In conversation a couple of nights ago, a bunch of us were talking about localism and chain stores. I was reminded of something I saw a decade ago, when we lived in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. There was a locally owned and operated coffee shop in the neighborhood, but it struggled for business. The coffee was good there, and the interior was attractive. But the owner was unwelcoming, especially to moms with strollers. Back then (and, I imagine, today), there are no small number of stay-at-home moms pushing babies around the neighborhood. My wife was one at the time, and she, like her mom friends, wanted a place outside the home to get together for talk and coffee with each other.
This guy’s militantly localist coffee shop was not that place. If memory serves, he had a “no strollers” policy.
So, word gets out that Starbucks is planning to open a store a couple of blocks away. Local Guy goes nuts, raising holy hell about how we can’t allow this corporate chain to defile our neighborhood with its industrial coffee and cookie-cutter aesthetic. Mind you, Cobble Hill was the kind of place where that kind of argument stood a decent chance of gaining traction, given the cultural mores of the neighborhood. But it didn’t. Why? Because the new Starbucks welcomed moms with strollers, and you didn’t get attitude from the baristas there. It really wasn’t any more complicated than that. I don’t remember exactly how long pissy Local Guy lasted, but he had to shut his doors. And nobody I knew missed him one little bit.