I don’t get to spend enough time at home. Just ask my dog and cat who can’t seem to spend enough time with me when I get home from work. My dog, Rocky, is constantly by my side, at least until I start cooking dinner. Then he disappears until he hears some telltale sound – the plates rattling? The oven being turned off? – and he rushes back to the living area to be part of whatever meal I’ve concocted. My cat, Honda, is great too. Just ask her. Both are by my side when I put together the A.M. newsletter at night. Rocky is literally by my side, particularly lately as it has frequently been storming while I post the latest news on new restaurants coming to town. So sometimes he’s in my lap. Honda just walks back-and-forth across my keyboard creating some mysterious feline gibberish that occasionally pops up in the stories you read. In case you’re wondering, it’s a message from a tortoise-shell cat. Both seem disappointed when I finally give up and go to bed. “That’s all?” they seem to be asking.

I live in a house first owned by my great-aunt and uncle. I forget about that sometimes, but lately, after all this rain, the roses my great-aunt planted way back in 1964 come back to life. It’s a great shout-out from beyond and makes me glad to live in my neighborhood, even if I’m not there enough for my pets’ satisfaction.

I thought about home and neighborliness last week when I attended the Near Southside Inc. monthly breakfast networking event. Near Southside Inc. manages the tax increment financing district (TIF) that has helped fund improvements in the area.

I don’t always make it, but it’s always enlightening when I do. I remember when that area – basically north to Interstate 30 and Vickery Boulevard, south to Allen Street and West Arlington Avenue and east past I-35 and west around Forest Park Boulevard – was less than desirable. There were a few bars and restaurants, but only the brave and/or foolish ventured there after sunset. I grew up in the area and I only vaguely remembered when Rosedale and Eighth were viable business areas. Sure, places like the Paris Coffee Shop survived, but others didn’t make it. The TIF improvements were needed.

We should keep a “before” picture of the area in our heads all the time, so that when we head to Avoca Coffee or Spiral Diner we remember it wasn’t always like this. But the best part is that most of these businesses are all locally owned. There are a lot of coffee shops – good coffee shops, I should add – so you’ll be able to keep awake while you’re there.

At the breakfast meeting, Megan Henderson, director of Events & Communications for Near Southside Inc. said that by their count, the last 12 months and the next 6 months will deliver collectively about 103 new businesses to the Near Southside that are locally owned and operated. That’s stunning. This is like a neighborhood of Shark Tank ideas come to life. If you’re ever wistful for the good ol’ days when America wasn’t an endless sea of cookie cutter-designed fast-food joints and chain pharmacies, head down to Magnolia Avenue and check it out. If you want to get an idea of what it’s all about, check out the area’s annual Near South Shindig on May 24 at the Omni Fort Worth Hotel. It will be educational and fun as well. And, I’m pretty sure you can find a good cup o’ Joe.

At any rate, the Near Southside has turned into a great neighborhood. And even if you don’t live there, you’ll feel like a neighbor when you visit.

Robert Francis is editor of the Fort Worth Business Press.

Near Southside Inc.

www.nearsouthsidefw.org

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