Niagara Gazette

January 26, 2013

LETTERS FROM THE ISLAND: Mending fences on Love Road

By Doug and Polly Smith
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Dear Mainland Shoppers — Doug dreaded dropping by our former Wilson Farms. With its long lines, unpredictable inventory, battered bottle return and lottery-addicted clientele, he called it “The Inconvenience Store.” Polly would dispatch him for one item and he would return just as she was calling the police for his whereabouts. “They didn’t have it,” he’d say. “Hadda goto Tops.”

Last fall, 7-11 took it over. Much as he doesn’t care for overseas conglomerates, he has to say it’s improved — cleaner, better organized, cashiers who seem to care. (He does miss the cheery enthusiasm of Terri and Valla, who have moved on.)

But he’s still getting the run-around — now, before he goes in.

Although a majority of Islanders live south of the South Bridge, there’s little retail down here, only the one property, two buildings on Love Road just west of the Parkway. The one has always housed a small grocery, the other various businesses including a drugstore and a barbershop. Currently, it has a women’s gym wedged between a liquor store and Say Cheese Pizza (irony, anyone?).

With its comic-book motif, Say Cheese has exploded into a neighborhood tavern and sports bar. Some nights you can’t get near the place, and it seems like parking for pickups only.

The buildings share a parking lot, although each owns its own space. Recently a low fence materialized between them, like one of those barriers that keeps toddlers in their playrooms. The Berlin Wall it ain’t, but it does isolate the 7-11 so that anyone approaching from the east — most of its business — has to drive all the way past the store and then U-turn back to it. Treads in the snow suggest that a few daredevils have tried to squeeze between the fence and a utility pole. Us, we value our side mirrors.

Since 7-11 was the new kid on the block, and since the Say Cheese clientele attracts police attention from time to time, we assumed it was 7-11 that put up the fence. Wrong. It was Say Cheese, officials tell us. Holy barricades! Patrons of 7-11 seldom parked over that way, and, by their grab-and-go agenda, never for long. On game days and nights, Say Cheese clients stick like parmesan.

It turns out that Say Cheese wants 7-11 to share the costs of paving its side of the lot, contending that 7-11 customers drive through it, particularly the center entrance, a scale model of Afghanistan. Corporate 7-11 declines. Hence, Say Cheese says its best defense is — well, de fence.

It also makes 7-11’s mailbox an endangered species. If traffic there falls below the post-office minimum – 25 pieces a week, we believe – we’ll lose our last place to deposit mail on windy days. Town officials seem sympathetic to Say Cheese, but we can’t imagine paying to pave a neighbor’s driveway. Can somebody say “please”?

Come visit. We’re out of bread.

Polly and DougE-mail