Charlie’s Imports takes the right stand: a look at real economic development issues

A couple of months ago I introduced Wright State University President David Hopkins to one of Dayton’s true gems: Charlies Imports on Troy Street. Hopkins couldn’t get over how the place reminded him of his working class neighborhood in Elyria Ohio where he grew up. The food is also amazing and relatively inexpensive.

Rod Vangas is at least the second generation owner of the small sandwich shop- and of late, he’s had a series of break-ins. Read the following excerpt from the Dayton Daily News:

Troy Street grocer hopes arrest halts crime pattern
Vangas said police suggested he put bars over his window. While Vangas said he spends almost $1,000 every time his business is burglarized, putting bars on the window would ruin the aesthetic in a neighborhood that is otherwise pleasant.

Rod knows that perception quickly becomes reality- and that the siege mentality of bars on windows, bricked in or boarded up windows is the first sign that a neighborhood is in decline.

If you have any questions- go look around Dayton and then compare to the gleaming success of Brown Street. Even Wayne Avenue just a few blocks away is starting to look seedy, thanks to the proliferation of welfare economy businesses- an empty check cashing store, a cell-phone beeper shop, and boarded up shops. Even the tire store bricked in their garage door at the corner of Oak and Wayne.

The root problems for Charlie’s Imports are caused by a combination of factors: the burglar is unemployed, probably addicted, and the criminal justice system isn’t solving the problem through incarceration without treatment and retraining, or by having a revolving door.

More bars on the windows or prisoners behind bars are both short sighted solutions to a much bigger problem: the growing divide between rich and poor. When Barack Obama points out that some people on Wall Street are making more in ten minutes than people on Main Street make in a year- it’s not just good campaign rhetoric, it’s the heart of the problem.

The United States, land of the free, now has more people behind bars both in numbers and per-capita than any other nation on earth. The costs are staggering, both in terms of maintaining the prisons- and the lost human capital. Once convicted, re-entry to society is difficult, and earning potential is almost always permanently decreased- causing lower taxable wages.

The downward spiral on society is just as bad as the downward spiral that would be started by Charlie’s Imports going “bunker modern.” Rod Vangas is taking the right stand.

If Dayton wants to see real economic development, it should be more worried about taking the bars off the windows instead of doling out tax dollars to corporations like Reynolds and Reynolds that put the corporations interest far before the peoples.

If you are anywhere near Troy Street for lunch- I highly recommend the Duririon Salad with pasta, the Black Forrest or the Hatch Sandwiches. Also- check out the selection of European Chocolate in the back- no Frigor, but always some good Lindt.

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4 Responses

  1. Teri L March 2, 2008 / 4:58 pm
    Excellent post, David!

    >perception quickly becomes reality- and that the siege mentality of bars on windows, bricked in or boarded up windows is the first sign that a neighborhood is in decline.

    We have so much trouble getting past those visual images. Regardless of what positive change is happening behind the scenes in any neighborhood, barred windows and boarded up homes leave an unfortunate lasting impression.

    I was introduced to Charlie’s Imports years ago- it’s truly a hidden gem in the Gem City.
    Thanks for reminding me to get down there and support them.

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  2. Jeff March 2, 2008 / 7:39 pm
    Re the shot at Reynolds & Reynolds.

    You commented favorably on my blog post on the comparison of Delco with Humana down in Louisville.

    What R&R WAS doing on Ludlow, remodelling buildigns and filling up vacant space to create a sort of urban campus is what Humana is doing on Main Street in Louisville. The difference is that Humana’s corporate leadership has long been committed to staying in downtown Louisville even if in multipe buildings, and R&Rs was not.

    @@@

    As for Charlies, the WSU’ guys’ shock of recognition is apt, as Old North Dayton is pretty close to Loraine as Lorain was a very ethnically diverse community, from way back (the WPA Ohio Guide from 1940 even mentions this). So, yeah, theres bound to be a Charlies here and there in Lorain.

    In some ways OND is Dayton’s “Great Lakes blue collar ethnic neighborhood”, well south of where these places are usually found.

    Chariles sell’s food I grew up with in Chicago. They also have Nurnberger lebkuchen, a traditional Xmas speciality (as well as thing like pfeffernuss, dominostein, stollen, etc).

    I really need to blog about Charlies, if I havn’t already, as its one of the special Dayton things. Lets hope his crime problem has been put to bed.

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  3. David Esrati March 2, 2008 / 8:42 pm

    Jeff-
    Reynolds did good at rehabbing- but then did bad at selling the stuff back to Dayton Public Schools after taking every tax break and giveaway they could.
    You can see their new campus- in a former field.
    Some say they left Dayton because of Mike Turner- David Holmes was the biggest Tony Capizzi supporter out there when Turner was up for re-election as Mayor.

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  4. gene March 6, 2008 / 2:55 pm
    “Even Wayne Avenue just a few blocks away is starting to look seedy, thanks to the proliferation of welfare economy businesses-”

    STARTING? I live very close to Wayne Ave and it has always been a dump. Open your eyes people. What do you consider nice and consider a dump? Beer cans on the front lawn, cars on the front lawn, trash on porches, unmowed grass, unpainted houses, beat up fences, etc……….. it is a dump, and that is a fact Jack. It may be better than other dumps but it is still a dump.

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