When I worked for The Roanoke Times in the late 1960s, the City Market was one of those place you didn’t venture into after dark. Drug dealers and prostitutes dominated the market square.
No more. Today, Roanoke’s Market in the Sqaure is a thriving district of art galleries, speciality shops and restaurants.
On a warm Saturday afternoon, the first day of Spring, we found the market packed with shoppers and tourists, living proof that an area can take a seedy, run-down area and turn it around.
At the Market, old mixes with new. You can sit in Roanoke’s Weiner Stand and nosh on a chili dog while using your laptop to tap into the city’s free Wi-Fi network. Farmers still sell their wares in the open-air market but tap their sales into PDAs. Roanoke’s Market in the Square also seems to attract runaway kids.
We noticed several with their backpacks asking people if they knew where they could crash for the night or find some food.
"Yeah, we get a lot of runaways here," one merchant said. "This place seems to attract them. On another corner, a homeless woman with all of her belongings in a shopping cart panhandled for spare change from passers-by. She said her name was Margaret and the market has been her home "since the old days." Some things don’t change.