Monday, August 8, 2016

Tate Street: Evolving to serve a changing community

Tate Street, UNCG's original "campus strip" was originally two streets: Tate Street north of Walker Avenue and Lithia Street to the south. By 1923, when most of the area's commercial development was beginning, both sections shared the same name. The shopping area was targeted at a pedestrian population and included chain grocery stores such as Pender's (330 Tate Street), Piggly Wiggly (337 Tate Street), and Bi-Rite (403 Tate Street); Franklin Drugs (401 Tate Street); Hart's Hardware and Appliances (336 Tate Street); and the Donut Dinette (332 Tate Street). The Victory Theatre, later the Cinema, operated in the now-abandoned building at 326 Tate Street that most recently housed Addams University Bookstore.

As the adjacent Woman's College grew, the Tate Street "strip" became more campus-oriented. Longtime tenants such as The Corner, a soda fountain and variety store located at the corner of Tate Street and Walker Avenue and The College Shop, a clothing store across the street at 413 Tate Street, anchored the district. By the 1950s, Bi-Rite was the only remaining grocer, but it was still offering a full range of meats and produce through the early 1980s, when it was replaced by the current convenience store at the site.

Tate Street, 1963,
from Greensboro City Directory
As Woman's College became the coeducational University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 1963, and as campus attitudes liberalized throughout the decade, Tate Street began to see the appearance of bars and other nightspots. Among the earliest were the original Joker's 3 at 449 Tate Street, a converted house that had previously housed a women's clothing store, and the Apple Cellar, a coffeehouse located in the basement of the Apple House diner. Later in the 1960s, the area in front of Brown Building, then home to the UNCG School of Music, would become known as "Hippie Hill", a hangout for the psychedelic generation that caused university and city officials much consternation.

In 1971, the Apple House diner, which had been the site of segregation battles, was replaced by Hong King House, a Chinese restaurant that served vegetarian dishes; this space is now Boba House. Nearby, Friar's Cellar, a much-loved wine shop and small grocery store began a several-decade run in the building at 334 Tate Street that now houses Tate Street Coffee. Around the same time, the row of shops of the east side of Tate Street added a new, unified façade as part of a project to "modernize" the street and give it more the feel of a suburban shopping center. This was also the genesis of the unusual parking arrangement on the street. Franklin Drugs relocated around this time to a new two-story building with a small parking garage attached at 948 Walker Avenue.

Next door to Bi-Rite in 1971 was a restaurant called Pizzaville (407 Tate Street) that would by the end of the decade be transformed into Friday's, a restaurant by day and venue for new alternative bands by night that hosted some of the earliest performances by R.E.M. and the Violent Femmes as well as local acts like Treva Spontaine and the Graphics. Friday's closed on 11 December 1983 with an unannounced performance by R.E.M., who by this time had "outgrown" the small club and were generally playing in larger venues. Subway and Leon's Style Salon now occupy the space,

Tate Street, ca. 1971
With Friday's and the dawn of the 1980s, Tate Street became a very active area for nightlife and live music in general. The old Piggly Wiggly, later a clothing store called The Cupboard, now became New York Pizza. The Apple Cellar coffeehouse became the Nightshade Café, another live music venue. Upon its closing in the early 1980s, the Cinema Theatre was replaced by the House of Pizza Cinema, a restaurant and bar that featured stereo broadcasts of the new MTV Music Television channel on multiple monitors. Also on the street were the Belstone Fox (329 Tate Street), a bar and live music venue, and Mr. Rosewater's, a restaurant and bar located in the former home of the original Joker's Three. Around 1983, the College Shop closed and was replaced by the Galaxy video arcade.

Recorded music was also a big part of Tate Street's appeal, starting with the opening of the Record Exchange (330 Tate Street), one of the first record stores in Greensboro specializing in independent and imported releases as well as used records and tapes. In 1983, Platterpus Records opened at 335 Tate Street as Greensboro's first record rental store; this short-lived format allowed customers to rent records, which were then sold as used merchandise. Record companies were incensed due to the potential for piracy. Copying of a different sort was facilitated by one of the state's first Kinko's locations, which opened around 1984 in the old Franklin Drug location at 401 Tate Street.

There was new construction on Tate Street in the 1980s as well, including a the block of shops at 427-435 Tate Street that initially included a Burger King and a Ben and Jerry's ice cream shop. This block of stores replaced a large old abandoned house and is now home to Coffeeology and Don Japanese Restaurant.  Around 1990, the building next door, which had housed the original Joker's Three and had later served as Mr. Rosewater's and The Edge nightclub was torn down for a relocated and expanded Kinko's, which remains there today as FedEx Office.

Nightspots became less common on Tate Street once the national drinking age was raised to 21 beginning in 1985 and the strip entered something of a decline even in the midst of a gentrification in the surrounding neighborhood. The House of Pizza Cinema closed and was replaced by Addams University Bookstore in the late 1980s; Addams closed around 2013.

Restaurants are now more common that bars on Tate Street. There is now a Qdoba located in the former Hop-In convenience store and a Jimmy John's where the College Shop once operated. New York Pizza is still open, though it closed briefly after a fire several years ago. A succession of Mexican restaurants have occupied what was formerly office space about the 1970s Franklin Drug location facing Walker Avenue, and Sushi Republic now occupies a former gas station at the northeastern edge of the strip.

Tate Street has proved to be very adaptable in its service of the adjacent campus and community.

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