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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Looking around with new eyes

It's amazing that Coconut Grove has gone through so many changes since its founding and yet there is still a semblance of what it used to look like. The bones are still here. I noticed it as I was filming around town this weekend. I did a lot of little films during the arts festival. And I'll do more, I'm enjoying it. You can see some and subscribe to the channel here.

My family has been here since '73. 1973, not 1873, which by the way is the year that Coconut Grove was founded.  I've been here during the "hippie years," or at least the end of them. I remember actual hippies selling tie die on Main Highway.  I remember when you would get a ticket if you drove around the block more than once on a Friday night. Heck, there was nowhere else. I think the only other place we would hang out was at Dadeland Mall. It was the Grove or Dadeland.

I remember Madonna and Cher going to the movies at CocoWalk with so many other celebs, it was the place to be when Madonna and Sylvester Stallone and others moved to the Grove; and of course I remember it before CocoWalk. I think there was an old gas station there and across the street where Sapient is now was Winn-Dixie. You can see a photo of the Winn-Dixie at Panther Coffee, that photo is just like I've always remembered it.

I remember the  I Ching building where I think Chase Bank is now. I remember coming home from Key Biscayne, where I would go often, and as I turned from South Bayshore Drive onto McFarlane, I could see this huge digital clock atop the I Ching building, or maybe next door to that. And I would look at the time to see how long it would take for me to get home for dinner. The clock was big, you could see it clearly from the Woman's Club.

I don't like over-development and I don't like five houses on a single family lot. I know businesses come and go and things change in Center Grove. There is a new condo project called the Arbor Condo, going up behind CocoWalk. And believe it or not, I like it. It's not obtrusive, it's small scale and it fits into the neighborhood.

There are a bunch of old photos here at the Miami Herald's "Flashback Miami" site. You can see the I Ching building here and also lots of talk of destruction of trees and historic houses, as far back as the 1980s and beyond. There is a picture of Coconuts, the shoe store in 1988, which was were Boho is now. I created the Coconuts logo. For years, every time I walked by, I would say to people, "I did that!"

I did freelance art for a shopping bag company, I think they were called All-Pak or something like that. I did that logo for their paper bag and it ended up on the store itself. I remember bringing art or perhaps picking up logos at the new Mayfair shopping center, all of those high end stores used All-Pak for their bags - Gucci, Pucci, Fiorucci, Farragamo etc. You had to pick up and deliver logos, no email at that time. I remember Suzanne's in the Grove. I think I was too young to drink there, but I did their weekly poster that presented what was happening that week and I remember delivering it through the garage underground.

Before CocoWalk and Mayfair, Commodore Plaza was the center of town. I remember Bassett's Ice Cream and the book store on the corner of Grand and Commodore, where Faranelli 1937 is now (I remember the Bookworm on Fuller Street, too). And I remember the Coconut Grove Clothing Company on Commodore, I used to love that name for a store. My friend Julio worked at Sharky's which was a restaurant where Lulu is now. Every time I would drive by from the South Grove, through the Center Grove, heading to the beach or something, I would see Julio and yell out his name. He would turn and I would be gone. To this day, I don't think he knew it was me doing that.

I remember in the late 1980s, a girl I went to high school with had a poster store on Main Highway at Florentine Plaza. I was amazed and proud of her thinking, "Wow. She has a store here, in Coconut Grove. On Main Highway?" I couldn't remember the location, but I think it was sort of across the street from the Coconuts shoe store at the location where Akashi restaurant is now. I remember a red telephone booth at the Grand Avenue end of Fuller Street, one I used often. I remember running to the Loggerhead on Bird Avenue for ice, when we had parties.

My sister-in-law had never had Yoohoo drink before, I remember parking the car on Fuller Street (no meters then) and as she waited in the car (we were on our way home from the beach), I ran across to the Kwik-Stop, which was a 7-11 then, and I got us a couple of Yoohoos. I think that was 1982.

I remember selling ads for Community Newspapers when I was in high school. Over the years, I have told Sandy Pukel, who owned the place, that I would go to his Oak Feed store back then and ask very timidly for an ad, they would always turn me down. Oak Feed was near where Soles shoe store is now. I remember that huge orange carrot across the top. Sandy tells me it's 40 feet long! He still has it in his garage.

I like the small village surrounded by the big city. I like being on the outskirts. I guess that is why I like Hoboken rather than New York City and Cambridge, rather than Boston. All a hop, skip and a jump from the big city, but not the big city.

But as I look around, if we can save the trees and a semblance of small-town feel, I think, perhaps the Grove hasn't change too much in the past 40 or 50 years.

For linking to this one story, just click on the time it was posted & just this story will open for sharing - only through social media. Not copying and pasting.


Blogger Cristina Fern√°ndez said...

Thank you, Tom, for your passion for the Grove. Even when I don"t live there, I feel an strong connection with this fantastic village.

February 23, 2017 12:17 PM  
Anonymous Jim Klosowski said...

When I tell people about the Winn-Dixie, they are amazed. Don't forget the Kodak camera store where Coco-walk is now, and that restaurant on the second floor on Commodore Plaza. And, Monty's when it was a small building where they have their parking lot now. Great breakfast before sailing.

February 23, 2017 4:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Check out this site:

You can pull up old aerial photography from various locations. Pretty cool clicking through the years and seeing all the changes.

February 24, 2017 9:42 AM  

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