Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Gentrification Has Old Black Food Spots On the Ropes.

August 25, 2019 by  
Filed under Health, News, Opinion, Weekly Columns

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(ThyBlackMan.com) Take a look around your city or your neighborhood. If you’ve lived there sometime or grew up there, do you remember certain places that used to be there that aren’t anymore? A restaurant that has been there since your parents were children? Or a store you used to frequent when chips were a quarter?

A Tour of the Neighborhood

I grew up and live in a mainly Black neighborhood in the Magic City. In the past five years, more Latinx families have made their home here and pretty much live like everyone has on this block. They tend to their family business and don’t really speak to anyone unless it’s a greeting—they’re welcome neighbors. In short, the neighborhood is pretty much the same it’s just becoming more Black and brown instead of just Black.

However, hard times hit several of the businesses that used to be here and presented an opportunity for new ones. The mechanic shop my dad used to work at became a Chinese restaurant operated by Latinx and Arab folks. Then it became a short lived soul food place owned by a Black guy. Now it’s one in a chain of Mexicana places here in the city.

A popular restaurant known for its ribs, music nights and high prices got closed down and sits dormant. The family isn’t doing anything with it. This is the same story for this bar that I’d visit every day after school and buy a bag of fries. Both were around when my mom was growing up here and attended the same school.

Gas stations once owned and operated by Black people are ran by Arab and Indian folks. The other mechanic shop my dad worked at is owned by a white guy and operated by Latinos. Their competitor across the street is Black-owned and operated. A soul food place ran by Koreans then by a Black woman is now a beauty supply place and event center both Black-owned. And no, they’re not in the same place.

That would be like Jones BBQ and Foot Massage come to life.

Old Black Restaurants Elsewhere Are Getting Hit

Elsewhere, it isn’t the same story. While in my neighborhood it’s a see-saw battle with ownership, the community’s vibe is the same as it’s always been. One restaurant that that came to mind when noticing stuff elsewhere is getting shutdown is the Magic City Grille. Located in downtown Birmingham, it’s been around for decades and also had a creamery that supposedly made some great ice cream.

Everything around it is changing as buildings are getting snatched up, condos are being erected, new kinds of businesses are coming in and the demographic is changing in that part of the city. It’s whiter, there are more Middle Eastern people as well. It’s not fully the Birmingham I grew up and love, it’s the new Birmingham that will bring in money. It’s moving towards Homewood number two in some ways.

And the Magic City Grille, sitting on that same corner it’s been since I could remember looks out of place with everything around it. Needless to say, that’s always bad news for any Black business but especially older Black restaurants. It’s one thing to be a newer Black restaurant that is more in line with the environment stylistically. It fits in with the bustle of the day and the nightlife downtown.

However, an old restaurant that doesn’t at least modernize cosmetically is always in the sights of a realtor or some business that needs space. And it’s a common thing nationwide. Some spots manage to hang on because they’re in Black communities and have been there for years. They’re frequented regularly by those locals.

The place will only fall if the family doesn’t show interest or the family just doesn’t have a mind for business. In the case of a restaurant being in blighted part of the neighborhood, it will likely just sit there. Unused and no one spoiling to purchase it. Downtown, it’s not the same problem.

That old Black restaurant is going to get business. Especially in a city with a significant or predominantly Black population. It’s the ones that aren’t and are surrounded by “exciting” competition offering a selection or a hipster spin on cuisine I worry about.

Staff Writer; M. Swift

This talented writer is also a podcast host, and comic book fan who loves all things old school. One may also find him on Twitter at; metalswift.

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