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Changing face of Syracuse's Little Italy

The structures in which the storefronts are located show the wear and tear of age. By contrast, the two Rite Aid drug stores are huge, sprawling and brand new structures.

Why two Rite Aid stores across the street from each other?

It wasn't planned that way, he said. It happened when the Rite Aid group acquired the Eckerd chain, and gained ownership of an Eckerd store located on the other side of Butternut Street.

If foot and vehicular traffic is any indication, Butternut Street qualifies to be described as one of the busier neighborhood streets in inner city Syracuse. No matter what time of day it is, a steady flow of traffic streams down towards South Salina Street from the north, with another stream going the opposite direction. Straddling a section of the city in an area once referred to as Little Italy, it provides a short cut for motorists headed to the northern suburbs of the city, or to downtown or the West side.

There is nothing unusual about Butternut Street, if looked at from the standpoint of what is happening in most neighborhoods in Syracuse. The new Rite Aid stores and a new store such as New Gear reflect the general trend of economic development that has been going on for some time in most parts of the city.

A closer look at the human traffic, though, reveals a striking difference between Butternut Street and other city streets. The Arab women wearing long gowns in the summer heat with their faces hidden behind veils, look more like apparitions from a movie than neighborhood residents in an American city on their way home from the corner store.

The Somali man with the beard and small cap tucked on his head, the Vietnamese woman with the Oriental skirt and sandals, the Sudanese girls with headgear all look out of place and eerily un-American.

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