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Grand Merchants of Piedmont

During a previous walk, the Piedmont Recreation Department’s Walking on Wednesdays group was fascinated to see the construction work being done on the damaged section of Cavendish Lane. This past April the group walked to Sunnyside Avenue to see the street repair work being done. With the work recently finished, Sunnyside was selected as the day’s destination.

A group of 24 walkers and two K-9 best friends were joined by first time walker Maryann Annunziata, who Alan Goldhammer had invited. Going to Sunnyside also provided the opportunity for the walkers to go down Magnolia Avenue and get another look at the construction on the high school’s new 3-story STEAM building. Steel beams are now high in the sky and impressive.

At the foot of Magnolia it merges into Wildwood Avenue and continues to its corner with Grand Avenue. Just around this corner is Siegel’s Tuxedo Shop, owned by Holly and Michael Gardner who were on the walk. Michael invited the walkers to come into the store to meet the longtime manager, the affable Bruce Johnson. The group enjoyed seeing the fancy formal wear, but Walking on Wednesdays is very casual, so no purchases or rentals were transacted.

The history of the retail presence in this section of Piedmont was shared with the group based on a past Piedmont Post article that had reported that the expansion of Piedmont’s commercial center from Highland Avenue came after a long struggle.

In 1929 the City Council finally adopted an ordinance that allowed businesses on Grand Avenue, on the west side from the city line to Linda Avenue, and the east side from the city border to Fairview Avenue. Seven months later, voters turned down another zoning ordinance that would have allowed businesses up to Oakland Avenue. The Piedmont business district on Grand today remains the same as it was in 1929 – nominally one block.

The walkers crossed Grand and began recalling the businesses that had populated the Grand Ave. corridor. A hamburger restaurant where the Ace Garden store now stands was fondly remembered by Michael Gardner.

At the corner of Grand and Sunnyside there was once a Piggly Wiggly grocery store, followed by Foudy’s Fine Foods until 1967. When the store was torn down it became a gas station, and ultimately the current location of the Piedmont Financial Center. However, no one was old enough to remember the A Mon Chateau saloon on the corner of Grand and Linda Avenues. The building was torn down in 1936, and the walkers said they were sorry that it is gone.

The walkers turned up Sunnyside to revisit the road that was torn up when they visited in April. They found the street to be repaved and lined with beautiful trees whose leaves were still in their fall glory. The walkers emerged from Sunnyside and turned down Oakland Avenue and down the Oakland Avenue bridge, were they observed workers building rails that will make it even safer for walkers.

Crossing Grand Avenue, they went up Oakland Avenue, turned on Arbor Drive and made a loop back to Oakland Avenue on Fairview. Going one more block up Oakland Avenue, they walked the upper portion of San Carlos Avenue, one of only a few split-level streets in town. From there it was back up Magnolia to the Exedra, their starting point.

The approximately 2.5 mile walk had taken the 90 minutes that the group usually spends together. The fall weather had been good, the history and different construction projects were interesting, and the company with friends was excellent.


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