There's a new bumper sticker in town, it's been reported to me: "Summer is my Poplar." Whatever genius came up with it, they have my eternal respect and thanks. It echoes a sentiment I've long felt, but I've lacked the mental capacity to enunciate the message. For there's no denying it: There's something exciting going down on Summer Avenue.
There is of course nothing wrong with Poplar Avenue. In fact, it's a great model for success that Summer and other like-worn streets would do well to emulate.
Drive down Summer, and you can see evidence of a history marked by varying degrees of prosperity. There are some empty businesses and some parking lots that are much bigger than the current tenants could ever possibly need. The fact that they exist at all means they were once viable locations for big-box and other large businesses.
But I'm happy to report that Summer is in the midst of an economic renaissance. Happily, formerly depressing buildings are being renovated for new tenants. In the last year and a half, choosy national retailers such as Lowe's, Ross Dress for Less, and Northern Tool + Equipment have all opened along Summer. Aqua Terra, a new store specializing in plants, garden, pool, and patio, is about to open, as well. Buildings beyond salvation, such as the Admiral Benbow Inn, have been torn down in anticipation of new development. It's something of a mended-windows theory of community improvement. The clock is being turned back on Summer. Progress long dormant has been reawakened.
Oh, Summer, how I love thee. Let me count the ways. I love your restaurants, which run the culinary gamut from old-school meat and threes to Middle Eastern, from the Far East to south of the border. I love the home-improvement stores, where national chains compete with locally owned specialty shops. I love the thrift shops and antique boutiques and junk stores. I love the butcher, and bakers, and lampshade maker.
Summer's got businesses that will get you on or off the road on bikes, ATVs, scooters, or used cars. You can go bowling, or you can pick out a new state-of-the-art kitchen and go down the road and stock it with wholesale-price equipment. You can have elaborate glasswork done or get cooking with a Big Green Egg. (And, okay, I admit it: I miss the Admiral Benbow.)
And that's all on the west side of I-40. Summer wreaks a path of awesomeness for miles to the northeast too.
Call me a Summer Avenue patriot. I live along the street's corridor, in Berclair. I defend the area with livelihood, and I take up its banner and spill my dollars like blood for businesses along its hallowed way.
It's the same enthusiasm I expect from any resident of any neighborhood. Civic pride usually shows itself in little ways. It's about the only level of diehard partisanship left uncorrupted these days. Being a regular at a local business. Being mindful of the appearance of your little plot of land. Doing all you can to support your neighbors. Putting the light on the hill.
Summer is my Poplar. If I lived off of Winchester, the sentiment wouldn't be any different. ■