Thursday, June 18, 2009

My Kind of Corner Store

Above: Louie's Food and Greek Deli, 35th and Dupont

I love corner stores, and wish that Uptown had more of them. In an ideal world, or at least in my ideal world, no one would be so unfortunate as to live more than two blocks from a shop selling milk, bananas, twinkies, ice cream, and, if really lucky, made-to-order sandwiches. These sorts of stores are designed to serve the community, and sell the basic essentials for when you don't have the time or the inclination to run to the store. The owners usually cater to the specific needs and tastes of the neighborhood; in addition to the standard corner store staples, for example, our old store in Hollywood sold red fishnet stockings (presumably for the local hookers) and our DC store sold boxes of snails for those neighbors with more advanced food tastes than me.

One of my favorite Uptown-area corner stores is Louie's Food and Greek Deli, located at the corner of 35th and Dupont. There's been a store there for as long as I can remember. Back in the mid-1980s I remember going to the same location to buy popsicles and hubba bubba gum. Stepping down the steps and into the dim basement store it felt like we were entering a different world. It wasn't elegant or exotic, but it was sure convenient. Back then the store was more utilitarian; a place to buy the basics of life, but not a particularly attractive addition to the neighborhood. Oh, how things have changed. I can't remember when the changes started, but gradually the store started to get some facelifts. A new sign, a new awning, fancy landscaping. The inside seems cleaner and brighter, too. The corner store of the 2000s is an attractive place, ice box and all. Admittedly the Malboro sign above the air conditioning unit isn't particulary inspiring, but when I can buy milk and fresh deli items I don't complain too much.

Corner stores are an integral part of a successful urban neighborhood. They're vivid proof that the concept of mixed-use development isn't a modern idea. People have long mixed commercial and residental uses, and when done right it benefits everyone. I hope to see Uptown's small corner stores continue to thrive for years to come, and hope that they will continue to serve as reminders that vibrant urban neighborhoods need businesses like this to live up to their full potential.

37 comments:

  1. Great post. The residential areas of Uptown could certainly use more corner stores like Louie's. But I sense that there would be an argument from some neighbors that the neighborhoods' "character" would be harmed by these stores, no matter how convenient they are or how much they reduce auto-dependence.

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    1. When I was a kid, late-sixties, I'd steal pennies from my mom's purse, and take them to this store to buy Bazooka bubble gum . . . the store owner at that time was "Eddie." It was a cute, nice little neighborhood store back then, as well.

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  2. I visited a housing complex in Stockholm a few years ago where the designers had made a point of including small groceries, pizza take-out shops, etc. on the ground floors of apartment buildings in an otherwise residential (even park-like) setting. Those small retail shops created pedestrian activity at ground level (thereby promoting safety) and made the housing development feel more like a neighborhood and less like a collection of dormitories.

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  3. Unfortunately I just discovered that Ron's Market on 46th and Bryant is closing. It is sad to see such a great little neighborhood market disappear!

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  4. That is one thing I miss about living in NYC - urban corner stores (actually, street-level retail in general). I live in Longfellow and I love the street-level retail at the corner of Lake and West River Parkway (a coffee shop, a pizzeria, a restaurant, a couple other retail shops). Like you, I would love a corner store on every 4th block or so in urban Mpls. that sold household basics, convenience items and had a deli. Unfortunately, for those places to make a go of it, they need a density that doesn't yet exist in most places in Mpls. They also need a culture of more foot/bike traffic than Mpls typically offers.

    One way to make it happen is for the city to mandate street level retail on any new multi-family dwelling of, say, >6 (or maybe >10) units. Developers whine about retail risks, but if you build it, they will come -- and it would be great to see a bigger diversity in street level retail. How about a produce shop (what's known as a "Korean market" in NYC)? How about the urban service mart (the combo tax prep/travel agent/driving instructor)? They have those in every neighborhood in NYC. How about more neighborhood bakeries, butchers, pet shops, small drugstores?

    These are all ways of keeping your dollars in your neighborhood. I'd love to see it happen in Uptown (some of it already is ...) and slowly expand from there.

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  5. I discovered Louie's deli today!!!! If you love the greek gyro sandwich~do not go anywhere else!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The best valu on the planet!!!! O.K. Well at least the best valu in uptown!!!!!! Look out Louie~hopefully you will have many more customers for that sanny!!Cuz I'm spreading the word.... Liz

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