“There’s a recurring metaphor people use with Cherokee Street: roller coasters. A century ago, electric streetcars transformed it from flats and houses to a shopping district with jewelers, saloons, theaters, confectioneries, tailors, shoe shops, an ice rink, and six dry-goods shops. Later, there was a Woolworth’s, a J.C. Penney, a Proper Shoe, taverns, union halls, jewelry stores, sandwich shops and places to drop off your dry cleaning.
Then came the first downward roll.
Cherokee cycled through upswings and downswings, but always had a spirit to it, even when it was filled with empty storefronts. At its nadir in the ’90s and early aughts, Antique Row still anchored the street east of Jefferson Avenue. West of the Indian statue, there was El Chico Bakery, Aboriginals, The Record Exchange, the first Way Out Club, and Two Pink Brains, which held tiny raves in the garage of the building now occupied by Snowflake. Wat Buddhamanee Ratanaram Buddhist temple and Franciscan Connection are still in their original storefronts. That’s the thing—people of different ages and colors and cultures and backgrounds live and work and shop side-by-side here, sometimes a little uneasily. But at least they mix. It gives you hope for the rest of the city, where lines seem to be more rigidly drawn.”