Friday, May 12, 2006

Save Fry Street!

I first heard the news this morning from my friend, colleague and occasional Musings commenter Super Anonymous JP. By the time I got home this afternoon, I'd gotten an email about it from J-Guar's mom (a usually-stealthful Musings reader herself). This came from the blog of some other UNT music student (if you see this and it's yours, send me a URL and I'll link to you), and I'll reproduce it in its entirety here:
Here's the big news: If you've heard the rumors lately about a teardown of Fry Street - it's true.

Buster Freedman, the president of United Equities Inc. of Bellaire (Houston area), has just bought the block of land from Fry Street to Welch, from Hickory to Oak. Everything will be torn down except for a couple small spots - my understanding is that The Corkscrew is staying, and that the little patch of land on the corner of Welch and Hickory (where a gas station used to be) is also staying.

A woman at work, Anne, said that she's good friends with the man who owns that patch of land with the old gas station. They offered that man $2 million - and he refused. Good for him.

SO, all these businesses along Fry Street are being taken out. THE TOMATO. COOL BEANS. TJ'S. MR CHOPSTICKS. Bagheri...that bubble tea place...that parking lot behind it all...sold.

There's been a big reaction to it all, as you might expect. Brooke, the owner of Wine Squared, was the one who informed me of all this and told me about the myspace pages. If you're interested, some of the pages are:

http://www.myspace.com/savefrystreet
http://www.myspace.com/preservedenton
and the proposed parking exhibit...

I know that I don't spend the greatest amount of time on Fry Street. But seriously, tearing down places like the Tomato? Cool Beans? That's not right. They (and the other places) are so much a part of Denton history for me that it'd be a shame to see it all go, just like that.

There's voting taking place on Saturday, graduation day. I'm not sure what it's for, but it's probably for mayor and other things. I want to look into it more. My understanding is that Justin Bell (as well as candidates for a couple other offices) is supporting those trying to stop it.

Save Fry Street, y'all.
All I could say when I heard this was...No. No. No.

Every college town has that little area of old buildings that have morphed over time into student-friendly hangouts. This particular strip dates back to the 1920's, and I've seen UNT yearbooks dating back to the 1940's which had pictures of them in their original incarnations as drugstores and diners. I would be opposed to the demolition of any of those blocks, but take away the Tomato? Them's fightin' words...

The Tomato has been a staple of Denton life for almost 22 years now, and it would be nearly impossible to replace it. It's one of the few places where people of every element--goths, preps, greeks, my fellow jazzers (of course) and everyday "normal" college students could congregate and usually all get along (and when they didn't, the management wouldn't hesitate to toss somebody out to the street.

Even worse is that the rumored "replacement" businesses would be things like CVS Pharmacy and Starbucks. Sure, I'm a CVS patron, and I loves me my Starbucks (and Denton needs one)...but not on Fry Street, and not in place of The Tomato.

And you know there's no way that the "improved" retail would be affordable to these local merchants:
Mike Slusarski and his wife, Becky, have been a part of The Tomato restaurant at Hickory and Fry streets since it opened in 1984.

As managers, the couple saw the restaurant become an icon among students over the years. Formerly known as The Flying Tomato, the restaurant features a wooden maze of seating arrangements arranged like small lofts. The couple bought the business in 1996, changing the name to The Tomato in 1998.

Slusarski said he has looked at several spots in Golden Triangle Mall but has found they arent cost-effective.

Julie Glover, Denton Downtown Development director, said that according to the proposal that shes seen, the rents at the new project would almost triple for merchants.
(from a Denton Record-Chronicle article quoted on the Save Fry Street Myspace site)
I'm not sure what, if anything, we as loyal UNT alums and current students can do to try to keep this from happening, but it sure doesn't seem like "progress" to destroy the heart and soul of a neighborhood. There's no doubt that there will be a large and vocal opposition to this...and in the meantime, I'm planning on making as many Tomato runs as I can in the next few months.

UPDATE: A bit of gallows humor here: My buddy and bandmate Steven notes that, if they were to build a Starbucks on Fry Street, all we have to do to get rid of it is have TD/D booked there for a gig; it would then close down shortly thereafter, just like so many other places have already done.

7 comments:

Shawn said...

I've closed down a coffeehouse as well. I felt horrible. The guy who ran it is now the guy I do 6th/7th grade band teaching with. He's now the band teacher at the middle school, and one of my best friends' father.

Jazzy G said...

NOOO! They can't tear down The Flying Tomato!! I've know Becky, Ski, and their pizza all my life!

What on earth makes that guy think this is a good idea? It would completely ruin the atmosphere of the city, and UNT. Who cares if there is a 3 month "dry spell" of very little college students. I'm sure the other 9 months more than makes up for it.

I wish I was a Denton city resident because I'd vote for Justin Bell. By the way, he used to work at the repair shop on campus. He was great at trumpets. I watched him fabricate a custom mouthpiece, and of course his famous Bell's Super Lube.

How about TD/D book a gig at the headquarters of United Equities Inc. That would be even better.

Eric Grubbs said...

Does the world really need another Starbucks? The place isn't bad, but come on, they should go into leasing out apartments and lofts . . .

Gayland Barksdale said...

I couldn't believe it when I read the story the other day. I have a lot of fond memories of Fry Street, particularly the Tomato. I was at NT the same time as you, and the place was a staple then -- and an institution now. Although I now live 1500 miles away from Denton, I Still go by Fry St. when I'm in town. I'm going to miss places like the Tomato because they're full of good memories -- some of them etched on walls and tables. But I also feel sorry for future students who won't have that funky little area to hang out in.

Raven said...

We're working on fighting this but we need your help!
http://www.savefrystreet.com

JJR said...

I'm a UNT Library School alumnus and lived in Denton from Spring '02 thru Spring '04. I didn't realize any of this cr*p was going down, and it pisses me off and depresses me, especially since I just took a job at TWU and will be moving BACK soon...holy crap! They've ripped the heart out of my home-away-from-home. This is unspeakably horrid. As an Aggie Alumnus, I remember our original Flying Tomato in College Station, TX, too (yes, there was one--ah, good times), too, so when I got to UNT for grad school it was like deja vu--the look, even the menu was the same. Fry Street was the coolest thing about Denton campus life, and not just because of the myriad bars but also the live music, the local head shop, Voertmans, a good old fashioned barber's, etc. I spent so much quality time on Fry Street back in Spring of '02, attended what was probably the last, best Fry Street Fair in '02, too. Now all I have are my memories. I'm going to be living on the TWU side of town, it's too depressing to live back over near UNT now.

Kev said...

JJR--thanks for stopping by. My sister is also an Aggie alum, so I too have visited the late Flying Tomato in College Station. I was always impressed that it did as well as it did being right next door to the Dixie Chicken and all that.

You may have heard that there's one more possible vote to prevent the Fry Street Village development from happening--it's going on as we speak. I'm about to post on the subject and will come back here and link to that post as well.