewardship Institute. The mural’s message? “Just Water — No Waste.” 

When did you first start your business/efforts in Highland Park?

This year, Friends of the Mississippi River is celebrating our thirtieth anniversary of engaging people to protect, restore and enhance the Mississippi River. Our storm drain stenciling program — which enlists volunteers to paint the message “Keep ‘Em Clean — Drains to the River” near St. Paul storm drains — is active in Highland Park, so it’s likely that Highland Park neighbors and business owners may have spotted FMR volunteers spreading the word about water quality or seen one of our messages near a storm drain.

What was the inspiration for doing the work you do?

The vision behind FMR’s work is of a river where water is clear, clean and safe to swim in, where fish and wildlife are healthy and abundant, and where scenic bluffs and cultural treasures are protected. We’re inspired to make the Mississippi more accessible to all and to nurture a community that embraces our role as the river’s stewards.

For artist Precious Wallace, water offers deep inspiration for her life and work. As she puts it, “Often times my spirit goes towards the water, because being a true Capricorn, that I am, I often need fluidity in my life or I need to release something back to the Earth, some type of way, and water does that for me…” Wallace says she hopes that her mural design will encourage people to be considerate and not put litter or other pollutants near or down the drains.

FMR is very pleased and excited that our latest water mural in Highland Park and our collaboration with your community can be a part of making our visions a reality! 

What’s your favorite thing about Highland Park?

Highland Park has so many wonderful places to enjoy being close to the river — Crosby Farm, Hidden Falls Park, Uŋčí Makhá Park, and so many wonderful walking and biking trails to explore.