Road trips on I-70: looking for quirky Americana? Any red dot on the map will do.

As someone who enjoys long road trips (perfectly fine if they’re solitary), I can never get enough of the small, often amusing telltale indicators of the cultural composition that distinguishes a place.  The visual shibboleths, if you will.  Venturing across Interstate 70, one of the oldest, longest, and most heavily traveled segments of the original

Crested Butte main street: a shopper’s oasis amidst the lingering retail drought.

More times than I can count, I’ve explored the country’s mismatch between the supply of retail-oriented real estate and the broader public’s demand.  We just have too many shopping centers.  And it’s always been that way.  Even in the best of times—the peak of the suburban mall during the 1970s and 80s—our historic downtown storefronts

Food trucks as an ethnic pastiche: are they the new emblem of the American dream?

For the last decade or so, it’s been not too difficult to spot a specific type of vehicle parked on the street or driveway in residential neighborhoods.  Here’s an example in a quiet lower-middle class part of Alexandria, Virginia: Yes, it’s the formerly ubiquitous (but hardly obsolete) food truck.  Before its explosion in popularity about

Maryland House: a posh new travel plaza is already running on empty.

By this point, we’ve all encountered the legions of business closures induced by COVID-prompted shutdowns of commerce and travel over the last year.  I’ve tried to avoid too much of the cynical coverage of vacancies, instead focusing on clever strategies that various storefront retailers have deployed to generate sales from a carryout vantage point, when

Summit, New Jersey: does a promenade between two buildings represent an opportunity gap?

For much of the twentieth century, it was an all-too-common occurrence: an old commercial structure in a declining downtown struggles to compete with the strip malls cropping up everywhere on the outskirts.  Over time, the old building—retail on the first floor, office or warehousing on the next two/three/four levels—becomes functionally obsolete.  It’s drafty, the plumbing