In the film ‘You’ve got mail’, Meg Ryan’s character Kathleen Kelly writes
“People are always saying that change is a good thing. But all they're really saying is that something you didn't want to happen at all... has happened. My store is closing this week. I own a store, did I ever tell you that? It's a lovely store, and in a week it'll be something really depressing, like a Baby Gap. Soon, it'll be just a memory. In fact, someone, some foolish person, will probably think it's a tribute to this city, the way it keeps changing on you, the way you can never count on it, or something. I know because that's the sort of thing I'm always saying. But the truth is... I'm heartbroken. I feel as if a part of me has died, and my mother has died all over again, and no one can ever make it right.”
This quote sticks in my mind as I walk the local streets and notice 'it', the emptying of the local soul. It seemed to have crept up on us silently. Just like cancer. I see the vacant spaces where life used to be. In the places where people once engaged and ‘community’ was created, now sit empty shops, closing down signs and sales announcing ‘the end’. Many of these stores I recall from when I was a boy. They were filled with people who remembered your name.They would strike up a conversation, ask how you are, talk about this and that and importantly ask how you went with your last purchase; ‘how did the sanding go’, ‘did you get those pants altered’ ‘did you like that new cheese or sausage?’ ‘how did the party go that you brought that gift for', 'did they like the gift?’ etc...
Now it is all disappearing.
Now it is all disappearing.
It is more than about business, It is about community. Behind the businesses are the people of the community, who live here and often employ other locals. Just like you and I, these people make the area what it is. The vibrancy you feel, the one that brings others here, The one that gives Thornbury, Northcote and Westgarth it’s appeal… well, we as a collective, as a community created it. Unfortunately, the popularity of the area means that property values skyrocket, landlords increase rents to prices that are not viable for these ‘mom and pop’ stores. As well, local council increase rates and fees. Who can afford to stay? Certainly not those who have small profit margins, high overheads and/or low stock turnover. I know it’s more complex than that. I know that business is lost to larger chain stores, who (because of buying power) can sell the same products cheaper, drawing away those locals wanting or needing to save money. And yes, there are many other reasons why local businesses close, but either way, I am grieving for our loss, for our community’s loss. I know that change and death are the only things we can rely on, but I guess I foolishly expected my local community to remain unchanged and the truth is, just like Kathleen Kelly, I find myself heartbroken.
This is for my neighbourhood.
Billie Holiday- "You’ve changed"
That sparkle in your eyes has gone.
Your smile is just a careless yawn.
You’re breaking my heart, you’ve changed"
Images from a collapsing neighbourhood:
As I walked down High St (traveling through Thornbury, Northcote and Westgarth), this is what I saw (forgive me the rudimentary picture collages).
Eight shops/businesses going or gone:
Yet another eight:
Twelve final images of loss:
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