Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Punch Drunk

Jack's take on big-boxing RVA

Posted by on Tue, Aug 7, 2012 at 4:00 AM

click to enlarge punch_drunk.jpg

Despite the tenacious yard-sign campaign waged by its detractors, the evil big-box corporate takeover of Carytown has drawn nigh. Fresh Market, Panera Bread and a Petco are set to open in mid-September, in the new Carytown Place development at Nansemond Street and Ellwood Avenue — formerly a retail dead zone occupied by a Verizon exchange.

The march of progress — or illusion of it, depending on how you see it — isn't being stopped now, but there's still a debate over whether this will help or hurt Carytown.

So many questions. …

Will adding a few more big boxes to an area that technically has a few already, including Kroger and Martin's, make any difference whatsoever?

Will the indie stores that thrive down the block take a hit, or will the increase in foot traffic be a positive thing? Will there be even more foot traffic?

Will everyone's ultimate fear be realized as Carytown morphs into Short Pump?

Will an armada of soccer-mom-driven minivans engulf the area, unleashing swarms of stroller infantry onto the streets, ruling Cary Street through a mixture of fear, baby spittle and coordinated sidewalk clogging?

Is the ballyhooed Fresh Market salad bar really as good as its supporters claim?

There will be no revelations until September — and even then, more concrete answers won't appear until a year or so later.

Demetrios Tsiptsis, the owner and bartender at one of my favorite watering holes, Carytown mainstay the New York Deli, says that this is nothing new for the area.

"There are so many chain establishments here already," he says. "At one point there were three 7-Elevens. There are chain banks. Thousand Villages [is] here, Yoga Source, a cellular store. For all practical purposes, Ellwood Thompson's is becoming a chain. We have Sweet Frog and Yapple fighting it out. Ben and Jerry's was here — twice. This is a market-driven neighborhood."

Bottom line: "Anything will be better than a Verizon call center," he says. "What good was that doing? Now would I have preferred Trader Joe's move in? Of course, but I'll settle for a Fresh Market."

The local buskers aren't complaining either. One young man on the corner of Cary and South Auburn streets — who assumes I am a cop and won't give me his name — offers the most reasonable perspective.

Without stopping his drumming and staring straight ahead until I drop a dollar in the jar — a slight grin creeping across his face — he simply says, "More people, more money."

No complex jargon, no long-winded lecture on feasibility or the core tenets of supply and demand, no anti-corporation spiels about the death of the mom-and-pop store here. He clearly understands the basic concept of a competitive marketplace, and he knows that banging on upside-down buckets is a profession that needs traffic to survive.

The same can be said of every other business in Carytown.

Now let us all meet at the salad bar and embrace the change, competitive pricing and wide variety of dressings that soon will be at our disposal.

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Drinking for the Gold

A number of Olympic-related drinking games have surfaced, because everyone knows that world-class athletic competitions and alcohol go together.

Trevor Dickerson, a 24-year-old friend, entrepreneur and self-styled mayor of Short Pump, entered the bar last week with a game he created. One of his "rules" is to drink every time someone wins a medal. Because at 24, any half-baked reason to binge drink is taken with gusto — and, in Trevor's case, with a well-executed, color-coded chart explaining the rules.

Professionalism and class give most stupid ideas — like drinking to excess — an air of legitimacy. Bravo, Trevor, bravo.

As anyone who knows me can attest, I'm also not above concocting half-witted reasons to imbibe. Last Tuesday was the day after Monday, for instance.

So if you or your friends have gotten creative with your Olympic-style drinking competitions or use excuses like the men's synchronized diving prelims as a reason to celebrate life, tell me about it at bartender@styleweekly.com.* I'll devote a radio segment to the most creative responses on "River Mornings With Melissa and Jack" on 103.7 The River.

* Any submissions involving the dumb-as-a-bag-of-hammers, disappointment to our great nation, perpetually shirtless male bimbo Ryan Lochte will be discarded.

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Have a question for Richmond bartender Jack Lauterback? Email bartender@styleweekly.com. Lauterback also serves as co-host of 103.7-FM's "River Mornings with Melissa and Jack," weekdays from 6-9 a.m. On Twitter @jackgoesforth.

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