How Carytown Escaped from Depression
After the Willow Lawn Shopping Center was built in the 1950’s, business along Cary St. began to slow down. The people of Richmond found more parking and larger department stores at Willow Lawn, and found spending their money there to be more convenient. This led to something of a depression on Cary St. that lasted into the 1970’s, when the neighborhood residents and shop owners decided to do something about it.
So, a plan was put in place, and action was taken. First, an off-duty police officer was hired to patrol the area, using funds collected from folks around the neighborhood. This immediately cut down the petty crime that had riddled the area. Second, the store owners petitioned the city for two new parking decks that would allow more potential customers to come to Carytown easily. The efforts were successful, and the parking decks were built behind the Byrd Theatre and on Crenshaw Avenue.
In 1974, there was a vote to re-brand the neighborhood. ‘Carytown’ received the highest number of votes, and the name we know today was born. The new name fostered a sense of community among the residents and shop, something that still resonates now. And finally, in 1983 began an annual sidewalk sale. During the sale, stores are invited to move their goods out onto the sidewalk and street to entice pedestrians. Over the last 30 years, this sale has grown and morphed into the annual Carytown Watermelon Festival, one of the largest single-day festivals in the state of Virginia, held every August.
All the while, Carytown kept its quirkiness. Said Mrs. Draucker, the owner of Ellman’s Dancewear, in 2001: “We deliberately didn’t declare Carytown an historic area. This way, you want to paint your shop purple, hey it’s yours, paint it purple.”
A sentiment you can still see today!
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