Augusta’s proposed new Walmart

Despite the fact that it’s been nearly a year since I moved away from Augusta, I still feel deep ties to the city. It was my home for eight years, and in that time I made lifelong friends and developed a strong attachment to the CSRA’s natural beauty and culture. As such, I still keep up with a lot of what’s happening back in my second home.

Today I learned through my friend Kenny that a new Walmart is planned for the Augusta area. The “two-state” (as some hate to call it) currently boasts five Walmarts: off Deans Bridge in “south Augusta”, off Bobby Jones in Martinez, off Washington Road in Evans, off I-20 in Grovetown, and off Knox Avenue in North Augusta, SC. The new proposed location is in the Forest Hills shopping center at Wrightsboro Road and North Leg, roughly between the Deans Bridge and Bobby Jones locations. Here is a beauteous map:

View Augusta-Area Walmarts in a larger map

My first reaction upon hearing the location was that it seemed like a good spot for a Walmart. A lot of people live over that way who would rather drive up to Martinez than go down to the Deans Bridge Walmart. Thinking about it further, that seems like a classist opinion…south Augusta isn’t going to get any nicer if people continue to treat it like the red-headed stepchild. And now that I look at the map, I can feel myself slowly migrating towards Kenny’s reaction, which was:

Cause Augusta needs ANOTHER Walmart… What in the actual hell?

Others have pointed out that traffic at that intersection, which is something like a block or two away from two major shopping centers (Augusta Mall further down Wrightsboro and the Augusta Exchange up on Wheeler), is already insane, and this would make things even worse.

Still, you can’t deny the demand for a place like Walmart, especially with the double whammy of our current economy and a low-income, low-cost-of-living place like Augusta. Many specialty stores have considered coming to town, only to eventually back out. The one that finally made it, Costco, is a bargain-hunting boutique. There are higher-end shopping options in Augusta, especially at the Augusta Mall, which saw extensive renovations in recent years. It remains to be seen whether those will last. Meanwhile, I’m not sure the city can sustain much beyond what it already has, for the simple fact that people in Augusta don’t make enough money.

There are wealthy people in the area, don’t get me wrong. But they are hardly the majority. Augusta sees big spending during one week in April; for that one week, people who do have money come into town and spend a lot of it, and Augusta is made glamorous and even ritzy. For the rest of the year, Augusta is a place where–for example–the arts are in a constant struggle for survival, even when the economy is good, because most people don’t make enough money for art to be a high priority.

We’ve seen that for the common worker, wages and salaries have plateaued for decades. In a city like Augusta, where the cost of living is quite low, that means the opportunity for real growth is small. Ultimately, the economy depends on the people infusing it with money. When the people don’t have any money, no growth is possible. (And a tax cut isn’t going to help someone who doesn’t have anything to begin with. What she needs is a higher wage.)

So you can see why, in this sort of environment, a store like Walmart would thrive. Why people would want and even need the convenience and low prices. Why it actually isn’t strange to plant a sixth Walmart within the same roughly 120 square mile area.

Depressing, yes. But strange? Not at all.

Augusta’s under construction

The following is a conversation I just had with my coworker Lisa C.

Me: I can’t believe they think they’re going to get a baseball stadium built by 2011.

Lisa: You never know; miracles happen.

Me: Have you seen Bobby Jones and I-20?

Lisa: I live that dream every day.

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Pimiento cheese sandwich

Jeff very kindly brought me back an official Masters Tournament pimiento cheese sandwich. This is as close to the Masters experience as I am likely to get. I look forward to seeing how it compares to Grandma's…pretty sure it won't come out on top (because what could?) but here's hoping it makes a good showing ;)

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Sweet Lou’s Crab Shack

Today I decided to try a new place for lunch: Sweet Lou’s Crab Shack on Broad Street near 13th.

Sweet Lou's Crab Shack

I noticed the place the other day–there’s a huge blue banner with the restaurant’s name and a neat-looking crab right over the door. Today, upon closer inspection, I see the name “Sweet Lou’s Coffee and Bagel Sandwich Shop” on the windows. I’m not sure I would have been as intrigued by that…so bravo, Lou, on your rebranding!

Close-up of banner

The place is done up like a beach restaurant/coffee shop. You really just have to see it. I would have sat inside to enjoy the decor, but I was the only customer and it’s beautiful outside, so I opted for the sunny Broad Street view.

View of Broad Street from my table

The girl behind the counter has reddish hair and a smile like Christina Applegate’s. She plucked me up a menu off the coffee table in the couch and chair lounge area near the back of the joint. Looking over the selections, I was surprised at the number of items that did not involve crab. I noted that they have breakfast, sandwiches, and entrees, and they’re a little pricey. I settled on a fish sandwich called “Harbor Breeze”, a fruit salad (the sandwiches don’t come with any sides) and a can of Diet Coke.

my meal

I waited about 25 minutes for my food, but it was worth it. The fruit salad consisted of a large, pleasantly smooth green bowl filled with grapes, pineapple, strawberries, and kiwi. “Your fruit salad looks amazing,” the girl said as she placed it in front of me. “I’m jealous.”

fruit salad

The fish, light and crispy on the outside from frying, came on a toasted bagel with lettuce, tomato, and orange (probably American) cheese. It was delicious.

close-up of fish sandwich

The prices are a bit steep, and the location, on a block with a payday lender, a nail salon, a planned parenthood office and an imaging service, is not ideal. But the food is delicious, the ambiance is relaxed and fun, and there are indoor and outdoor seating options. It should do well…as long as enough people discover it!

I found a new blog

Damon Cline writes a blog called Scuttlebiz about area businesses and the economy and such for the Augusta Chronicle. He usually focuses on one story and then ends the post with a few nuggets. This cracked me up:

I’ll bet my left index finger (you can’t have the right; it’s my trigger finger) that Loco’s Grill and Pub, the casual dining chain that closed last week after two years in operation, will be converted into Augusta’s 213th Mexican restaurant. Mexican is the new Chinese.

Maybe you have to be a local to realize that this is hilarious because it’s true? When Mom visited I took her to Acapulco’s, the restaurant that replaced Fazoli’s on Washington Road. They had a few microwaved Italian and “American” options, and were otherwise very much a Mexican restaurant, down to the free chips and salsa.

Damon’s sharp and funny and seems to know his Augusta. Blogrolled!

(Edit: Apparently Acapulco’s has closed, after about a two month run. Heh.)

Summerville Tour of Homes

As planned, Brooke and I met up today to attend the Summerville 28th Annual Tour of Homes. I’m sure you could predict the fact that there are pictures. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take any pictures inside the houses, which means you don’t get to see the stuff we were drooling over all day.

After eating far too much at Theresa’s Mexican Restaurant downtown (roughly across the street from Outspokin’), we headed down to the ASU campus, where the tour was to begin. After getting our bearings, we walked to the first historic site, ASU’s Bellevue Hall.

Bellevue Hall

The building has been completely restored and now houses offices for University staff. It looked like a very pleasant place to work :)

We wandered back towards the main entrance where the tour buses would take us to the next site. On our way we stopped and looked at a strange vine maze that I think Connor would love.

vine maze - I wanted to go in!

Then we hopped on the bus and were off to the first house.

Actually, the bus took us to the last house on the tour first. They’d changed the order of the tour, I’m guessing due to traffic considerations. And so the first house we saw was 2532 Henry Street.

I was pleasantly reminded of the older houses in downtown Lexington, like the one owned by my former linguistics professor, Dr. Bosch, or the one owned by my cousin’s son’s dead father’s mother and her lesbian life partner. (Okay, that was difficult to describe…) I thought it was perfectly charming. Brooke’s reaction was something like: “It’s small! It’s so small! I mean, it’s really small!”

We waited for the bus for quite some time, then got tired of waiting and walked back to ASU. We’d planned to take Brooke’s car to the next house, but the funny tour guide lady and driver guy talked us into trying the bus again, so we did.

The next house was 705 Gary Street. Gary Street is probably a block and a half long, and runs between Battle Row and Gardner, near Milledge. The house was built sideways on the lot, allowing the front porch a beautiful view of a line of tall pine trees. As the bus tour guide said, from the front of the house it looks like they’re out in the middle of the woods. This house retained quite a few of its original features, including dark wooden doors with glass knobs and yellow hardwood floors. It had a fantastic wraparound porch that overlooked the backyard.

705 Gary Street

After touring the house, we sat around outside waiting for the bus for a long time. We were far enough from everything that we couldn’t really walk to the next one. Well, maybe we could have, but we didn’t. Both of us were a little disgruntled when the bus finally arrived.

This bus, not the one we’d ridden before but the only other one being used for the tour, took us to 1338 Wingfield Street, of which I did not get a picture. Just so you know, it’s a “classic Augusta bungalow”, made of “stucco, brick, and wood trim”, according to the guidebook. I wish I could actually remember something about the inside of the house. I think this was the one with the cute baby’s room done up in green, but I’m not sure. [Edit: I was wrong! See the comments.] Fun fact: the woman who lives here is named “Cheri”. (Cheri-sama!)

The next two houses were within very easy walking distance, so we strolled over. First was 1447 Winter Street, and next was its “sister”, 1453 Winter Street, right next door. “Their architecture is a Southern version of the American foursquare house in the Prairie style, a predecessor of Frank Lloyd Wright’s revolutionary residential style of the early 1900’s,” says the guidebook. Both of these houses were updated beautifully and were quite luxurious. 1447 had perhaps the largest master bathroom in the free world, and 1453 had a fantastic kitchen.

Next up: 1434 Heath Street. Fun fact! Brooke lives on Heath Street, but by virtue of being on the other side of Wrightsboro Road, does not live in Summerville. This means she pays lower taxes!

1434 Heath Street

Brooke was perplexed by the peak in the porch gable. The guidebook says this style emulates “Oriental” temple roofs and was popular on the west coast. I’m not sure how it got out here.

The final house, 2341 McDowell Street, was Brooke’s favorite. It’s a modified Tudor design with lots of rooms and a two-car garage in the back. Most striking was an upstairs bedroom, quite narrow but with walls almost entirely made of windows looking out on the trees. It was so cozy and open to nature that Brooke and I both decided we’d be perfectly happy living there.

2341 McDowell Street

And there you have it. I hope I got all those details right; trying to remember everything without having photographic evidence is kind of a pain. Brooke, feel free to correct me.

I had a really good time at the Summerville Tour of Homes. I would definitely like to go again next year…assuming I can once again score free tickets ;>

A few more news items

Lynda Carter talks about her feelings towards acting in Sky High, Disney’s blatant rip-off of Robert Kirkman‘s Invincible. (Okay, I don’t know that it’s a rip-off, but you have to admit the setup is similar, and anyway Kirkman’s married to my sister-in-law’s best friend, so you know where my loyalties lie.)

Somebody’s planting trees! Secretly!

Blondie is set to celebrate 75 years of Dagwood sandwiches. Well, sort of. Actually, Dagwood wasn’t a major character until he and Blondie fell in love in 1932. So…73 years of Dagwood sandwiches, we can assume.

When the strip debuted on September 8, 1930, its heroine was Blondie Boopadoop, who was pretty and single. Dagwood was the playboy son of a railroad tycoon and one of her several boyfriends.

Blondie was popular at first but interest in a strip about rich characters declined as the Depression spread.

In 1932, Chic Young had Blondie and Dagwood fall in love. They were married in 1933, but Dagwood’s parents disapproved of Blondie and disinherited him, forcing him to go to work and live a middle class life.

Boopadoop = Best. Name. Ever.

Local officials want to tax already cripplingly expensive downtown Augusta real estate in order to pay for cleanup and improvement efforts. Good idea? Bad idea? I have no idea, myself.