Cedar Springs Road wasn't always the heart of Dallas gayborhood. Until Richard Longstaff, a British expat, opened Union Jack in 1971, there probably wasn't a gay-owned business on the block, according to a 2011 Dallas Voice article.
It was, the paper reported, surrounded by pool halls, grocery stores, a bookstore specializing in Texas history, and an arrow-straight beer joint. When Longstaff put go-go boys and a drag queen in his store window for gay pride, the bar's owners called the cops.
Most of those businesses are long gone. Union Jack, though, has been a constant, an anchor for the LGBT-oriented businesses that came to dominate the strip. It even played a bit role in LGBT legal history when Longstaff waged a legal battle against the U.S. government for denying him citizenship on the grounds that homosexuality equated to "psychopathic personality." He ultimately lost the case.
But Union Jack will soon be no more. The Voice reported yesterday that the clothing store is closing.
"It has been a wonderful experience, watching all the changes that have taken place on Cedar Springs during this period and history being made," he wrote in an email to the paper.
The changes have been coming rather quickly of late. In the last 10 months, the strip has lost two other mainstays: Nuvo, which decamped for a smaller spot a couple of blocks away, and Buli, which is shutting down.
When Union Jack shuts its doors in about a month, it will leave Round-Up Saloon, age 33, as the oldest business on the block.
"We hate to see old businesses go that have been there so long," Round-Up co-owner Alan Pierce says. "[Longstaff]'s been a major contributor to the economy of this block."
That said, Pierce doesn't agree with those who are bemoaning Cedar Spring's demise. He sees the churn on the block as a natural evolution rather an indication of some fundamental shift in the character of the block. Old businesses close, and new businesses take their place. His business, he says, is as strong as its ever been.
Pierce hopes -- and expects -- that new restaurants and retail will take the space of the departed businesses, thus generating the foot traffic the strip needs to thrive.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.