There’s a debate raging in the Elmwood Village that has pitted a handful of people against Globe Market. And my intentions with this post is to attempt to bring the issue to light, so that we can all get back to the business of living in a neighborly fashion. The dilemma that I am referring to began to heat up during the Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Some nearby residents accused the owner of Globe Market of sequestering the public micropark in front of the market, to use solely for her own purposes. The problem arose when Globe Market put out planters at the entranceway to the park, rearranged some furniture, and put out a sandwich board sign that read, “Welcome To Our Courtyard.”
Some people took offense to the wording of the sign by igniting a fiery thread on social media, calling the owner of Globe out for attempting to claim that the micropark belonged to Globe, and that no one else was welcome. I read the thread, and was astounded that the issue had reached the point where some commentors were talking about organizing a boycott of Globe (similar to what happened at Jimmy John’s). Thankfully there was another voice in the thread that suggested that people were overreacting, and that the unpleasant sentiments towards Globe were out of control. Here is that voice:
“This courtyard belongs to them, just as much as it belongs to the rest of us. They do a great job maintaining it. I have gotten food from other places and sat at the tables they purchased and used the napkins they provide and have never once been asked to leave. This is a great business that we should be supporting not criticizing because they are lucky enough to be next to a public courtyard that they are prideful of. Leave Globe Market alone.”
I was born in the Elmwood Village. I owned a business on Elmwood for 13 years. I have sat on the board of Forever Elmwood (now the Elmwood Village Association). I’ve been an activist for Elmwood for most of my life. I was around when this park in question was known as “Needle Alley” – back in the day, this is where drug dealers would hang out. When an arrangement was struck with Globe Market, to construct a building in the back of the lot, and to essentially help to keep an eye on the micropark up front, it was a great day for The Elmwood Village. Over the years, Alice Eoannou (current owner) has done exactly that – she has maintained the park to the best of her ability. Now, a sandwich board (and planters) has ignited a skirmish between a few residents and the owner.
I spoke to Alice’s husband Tommy Eoannou who could not believe that the problem had escalated to the point where some people were threatening to organize a boycott of the market. He told me that Alice pays for the plants, the sealing of the entire patio, mulch, tables, and picks up all of the litter that people leave behind.
The issue continued to escalate when a thirteen year old girl was asked to pack up her cookie stand at the Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts, because she was accused of selling cookies for Globe. For the Eoannous, that was the last straw – at that point Alice became defensive as she was accused of encroaching her business into the park.
“The thirteen year old girl interned at Globe,” said Tommy. “She is a baking prodigy. “Alice, to boost her confidence, offered her a stand, and paid for the permit. The young lady worked a full week baking her cookies. It was just a good deed, to give her confidence – she was not selling cookies for Globe, she was selling her glutton free, vegan cookies.”
In the heat of the moment (in response to the accusation), Alice responded that she did not need the entire Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts sitting at her tables (assumedly taking a load off and not supporting the business). I find that understandable during a weekend that should be profitable for a business, as well as the artists. When I co-founded the festival, the premise was that the businesses should prosper as much as the visiting artists.
At this stage in the game, I would think that the best course of action would be to de-escalate the issue, which has unfortunately gotten out of control. Globe Market is a great business that has done marvelous things for the street. It is understandable that Alice feels responsible for the park, as it is the only entranceway to her business. If the word “our” in the sandwich board has become a thorn in the side of some people, I would step back and take a breather. This park was once a thorn in the side of the neighborhood. I spent years cleaning it up with Ward Pinkel from Urban Threads. In order to draw attention to the park, I held concerts there. Never in a million years did I think that some day the park would be as beautiful and productive as it is today, partially thanks to presence of Globe Market.
“Alice spends between $2500 and $3000 a year plus her labor and employees’ labor keeping it up,” commented Tommy. “She has been physically accosted twice while cleaning up in the morning this year alone (one time suffering an arm injury). She’s picked up everything from broken glass to dirty condoms. She’s proud of the park, and the way that it has transformed over the years.”
This issue between Globe and a few residents came to a head at the festival. Now, I’m hoping that we can settle this peacefully, by being understanding of the situation at hand. Alice will continue to take care of the park, for the benefit of Globe Market, and for the benefit of the neighborhood. Everyone is welcome to sit there, no matter what they are eating. The word “our” should not start a war. If I was the one taking care of the park, I would have a small sense of ownership. Actually, I did take care of the park, and I still have a sense of ownership. Back then, the problem/question was always, “Who will ultimately be the caretaker of the public micropark?” We all know that the City won’t take care of it, so it has been left to Alice and Globe. Not many people probably think of that. But I do. I think back to the days of Needle Park, and am very thankful that this park – our park – has become such a beautiful and vibrant public amenity at the heart of Elmwood Avenue.