evan and the mayorThe WEEKLY Editor Evan Markfield and Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt outside of Vespa.
Lots of folks talk up the downtown area and its crucial role in the vitality of Chapel Hill. But talk is cheap. Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt is putting his money where his mouth is, and he was nice enough to let The WEEKLY tag along last week.
With Town Council on summer break, Kleinschmidt started his own hyper-local (and fashionably unwieldy) Twitter hashtag #everydowntownchapelhilllunchspot, for his quest to visit every downtown lunch eatery. I don't feel like it's too Pollyanna of me – even if perhaps it is – to declare that this is a pretty cool idea. I know, I know ... The mayor visits all our restaurants! How mayoral! Still, it's no light undertaking. A quick perusal of Chapel Hill Magazine’s dining guide will tell you there are more than 50 downtown restaurants.
And with Kleinschmidt estimating he spends $10-12 at lunch, that’s roughly a one-man business infusion of more than $500 this summer.
That is, presuming that he finishes during the summer as originally planned. When we went to Vespa – where we both enjoyed some delicious lamb burgers that were on special – the mayor could still count on his fingers the number places he had been.
It was a fun, tasty, social experience – just like any good lunch should be. We talked about everything from who might replace Penny Rich on council to what movies we’d seen recently. It made me realize: When I grab lunch downtown, I never have a bad time. (Of course, I’m not sending myself on a mission to do it every afternoon.)
Yes, it’s not always convenient to get downtown. We’re a sprawly little town, and old strip-mall habits die hard when faced with issues like parking (which has gotten much better, by the way). Also, ever since the mayor moved into a downtown office, he probably has easier access on a daily basis than the average Chapel Hillian.
But his effort to get out there – and publicize it over social media – sets a good example. If we want a healthy, vibrant downtown – at any time of day – we should follow the mayor's lead. He's doing his part in promoting downtown. Shouldn't the rest of us? TW