Viewpoint: In defense of Statesville
BY TAYLOR SPECTOR
I love where I live.
I’m not sure if it's because of the upcoming local election or if people just like to complain more, but I have read my last social media post complaining about Statesville without responding. I will not sit on the sidelines as people insult my community, a community I chose to move back to, a community I am proud to be a part of, a community whose future is bright.
Is Statesville perfect? Of course not, but it is the only place I want to live.
To the person who says, “There’s nothing to do,” when was the last time you looked? Statesville is the home to a film festival, a music festival, a concert series in the summer, and a slew of outdoor events, including a craft beer festival, a bike race, a wine walk and two annual art crawls featuring local artists. And most of those things are free. Do those things happen too infrequently?
On any given Friday or Saturday night, there are multiple places in downtown Statesville you can hear live music. The Old Jail has an open mic night the second Thursday of every month that features not only acoustic music but also poetry. Risto’s has an open mic night every Tuesday.
If music isn’t your thing, Unwined offered trivia on Thursdays. The evening farmers’ market at Pecan Park happens on Thursdays as well. If you can’t make Thursday, the Statesville Rotary Club has a farmers’ market on Saturdays from 7 a.m. to noon on the corner of West Front and Meeting streets.
If music, trivia and supporting local farmers doesn’t provide enough variety, it’s a good thing our little town has more to offer. On the second Monday of the month (through November) there is a Classic Car Cruise-In in the parking lot next to Payne Chiropractic. Did you know Statesville is the home to North Carolina’s only Egyptian mummy? Margaret, as she has been nicknamed, calls the Iredell Museum home. But that isn’t the only thing the museum offers. They change exhibits periodically to keep you coming back. Right now they are offering free admission to the Wanda Clark Art exhibit.
Want to get outside? Head over to the Gregory Creek Homestead, a 27-acre site that is home to living history days. Once you are done exploring the ground at the Gregory Homestead, you can stop by Fort Dobbs, which served as the only permanent frontier provincial fort in the colony of North Carolina. This state historical site also offers living history days, which provides a glimpse of what life was like for the garrison of Fort Dobbs. Statesville has a disc golf park, a six-mile greenway trail for jogging or cycling, trails for mountain biking, public tennis courts, and no less than five parks with playground equipment. I am just scratching the surface!
To the person who says, “There’s nowhere to eat,” I should send you to the farmers’ market and then back to your kitchen, but if you insist on eating out your options aren’t limited. If you like chain restaurants, Statesville has you covered. So you are upset there isn’t an Olive Garden? Head over to Highway 115 and try Almafi’s. Not only is the food great, but the restaurant is locally owned. That isn’t your only option for excellent Italian. Mezzuluna is a quiet little spot in downtown that has lentil soup that’s to die for and if you haven’t had a pizza from Marco’s on Front Street, you don’t know what you are missing. Downtown has several locally-owned eateries as well. I’ll suggest the breakfast tacos from The Bristol Cafe, the sexy goat from Broad Street Burger Company, the cranberry nut salad from Broad Street Bistro, the pimento cheese burger from Twisted Oak, the crab cakes from 220 Café, the monster burrito from El Mezcal, the tomato bisque and chicken carbonara at Risto’s, anything with a side of pasta salad from Sub Express, and a cold beer with a basket of fries from D’laney’s. Stop by Sweet Things Bakery for a cupcake or swing down to La Fresca for fresh baked bread and the most decadent chocolate treats in town. When you spend your money in these places you are supporting small business owners that are part of our community.
To the person who says, “There’s nowhere to shop,” what is it you are shopping for that Statesville doesn’t have? You go to Mooresville to visit Target, but for what? You drive to Winston-Salem to go to Hanes Mall, but what are you buying there? I agree, retail options in Statesville are limited, but I can still find almost everything I want or need without having to leave town. I’m an avid runner, and McLelland Family Shoes has never failed to provide the latest running shoes and Rusty even lets me know when I can save a little money by ordering last season’s color, instead of taking a shoe off the shelf. Carolina Mountain Sports is an outdoor store that specializes in camping, hiking and fishing gear. It is so well recognized that it draws outdoor enthusiasts from neighboring states. First Flight Bicycles has been consistently voted one of the top 10 bike shops in the United States and it’s right here in Statesville. There are no less than five stores in downtown Statesville where you can find a variety of clothing for women and juniors. GG’s Art Frames & Gifts is a knick-knack lover’s dream. Gloria offers a unique collection of art and gifts specific to North Carolina. There is a music store downtown and another one on Signal Hill Drive. Wine Maestro offers fine wines and craft beers. In addition to their retail selection, they offer draft beer and wine by the glass. Do you buy flowers for your wife, mother, sister, boss, girlfriend? Johnson Greenhouses is one of those places you can call if you are clueless about flowers and they will make something incredible. Whether you spend $25 or $75, you always know your arrangement will impress.
We have to talk about the mall. Yes, the stretch of East Broad Street just past Interstate 77 is sad and in desperate need of some love. But the city has no control over it. This property is privately owned and I am taking liberties here, but I doubt the owners like seeing it in the destitute state it is in. In fact, if I can take you back 12 years, there was a plan to revitalize both the Newtown Shopping Center and Signal Hill Mall. But in 2008 the country hit one of the largest economic recession ever and those plans had to be halted. Fast forward to the present day for a minute. This year more than 3,500 brick and mortar retail stores like Macy’s, JC Penney and Sears will be closing in the United States. The departure of these anchor stores has brought death to the American mall. We should all agree that the mall as we knew it isn’t coming back. Our locally elected leaders cannot do anything to force the owners of this property to change anything about its current state. Using “the mall” as an example of poor local leadership does not make you look smart.
I have mentioned a lot of businesses by name. I have no relationship to any of these businesses aside from being a very satisfied customer. There are also countless other florists, shops, eateries and bars that I haven’t mentioned specifically that are probably equally as great.
Statesville isn’t Charlotte, Raleigh, Winston-Salem or Asheville. Statesville isn’t even Mooresville. But I don’t want it to be. I chose to live in Statesville because of the emphasis being placed on community. I chose to live in Statesville because my definition of traffic is hitting the Five Points intersection just as my light turns red. I chose to live in Statesville because it is Statesville. I challenge you to stop complaining about what’s wrong or missing and start enjoying what Statesville does have to offer. Be proud of your community. Offer constructive feedback to help it get better. Support small locally owned business. Vote in local elections. Statesville is not perfect. But it is the only place I want to live.
Taylor Spector lives in Statesville.