When I wrote a post a few days ago detailing why we do not need a downtown grocery store, I intended it to be the first part of a two part series giving both sides of the grocery store argument. I know there are people downtown who think the conversation about our lack of a grocery store is silly because we have grocery stores as close to us as most people in the county – and closer than many. I also had in mind that portion of my readers who are considering a move downtown but might be dissuaded by our lack of a grocery store and the angst that seems to surround that fact. I wanted them to know they would not surely starve to death.
I think there are also legitimate questions about whether a downtown grocery store would be a viable economic entity at our current population level. Some say if we build it they will come, others say we better wait until they come to build it or it will fail and we may not have another shot for a long time. I’m not sure on that one.
A couple of readers pointed out that I had only presented solutions involving cars and that this was antithetical to the reason many people move downtown – to become less automobile dependent. I will point out that in my last post my first two reasons did not involve cars. The first was the availability of restaurants within walking distance. The second was the farmer’s market, which, I suppose if you were vegetarian, could support a basic diet, though one without spices and cooking oil.
Sometimes on this blog I put my opinion out front. Sometimes I try to report what I see without too much of my opinion entering the equation. Sometimes I confuse myself with the two very different approaches. My worst mistake was assuming that people could read my mind and know that a second post was coming and that I was trying to give the different slants on the topic.
So, what is the reason for having a grocery store and what is my opinion? As Wendy said in her comment on the previous story, “One allure for some downtown dwellers is the ability to live car-free, satisfying all of one’s needs in walkable urban environment.” Amelia added that, as a new downtown resident, she agreed with the fuss about a grocery store, stating that, “My husband and I chose downtown so that we would drive less.”
I agree with both these sentiments more than I even realized I would before I lived here. I moved downtown because I constantly drove here for music, food and church. I would meet friends here, bring guests here and generally found it more interesting than any other part of town. Since I don’t work downtown, I knew that would mean driving out to work, but that won’t (hopefully) last forever.
So, at its root, part of the reason for the move was to avoid driving downtown all the time. It was consistent with the other choices I’ve made, like buying fuel efficient cars (I drive a Prius), carpooling (click here if you are interested in carpooling or other alternatives to driving) and being a committed recycler.
Once downtown, I enjoyed the benefits I had imagined, walking to everything I do except work. It was a choice of a life-style as much as a home. In many ways it feels like stepping back in time and I really like that. What I didn’t realize was that it would become addictive. I regularly plot routes home when I’m at work so that I can take care of errands in order to avoid leaving the city once I’m here. As I’ve noted before, I can’t bring myself to drive the half mile to the State Street Recycle Center, so I walk the half mile lugging a large white bag that could give someone the impression I’m homeless or that I’m Santa Claus practicing for my big night.
On the unusual weekend or week night that I have to get behind the wheel, I feel frustrated. In some ways I suspect this must seem selfish to people who don’t live in a city, who might say, “Poor thing. You have to get in your car and can’t have everything delivered to your little condo in the city.” That may be a valid criticism. All I know is that I like the feeling of community that walking near one’s home engenders. I like the idea that I’m not contributing as much to our “Red Alert – Don’t Breathe the Air” days. I enjoy living more simply when possible. I think I’m not in the minority downtown.
So now you know: I very much want a downtown grocery store! I’ll try not to assume you can read my mind in the future. Opinions? Vote above and I’ll report the results in a few days. Comment below if you have a thought.