Musical superstar Prince Rogers Nelson could have lived anywhere in the world. But he chose Chanhassen. Unlike other Minnesota-born musicians, actors, and celebrities, Prince maintained his Minnesota roots, and made his home in Chanhassen. Wherever he toured and traveled around the world, he always came back to Chanhassen.
He bought property and built a home off Lake Lucy Road in the early 1980s. While the home no longer exists, Prince still kept ownership of the property; he also built Paisley Park, his recording studio nearby, on Highway 5 and Audubon Road.
Among the reasons Prince stayed in Chanhassen may be that the community didn't treat him like a celebrity but as a member of the community. He dropped in for coffee at Caribou Coffee near Office Max, grocery shopped at 3 a.m. at the Chan Cub Foods, rode his bike on the local trails and into downtown Chanhassen, did his dry-cleaning in Excelsior, took in late night movies at the Chanhassen Cinema, and was seen pumping his own gas at the local stations. He even shared typical suburban concerns like how to keep the deer from eating his hostas, and complaining that local taxes were too high.
We asked readers to share their favorite Prince stories, and they did:
- Did you ever wonder, how Prince chose Chanhassen as his home and international headquarters for his world renowned music recording studio Paisley Park?
According to Lee Clark of Victoria, a former Twin Cities realtor, a group of top real estate agents had an informal advisory board called "Distinctive Homes," designed to provide a sounding board, and give advice to other agents.
In 1982, Clark remembers an agent in the group was describing the difficulty in finding the right location for a high-profile client who was looking for a home. The obvious choices were around Lake Minnetonka: Ferndale, Wayzata, Orono. But none of those communities seemed exactly right. Where was she going to put him? The agents brainstormed: Eden Prairie, Hopkins, Minnetonka?
Clark suggested Chanhassen.
"I've always looked at real estate as an investment," Clark said. "I said, 'I think Chanhassen is up and coming. It's a good place to invest.'"
The client was Prince, and he did buy Chanhassen property, on Lake Lucy where he built a house; later he bought property off Highway 5 and Arboretum Road, where Paisley Park is located.
"Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s I worked at the Chanhassen Public Library. One evening, I answered a phone call from a librarian in a small community in one of the Southern states who was trying to solve a mystery. Her library had received an anonymous gift ($12,000) with no explanation, in the form of a very large check. The check had a Chanhassen address [7801 Audubon Road], and the account name was listed as Love 4 One Another Charities. I told the woman that I suspected that the donation came from our local purple royalty, Prince. The librarian explained that her community didn't have money to sustain the arts and that she had difficulty in putting new books on the shelves of the library. She had no idea how Prince connected with her community but she told me that his generosity would make a huge difference.
Prince's death has saddened me in a personal way since I have always thought of him as a neighbor rather than a rock star. Community and people mattered to him."
—Kristin Raymakers, Chanhassen
Editor's note: Prince donated $12,000 by check dated Sept. 15, 2001, to the Louisville Free Public Library's Western Branch Library, which in 1905 became the first library in the nation operated by and serving African Americans. The donation arrived in 2001 – but word of the gift spread only Thursday, after a Louisville library supporter posted about it on social media in the wake of Prince's death.
Source: Courier-Journal, Louisville, Ky., and Insider Louisville
THE PURPLE PROWLER
"Growing up just a couple miles from his estate, Prince was everything to me. I used to chase the purple prowler around town. And one time — just once — he pulled up next to us at a stoplight on Powers Boulevard and Highway 5. Me being me, went crazy and started screaming at him. He slowly rolled down his tinted window, gave us a wink with the most mysterious smile, and sped off — through the red light. I will never forget that moment. And his parties at Paisley Park were probably the most exciting nights for any teenager. "Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life." — Prince. Thank you and sweet dreams."
—Reid Harmsen, Chaska High School alumni
MAN ABOUT TOWN
"I was so incredibly sad to hear about Prince's death ... It didn't seem real until I saw and heard everybody talking about it. As a kid I would always hear stories about him roaming around Chanhassen and last summer I was lucky enough to go inside Paisley Park and watch the legend himself perform. Even though it was only for a brief moment I feel so blessed that I was able to witness his talents. It was just this last Saturday that my sister called to tell me that on her drive home she saw Prince biking into Paisley. I never would've imagined he would be gone today. While singing "Purple Summer" tonight in "Spring Awakening" all I could think of was Purple Rain, and just how influential we as performers can be."
—Lauren Hugh, Chanhassen, a musical theater student at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
A CUP OF CARIBOU
Jody Schepers, of Chanhassen, recalls that her son Van worked at Caribou Coffee next to the Hair District. Van was age 16 at the time and had just started; the first fancy coffee drink he made on the job was for Prince. When asked what he remembered about Prince's visits to Caribou, Van, now 21, and studying in Buenos Aires, Argentina, said, "I really don't have much. The only words I remember hearing from him were 'chocolate cooler,' no kidding. He was always dressed up very fashionably and confident as hell as a very little dude."
"My Prince Story: Routinely, Prince's personal attendant would stop at the [Chanhassen] floral shop where I worked. She stopped right before closing time when we were not busy and would have Prince on the phone, describing the flowers and colors to him. He usually just wanted an arrangement for next to his sink in his bathroom. Nothing extravagant, just something fresh."
—Barb Scharfenberg, Chanhassen
Jeff Peshek of Chanhassen sold a motorcycle to Prince.
"I bought this motorcycle new in 1976," Peshek said. "It was a Honda 550... I rode this bike until my wife and I were expecting our first child. Barb (my wife) said, 'Why don't you sell it?' So I put it out on Ray Kerber's farm by Highway 5 and Dell Road. Within a couple hours, I got a call. Chick (Huntsberry), Prince's bodyguard (who lived in Chanhassen Estates) came by with his wife and kids.
"I was selling it for $1,200 and what impressed me," Jeff said, "he didn't try to talk the price down. Chick just peeled off a bunch of $100 bills.
“I heard stories that when Prince was learning to ride it, he was so little, when he came to a stop light, he'd stop next to the curb so he wouldn't fall over."
—Barb and Jeff Peshek, Chanhassen
"Several years ago, I bought it [a lampshade from Prince's Chanhassen home] from our friend Annette Hentz at Carver Flowers, who had it in the shop to sell for her former brother-in-law. He got the shade when cleaning out some things for Prince, who he did work for. It might have been about the time Prince demolished his Chanhassen mansion."
— John von Walter, Carver
EMPLOYED BY A PRINCE
"I feel very fortunate that I spent the last couple of years working for Prince at Paisley Park. I started out thinking the music business was going to be easy. That was not the case. It's quite a bit of work, but well worth the effort.
"When people came to Paisley they'd sometimes ask what I do there. My answer was everything except share the stage with him. It would've been cool to one day play guitar with him, but it is what it is.
"I did however set up his equipment, clean his bathroom, hauled out his trash, washed his dishes, and anything else that needed to be done. I absolutely love who Prince was as a person and it's sad that we've lost such a great musician. The guitars, cars, and studios were amazing. Downstairs is his mysterious vault, and unfortunately, across from the vault is the elevator in which he was found. I've used that elevator several times to either go up to the offices or down to the cars below and it breaks my heart to think of him laying in there dead.
"I know he suggested to be successful you have to not care what the crowd is doing and just be good at what you love. Be different and go against the grain. Don't look too far into the future or dwell in the past because you'll miss right now.
"Prince had vision and was able to take his dream and turn it into reality. The fans were great and I see they've put some purple flowers on the fence paying their respects. I'm sure he'd be thankful.
"The last memory I have of Prince is the night Madonna stopped by a few months back. After everyone left it was about 5 a.m. or so and here comes Prince on his bicycle with the biggest grin ever. He looked so happy and that made my day.
"To the fans, thanks for all your support and may Prince's music withstand the test of time."
—Tom Underwood, Chanhassen
PRINCE ON THE DIAMOND
"I was not of the generation enamored with Prince. My Minnesota musical ties are tied to that other musician from Hibbing a generation earlier.
"With that said, Prince lived in the same community my family moved to 20 years ago; Paisley Palace is within a mile or so as the crow flies.
"I can only share two anecdotes about Prince: the first was a little league practice at Lake Ann Park across Highway 5 from Paisley Park … all of a sudden, all the moms of the 10- to 11-year-old players disappeared over the hill -- it seems Prince came to the park to play softball on the other diamond -- and that was a bigger deal than their kid’s practice! The second was something shared by my wife last night: Prince quietly donated a sizable chunk of money for the elementary music programs in the school district -- a way to help make music grow in the community...
"From the talk on the news and call in shows from public and commercial radio and TV, the stories shared of a “nice guy” musical genius that touched and related to each person … We’ve lost a neighbor."
— Bill Franzen, Chanhassen