The Great and Future Office Building
Common Market South End will close on Saturday, as developers plan an office building at the site of the deli/market and bar.
Years from now, when your children ask you to tell them the story of the Great Office Building at 1515 S. Tryon St., you’ll smile and say, “My dear, it didn’t always used to be this way.”
If you’re still here, if you haven’t run off to Nashville or Austin or Washington, you’ll lean in, feeling wise as the keeper of stories, and you’ll say to your children, “My dear, before you were born, there used to be a field here. And a beautiful patio. And a deli that also sold finger puppets and cupcakes and so many good things to drink from cans, bottles and even juice boxes for you.”
You’ll pause, you’ll smile and then you’ll say, “And people would travel for miles to sit and be happy.”
Your children won’t understand, of course, because, at their young age, they can’t imagine what they can’t see.
And, even for you, it’s hard now. It’s been so long since Common Market has been here. It’s been years since you looked on at the bathroom walls and wonder how you could fit one more word in Sharpie on their surfaces. It’s nearing impossible now for you to remember how hard it was to choose a new type of beer before, in a moment of anxiety, going back to your favorite local beer from the rows of coolers.
But you try for your children. They should know the story of the Great Office Building that once was something so much more.
It’s hard remembering now how, in that field, a swarm of food trucks would encircle families sitting on blankets with their dogs each Friday as the sun set and there would be a thousand Charlotteans like you who had come here to eat tacos and ice cream from these trucks and to smile and be happy and thankful you lived in this beautiful city. And because there were so many people, you never wanted to stand in line for so long, so you would journey back across this field and happily choose a sandwich or a wrap or, if you were lucky, a plastic container of Common Market’s vegan chicken salad, all with Common Market’s distinctive font.
And then because this place was so good and true and everything you loved about Charlotte, you would choose a few beers—you could buy single beers here—and you would take them to the register to pay, and the cashiers would remind you every single time that, hey, if you go to that field over there you can’t open this until you’re over there.
And then you would wonder, “Do I want to sit in that field or do I want to sit in Common Market’s beautiful back patio and meet someone I don’t know as the sun sets as this man plays his guitar on the stage?”
You would smile then because whatever choice you made would be a good one.
And at this point, you’ve lost your children’s attention; you’re not even talking to them anymore. You’re talking to yourself, really, reminiscing with favorite memories about a place you so loved. It’s here you might feel silly, holding on to a place that hadn’t really been there here that long. But you brush that thought aside because, for you, it was a place that was special. It was so much more than just a place. It was a feeling, a quirk that you loved about Charlotte.
Now, you keep talking, this time about the night you brought your mom and her best friend from Florida here, to this patio, to first meet your boyfriend. Talking about how your family, who moved from Pennsylvania to be near you, used to spend every Christmas Eve on this patio and talk and laugh and love each other. Now, you’re just talking, in one way or another, actually, about all the people you’ve brought to Common Market throughout the years because Common Market was the perfect gathering place, the perfect introduction to this city you so loved.
You come back to reality for a bit and try to explain to your children. Common Market was like you: the young-at-heart kid in an old city, complete with writing on the wall, a love of bagged snacks and toys you could only find here.
Here is where your children will smile; they love being included in your stories. They’ll say tell me more about this Calm Market.
You’ll say, “Common Market, dear” and laugh as you tell them about the opossum that you used to see in the trees outside.
You’ll tell them this place, where the Great Office Building now stands, was a place where everyone was welcome—gay, straight, black, white, it didn’t matter. Everyone likes snacks and toys and beer and music, and this place had all of that.
Your children will be quiet for a second.
And then they’ll say, “I wish Common Market was still here.”
And then you’ll surprise them and drive them to the new location.
They’ll get out of the car, they’ll smile, you’ll smile, but then they’ll say, “It’s just not the same.”
And you’ll walk in, nod, say, “I know, dear,” and wish, just for one night, your children had the chance to sit on that beautiful patio that’s not there anymore and be happy.
Jared Misner is a writer for this magazine. Email him at Jaredsmisner@gmail.com or send him a Tweet @Jared_Misner.