So, big ole First Citizens Bank is trying to send little ole Joseph McDougall and his Forest Acres produce store packing.
Oh my. Not a good move.
So here’s the deal. Forest Lake Gardens is a funky place owned by an even funkier 46-year-old McDougall who leases the property from the bank. McDougall’s eye-popping set up is stretched along the backside of a parking lot. He sells everything from boiled peanuts to begonias to Big Foot statues painted bright pink. You can’t miss the place.
Now the bank is just up the way – an easy walk across the parking lot – at Trenholm Road and Forest Drive.
Never miss a local story.
And for whatever blah-blah-blah reason, the bank doesn’t want McDougall in its backyard anymore.
And so, in a letter dated Oct. 20, the bank told McDougall to pack up his peanut pot and his ceramic pumpkins and depart the premises by the end of this month.
The timing of the letter couldn’t have been more obtuse – sent some 17 days after a 1,000-year flood turned many residences and businesses in Forest Acres – including McDougall and his place – upside down and into the muddy waters of physical mess and financial wreckage.
And therein lies a lot of the rub.
What the bank likely didn’t think about when it decided to send McDougall on his merry way was what a maelstrom like a mighty flood does to the psyche of a small community, which is essentially what Forest Acres is.
The Oct. 4 flood ripped through the area and the proverbial fabric of the community was torn asunder. But then the sun came out, folks put their rubber boots on, ventured into the muck, helped each other clean up, offered shoulders to cry on and arms to carry out a lot of hard, hard work. Day after day after day.
And all during that time, the fabric of the community was being rewoven – a lot tighter than it had been before.
McDougall, who said someone from the bank wants to meet with him, put it this way on Sunday: “It slowed us down to where people thought a little more about each other. As we pass each other by every day, we’re in a hurry. Then when something like the flood happens, we slow down and we connect with each other. It’s a real blessing, really. We don’t really stop and think as much as we should.”
And that’s exactly what First Citizens Bank needs to do. Stop and think.
About what it means to be a part of a community that has taken it on the chin.
About what it means to be part of a community that is rebuilding, reweaving and trying to retain its special character.
And about what it means to embrace, rather than eject, a funky small-business owner selling boiled peanuts in its backyard.
Salley McAden McInerney is a local writer whose novel, Journey Proud, is based upon growing up in Columbia in the early 1960s. She may be reached by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.