Fowled Out

Does City Hall's rooster ban signal the end of old Oak Cliff? Rose Farley goes to the front lines of a cultural war that threatens to turn the 'hood into something truly heinous...North Dallas

"That's exactly right," Kenneth Cross, the owner, chimes in. He winces at any talk of roosters, not to mention Starbucks, whose upcoming entry into the neighborhood just might put him out of business. Ever since Miller decided Starbucks was good for Oak Cliff, Cross says, he's tried to get her to taste his coffee. He's waved at her as she's driven past in her Mercedes-Benz. He's called her office, left messages, pleaded to get her attention.

"I've even left a bag of Oak Cliff coffee on her steps," he says. "I hope it was the right house." Anyway, he says, the point is, Oak Cliff already has independently owned businesses that give the place a neighborly feel that chain stores just can't deliver.

Indeed, trying to get representatives of the Seattle-based coffee giant to discuss why they've chosen to venture into the Cliff--a move that follows store openings in Harlem, Kuwait, and even Beijing--can mean battling a corporate bureaucracy staffed by a small army of PR people. After one spokesperson recently revealed to the Dallas Observer that the company planned to open an Oak Cliff store within the next nine months, another spokesperson followed up, worried that the first spokesperson had said too much. Days later, the company announced its plans to open the store in a Dallas Morning News article.

At the Oak Cliff Coffee House, Cross points to the kind of marketing glitches you're going to find at his place. It's the chalkboard he's just hung to advertise the coffee flavors of the day.

"Look. This sign is crooked, and we're going to leave it that way. That wouldn't happen at Starbucks."

Adam recalls that his dad used to say that Oak Cliff is like a beautiful woman who has never looked in the mirror.

Dalton the attorney comments that if Oak Cliff is laid-back, North Dallas is paranoid. "I have friends who come down here from North Dallas, and they're just petrified. They think they're going to get shot and raped," he says. "I got robbed four times in North Dallas. I figured when I came down here, my God, I'm going to be robbed every day. Hell, I've never had a problem."

But the area's perceived image as a shooting gallery isn't stopping new businesses from moving in. A few blocks west on Hampton, the walls of a new Albertson's store are going up a stone's throw from the brand-new Tom Thumb and another new Eckerd store that's already open for business, 24 hours a day. Across the street, construction crews put the finishing touches on a Hollywood Video store that will finally give the nearby Blockbuster some competition.

As these anchor businesses spread their wings in Oak Cliff, they are building a commercial nest to which upscale stores like Starbucks will soon flock. It isn't hard to imagine that the old places and their loyal customers who live in the heart of Oak Cliff will be a thing of the past.

With Mayor Kirk committed to bringing new business into the "southern sector," and with Councilwoman Miller committed to making them trendy, and with millions from bond projects like the Trinity River renewing Oak Cliff's long-neglected infrastucture, the old 'hood may never be the same--whether its residents like it or not.

Yes, there's a new day dawning in Oak Cliff. But the rooster won't be there to greet it.

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