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A yogurt shop in downtown Annapolis isn't likely to ruin the neighborhood


After some days away, I find the rhetoric has intensified. The Great Yogurt Battle of '92 has been joined with a vengeance.

Yogurt might masquerade as an innocent dessert, but a mere sprinkling of jimmies can't conceal the truth from those Ward One folks who know a real threat when they see one.

Yogurt, I hear, mutates into killer traffic jams that will paralyze our little peninsula faster than you can say "fat-free banana."

Yogurt is excess garbage and ear-jolting noise pollution.

Lactobacillus acidophilus and Streptococcus thermophilic bacteria dished up near the City Dock will lead inexorably to -- eek! -- "the boardwalking of Annapolis."

Apocalypse now.

It's easy to chuckle at those folks attempting to draw a "Yogurt Curtain" across Annapolis in protest against crowds, traffic, garbage and boardwalks. But do they have a point? Is the proposed "Dannon-ization" of downtown merely inspiring rhetorical overkill, or is the road to hell really paved with French Vanilla?

But "To Boardwalk or Not to Boardwalk" is not really the question for the simple reason that we already have a boardwalk on our hands in downtown Annapolis.

Boardwalks, after all, take different forms. There are scuzzy Ocean City-style boardwalks where loud children's music blasts out of tacky little shops that sell caramel popcorn, obscene T-shirts, salt water taffy, suntan lotion, and silly brown and white photographs of the entire family dressed in Wild Western garb. (In surroundings like these, a yogurt shop would provide a Gucci-like touch of class.)

But Harborplace in Baltimore is really just a boardwalk when you think about it. So is Boston's Quincy Market.

Both of these yellow brick roads of commerce have revitalized their cities in excess of an urban planner's wildest dreams. But don't let the stylish boutiques fool you. When you snack on Phillips' crab cakes on Light Street or Regina's pizza in Faneuil Hall, remember that a boardwalk is a boardwalk is a boardwalk.

Our existing Annapolis Boardwalk lies somewhere between the Baltimore and Ocean City versions, not a bad place to be geographically or aesthetically.

While we're not the apotheosis of chic, our upscale chain stores intermingle nicely enough with the galleries, restaurants, nautical nick-nacks and off-beat shops of Main Street. In my view, Annapolis' "classy to tacky" ratio is still within acceptable limits, though let me hasten to add that I'm the sort who'd much rather peruse the racks of cleverly inscribed T-shirts than sit in a Banana Republic and watch the $50 jeans fade.

Aesthetically, then, I don't think we'd be slitting our wrists by allowing a yogurt shop into the neighborhood.

As for the other problems, I should think that the impact of one small business on noise, garbage and traffic would be minimal. Yogurt has never struck me as a particularly cacophonous food. How many folks are likely to drive downtown in August for the sole purpose of grabbing a low-fat shake? Besides, one of these days we're all going to be shuttling in from the stadium on summer weekends anyway.

But let's give the anti-yogurt forces their due. Their war is a just one if this battle elicits more giggles than glory. Historic Annapolis must not be allowed to degenerate into a crummy arcade, and vigilance is certainly called for.

Without such vigilance, we'd all be in deep yogurt.

Phil Greenfield teaches at Annapolis High School and writes music and drama reviews for the Anne Arundel County Sun.

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