The Ten Best Landmarks on GSO’s “Most Important Mile”
As a salesman, Greenboro Coliseum Managing Director Matt Brown makes a hard pitch to members of the Greensboro City Council – and by extension to us, the citizens who pay his salary. Buy the Canada Dry building, Brown told the council at a May 8 briefing, and you can jump-start “the revitalization of the most important mile in our city, the gateway to our community, High Point Road from Interstate 40/85 to Coliseum Boulevard.” In the interest of firing the civic imagination then, we present a list of 10 landmarks on Greensboro’s “most important mile.” Any list would have to include the Coliseum Inn, which pays tribute in name to the city-owned colossus across the street. We could call it a flophouse, but it would be better described as a way station for poor people one crisis away from homelessness or working stiffs temporarily estranged from their families.
The stretch of roadway slated for redevelopment was dubbed “our city’s ugly welcome mat” by News & Record metro columnist Jeri Rowe. Not everyone has taken kindly to the appellation, as it could be taken as description of a place for the high and mighty to wipe their feet. That said it’s hard to resist the charms of Carolina Thrift, a hangar-like retail space that offers racks of vintage garments for the shopper on a tight budget who has the patience to cull for diamonds in the rough.
Cash America Pawn
We concede that Brown probably meant his reference to our city’s “most important mile” as more a statement of vision than as a description of objective fact, but let’s face it – it’s hard to not get hung up on the visage of Cash America Pawn when he makes the hard sell. With its garish long rectangular sign and patriotic marketing ploy, Cash America Pawn is the ultimate of expression of seedy desperation – a place where the down-on-their-luck put their dreams in hock, and discount-seeking opportunists knowingly exploit the misery of others.
A favored reception hall for African-American pols and location for video shoots by local hip-hop luminaries, Alexander Devereaux’s exudes class and glamour – at least from the outside. Some recent media reports have tied Devereaux’s to both both dirty cops and the Stokes-Raynor-Hinson check-kiting gang, but speculation should be leavened with the reality check that Greensboro is a small town where it’s easy for the virtuous to bump up against the agents of vice. And judging by a review of police service calls by YES! Weekly last summer, Devereaux’s handles their business better than some of their neighbors on the strip.
Case in point would be Atlantis Café, in the shadow of the interstate at the foot of the magical mile. Three security guards working the venue got busted by the state Justice Department’s Private Protective Services Section for working without licenses last June. Two months earlier the venture operated by the Hanhan family got popped by the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission for failure to keep the premises well lighted. Police logs from the preceding 12 months documented a litany of incidents, including discharging firearms, cuttings and stabbings, narcotics violations, fights and other public disturbances on the premises. The Raleigh company that owns the property subsequently decided against renewing the Hanhans’ lease, and is now looking for a new tenant for the shuttered restaurant and a warehouse behind it.
Just up the hill from Atlantis, decked with a pair of welcoming fake palm trees, sits Hooters, which may be more of what the corridor’s boosters envision. An ACC Hall of Fame next door to the coliseum would certainly enhance the area’s sports tourism draw. The Atlanta franchise already makes good use of sports marketing, promoting a contest to meet NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., along with hosting its own race series and golf tour. Of course, the young women dressed in skimpy orange shorts and white tank tops stretched to accentuate ample cleavage are acknowledged as “the cornerstone of the Hooters concept.” The company’s website offers a lengthy treatise on why their business model shouldn’t be considered sexist. “Claims that Hooters exploits attractive women are as ridiculous as saying the NFL exploits men who are big and fast,” their spinners argue. “Hooters girls have the same right to use their natural female sex appeal to earn a living as do supermodels Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell. To Hooters, the women’s rights movement is important because it guarantees women have the right to choose their own careers, be it a Supreme Court justice or Hooters girl.”
Located cattycorner to the coliseum, the CitiFinancial branch office offers personal loans to handle unexpected expenses, pay off credit cards, purchase furniture or cover tuition. A subsidiary of Citigroup, one of the world’s largest financial services provider, CitiFinancial was the subject of a scathing 2003 Institute for Southern Studies expose that alleged the company “ripped off and exploited” millions of borrowers. While the ethics of CitiFinancial’s business practices can be debated, let’s just say its presence is not an indicator of prosperity in the neighborhood.
China King andCarniceria Lupita’s
Located in the same commercial strip at the corner of High Point Road and Florida Street as Carolina Thrift, China King is a spacious, dimly-lit establishment equipped with several buffet islands stocked with crawfish, mussels, crab legs, barbecue spare ribs, dumplings and other delights. Next door is Carniceria Lupita’s, a butcher shop whose windows are adorned with ranchera concert promotional posters. Lupita’s also posts a variety of fliers common to the area. They read: “Problems – are they drug related? We can help: Narcotics Anonymous” and “Thinking About Armed Robbery? 4-7 years in prison.”
Pho Viet Nam andSouthern Pride Café
Greensboro is both decidedly ethnic and stubbornly button-down traditional. Pho Viet Nam is the second restaurant to open in Greensboro that specializes in the steamy Vietnamese noodle dish. Next door, Southern Pride Café serves breakfast all day. Its slatted roof, rockwork buttresses and large plate-glass windows give it a Florida-style diner look that makes it easy to spot from the road. The kitchen staff may have recently emigrated from Latin America, but there are still some certitudes, namely country-style steak on Tuesday, and meatloaf with gravy on Wednesday.
Players Club AdultEntertainment
Just a clip down the road from the Canada Dry building, the Players Club is not the most ostentatious strip club in the ‘boro, but the marble façade gives this converted retail building a modicum of allure. If we’re going to have places where men can drink themselves silly and go cross-eyed looking at women’s breasts, it would be hard to think of a more appropriate place for them. Players holds a reputation for raunch, but it’s not all fun and games. Police reported last month that an employee, 24-year-old Kairon Crump, was shot in the foot early on a Friday morning. Crump approached a suspicious looking Cadillac Catera in the parking lot and asked the occupants were alright, police said. The car pulled onto High Point Road and a passenger fired one round from a small handgun that sent Crump to Wesley Long Hospital.