Ghost town renegade
An owner of 93-year-old store stands tall as the neighborhood dies around him
Published: August 24, 2011
"You've got to know who's going to be buying your stuff," she says. "Nobody in this neighborhood is going to spend $5, but they will spend 55 cents for a bobber. If I price it at $5, none of my customers here in this neighborhood will buy it."
She's got worms, hooks, bobbers; all on the cheap for people who still dare to fish out of the river that passes by all the factories on the shore.
He was that kid from the neighborhood who was always hanging around.
Daron Colbert, now 11, started showing up when he was just 5 years old. "He used to be known as 'dirt baby'," Dorothy says. "We had a pile of dirt and he would roll in it, and he would be so dirty."
Colbert started asking them for things to do around the shop. Dorothy refused. "When you're 5 and you're playing in a pile of dirt you don't really get a job," she says. "But he talked to my son and said, 'One day I'm gonna work here.' At 5 years old."
He hung around the store because it's the one hub of normal activity near him. His house, just down the street, has fields for its neighbors. He can't exactly wander onto Zug Island to play, and the empty houses that dot the blocks provide their own dangers, like the menacing man who leaped out of a vacant home one time, trying to snatch him and his fleeing friends.
"We don't have playgrounds, we don't have schools, we have kids walking around," Dorothy says. "This is not a safe neighborhood for them to be walking around."
So the couple eventually found little odd jobs for him to do around the shop. "He waters my plants, he helps me take out garbage, he helps detail boats, whatever he can do, and I pay him off in Slim Jims and Doritos," Dorothy says.
He's got a kid's-eye view of Delray, the perspective of someone who's never known a real neighborhood. "I like living here, but I think it needs more houses," Colbert says. "They need to build some stuff. We've got a lot of empty lots around."
The adults, though, know those lots are here to stay. "The odds of this area really coming back single-family residential, as much as I'd like to see it, ain't happening," Dave says. "There's no way I'm going to convince a young couple to come down here and buy a house for whatever price, and raise a family with all the different smells."
Yet he stays. And though the neighborhood may be dying, Dave still treats those left like neighbors, including the elderly people nearby who call him to fix little things in their battered old homes, including the dirty kid who needed someplace safe where he could sometimes hang out.
"The people that are left here are pretty much people that have been here their whole life, so they know Lockeman's, they know us," he says, standing outside as the summer heat stirs the sour air. "The neighborhood watches out for me, and I watch out for the neighborhood."
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