Sunday, May 18, 2008

what does my neighborhood need?

Last Wednesdays excursion was a great romp that left one feeling a sense of belonging. Our assignment was to say "hello" and ask what might Alberta Street need. Truly a "Mr. Rodgers" kinda day. Being as I hadn't been back to Guardino Gallery (, I began my walkabout stopping into shops as I traveled. First stop was Garnish, ( I said hello to Michelle and she showed a bit more of what the dress shop specializes in– custom finishes. Once you choose the the basic piece: top, skirt or dress; you then get choices of embellishments to customize your garment. Everything from ribbons to buttons from classic to quirky. Michelle herself is a newcomer to Alberta Street. She has been the manager of Garnish for one month. Heralding from Grin River Farms, she has traded in her farm boots for heels and a lot more glamor. Asking what Alberta Street might need, she thought that more recycling and trash receptacles along the street would be nice.
Next I stopped at bolt (, as I always love looking for great fabric. The shop had great craft ideas and lots of cool cottons. Then guess who I saw–Sandy. And of course she beat me to the punch line. After asking the question the response was for more green spaces and parks. Well I found a great "day of the dead" pattern for a caftan and out I went. As I passed Earl's Barber Shop- we both waved at each other. What a great guy.
Once at the Gallery, I said hello to Donna. She has a great space and offers layaway for her clients. Nice. She bought the building in 1996 opening the gallery one year later. It was like the "Wild West" in the initial stages. Bars on business windows, broken windows and no one out after dark. Then slowly things began to change. Young people began to move into the area buying homes. Pride of ownership. At one point there was a three block radius where it was considered "no–mans land". For the first five years that she was open, she dealt with broken windows and "Yuppie go home". I got the feel of a "grassroots– make things happen" way of thinking. There was no corporate or governmental push for a better neighborhood. It was all self–initiated by the people living in the area. Invested interest. Donna said that it was great to see people begin to walk on the street during dusk and into the night. Getting pressed for time, I forgot to ask her what the street needed! I hopped on board a bus making my way back towards our meeting place. As I asked a few people along the way, other independent services seem to be high on the list.

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