Where everybody knows your name

Published 7:16 pm Monday, January 18, 2016

I am constantly astounded by the growth in North Suffolk.

Even if I don’t have appointments, I’m out and about in northern Suffolk several days a week. Nonetheless, I still get surprised.

One week, there’s a forbidding metal fence across more than half the parking lot at Hampton Roads Crossing, the shopping center that’s home to that massive Kroger Market. The next week, the fence is gone, store signs are up and news of grand openings looming.

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Skeletons of new buildings sprout overnight on the Harbour View horizon. Construction crews seem to transform empty lots into future buildings — retail space, offices, apartments and houses — within days.

I’m glad to see Suffolk prospering. I confess — I’m probably one of both Panera’s and Starbucks’ “preferred customers” in Harbour View.

And let’s face it, I love driving less than 10 miles to go shopping in the same stores I’ve had to travel longer distances to reach in Chesapeake, Norfolk or Newport News. (Remember, I’m from Chuckatuck — I’m used to driving to reach everything, especially since the Kings Highway Bridge was shut down and demolished in 2005.)

While part of me delights in Suffolk’s recent retail coups, I’ve also thought about the impact growth might be having on small businesses.

I like going to an independent pharmacy — Bennett’s Creek Pharmacy — where clerks are friends and acquaintances and if I’m running late to pick up a prescription, they will stay a few minutes late or drop the prescription off at my house.

I like going to Bennett’s Creek Market to pick up fried chicken, sandwiches and fresh, locally-grown corn in the summer. Or to buy gifts or window shop at Plum Crazy Art and A. Dodson’s … the list goes on.

We are getting some fabulous, shiny new stores and restaurants — and I have no doubt I will be at the head of the line to get in many of them.

But as Suffolk continues to grow, I hope we all take time to remember and use Suffolk’s small, locally-owned businesses, throughout the city.

There’s something good about a place where everybody knows your name.