From Blight to Breakfast

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I recently wrote a column about the transformation of the building that today is the Ruby Slipper, a café serving breakfast and lunch in Mid-City.

I can clearly recall the first time I walked through the door of that building years back, and the memory is vivid because I was pretty scared.

At the time it was a place called Tony's, a minimal market that I happened upon during a beer run for a friend's Endymion parade party nearby. The walls were tagged up with spray paint turf markings. Discarded malt liquor bottles and junk food wrappers littered the ground outside. The clerk was protected from his customers by a thick pane of clear plastic. It was a tense place, and the animosity between shopkeep and patron was palpable. I couldn't wait to slide my money through the gap in the plastic shield get out of there.

A few years later I bought a house around the corner from Tony's and got to know it as a drippy, leaky, dirty place for cheap po-boys, an emergency pint of milk and hard looks from the ne'r-do-wells lingering outside on hot afternoons.

Today, I fairly skip to the same door early in the morning and I might bring my friends along by the collar to show them the place at lunchtime.

For all the grand announcements, million-dollar consultant fees and planning workshops coming along as the city rebuilds, nothing is making such a tangible difference as individuals who believe in their neighborhoods and have the drive to make them better. It's happening block-by-block as people fix up damaged houses or pry neglected properties loose from disinterested owners to give them new life. And it's happening at the corner of South Cortez and Cleveland street at the Ruby Slipper.

- Ian McNulty

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