A decade or more ago, I had to drive through Lawrenceville to get from work in Oakland to my home in the North Hills. I stopped every day at the same traffic light on Butler Street, where I lusted after this building on the corner. I wanted that building with such a passion… I had huge plans for that building. I would renovate the street level floor and open some sort of shop (the type of shop changed, depending on my interests at the time). I’d live on the upper floors or rent them out.
Since then, someone with more money than I purchased that building and renovated it, but I can still own that building in my mind and fantasize about running a business on the first floor. I can imagine who the residents are in the apartments on the upper floors.
Lawrenceville has always fascinated me. I have visited many of the shops on Butler. Shops like Espresso a Mano, owned
by Matt, who always welcomes my questions about coffee making. The Crystal Bead Bazaar (under new management), where I can browse through many strands of colored beads. Pusadee’s Garden, which serves delicious Thai food in a funky setting, including a side garden. And that’s just a sample of the places I enjoy visiting.
The varied shops are just the tip of the iceberg – immersing myself in getting to know the shop owners and their stories, and the residents (all of whom have a story), the history of the places, the changes – the personality of the community itself.
Each time I walk down the street I feel welcome, like I’m a part of the neighborhood. And historically, my family was part of Lawrenceville. My grandparents ran a deli on Penn Avenue in lower Lawrenceville. My grandfather told me many stories of that shop, now long gone.
When I visit Lawrenceville, I’m not just visiting – I’m coming home, even though I’ve never lived there.