Fry Street Scene
Having two public universities situated within its city limits, Denton is a town that reflects a more bohemian outlook. Most stores are
locally and independently owned, with wares ranging from whole foods to delicious baked items. And nowhere is the entrepreneurial
blend of art and capital more evident than on Fry Street.
Fry Street serves as a border for the northeastern end of the University of North Texas, where also UNT's renowned art department has its
buildings. The flow of ideas between the shopkeepers and the art students is evident along the street. Coupled with the music students
that make up the heart of UNT, all of the other students who enjoy a good pizza and a cool beer, and the historic neighborhoods around
the university, the eclectic businesses around Fry Street serve a diverse group of people that make Denton... well, that make Denton,
Fry Street - No More?
Fry Street, though, is under attack. United Equities, a real estate developer from Houston, has bought out a large part of the low-slung
buildings on Fry Street in the hopes of making the area an upscale urban shopping experience, complete with a Starbucks and either
Wal-greens or CVS pharmacy. Just what everyone DOESN'T need - more corporate stores and higher rents that push out independent
What galls me isn't necessarily the potential loss of the Fry Street 'scene.' Being a rather shy person who's more at home in the library
than in a club, I only frequented Fry Street during my UNT days when I needed something from the copy shop. But the fact that a group of
speculators from Houston can arbitrarily decide how a community should be formed bothers me greatly. As a preservationist, I see this
kind of injustice a lot. Historic buildings demolished to serve right-of-ways, classic neighborhoods remodeled into seas of McMansions,
vintage burger joints, motor courts, and neon signs being razed for cookie-cutter strip malls and alienating fast food drive-throughs.
Say No to Sameness!
Speculation is the reason why our current free market economy is failing. And yes, it is failing - every time you see an independent store
go out of business because Wal-Mart orHome Depot siphoned off their customers, not only does the local economy contract, but a pieceof
American cultural history extinguishes forever. The free market thrives not so much on competition, but on the ability of businesses to
reflect the communities they serve. In the American system, businesses anchor the community. Without that, downtowns die, people move
into bland suburban sprawl, and the sense of belonging is gone. That's why the need for local businesses with a stake in the local
economy is so real.
What we all need to do is to rally around the businesses on Fry Street in Denton and oppose the demolition in any way possible. Outsiders
have no right to determine what our communities should look like, or how they should function. We've got to take back control of our
cities. We've got to stop the misguided urban and regional planning philosophies that do not take into account the culture of the areas
they serve. We also have to stop believing in the notion that people can use their property as they see fit.
Musings from the View on my Soapbox
You can tell how well locally owned businesses anchor communities just by visiting an ethnic neighborhood. Predominantly Mexican
neighborhoods, with their mercados and street vendors, are lively and vibrant. Korean neighborhoods are close-knit and friendly.
Chinatown in San Francisco is so cool precisely because it has kept its local, immigrant economy afloat (though it's now more geared
towards the tourist than towards the originals).
On the other hand, predominantly Anglo and African American communities, having had their local businesses succumb to big box
retailers (and in the case of African Americans, to many other racist forces outside their control), have become stagnant, dull, and in some
The same idea that local institutions hold together a community is true for churches, too. Mega-churches do not hold much of a stake in
their local surroundings. The geographic nothingness of today's business and religious climate is diluting American culture.
|This block of buildings is facing demolition by an outside investor
who has no stake, and no idea about what Denton is.
Shouldn't a community have a right to self-determination?
|The copy shop on Fry Street
Several buildings have been demolished along Fry Street now. Fry Street still sports vintage structures that
help to maintain its character, but who knows how long that will last?