Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Decline and Fall of South Street

Pearl Art is closing at the end of the month. I'm both depressed and not surprised. South Street has been in a rapid decline for several years now, ever since they started raising the rent rates. But there are a lot of causes behind the emptying of South Street, much of it sad.

So let's take an incomplete tally:

  • The Brick Playhouse: well, this is a case of mismanagement--I know, because I was a member. But the few years I was part of the Playhouse was some of the happiest of my life.

  • Zipperhead: namechecked in the Dead Milkmen's "Punk Rock Girl, it was, of course, a clothing store. Best part about the place was the exterior (which may still be there, I don't know, I haven't been down that way in a while)--big ants crawling up the side of the building. Apparently they've moved and changed their name, and the fact that I only found out about it in 2010 says something, though maybe it just points out my own ignorance.

  • Spaceboy Records: and when we lost Zipperhead, we lost their neighbor, Spaceboy. I loved Spaceboy--they had a great selection of new indie, new lps, old LPs and CDs upstairs. But with the massive changes in the record industry, even big chains have gone out of buisness. Between the high rents and the decline of record sales, there was no way a place that deals largely in new music products was going to survive, but it still hurts.

  • The Book Trader: not exactly gone; they moved up to 2nd and Arch. But I miss their two-story store on the corner of 5th and South, with the big bay windows where you could look out on the street below, busy with foot traffic, lit up at night. They moved, but it's not the same, and South Street isn't the same.

  • Philadeli: sure, it was pricy, but they sold six-packs, great sandwiches, and now they're gone too.

  • TLA Video: I don't know what got them more--the rise of Netflix, or the decline of South Street? Sadly, I'm going with Netflix overall, because this isn't the only store they've closed; they've also closed the one near my old apartment on Spring Garden St.

And there's probably lots of others that I can't remember.

There are a lot of causes--South Street's rent is too high, we're in the Great Recession, and media consumption has moved from brick-and-mortar stores to the computer. And there are still places that I like down there--The Bean Cafe, Tattooed Mom, they're still there, and hopefully will stay there. But I've lost a lot of reasons to go down there.

And now Pearl Art, where you could find just about anything you wanted, is gone. And I hear that's as much how the company--not this particular store--is managed.

I don't have to leave my house anymore to buy a book, or find a record, or rent a movie, or talk to friends. Everything can be done right here on my laptop, as I sit on the living room, warm and narcotized by the soft glow of Law and Order in the background, while tabs for Netflix, Amazon, and Facebook are up on the browser. But doing so, I'm losing something. I'm losing real human contact, I'm missing meeting new people, I'm missing finding things by accident.

Den just reminded me of Tower Books, also gone a long time, before even Tower Records, IIRC. He used to sell his zine there.


Kate said...

Serendipity is being lost on all fronts. It's especially apparent to me as a librarian. Sigh.

Arthur said...

I had no idea -- though I've not been to South Street in a long time, being hours away and all. Good to know, I guess.