Thursday, March 24, 2005

Summit Avenue Shopping Center conversation

I had an engaging conversation a couple of days ago with the owner of the record shop at the Summit Avenue Shopping Center. I was killing a little time, waiting for Radio Shack to open, so I stepped inside and looked around.

The first thing that caught my attention was the presence of vinyl -- actual vinyl -- records. So I asked the clerk, who turned out to be the owner, who he sold them to. Mostly DJ's, he said, because they can mix them and do that scratchy-record thing. But he also told me that you can still order almost anything on vinyl if you want it. (And I noticed later that Radio Shack still sells old-fashioned turntables.)

I asked him how business was doing, and he told me it was very good. Last year the Greensboro police worked with the Summit Avenue / Bessemer Avenue business owners to solve their persistent problems with panhandlers and petty criminals, and it worked. He said all of the business owners have remained vigilant about calling the police about any suspicious activity. I've noticed the difference at the Summit shopping center myself. It's a nice place to shop, though I usually feel a little self-conscious, since nearly all of the shoppers, clerks, and owners there are black (and I'm not). But I've never had an unpleasant experience there. Just the opposite, in fact. The clerks at Radio Shack are always knowledgeable, and the manager of the Foot Locker there once gave me some outstanding advice about trap and skeet shooting.

The record store owner (he's black, too) told me about how he used to manage the store for Willie's, a record chain that specializes in urban and hip-hop music, and bought it when Willie's couldn't turn much of a profit. He doubled his grosses by doing two things: he devoted a third of his shelf space to gospel music, and he stopped playing hip-hop in the store, even though hip-hop accounts for most of his revenue. He learned, by listening to his customers, that many potential gospel customers were put off by that kind of music. But most hip-hop customers don't mind gospel at all, since that's what they grew up with. "Some of the kids even buy gospel CD's for their mammas or grandmas," he said. So he plays gospel in the store.

He volunteered to me how much he pays himself out of the store's revenues, and it turned out to be about double my gross income. He also owns another store, so he's doing pretty well. Maybe I should go into CD retail.

His experience contrasts very sharply with the reports of Ill Ridge about the economic and social situation over on Phillips Avenue, just a few blocks away. I don't know what to make of that, exactly, but I thought it was interesting.


D. Hoggard said...

Like you, I spend a lot of time and money in Summit Shopping Center shops. I know most of the Radio Shack folks, Greensboro's best Elizabeth's Pizza is located next to the Shack (my theory - the old ovens), Mayberry's bean soup and grilled cheese is a family favorite. The dollar store is a browsing favorite.

The thing I really miss over there is the Daskalakis' "Summit Southern Style" restaurant. It was the best eats in town and it is where two of my children learned restaurant etiquette (meaning they learned not to throw macaroni and cheese at each other).

I hope all of those merchants continue to be successful because we desperately need them on this side of town.

papito said...

hi im new to the summit ave business district and i must say the people here are nice people
they just have to act like you cant get over on them (the workers)
there are so many homeless men and women in the area always asking for a hand-out just today a lady that looked at least 60 asked me for free food and a drink she said that she hasent eaten all day and that she was dizzy so i complied and fed her for free..then she asked for food for her friend at that point i said well if you can get this free then you can give him half of what you got from me and then she pulled out $5.00 from her waist and payed for her friend
to how was your day??