Friday, August 13, 2010

A Strange Place in Our Midst


One of the stops I've not made, which is strange, as many times as I've walked down Gay Street, is 417 South Gay: J's Mega Mart. I now realize it has been discussed by others, but I went in unprepared. The first impression I had was, "Wait a minute, how did no one acknowledge this grocery store in all the grocery store conversation?" Quickly it becomes obvious that the couple of shelves of groceries placed near the front are just that: a front. The real business is on the next aisle. And the next aisle. And the next aisle. This is a store for all things hair - particularly if one is African-American. There are five million (approximate, I felt pressure to hurry) hair gels, hair extensions and wigs, plus all manner of brushes and picks. I was overpowered and wigging out. I'd discovered the holy grail of hair care right on Gay Street!


Don't just take my word for it, here is video evidence supplied by WIMZ via Youtube:



Other oddities included the fact that there was no air conditioning. The air was being cooled the old fashioned way, by large fans. The three living people in the store appeared to all work there. They all appeared to be of southeastern Asian origin. An older man ignored me when I spoke and made a phone call during which he spoke in another language. An older lady and a younger man appeared to be surfing the Internet on separate computers and neither made eye contact as I passed by.


Even the outside is a bit strange, with the name of the business not displayed anywhere near the entrance. Who doesn't have their business name over or around their entrance? I wasn't certain that it was J's Mega Mart or if that was a previous business that had been next door. An unnamed business is a strange thing.



I thought of the General Store down the street and wandered in that direction. As I looked at it, I realized that it doesn't really have a name, either, rather more of a label. It doesn't say "The General Store" or "Ed's General Store," just a non-specific "general store." As those blocks of Gay Street rapidly gentrify or rejuvenate or whatever verb you chose, it's hard to imagine a place like J's surviving. You might want to check it out while you can - and maybe pick up a weave while you're at it. Just remember, all hair sales are final!

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