Has Wards Corner turned the corner?

By: John Knight

Does Wards Corner feel a little different to you?  It feels that way to me.  When I first shopped at Wards Corner eight years ago, I sensed there was something special about this place.  One year later, I made one of the biggest decisions of my life by opening a business here.  The potential was enormous, in location and demographics.  Wards Corner was the “Times Square of the South”, the busiest intersection in Norfolk, with over 60,000 cars passing through each day.  I saw blacks, whites, asians, hispanics and every color of the rainbow walking around here.  The customers ranged from the destitute to the well-healed. Multi-BILLION DOLLAR Dollar Tree started right here.  What a golden opportunity!

So, I opened The Book Exchange.  Within a month in my shopping center, Lillian Vernon was gone.  Soon Coffease closed, then Uncle Louie’s, then Foot Locker, then a couple beauty salons, then Steckroth’s, then Simply Fashions.  Then the vandals struck.  Then a lack of building maintenance led to peeling paint and frequent floods from above and below.  Well, the good news was that we had plenty of parking…

Luckily my overhead is low and my faith is strong.  We have always been blessed with good customers and staff.  And lately, it seems that those were the proverbial low points.

Take a look at Wards Corner NOW!  The TIDE of trash has been picked up one piece at a time by people like Laura Thom, who has organized a multitude of cleanups. Now, Wards Corner businesses are expanding, while others are moving in for their shot at the American Dream- mind you, in a time when most shopping centers are suffering the effects of the “Great Recession”.

If you have not been to Wards Corner in the past couple months, come see a few of the changes:  AJ Gators has a beautiful new location in the old Wherehouse Music store, ATC Fitness did an amazing remodel job on the old Lillian Vernon store and opened in record time.  Our landlord sanded and painted our light poles.  As I pulled out of our parking lot today, I noticed a new cell phone store across the street.  What will tomorrow bring?  I’m thinking positively.  So, if you have an idea for a business in one of the few vacant spots that are left in Wards Corner, consider acting NOW!  Try to visual what the founders of Dollar Tree saw here.  I GUARANTEE you, Wards Corner is still a goldmine!!!


8 Responses to Has Wards Corner turned the corner?

  1. Questionable says:

    BRAVO!!!!!!! It is so refreshing to read an upbeat and positive attitude about this infamous corner. I’ve always believed that Wards Corner could be grand again, even without that comp. plan. All it takes is great attitudes and people who refuse to look the other way. Stand up, take pride and promote!!!! Again…..BRAVO!!!!!!

  2. Dal Paull says:

    Did you cc: the Virginian-Pilot with your letter? Please do.

  3. Angela says:

    I am happy for you Mr. Knight for your positive thoughts about Wards Corner (WC). Obviously you are not a resident of WC. As a life long resident of WC, I have watched the demise of this great community. Last night while driving home around midnight, I witnessed something I thought had left when Nutty Buddies closed. (I do not drive around WC late at night) Two PROSTITUTES were working in front of the strip shopping center next to 7-11 and one PROSTITUTE was across the street by the Bondale apartments.

    Yes, one part of WC may be looking better but we should not forget all of WARDS CORNER. Do we actually have this area policed for this activity or is it legal?

  4. Gary A. says:

    Angela, Guess I am not the only one that has noticed the Transgendered Hookers still working the “corner”
    I have mentioned it several times to the police and “Norfolk Cares” hot line. In fact I commented about it last night to the ” Wards Corner Now ” Meeting announcement here online but have not heard anything back . Are you going to the meeting Saturday Morning at the fitness center?

  5. JINNIE says:

    I applaud your sentiment. I wish I could share it. The largest employer in wards corner is the welfare office and the anchor store is a bar. Short of bulldozing the whole area is really couldn’t be much worse. Actually come to think of it that really would be an improvement. The difference between you and me is you rent here and get to go home at night. I own a house here and am stuck in this horrible nightmare.

  6. betty says:

    I have to agree w/ Jinnie. I have been a resident for 45 years and would contemplate a business there but…..there is no incentive and NOTHING to intice me there!

  7. Fawn Leibowitz says:

    This guy must have been high when he wrote that. The Crossroads of the South will never attain it’s former glory because it can’t. The people that made WC a desirable location fled the City years ago for points east, south, and west. So if you want to be happy, lower your expectations.

  8. Mishy says:

    I have a question. Do you know what is up with a) that ginormous empty former steakhouse next to you, and b) the two-sided empty deli on the other side of you? That empty area really puts a damper on the locations over there. I would love to open a restaurant in the smaller location but it is scary what with all the vacant shops around it.

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