Thursday, June 6, 2013

Long Reach Village Center: A Hub for International Foods & Culture

It's no secret that the closure of the Safeway in Long Reach Village Center and it being replaced by the Family Market shows the tremendous diversity of Long Reach and the Village Center that serves it. As you know, the Family Market focuses on International Foods representing India, Latin America, Korea, China, Africa, and the Caribbean to name a few. In Columbia, there are large populations of all of these ethnicities yet in both the grocery world and the restaurant world many of these sub-groups are under-represented. The Family Market can and should cater to all of these sub-groups. But what about Restaurants? True, the Restaurant Market in Columbia is crowded with all the usual American Chains many of which are just a stones throw away from the Village Center. I would like to see Long Reach put on the map as a destination hub for the "hidden gem" Restaurants located in its Village Center as well as some new ones I would like to see here while turning away from some of the low rent businesses that have tarnished the image of the Village Center.
Although the Village Center appears to only have low rent tenants there are also hidden gems. These hidden gems must be brought out in order to put a new face on Long Reach Village Center to expand its outside draw. First we have Kuramo a Caribbean Restaurant that has recently opened. This type of Restaurant is just what I envision Long Reach filled with. It occupies a niche that's not found along Route 175 or by the Mall. Along with the Family Market, Kuramo could be a building block for making Long Reach a regional destination. 
Next we have Long Reach Pizza and Indian Food. It sounds pretty generic and as well as a bizarre mating of food choices. I have read many good reviews of the food here but patrons are disappointed at the size of it. Long Reach Pizza and Indian Food replaced the long standing Dominos Pizza after its departure. In short, this hidden gem is just take out and patrons would love the option to sit down and eat. If Long Reach Pizza and Indian Food were to relocate two storefronts down where United Optical once stood, this could be a reality. The space now occupied by Long Reach Pizza and Indian Food is much better suited for an Ice Cream or Frozen Yogurt Stand similar to Ritas or Meadows Frozen Custard. 
Granted a low rent cell phone place known as Multienvois now occupies this space but the cell phone market in Long Reach is grossly over saturated. Cell phones can be purchased at the Family Market, Dollar Buys, and Long Reach Beauty Supply. Given that this a Master Plan for the Village Center I reserve the right to throw out tenants I deem detrimental to the future of the Village Center. With this larger space, Long Reach Pizza and Indian Food can do eat in and carry out perhaps even via wait staff.
Perhaps the biggest gem in Long Reach is Chick 'N Friends. This has received rave reviews since its opening several years ago and has received accolades from Food Critics across the board. Once reviewer said it's "worth the drive from DC." Like Long Reach Pizza & Indian Food, the storefront is not large enough for seating. I would move into the space now occupied by the Long Reach Laundromat. This will offer patrons the option to eat in rather than just carry out.
Long Reach Laundromat is again one of those tenants that brings down the Center as a whole. If you read any of my residential redevelopment plans for Long Reach you will see that ALL new housing be it rental or for purchase will feature full size washers and dryers. The space now occupied by Chick 'N Friends would be better suited for a breakfast type place not unlike the Bagel Bin in Wilde Lake, Kings Contrivance, and River Hill.
The last Restaurant tenant that brings down the Center as a whole is Delitown. It appears that this place is straight out of West Baltimore. Having covered West Baltimore extensively in my sister blog I can make this comparison with true conviction. Anyway, I believe a Mexican Restaurant is one key niche that is missing in Long Reach. Ironically the building that houses Delitown was once a Taco Bell up until the mid to late 1990s. The type of Mexican Restaurant I envision is not like Taco Bell, Qudoba, Chipoltle, or Baja Fresh. I envision it to be a Family Style Sit Down Restaurant that serves fresh authentic Mexican Dishes that can't be found along Route 175. The old Delitown building would have to be torn down and rebuilt to fir the needs of a larger restaurant. Again, I'm catering to a Niche Market that will draw patrons to Long Reach Village Center from beyond the Village itself.
Drawing the focus away from Restaurants there are other businesses I would like to see at Long Reach that would fit needs of Residents that currently go unfilled. First there's no Pharmacy, in the space next to Delitown that used to house a Bank, (pictured above) I think that would be perfect for a small Pharmacy like "The Medicine Shoppe." True Safeway's Pharmacy closed months before the Grocery Store as a whole did but I still think that with so many Long Reach Residents who don't have cars, the option of driving to Target or Walmart or Giant for a Pharmacy just isn't feasible. Although an independent Pharmacy in this space would be nice, the Family Market does have space to put in a Pharmacy in its store some day. Since this space had held a Bank, it has drive-up access, something that larger Pharmacies have but I think that a smaller Pharmacy should have one too.
Speaking of Banks, another missing store is a Bank. I think that the space that traditionally held a bank is too small for today's needs hence why I suggested a small Pharmacy for it. So where would I build it? I would actually build on the grounds of the current Exxon Gas Station. The Exxon has become a hotbed for drug dealing and I believe it to be a deterrent to would be shoppers at the Village Center. There are many Residents who be happy to see the Gas Station go. There are lots of other Gas Stations nearby. As Wilde Lake Village Center is going through a large redevelopment, the finished product will also be without a Gas Station. The Exxon site is large enough not only for a modern Bank Building but for drive up Banking as well. 
Now the last store I will mention in this Master Plan is Long Reach Beauty Supply. I find that with Dollar Buys right next door as well as the Family Market, the market is over saturated with beauty supply items. It also offers services such as Cell Phone Plans, Check Cashing and Money Orders, all things that can be purchased at the Family Market if not Dollar Buys. One thing missing in the Center is a second Hair Salon. "Naapstar" just opened next to Subway and is welcome addition to the Center. Naapstar is mainly an African American Salon. Although a large demographic that utilizes the Center is African American there are a lot of Hispanics who use it too and there are Whites in Neighborhoods such as Phelps Luck, Kendall Ridge, and Jeffers Hill all parts of Long Reach. It's safe to say that a second Hair Salon where Long Reach Beauty Supply currently is would be a welcome addition. 
Well that just about wraps up my plan to turn Long Reach Village Center into a Hub for International Food & Culture, If you're a tenant in the Village Center whose store wasn't mentioned, that means I have no issues with you. If you were mentioned unfavorably I apologize.