Monday, January 22, 2007

Body and Spirit

This weekend I got B and IT (and later BL) to join me at the Florida Ave Market (or Capitol City Market). The plan was to hit three or four stores to show them what was there. I forgot my shopping bag, so I didn't buy anything at the places I normally shop. B was in one of his smart-alec moods pointing out what would not appeal to yuppies. No prices on things, no clear lines, etc. He also suggested that if we wanted to save the market the historic preservation people should be brought in. I think I may have actually growled at him.
While the HP people are good at protecting the body, that is the buildings and the structures, I don't think they can preserve the spirit. The market for me is not a collection of warehouse buildings, instead they are a Hodge podge of businesses, a mix of wholesale and retail banded together, the spirit. What they are housed in to me seems fairly irrelevant. The 19th century structures that are there have attached to them squat ugly cinder block, cinder block that seems to distract the eye from the brick.
The spirit is that thing that is when you have these warehouse businesses all together in one place, some providing retail services, selling goods at a low price, in a central DC location. It is my inner libertarian screaming that if the government places some extra burden on the businesses there, be they HP regs or a 'temporary' move or rules to make residential possible, those businesses may fold, leave permanently or pass the expense on to consumers in a way that makes the market less attractive to those consumers.
Even in theological discussions with friends I have trouble defining and describing the spirit. It is a fuzzy thing that I sense and feel. I sense the energy radiating from the people working, pushing handcarts, yelling in a variety of languages. The consumers give off an international, down to business (as the market does service restaurants and other businesses), utilitarian vibe that I feel. And you have the two interacting with each other in a central DC location. If you change the type of business, you screw with the spirit. Change the type of consumers, you change the vibe. Change the location, same thing.
My fear of the city coming in and changing the area is that it will kill the spirit. New businesses would replace the old ones and those new businesses would appeal to a different type of consumer (or a different side of some consumers who do use the market).
At the end of the shopping, at Litteri's we noticed a petition on the counter. So if you'd like, stop in, by a sub or some pasta or wine and sign the petition to preserve the spirit of the market.

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At 1/22/2007 1:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was at the market this weekend and had a chance to chat with the owner of the Halal butcher shop. He said he thinks that the proposal isn't going to go through.

I think that getting the Historic Preservation people involved will kill the market faster than the new town proposal and will instead leave us with a strange and ersatz copy of what the market was.

I think that as the neighborhood keeps changing the market will change to reflect the new clientele.

Umbrella Viceroy

The word on the street is that a Marriot is going to go up in the neighborhood near the new ATF headquarters. All of these things will begin to change the overall demographic. The new pickier more affluent customer will demand different products and different services. Some of the food stores may survive but many won't

At 1/22/2007 9:22 PM, Blogger inked said...

Not to beat a dead horse, but I always like to point Philly's Italian Market as a great example of how upscale, grit, and down-market can all coexist peacefully & pleasantly. Yes the market will inevitably change, all things do. But hopefully we'll see something more organic than the New Town proposal (I'm hoping they can't get the votes to trigger eminent domain). I think the area could, with a little spiffing up, a few additions (a bakery perhaps?), and a bit of a push to expand retail offerings,be extremely successful. It's got a great location right down the street from the NY Ave metro. There's no reason the Market couldn't continue its wholesale operations, & expand retail, thereby increasing the appeal not only to immediate neighbors, but to anyone who rides Metro. Don't forget that Philly's Italian Market is also a tourist attraction.

At 1/23/2007 8:44 AM, Blogger Mari said...

I just want a place to grocery shop.
Your Lordship,
I hope you and the Halal butcher owner are right about the chances of the proposal failing.
But regarding the market changing. On the list of positives the market has going for it, cheap food, this can appeal to old and new residents. Look next door. You got college students. Cheap food, college kids. I wonder if the students are aware how the market can work for them. And I wonder if the students can cook on campus or where they live? And despite their income not all yuppies/buppies and other -uppies feel a deep need to make their food expensive. I was once praising the Dupont Circle Farmer's market to B. when he asked about the prices and became uninterested. B. prefers bargains. I also like bargains and the opportunity to save. The thing that separates the bargain loving middle class resident from the market is that the complex is intimidating. You can't tell what is retail and what's wholesale. The parking is crazy. No hours posted. Add that to low-level chaos and the smell, it just makes the place unappealing. The market needs a kiosk, a map, a directory, a guide, something to help the uninitiated.

Another bit about spirit:
The Dupont Circle Farmers Market has a spirit without much of a body. Mon-Sat it is a street and a parking lot. Sunday it is alive with activity and people bumping into each other. It has vendors taking the time to talk about their products and products that appeal to a certain philosophy. It adds to the quality of life for residents.


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