The bad news is that the center of the universe (downtown Fremont) is going the way of Belltown and Ballard: no parking, obnoxious tourists, and the intrusion of Starbucks and Taco del Mar type places that try to look hip while sucking business from the stores owned by locals.
The good news is that just a few blocks north on Fremont Avenue, you can enjoy a vibrant little commercial district.
I was there because one of the lens gurus at Eyes on Fremont is helping me recover from my humiliating glasses disaster (at another optical store). We looked at the problem lenses and frames, played around with some new frames, and he put a pair of frames on me that brought a smile to my face instantly.
After visiting Eyes on Fremont, I stopped in at Wit's End bookstore (under new management) and browsed their inventory, which includes a lot of very classic science fiction. Just across the street is the sleek Icon coffeehouse. I noticed that Fremont Auto Detail has moved to the west side of the street, and its old space is now occupied by the new (it opened yesterday) Urbanweeds ("florus metropolitus"), a store that appears to be for people furnishing and decorating small patios -- lots of grasses and succulents in large, dramatic planters. Plus black garden furniture made of recycled plastic. And gourmet chocolate.
There are little restaurants all over the place (Persimmon, Paseo, Fremont Pizza) and also a solid core of essential places -- a laundromat, Marketime Foods, a dry cleaner and a video store. What a fabulous little scene. I'd love it if our little crossroads on 32nd Avenue NW developed into something like this.