Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Sammy's era ends

Lunchtime's over
London, ON, April 2008 [Click to enlarge]

Another scene from my find-beauty-wherever-possible tour of my burg. See here and here for similarly-themed entries.
For reasons that I often have difficulty understanding, Sammy's Souvlaki has always seemed to define our life in our transplanted hometown. Here's a rundown of why I think that may be the case:
  • After we decided to move here but before we actually sold our house and pulled up stakes, we spent six months shuttling back and forth, house hunting and job-transitioning. At the time, Sammy's operated one of the only webcams in the region. I used to check it online from Montreal, as if a real-time view of our soon-to-be home would somehow make the whole experience seem a bit more tangible.
  • After we moved here, I'd reload the page just to see the weather outside. It seemed cooler than looking out the window.
  • London is a city of summer festivals, and Sammy's always seems to have a trailer among the crowd of trailers, serving up its, um, not-exactly-healthy fare. The kids would always pick the Sammy's out of the misaligned rows of vendors.
  • Its street corner stands always stood out as uniquely belonging to this city, as original as a hot dog vendor in New York City.
The irony of Sammy's is I've never eaten there. But it's still managed to embed itself into my brain. Which is why I felt a twinge of sadness when they announced they were closing up their last corner stand in the downtown core. Increasingly health-conscious Londoners just don't flock there like they used to, so the founder is refocusing the business.

But we've got plenty of Starbucks, Tim Hortons and McDonalds to soothe our need for a just-like-anywhere franchised experience. At this rate, London should look like pretty much every other town between here and the Pacific before long.

Wait, it already does.

Your turn: Are we losing our sense of place?

One more thing: Lots and lots of media this week. And good stuff, too. I'm pulling together links as we speak, and will share them piecemeal in the days to come.


Susan said...

Excellent photo, Carmi. That color pops right out at you.

I think we are losing our sense of place. I've lived in four cities in two countries, and while their geographic settings are different, in terms of businesses and day-to-day life, they're becoming more and more similar all the time.

I'm sad when the small local places close down, both for the loss of diversity and for the loss of someone's dream.

Plus, it's a pain when you're looking for something that the buyers at the big chains have decided isn't worth carrying and there just aren't any other local options. But it's interesting that there seem to be small independent online businesses filling in those gaps.

kenju said...

Over the past 39 years that I have lived here, we have lost so many local places. They've been overtaken by chain restaurants and big box stores, and it makes me sad. I am part of the problem, though, since I shop at the newer places.

Star said...

What must have been the last neighborhood drugstore in these parts gave way recently. To a daycare center at least. With RiteAid and CVS on every orner around here, a single pharmacy cannot compete.

R. Sherman said...

I haven't had decent Souvlaki in ages. As for a sense of place, you are correct. We moan the homogenization of our lives, but yet, we seem to do nothing to address it, sacrificing the unique for the ubiquitous. Sad, really.


Anonymous said...

How could you resist Greek diner food? Not even a Greek Salad? Some grilled Chicken?

Too bad the Greeks are being replaced by a homogenized landscape.

Corporate food sucks.
Corporate coffee sucks (and it's beans are burnt).

Jean-Luc Picard said...

It's individual places like these we need.

Megan said...

Well. *Sigh*

I always thought I grew up in the wrong century. I would have liked to lived in the 40's - 50's, when times were simple. At least that's what they seemed.

I'm not from a big city or anything like that, but to see farm fields grow to strip malls and Wal-Marts, it kinda like putting a stamp of society in out area. "Shop here, no, Shop here". I'm sick of the "Man", personally, what happened to the Mom and Pop shops???

Shephard said...

Some parts of LA are losing their feel/look. But superstores are not allowed in LA County for this very reason, so a lot of mom-n-pop places are thriving. Thankfully.

LA has a bazillion Sammy's type places, as you probably know. I think I'd have gone there just for the pitas. :)


sister AE said...

I can totally relate to this! One of the first local restaurants I came recognize when I started living in the greater Boston area was Buzzy's Roast Beef. You could see it right from the Red Line where it was above ground to cross the Charles River.

I never ate there, but my friends and I surmised it owed no small amount of its popularity to its visibility on that busy corner and the fact that they were open until some o-dark-hundred hour of the night. Good for catching a bite after the bars closed, and all.

Eventually they closed and now instead of the little diner-look hole-in-the-wall is a 6- or 7-story generic-type building.

LZ Blogger said...

Carmi ~
I've never heard of Sammy's but I love the sign and your shot of it! It's like a menu of things I love to eat!

Thank you for your "more than kind" words on my blog. I am truly happy that people find such joy in it. By the way, there is no need to lurk... JUST ENJOY! That's why I do it! Thanks again! ~ jb///

CAROLYN said...

Yes we are losing it! It's these kind of things that defined a place. You were drawn to it yourself while looking for a place to live, no?

It's a shame to see the backbone businesses of our lands crumbling to the "cheap plastic, made in China" society.

rashbre said...

Tricky one. If the places are there, then they also need the custom. Sometimes supporting the local guy is part of activism.

Herete Cairete.


Superchai said...

It's interesting that you say that because I know here in the A2 the campus has actually gotten rid of all the fast food joints in town, and most people around here tend to go to the local eateries. But that doesn't mean that there aren't starbucks galore around town.

MissMeliss said...

Are we losing our sense of place?

I think we are. When we moved from CA to TX I certainly expected far more culture shock than I actually experienced - one major metro area is pretty much like another.


If you go a few miles outside you can still find those regional flavors and identities.

Moi said...

it must be tough for around-the-corner shops to keep up with the corporate giants......and it's not happening out here only in North America. As these corporates get global, they literally sallow the mom-and-pop stores in other countries too..........making the whole world one giant, standardized, McDonald's-eating, Coke sipping, Walmart-shopping "family"!!!!!!!