Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Why We Don't Need a Downtown Grocery Store

This topic is often discussed when people talk about downtown. Some ask, "How can you live down there without a grocery store?" It's as if residents all over downtown are starving inside their loft apartments and condos. I haven't noticed too many starving downtown residents, so what gives?

Every couple of months a new rumor floats about the advent of the latest grocery savior. Just over a year ago the owners of French Market thought they would have to move to make way for a grocery store in their building. There was the owner of the Market Square Kitchen on the news talking about bring a grocery store to the Daylight building. Neither grocery store appeared. Aisle Nine opened to much fanfare, only to become a convenience store for the old city, which of course uptown has in the form of "General Store." The owner of Downtown wine intimated he may enter the grocery store sweepstakes in the storefront beside his original business, but the latest plans there call for a book store with a cheese department.

So, many rumors, few groceries. How come people aren't starving?

It turns out there are a number of options for a person who is sufficiently hungry. For one thing, I suspect people downtown may eat out a bit more than the average citizen. There are so many easy, delicious, if somewhat pricey, options no more than a few blocks from any residence in the downtown area, that it is very tempting to leave the kitchen clean (or a wreck) and walk to a place where you already know the menu and the waitstaff recognizes you when you walk through the door.

Inevitably, however, one must face the kitchen, and what to do about this lack of food? For starters, the farmer's market keeps downtown awash in good, fresh food for about six months of the year. We shop in the original Knoxville supermarket. Jack Neely in his book Market Square: A History of the Most Democratic Place on Earth recounts a time when everyone in the area came to Market Square every week to buy their food. How ironic that the residents who live closest to it now discuss the need for a food supply.

Given that one cannot stock a kitchen completely from the Farmer's Market, aren't we desperate for a full-service grocery store? Well, not really. Here's the thing: How close are you to a grocery store? It's not in your back yard or at the end of your driveway. You probably drive a mile or two or three. It turns out, so do we. Food City on Western is just over a mile from downtown. The Krogers on Chapman Highway and Broadway are about two miles away. According to Mapquest, the Kroger on Kingston Pike is about nine minutes away - and you have to pass Fresh Market to get there.

Three Rivers Market is just over a mile from downtown, if you want simple, basic, earth-friendly fare. If you really want to shop the American way and buy in bulk, Walmart beside Walker Springs takes about 12 minutes travel time.

So what is the fuss? I'll give my take on that in a later post. Meanwhile, let's test my new-found Google Map skills and see if I can give you the map view of the above!

View Groceries Near Downtown Knoxville in a larger map

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At September 23, 2010 at 7:42 AM , Blogger Wendy Walker said...

One allure for some downtown dwellers is the ability to live car-free, in a satisfying all of one's needs in walkable urban environment. I am a tad disappointed that your reasons for not needing a grocery store all involve hopping in the auto.

As a former car-free Knoxville resident, I chose 4th and Gill over downtown, so I could walk to the Three Rivers Co-op all year long, and cycle or bus it to the farmer's market.

Now I live in a city of three million, so no problems. I enjoy keeping up with K-town through your blog!

At September 23, 2010 at 10:44 AM , Anonymous KnoxvilleUrbanGuy said...

Hey Wendy,
Don't go breaking my heart - or stealing my next post on the matter! :-) I think I left a little indication at the end of the story that there will be a follow up and then you go and steal my thunder! Of course you are correct and I'll write about that, soon. I hope you enjoy life in the big city while we try make it a little beter in the little city - and thanks for being a reader.

At September 23, 2010 at 4:16 PM , Blogger Amelia said...

As a new dweller of downtown (the daylight building)I totally agree with all the fuss over a downtown grocery store. My husband and I chose downtown so that we would drive less. Having to drive to the grocery store is a pain in the rear in my opinion. I have been following your blog since we moved here and was super surprised by this post as well. I'm looking forward to your future post where you hopefully clarify your opinion on the subject. Love your blog, though!

At September 23, 2010 at 5:01 PM , Anonymous KnoxvilleUrbanGuy said...

It's coming, I promise. :-)


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