Last night, while taking a long leisurely walk, I found myself standing at the railroad tracks looking at sunset on West Main Street. A young woman, whom I could kick myself for not photographing, sauntered ala "Carrie Bradshaw" style towards a wedding destination taking place at the very elegeantly cool and funky banquet hall located a block up from Caddo Street. She wore a gold -threaded, vanilla overlay dress with a retro turquiose accented mullet skirt, high wedge shoes, and perflectly blown out hair. Her date needed to slow down a bit, as he seemed to forget that wedge heels require a bit of concentration to speed walk in. Regardless, she looked like the urban stylish folks you would see in larger towns.
I love seeing this; the diversity and complexity of our changing downtown. Once upong a time...yeah I know, old timer's storytelling right? But indulge me. Once upon a time, Main Street, in any town, in any place, was the hub of our community. Neighborhoods were built to hug these centers, connecting and uniting us. Then, people started to move into suburbs, wanting to be further away, residing in isolated islands, trying to create new communties. But all new things, become old (great quote from great film "Take this Waltz"). And, in time, more and more people have started to really want to recreate that sense of connection. Of a Main Street where you know your vendors, business owners, and boutique owners. Remember when you walked down Main and there was Ida's? The hushed feeling you got when you walked in, not wanting to touch anything for fear your mom would pop your hand, and at the same time, wanting to touch everything. The store smelled fancy, elegant. Clothes were brought out to you. I watch old movies and see this same elegance that once was the standard of most Main Streets. And for a bit, we seemed to lose that. Abandoning the businesses and owners who had been the suppliers of our lives. Trading it for the large comprehensive box stores moving in. (Yes, box stores provide jobs and more variety and cheaper prices, but that is not the focus of this article)
Remember Stolfa Brothers? I loved that on one side, all these bins held little metal devices, screws, bolts, you could put your hands into one and feel hundreds of pieces slipping and clanging back into their holding place. Walking through the open doorway that connected to the other side, you would see old blue and white splattered outdoor/indoor cookware, crockery, aprons, and baking dishes. Even as a little girl, it was always fun to go see the items the newly engaged would pick out. Walking further down Main, to East Main, you could get some of the world's best BBQ, McKerson's. My mother-in-law, Linda Dixon Campbell recounts stories of the Main Street from her childhood, when H.A. Pruitt's family had a store with huge blocks of butter. As children, she and this family would race through sliding their finger into the creamy goodness, stealing a taste before the adults shooed them off. Daube's will always be a large part of the Main Street of most of our childhoods, the gold railing leading upstairs, dark wood and beveled edge mirrors, custom makeup and the smell of almost a baby powder scent. you spoke softer when you shopped there. And Christmas...I really miss those puppets. Alot.
Main Street is a part of history in a way that chain stores can never be. I take that back, Anthony's, Bealle's, and JC Penny, were around here long enough that the memories can form. Mostly, of new pairs of Levi's, Guess Jeans, and PePe or of all the children who acted up (me included) being taking to the dressing room for a "talking to". But Main Street still remains a different experience.
When I traveled overseas, I was suprised that when we went into the main hub of the community, they actually had main "centers', places where traffic was not allowed and you could get out, walk. It was carnival like. Street performers, live "statues" covered in copper paint looked at you unblinking, and then suddenly reached out, touching your shoulder. People rode unicycles. Some would set a blanket out, right there, and have a pic nic, people watching. People seem more connected when their Main Streets are alive and vibrant.
And our Main Street has been reborn. The value of our old buildings, of taking care of how a building is restored, of finding value in attracting interesting and unique businesses that make people want to walk in one after the other. Main Street is a place to shop. Hopefully, over time, each building will house a business of value. Maybe we will see less temporary window announcements and more detailed. thought out store fronts. Maybe we keep creating and attracting interesting eateries and places to shop, linger, and be connected.
Houses in the old historic Ardmore are selling fast. One up the street from me was on the market two weeks...sold by Claudia and Carolyn, overnight it seemed. And then wham, the house acrosss from me...SOLD by Ross Group. This shows an urban return of families who value neighborhood schools, lower house prices, and the convenience and eclecticness of living close to downtown. Of bike riding to Ten Star, the park for live music, of picking up a few things at Key's grocery (TOTALLY HATE THAT I CAN'T GET SANDWICHES THERE ANYMORE BTW, but that's another discussion of why small businesses should be less harassed by ordinance folks--really), of watching the trains pass by while watching your grandkid who's eye widen with delight, seeing the wonder of the world in their eyes. People who choose to live downtown. From the conversations I have had with them, they appreciate the unique architecture of old-well built homes; homes whose walls house history, whose trees have not been demolished by "clearing land", whose streets twist and wind a path of adventure. Of a neighborhood school their child could walk or bike too. Are there well built homes and cool neighborhoods in other parts of town, the more suburb kind of areas...yep there are. But this article isn't about them, it's about old Ardmore.
The other day, I was driving down a street which will be featured another time. This street was a few blocks off of where El Tapitio's on north commerce is located. I nicknamed it "Cape Cod" because each of the smaller bungelow type homes are so well kept, the yards bursting with color, English cottage garden style displays of roses and daffodils, of azaelas and irises. House after house, on this little street, made you want to buy a house and move in. I could see this neighborhood creating its own personality, these neighbors, whether spoken or not, agreeing to beautify their part of the world.
And maybe that, in the end, is what draws me so much to downtown; the agreement and unity in creating a vision of beauty and experience. Looking forward to the Farmer's Market this summer! So this weekend, catch a concert at Goddard, Samantha Crain is playing tonight, Dylan Stewart, a regular at Red Dirt, is opening. Dust off your bike, grab your kids, and get some food. Stop at the park later for late night play. Start creating your own memories of Main Street, in your hometown.