Jordan and I went to Denton tonight for the first of what will most definitely be many Tomato runs this summer. We would've done it anyway on general principle, but with the recent news about the likely demise of Fry Street, the trips should definitely increase.
Driving in from the Square (since we also paid a visit to another iconic Denton spot, Recycled Books and Records), a few things occurred to me: First, that the large block in question really won't hold that much of the "upscale retail" envisioned by the developer; and second, without this area, and particularly without the Tomato, Denton will be a lot less Denton and a lot more like everyplace else, and that's just not right.
As we ate our pizza (I got the same thing I have for years: Slice Special, Gutbuster [yes, I still use the old-school name, and everyone knows what I'm talking about], garlic butter for the breadsticks...and a portion of said butter always ends up on some article of my clothing), I tried not to think the unthinkable, that this place was likely not to be there this time next year. On this night, I decided instead to revel in the sameness of this place over the years: the loud music, the funky furniture (many of the old wooden chairs have broken and been replaced with plastic lawn chairs, of all things), the smell of smoke in every section except the one where I sat (I used to prefer the upstairs, but sometimes the smoke is just a little too much), "watching the world go by" out the window, and, most of all, the sounds of people having a great time. I just can't understand how a developer thinks he'll profit by bringing in Walgreens, Borders, Urban Outfitters or Starbucks. Does Denton need places like that? Sure, but not here. Out by the mall, maybe, or on University Drive, where they have the acres o' parking to sustain such businesses. A college town needs its little collection of homegrown, student-friendly stores in order to be someplace special. I'm all for progress when it actually does move a city forward, but this is a step in the wrong direction.
As a former resident of Denton, I can't do a whole lot as far as the political process goes, but I do plan on writing a letter to developer Buster Freedman of United Equities, the Houston-based company that plans to do the Fry Street "makeover." (I'm sure I'm not the only UNT alum who'll be doing so.) I hope that Freedman realizes that he still has a chance to be a hero to the whole UNT community by integrating some of the soon-to-be-displaced businesses into his master plan, giving them breaks on the rent, etc. There are plenty of places that will be affected, but to me, the Tomato is a home away from home, and I think that Denton will take a serious cultural hit if this place is gone.
Let me post the websites in support of the preservation effort once again:
Save Fry St. on MySpace
Preserve Denton on MySpace
UPDATE: I also found another very informative site during the creation of this post: CentralDentonPreservation.org. Check it out; it has some great pictures and stories.
Incidentally, if you are in or near Denton, there's a public meeting tomorrow (ok, later today if you want to get technical) that you might want to check out. And me, I'll be at the Tomato again in a week.