Nancy and I made a couple of trips south this year to break up the winter. We visited South Florida in January and South Carolina in February.
We haven’t spent much time in recent years in South Florida. The economics of the area are outstanding; better than in my neck of the woods, Southeastern Pennsylvania.
First come the retirees. Retirees don’t spend lavishly, but they spend consistently. They need housing, restaurants, and services of all kinds. Then there are the vacationers. The cruise industry occupies a huge berth today with many ships based in South Florida. People on holiday spend money. The crew members may be international but the supplies for the most part, come from the U.S.
We met a cousin for dinner at Aventura Mall on a Wednesday evening at 8 p.m. The mall was packed with many middle-aged and younger people. We wondered if the kids there attended school. Are evenings at the mall part of the South Florida lifestyle? Had we gone to King of Prussia, the big mall in our area on a school night, I bet one could toss a pelota and not hit anyone. My cousin clarified it for us; the kids there were from South America, where it was summer vacation.
Let’s now “Tango” over to the Latin American influence. Many Latin American companies set up offices in Miami when establishing a US presence. Brickell Avenue serves as a hub for those businesses, as well as a nexus for US businesses serving the Latin American markets. Wealthy Latin Americans purchase second homes for cash in South Florida. They look for places that are safe, where the electricity and water work 24 hours a day, and where they can get a fair deal. The US and South Florida fit the bill.
DadeCounty, the county containing Miami, is 65% Latino. Their influence flourishes everywhere. On our way back from the Keys, we stopped for lunch in SouthwestDadeCounty. We checked out a Wynn Dixie supermarket. The labeling in each department was in both English and Spanish. We decided on a small Cuban lunch place. Everything was in Spanish. One young person who worked there spoke halting English. It could have been Habana except there were no old cars or buildings.
In February when we drove to Charleston, we stopped at Potomac Mills, a mall in Woodbridge, Virgina to stretch our legs. This is a mid-level outlet mall filled with sneaker stores – there were no Gucci or Tiffany shops. The shoppers spoke languages of all kinds, mostly not English. Many were Asians, Africans and Latino. These are newer immigrants, not the Irish, Italian, or Russians like my grandfather. They are many of the people buying the sneakers, housing and cars and who will be drivers of the future economy. Over the centuries since the founding of the United States, immigration has ignited economic growth. Businesses that position themselves to supply goods and services to immigrants will do well.
We did reach Charleston, one of our favorite towns, to spend a few days. Sherman left Charleston more or less intact during the Civil War, and afterwards, the inhabitants were too poor to construct new buildings, so there is a wonderful stock of antebellum architecture which is now treasured. We toured the Kahal Kadosh Synagogue, founded in 1749 by Sephardic (Spanish or Portuguese speaking) Jews looking for a better life. Nothing is new under the sun – they also came from Latin America.
Walking Charleston is the best way to get around. King Street is compact and ideal for window shopping. It is hard to believe there are enough customers for all the restaurants interspersed throughout Charleston. We never usually leave town, but this time we drove to suburban PalmIsland – what a magnificent quarter-mile-wide beach! Charleston also has industry. It is a substantial port for the area, and North Charleston hosts one of the few Boeing assembly plants outside Seattle.
On the negative side, you won’t be swimming outside in South Carolina during the winter. The temperature in Charleston is about 15 degrees warmer than in Philadelphia. If you like driving, though, and are coming from the Philadelphia area, it is an easy 2-day ride and worth the trip.
In these divisive times, it is more important than ever to visit other places to see how the other half or third or 90% live. People all over are generally friendly, even when we have different backgrounds or philosophies.
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