It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that Navasota is growing. Try finding a parking space at the post office, the hair salon or at one of our fine shops and restaurants downtown. Heck, I may have to park 3-4 blocks away just to pick up my check at The Examiner! The groups of strangers with that questioning gaze stopping mid stroll on Washington Avenue are another giveaway.
A decade ago, as a relatively new resident regrouping after my husband’s death, a trip downtown was a form of therapy for me, not in the shopping sense but in the social sense, because I was likely to run into one of the new acquaintances I had made. I also committed to learning about my new home and to volunteering for something to bring meaning to my life again. In fact, I was the first person to sign up for the inaugural Navasota Citizen’s University class! A proud NCU Class of ’13 graduate, I think this strategy has worked well for me!
One of my therapeutic Saturday stops was Blues Alley – not the actual alley that it is now but the Mayor’s eclectic music, antique, junk shop – to sit and visit with Reba Corley. Ironically, that’s where I was introduced to Independence Coffee but my former little comfort stop is now Classic Rock Coffee Co. & Kitchen, a popular Sunday breakfast spot for visitors and a place with a different vibe and coffee bean.
Window shopping Washington Avenue usually resulted in pleasant exchanges and a hug or two. Several years ago, Grimes County Sheriff Don Sowell declared that we are still a hugging county, and I hope that doesn’t change in my lifetime. I can say without hesitation that if I found myself indulging in a pity party, a visitdowntown would change my mood immediately. I came to understand that God had a plan and Navasota was the right place for me at this time in my life.
Ten years later, I’m still where I’m meant to be but I sort of miss “that” Navasota. Don’t get me wrong, the tourist traffic is great for our business owners but to be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about it as a resident.
Back to the strangers, I’m intimately familiar with that tourist gaze, having worn it myself many times. After my husband died, my youngest daughter and I spent our annual “mother-daughter weekend” visiting small Texas towns. Recalling those trips, one thing which stands out is that the majority of downtown shops were owned, not by natives, but by new residents. We seldom ran into locals – even as diners or shoppers. In retrospect, this seemed to be the pattern of revitalization – an infusion of new blood with little or no native blood on the selling or buying end!
It's pretty safe to say Navasota has finally ‘arrived,’ or at least the train is pulling into the station. I think Navasota is unique in that we have a mix of old, returning, and new entrepreneurs working side by side successfully. That being said, sitting in a crowded restaurant and recognizing only one or two people, or having to park blocks awayto conduct business related to MY livelihood, the nagging question in my mind is…when does a town stop being a town for the people who live there and becomes a town just for the tourists who visit there?
Is there a magic number? Is it when there are so many strangers that the mayor stops giving hugs? Is it when we locals stop conducting business downtown because it’s too much trouble to find a place to park? I don’t want downtown Navasota to turn into Disneyland – a place for tourists only!
All that being said, I’m in favor of welcoming visitors and I support the City’s efforts to work out those pesky parking problems. I believe in shopping local and being a VOCAL local so visitors know we still live here.Change is tough but in these financially make-it-or-break-it-times, Navasota 4.0 beats the alternative!
The column represents the thoughts and opinions of Connie Clements. Opinion columns are NOT the opinion of the Navasota Examiner.
Clements is a freelance reporter for the Navasota Examiner and an award-winning columnist.