NoDa comes together in response to crisis

A little over a year ago, I wrote an article for the NoDa News about Guy E. Suddreth, the namesake for a short street in the 28206 corner of the neighborhood. That article evolved into a nostalgic look into the past of North Charlotte, based upon an interview with Mr. Suddreth’s sons, Richard and Frank, at the home of his grandson, neighbor Brian Suddreth.

Needless to say, a lot has changed in the past year. In many respects, our way of life has been turned upside down in just the past two months. There are numerous rational reasons to despair about how COVID-19 is wreaking havoc worldwide and in our own community. But the required and utterly necessary social isolation has also altered how we relate to one another in our little corner of the world. While we can’t get closer than six feet or congregate with larger groups of our friends and neighbors, many of us have imagined new ways we can help, support, and comfort each other.

In my March 2019 NoDa News article, I wrote, “In addition to offering typical grocery items for its customers, [the Suddreth family’s] Staton Grocery also specialized in acquiring hard to find or newer items for the community.”

Here in NoDa, one local business evolved literally overnight to help meet the needs of neighbors struggling with COVID-19-related food insecurity. On March 22, 2020, local journalist Melissa Oyler wrote in Charlotte Five, “The NoDa Company Store + Grocery will sell fresh vegetables, fruits, pastas, rice, spices, butters — and growlers. This lets people get everything they need in the center of the neighborhood. ‘Plus, we think people are going to start to miss craft beer,’ [co-owner Joey] Hewell said.”

“Think: Like a small, neighborhood New York City grocer with a selection of provisions. Avid cooks themselves, [co-owner Scott] Lindsley and Hewell will help you if you are clueless in the kitchen. They will offer up recipes and cooking tips, tell you what to buy and all ingredients will be available at the market. They’ll teach cooking lessons via Facebook Live.”

Just like the Staton Market of old, The Company Store quickly evolved to meet the food and beverage needs of the community in this time of fear and uncertainty.

In my 2019 article, we reported that during the 1940s, “Guy Suddreth hand[ed] sandwiches and other supplies from his store to soldiers onboard trains heading off to serve in World War II”. Similarly, three weeks ago, the Hearts Beat as One Foundation stepped up to begin providing regular free lunches on 36th Street for people in the service industry who have lost their jobs and income during this crisis. Just like Mr. Suddreth feeding hungry soldiers 75 years ago, the foundation found a simple way to meet some of the food needs of the workers who are the backbone of our community.

Writing the 2019 NoDa News article, I mused that: “All of these stories took me back to an earlier, simpler time. One can only wonder what the average mill villager would think of our current neighborhood…”

I believe that the North Charlotte community of the 1940s would be proud of NoDa’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. Here are just a handful of the many positive steps that neighbors have taken to help each other through this difficult time.

  • Numerous restaurants, shops, and breweries have shifted to online ordering, curbside pickup, and home deliveries.
  • Neighbors near us have begun sharing vegetable seeds and starter plants in anticipation of spring planting time.
  • Other neighbors are creating and/or expanding garden beds, increasing their capacity to feed their families and friends while fresh food is in shorter supply.
  • One of our neighbors offered to do a farm pickup for others, helping both their friends and local small farmers who are struggling after the closure of restaurants and some farmers markets.
  • A few days ago, a talented 9-year-old violinist played a socially distanced early evening concert to entertain our neighborhood, after his recital was cancelled.
  • A few friends celebrated a neighbor’s birthday with a socially distanced champagne toast and rousing rendition of Happy Birthday.
  • Neighbors have shared homemade bread, muffins, covered dishes, and other treats both with their friends and with less fortunate people in our immediate vicinity.
  • People are placing teddy bears and other stuffed animals in street-facing windows to create a scavenger hunt for neighborhood children.
  • Neighbors have begun hauling out and re-attaching their outdoor holiday lights, vowing to keep them up until the health crisis is resolved.

In spite of the vast differences between 1940s North Charlotte and 2020 NoDa, if previous generations could see our community’s response to this health crisis, they would probably say, “Well done, neighbor!”

Let’s continue to love, support, and share with each other through the upcoming struggles, which we all face together. Stay strong NoDa!