Sandra Walker

Listening to Sandra Walker, there isn’t a doubt in my mind that this perky tarheel miss must have been an Edneyville High ball of fire. That red hair tinsels and those eyes twinkle as she rapid fires her adventures, “I was in everything I could be in; athletics, sports, basketball, chorus, FHA and Junior Marshall my junior year.” Today, with that same enthusiasm, she does flowers.

I stopped by one summer afternoon to ask Sandra how things were getting along on 7th Avenue, once the only business district in Hendersonville. In that section of town, Mrs. Walker knows what’s going on, past and present. Now the owner of Southern Traditions Florist on 7th Avenue, she has been donating lots of her time to the non-profit Historic 7th Avenue District and to the Merchants Association. It was interesting to hear the stories of businesses old and new. Some had colorful owners. All, including Wilson Pharmacy’s soda fountain (located where Sandra’s flower shop is now) left early Henderson County residents with life long memories, great experiences that Sandra Walker believes should not be relegated to faded photo albums. 7th Avenue has a place in modern Hendersonville history and she and other visionaries tirelessly pursue that goal.

To their credit, this small band of urban renewalists has made quite a difference on 7th Avenue. Due to their efforts the litter has been removed, attractive lighting has been installed, sidewalk bond money was used to repair and build sidewalks and a special tax district was created to help beautify and maintain the district. According to Sandra, though, they still have a long way to go. Part of the problem is perception. There is still a perception that given 7th Avenue’s proximity to the rescue mission, federal housing and the tracks, it is a less than desirable location, location, location. That doesn’t deter 7th Avenue’s number one cheerleader.

“There is so much potential here, gift shops, barber shops the historic train depot, businesses for people of color, and they have ignored us. We need restaurants to open here. Trying to revitalize an area, that is really too large a job for a small group of business people—It should be the City Council revitalizing an area of the city with us helping them instead of visa versa. They don’t want urban sprawl to happen but yet they promote it by promoting development east of I-26 and forgetting closer in to town like here and the south end of town.”

Recent decisions by City Council have given fuel to her belief that they are ignored. Landowners have requested that all property between Four Seasons Blvd and 7th Avenue be zoned commercial so that more commercial infrastructure could be built. “Just because it is zoned commercial does not mean the homeowner has to sell, it just means that it can be used for commercial and will be worth more.”

Rules and regulations regarding the appearance and safety of buildings are being ignored. “If a property owner can’t keep up his building--no wiring, no heat, no plumbing--then he should sell it. Perhaps it could be future apartments. Condemned buildings need a certain amount of time to be fixed up or torn down. There should be a regulation against windows and doors boarded up all the time. It’s not allowed to happen on Main Street.”

Her greatest dissatisfaction, though, lies with Council’s decisions to give up approval of alcohol sales on 7th Avenue. If the truth were known, the merchants would prefer that no alcohol sales take place on 7th Avenue to discourage sidewalk consumption. Given the unlikelyhood of that happening, at the least they expect liquor sales to be carefully controlled and regulated. Sandra believes all licenses should be approved by City Council.

Despite all the trials, Sandra is still ever the optimist for her side of town. She’s been north of the Mason/Dixon line plenty of times and knows there are some good ideas there that would work here. “Keep it [growth] here, I just came back from N.Y. City—all the businesses are in the bottom, the people live up above and people walk everywhere. Let’s do that here and leave the county alone. I’m a native of here and I agree. This is the city, this is where businesses should be. Make the trolley work, put apartments upstairs, and make it work here.”

Any visionary venture capitalists out there?

Now the merchant’s goals include better lighting for better safety, encouraging merchants and property owners to keep their properties attractive, promoting 7th Avenue for future business and improving the public’s perception of 7th Avenue.



To my readers: If you ever wonder if I get comments on these columns, I do occasionally. What are your thoughts on the matter?
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*The opinions stated in this page are those of Ms. Eva Ritchey and do not necessarily represent the views of CyTech Computers & Internet Solutions, Inc.
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California Good
December 2001

Give Pigs a Chance
November 2001

Sandra Walker
October 2001

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August 2001

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