Spices, Santeria shops and saloons: it's just business as usual on Bonifant and Thayer streets, sitting in the shadow of the "new" Downtown Silver Spring. That may be threatened by the Purple Line, which could run straight through the neighborhood. Bonifant Street resident Elisabeth Higgins Null - who first appeared in Just Up The Pike last July - writes this guest post about what could be lost on her street.
To me, the largely minority- and immigrant-owned businesses of Bonifant and Thayer between Fenton and Georgia are the soul of the community I live in and depend on. My hairdresser is on Bonifant, my bookstore, my coffee shop and arts cafe. In this two-block micro-neighborhood, I can find cleaners, another coffee shop, multiple ethnic restaurants, an oriental spice store, a Thai grocery store, a key shop, autoparts store, soda shop, santeria supply store, balloon shop, tuxedo rental, prominent basement saloon, cobbler, body shops, picture framer, store front churches, nail salons and and a world-class comic and "oldies" record store. Paris never had such neighborhoods.
so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .
As a writer and someone who works at home, I welcome the chance to get out at mid-day for a few hours in my neighborhood. I have a car, a handicapped permit, and a crutch. So far, they've suited me well. I've got it timed so that I can usually scoot into a metered parking space nearby to where I am going. This is my neighborhood -- you learn these things. I've been able to park outside a store while the clerk comes out to take my money and deliver packages. There are lots of people in my area like me, people who would like to grow old in their homes but who develop debilitating conditions even though they are not yet in wheelchairs. In the clustered parking garage, pedestrian megamall approach to civic revitalization, my kind of people are anomalies.
We have avoided confronting this problem in the revitalization of downtown. It has its pulsing, teeming hub, good for entertainment or an outing, but many of us also seek out the quieter charms of Thayer and Bonifant for local residents to go about their filling their needs. For many, this is the old-fashioned walkable town, and the population is stable enough so that relations develop between service providers and their customers. When I can't walk any further, I drop in for chat and maybe a shampoo at Cyncole's or ask Nani at the corner Citgo to call me a cab. Once or twice I've gotten a lift, more often I get a coffee and a little good conversation.
This kind of rapport grows slowly over time and small businesses like these are not transported to a new locale with their equipment and furniture. They embody trust and mutual experience between service provider and customer over time. These businesses are those that survived the bad times economically and stayed with us.
How tragic that they might be shoved out during plans for improving the economic and transportational vitality of our community. How tragic that I and older and partially handicapped citizens like myself might be shoved out for lack of close-up parking and/or a local traffic lane.
I beg the MTA to explore my concern about damage the Purple Line may do to the Bonifant/Fenton/Thayer commercial district. My needs and theirs are interdependent. Beyond this, they are a shining example of the American dream fulfilled.
Elisabeth Higgins Null