Just before Christmas I had a week off and found myself in need of a few CDs. Given my aversion to driving when I’m off work, I decided to walk to the Disc Exchange. I’ve loved the store for years and have shopped at the west location in the years before it closed and at the south location many times. All those trips involved a car. This time I decided to walk.
Obviously, the first detour involved the missing Henley Street Bridge, but the Gay Street Bridge is pedestrian friendly and I had a few photographs to take in that direction, anyway. I reasoned that the bridge closure would actually help because, after walking along Blount Avenue from the Gay Street Bridge, I could cross Chapman Highway at the south end of the site previously known as the Henley Street Bridge. No traffic moving north and south meant I could cross without taking my life into my own hands.
Before crossing I noticed I’d have to traverse parking lots because there would be no sidewalk help.Further, on the western side of the road I would actually have to walk in the highway for quite a stretch because of a guard rail and a precipice. I opted to take the sidewalk on the eastern side, but that meant crossing the highway further down. With rolling hills obscuring long-distance vision and extremely fast traffic even with a missing bridge, this proved difficult.
I noted some of the businesses along the way. The Kern’s building is now, I believe, only partially used by Sara Lee. Cuppy’s looks like a cute idea that didn’t make it. I’m not sure if it closed before or after the bridge closure. Southside Package store looked about as forlorn as you might expect from the name. Shoney’s continues to operate.
After screwing up my courage and sprinting across the highway, I arrived at my location, which is a strip mall jammed up against a mountain of kudzu. It once housed the Book Eddy, which moved with the bridge closure, became Central Street Books and subsequently closed its doors at the new location. Also previously in the shopping center, a pawn shop and a bar, both long closed, though their names remain on the marquee; the bar never officially added, represented by a banner draped over the top of the sign. A Mexican restaurant and children’s used clothing stores have opened, though they aren’t noted on the sign.
The Disc Exchange has remained remarkably the same, offering new and used CDs. The biggest change in recent years has been the addition of vinyl as it continues its remarkable resurgence. It’s still a place like all great record stores used to be in which you find not only a great selection of great music, but people who love music and love to talk to customers about it. I’ve walked out with CDs I heard playing over the sound system a number of times.
The store is large and offers the best selection of CDs of all types. There is enough folk, blues, jazz and local music for me to lose myself and forget to check into the massive rock collection. There I’m likely to find a forgotten gem, hopefully used so I can save a few dollars. If you frequent the store and just want to know what’s new, they have a section just for that as well as for new releases.
And none of this begins to cover the great live music they have in-store from time to time. A couple of favorites I remember hearing there are Jill Andrews and The Civil Wars. They don’t seem to have quite as much live music as they used to, but it still happens from time to time.
My CDs secured, I ran across the highway and walked home. I thought about development on the south side of the river and the erstwhile missing bridge. I thought about the resistance to slowing traffic on Henley Street as it spills onto Chapman highway and I felt a bit confounded by the sum of it all.
When the bridge re-opens, traffic will only move faster. That kind of traffic doesn’t seem like the sort to slow down enough to support the businesses lining the street. If there is no better pedestrian access, the exploding population of downtown will do little to help. At a mile and half (my house to Disc Exchange), it’s already farther than most people will walk. Even if the former Baptist Hospital became condos, I can imagine those people choosing to take the easy walk north to great options rather than the treacherous walk south to few businesses of much interest.
While I love the Disc Exchange, it was hard to see much reason to return to the near southside of the river for any other reason. And really hard to want to do it on foot.