by Ryan Felton
Fifty-seven-year-old Panama Little lives in a nearby loft. He says the main difference between the pre- and post-Jitu scene here is how few prostitutes work this post now. "They'd actually stand on the corner half-naked," he says. "You could see the actual pubic hairs. Honestly."For nearby low-income residents who shopped the grocery store, the loss of Tom Boy means they'll likely have to trek down to University Foods at the Lodge & Warren Ave.
Outside, the mob disperses quickly at the sight of Jitu standing in their midst. A prostitute wearing too much makeup leaps from her perch, walks over to an idling car, hops inside the passenger door in a hurry, gets kicked out by the driver, then finds herself standing there foolishly. "Can't I get a ride up in here?" she complains to nobody in particular. She paces aimlessly at a distance. Drug dealers hover along a self-imposed perimeter away from the store, staring as their post is momentarily disrupted.
An amused David Leak, 56, watches the spectacle. He's haggard, has few teeth and lives in a battered apartment a few blocks away. He professes love for the Patels. "I really hated them the first year, though, because they didn't have no beer," he says. (There was a liquor license transfer issue and the store was dry for a while.) "That was rough for me!" he yells.
Leak explains Tom Boy's allure to loiterers. "One thing, the canopy," he says. "Then you got that box to sit on," he gestures towards a newspaper box, "then you got these bars to sit on," he points to the metal grid that keeps customers from stealing shopping carts. "And then in a psychological sense it's preparing them for jail 'cause they already behind the bars," he says with a dry laugh.