Friday, July 20, 2007
Please won't you be my neighbor? That's the last line of the Won't You Be My Neighbor, Mr. Roger's theme song. The first line goes "It's a beautiful day in this neighborhood" and that makes me think of why I love Key West so much: it's neighborhoods.
Tourists come and go and most only see Old Town or areas visited by the Conch Train or perhaps a sojurn to the Overseas Market or Searstown. I know that when I am taking prospective buyers around looking at houses many often ask about where we buy groceries or clothes or lumber. Some just see Old Town as the center of the tiny universe that is Key West and wonder how we manage to live here. And many dream of being able to live here.
I have previously mentioned that I live in the Casa Marina area which is located onthe Atlantic Ocean side of the island. Old Town is located at the west and north side of the island. Then there is mid town located, naturally, midway between Old Town and New Town at the east end of the island. But each of these areas has its own separate neighborhoods. And that makes life here so interesting.
Take the area at the intersection of Southard and Grinnell Streets where the Five Brothers Grocery is located. Five Brothers is an institution where locals go every morning for coffee con leche and gossip. It's like Starbucks without the attitude. You will see cops and lawyers and contractors and city government workers hanging out on the street corner in the shade dishing the dish on everything Key West. Contractors meet to talk about what they are doing and where. And Key West politics is alaways the dish du jour. That little building is the anchor of that couple of block section of Key West.
A few blocks away on a not so nice location is the Blossom's Grocery. There you buyer the daily special which is advertised for everyone to see on a sign posted out front--just next to the chicken crossing sign. The area has several gay guesthouses and many apartments. The Sunbeam Grocery is located exactly one block to the south. And it has a totally different clientel and distinctly unfriendly vibe--in my opinion.
These neighborhood groceries harken back to the era before big supermarkets where locals would buy there food supplies at the corner grocery. And like I mentioned earlier, those grocery stores are the anchor for that neighborhood.
But there are other neighborhood hangouts as well. Take Page's Paint on upper White Street. If you spend 30 minutes in the store you will get a good idea about how busy the construction business is by listening to the painters buying paint and the guys in the store telling stories. Paulie, a 60-something Conch who is a paint mixologist, will give you a quick lesson in Key West history at the drop of the hat. I was there yesterday and learned about a city sewer project being constructed on Duncan Street and how much two houses recently sold for. (I previously wrote about everybody in Key West knowing everything about each other's property values.)
You may see people in a store, on a bike, walking their dog, driving in their car talking on a cellphone on a daily basis. You may not know their name, but you know their face. And you know they are your neighbors. You learn not to be rude or pushy, if you ever were either, when dealing with your neighbor. We all live on a tiny little island in the middle of the ocean. And it is a great place to live. Please won't you be my neighbor?
If you are thinking about buying a place in Key West, now is an excellent time to start looking. Prices have dropped, there is a good selection of properties in all price ranges. The remodeling business has slowed, so you may be able to engage a contractor at a better price as well. Give me a call and I can help you find your little piece of Paradise. 1-305-766-2642. Thanks.
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Gary Thomas in a Nutshell
- Gary Thomas
- Key West, Florida, United States
- I first read about Key West in a magazine called "After Dark" sometime in the mid 1970's. But it wasn't until March 1984 that I made my first visit to the island that would become my home. I had two weeks for a vacation and reserved a room at Colours Guesthouse (now Marrero's Guest House) for one week. I thought that if I didn't like Key West, I could always go back to Miami or Ft. Lauderdale for the rest of my trip. But after a couple of days in Key West, that was no longer a consideration. But when I wanted to extend my stay for the extra week I found there was no room at the inn. The guesthouse owner did find me a room at LaTeDa, the infamous guesthouse/restaurant. That's a story I'll write another day. But those two weeks in Key West gave me the realization that I had found Paradise. Key West has been my home since 1993 and my only regret is that it took me so long to get here. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties CRI. Let me help you find your new home or business in Paradise. Living in Paradise is not a slogan, it's a way of life.