I watched an interesting TEDX talk once about Detroit. The speaker stressed the importance of the “new Detroit”, meaning that the prosperous, automotive culture that once sustained the city was over. She suggested that Detroit needed to manufacture a path for its future- one that wasn’t necessarily going to look like the Detroit we all have come to know.
I speak to some interesting people on Saturdays at the Broadway Market. I think the nature of my business (www.gridlocklacquer.com) opens the door for stories because the nail polish names are triggers of old memories and places. Often I hear about the way a neighborhood “used to be” and the sadness when the storyteller eventually states “but it’ll never be like that again”.
But should it be? Or should our damaged neighborhoods be figuring out how to move forward, taking with the best traditions on their way to build a new future? Is it possible to return to the glory days or is that a thing of the past?
So often I’ve heard of how neighborhoods like Kaisertown and Broadway-Fillmore were so great because of all of businesses: bakeries, corner bars, family owned restaurants and the neighborhood butcher. I agree that it would be amazing to have these neighborhoods re-emerge with businesses like this. But the question is- would you shop there? Businesses like these cannot be sustained by now and then shoppers. The reason they were successful before the decline of the neighborhood is because everyone had to utilize those services. There weren’t Wegmans and Tops and Super-Walmart.
People talk about how the Broadway Market used to be. They say people used to come to get their meat and bread and it was always busy! They say it’s a shame that it’s not like that anymore. Yes, it is a shame. But of these people, I must ask- Do you come here to buy your meat and bread? Do you buy your horseradish from the Broadway Market or do you buy it at a supermarket? Where do you buy your vegetables?
Another example of this is Pumpernik n Pastry on Clinton Street, which I believe was the final bakery to close in Kaisertown. People in Kaisertown are constantly referencing it as a major loss on the business strip. Why did it close? Why did all of the bakeries in Kaisertown close? Common sense indicates it’s because it was no longer a sustainable business. Did the neighborhood people GO THERE? I don’t mean for an almond ring and a cup of coffee 3 times a year. I mean, did they buy the necessities there? Bread, birthday cakes, rolls, Sunday morning pastries, holiday desserts and wedding cakes? It’s hard to believe that if all of Kaisertown was buying these items from the lone standing bakery in the neighborhood that it would have closed. Especially when the same neighborhood used to sustain multiple bakeries.
Business strips cannot re-emerge without help of people to support them. It’s all well and good to say the East Side needs help. Yes, many of the problems seem overwhelming for a single person to tackle, but each dollar counts. In my opinion, each person can start by going to a struggling neighborhood to support a local business and then talking about your experience. Tweet about it. Facebook and Instagram your photos. Show that there are still interesting and viable places to eat, drink and shop. The conversation can help to create a much needed buzz and the business owners and neighborhood advocates would certainly appreciate the publicity. No neighborhood can re-emerge without people being engaged- find some time to pay a visit and help the revival.