Another one bites the dust

Thursday, 4 October 2007


This unwinding of the housing bubble has touched many lives. Besides the flippers who were too late to the party and people who bought more home than they could afford with exotic mortgages, some innocent victims have been dragged down, too. A deadbeat homeowner in my building has decided to walk away from her mortgage and will be leaving the remaining owners with thousands in unpaid assessments. My life will go on even though it riles me to have to pay for someone else's bad choices. It may hurt more for my retired neighbors. More heartbreaking is the impact on the decent people who run the small grocery store close to my home. They didn't speculate on pre-construction condos or try to flip houses and yet their lives have been changed forever.

It all began when construction began on the big empty parcel of land that was to become Magnolia Bay. Business picked up as workers walked over for lunch, snacks, cigarettes and so forth and the promise of all the new families that would be moving in made the future look bright. Shortly thereafter, the trailer park next door that housed the biggest part of our grocer's customers was purchased. With plans to build townhomes on the site, the trailers were progressively moved out or torn down until the property was empty. Things were still looking good even with the loss of the regulars. With 77 new half million dollar plus Magnolia Bay units and 18 new townhomes right next door, the customer base was growing and being upgraded and the construction workers were providing business in the interim. Life was good.

Then, Magnolia Bay sales slowed and the planned 4 buildings got scaled back to 3. Scheduled closings failed to happen and the construction workers finished their work and moved on. Today, the grand buildings at Magnolia Bay are mostly empty and dust blows in the sea breeze on the site of the old trailer park. The only townhomes there today are in the picture on the "coming soon" sign. Business at the grocer who stocked my favorite beer in a corner of the walk-in cooler at my request dried up to a trickle and, this week, he told me that this is his last month there. He can't make it any longer.

There are multiple losers in this story; the developers of Magnolia Bay, the trailer park residents, some of whom had lived there for decades, the owners of the trailer park property, the customers of Express Grocer including me and, most of all, Sam, the grocer and his family, and Gary, his long-time employee, who has been known to extend credit to a down-on-his-luck customer or two. Sam, your family, and Gary, you will be missed by many. You are good people.

My favorite Express Grocer memory will always be the sign that appeared on the door one day. It read:

Do not ask Gary for credit. He is not allowed to give it anymore. Sam