Saturday, February 24, 2007

Where history meets the future

Here's my story on the Bartonville Food Store (in PDF). It's a fifty-year-old store in a small country town that was once an agricultural community but has since turned into suburbs. The store borders some unincorporated land that is owned by Republic Properties Group, which has built a residential development, Lantana, from the 150's to the 300's. RPG is now ready to give all those Metroplex commuters a grocery store and other retail outlets, so it dedicated some of its property to Bartonville to widen the road that Bartonville Food Store sits on. The new road will bypass the old one, and also the country store that makes its living on drive-by traffic.

The owner of Lantana Links and the Cross Timbers Gazette, for whom I wrote the story, had to give me a crash course in small town government for me to get a grasp of the situation. A transplant from Virginia, he is heavily involved in the unincorporated community himself and lately indoctrinated in small town government.

But the owner of the Bartonville Food Store has been around for fifty years. The recent development has been good for business. As always, seeing my piece a week later, with a fresh set of eyes, reveals all kinds of places where I'd make changes, but in any case, here's part of my story:

The expanded road is slated to be finished in 2008. Price, a one-time Argyle fire chief and long-time volunteer fireman, is expecting the construction to be good for the Bartonville Food Store. “The people that build the road—they’ve got to eat and drink somewhere.”

Already a hangout for construction crews, Price is seeing an upsurge in homeowner business as well. “You constantly have to adapt to your clientele,” he says. On a good Saturday, he gets about a hundred bicyclists stopping for granola bars and bottles of water, a different kind of customer, to be sure, from the ones who depended on Bartonville Food Store for staples fifty years ago.

But after the curve is complete and the retail outlets developed, if the traffic doesn’t warrant a stoplight, the clients may begin to dwindle. Regular customers of Bartonville Food Store are worried. “I’ve had quite a bit of comments about people wanting us to stay,” says Price. Nearby a group picture of regulars, family and friends of the store hangs on the wall. On the opposite wall a fire roars inside his pellet-burning stove, heating the store. “My plan is to survive.”

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well paced and informative story, Nancy.

Having been part of an upcoming 'bedroom community' and watching hitching posts be replaced by strip malls, it resonated with me. I'm glad to be long gone from ongoing progress.


11:38 AM  
Blogger Mike in S.A. said...

Nancy, your story reminds me of the former Hill Country town of Wetmore, within whose boundaries I have resided since 1999.

It was incorporated into San Antonio long ago. Only a few restaurants and specialty shops remain of what was once Wetmore's downtown.

3:13 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

That Texas Handbook site is cool, Mike, thanks.

3:55 PM  
Blogger Mike in S.A. said...

You're welcome, Nancy. I found the Handbook of Texas Online to be an invaluable tool two years ago, when I was unexpectedly called upon to teach a Texas History course.

Not having any specialized experience in the field, it helped fill in a lot of gaps of knowledge regarding the history of our fine state.

8:25 PM  
Anonymous kathy said...

Nancy, GREAT piece! I am late for work so I read it too fast, but I am coming back for a slower savor--man you are really a good writer!

8:13 AM  

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