There was a time when grocery stores were located at nearly every street corner. A housewife, or her domestic help, could run down to the shop at the drop of a hat should she find herself out of eggs or milk. Shopping for dinner was a daily affair. Lack of cold storage and the absence of automobiles made it necessary that neighborhood residents paid a nearly daily visit to their local grocer.
In 1921, when Church Street Grocery opened (now Midtown Market) there were approximately 175 independent grocers in Danville. The invention of the automobile, and their proliferation, made it possible for chain stores to come in, setting up locations on the outskirts of town, an easy drive away, and often on the way home for many who worked in the tobacco firms and the mills. Here parking was easier than on the crowded, rush-hour streets. The shopping was more convenient, too, for the larger stores provided a more diverse selection of products, even if they weren’t sourced locally. Over time, the corner store disappeared.
The 2014 CBZ study, officially known as the “Housing Market Evaluation and Recommendations for Strategic Interventions Study”, concluded that, if Danville wished to find success in its revitalization efforts there would have to be a significant increase in “quality of life amenities”. Within a mile’s radius of the hospital there were, at the time, no coffee shops, no restaurants, and, save for our beloved Midtown Market, no grocers. In fact, Danville, particularly the downtown area is considered a food desert. For those without transportation, without the resources to acquire (and sometimes even to prepare) a healthy meal at home, eating properly is a real concern.
But recent developments have begun to alleviate these problems. All over the downtown area, new restaurants and coffee shops are popping up. The most recent addition: Lynn Street Market. Steve DelGiorno, the man behind Crema and Vine and 616 Farm to Table, has collaborated with Jason Wilson, owner of Smith Seeds, to bring us a new farm-fresh and organic foods market.
Lynn Street Market offers fresh produce, quality meets, dairy, seafood, a selection of healthy option cooking oils, plenty of organic products, a variety of ethnic cuisine, beer and wine, a hot and cold bar—including sushi—as well as a charming eating area where these delicious items can be enjoyed. The establishment further hopes to eradicate the boundaries between quality food and its consumption by holding cooking classes, parties, and even competitions.
The opening of Lynn Street market, and the innovative contributions by Steve and others are really exciting. But more than that, they leave us to wonder… Is this the return of the corner grocery?
For Danville, that could only be a good thing.