Again for Spring 2017, I assigned Global Cities, Local Streets: Everyday Diversity from New York to Shanghai to my class (Urban Studies 201) “From Hartford to World Cities” at Trinity College. To help the students get more out of the book and connect it to local shops beyond the six global cities covered by the book, I asked them to visit a local shop or other businesses in their hometowns or else where to write a short blog for the Discussion page of this website.The local shops and businesses they wrote about vary in size, type, location, and ownership, but they share a few important functional features such as serving the convenient commercial needs of local residents and as their social interaction spaces. While some of them appear to have been part of gentrification, others seem to maintain their local authentic attributes, thanks to clear municipal zoning ordinances that restrict gentrification. Below you can read these posts with photos and make comments on them.
During Thanksgiving break, I went to Trinity Restaurant located at 243 Zion Street right across from Trinity College. The Agolli’s, an Albanian family, established this local gem offering a variety of Mediterranean and Italian cuisine in 2007. The Agolli’s were involved in the restaurant business in their home country, and their native culture shines through many aspects of Trinity Restaurant from the menu to the decor.
This popular mom-and-pop feel business stands strong because of its location. Trinity Restaurant sits in an area with a very high crime rate, surrounded by poor neighborhoods inhabited by very low-income families. However, the establishment caters predominantly to the Trinity community: students, staff, and faculty members. Because of the selective clients attracted by Trinity restaurant, the owners charge more per item than other restaurants in the area. This reverse process of “catering to your audience” results in the restaurant continuing to attract a particular clientele. It would be an extremely rare occasion to find a local Hartford resident who lives nearby the restaurant to dine at Trinity Restaurant. Compared to other local competitors, Trinity Restaurant is not a feasible option for many Hartford residents. Other restaurants in the area are ABC Pizza, Campus Pizza, Papa Johns, Sam’s Fried Chicken, Dunkin Donuts and other local small shops and restaurants that are significantly cheaper than Trinity Restaurant. These places attract more of the population living in the neighborhood. In contrast, Trinity Restaurant caters to a very specific type of audience, because and in spite of its location.
In the book Global Cities, Local Streets, the authors argue that gentrification brings in up-scale boutiques and restaurants that can have an undesirable impact on existing local residents of a city. While not very up-scale or fancy, Trinity Restaurant stands out in the quality and price of its food in the surrounding low-income neighborhoods where most residents cannot afford to spend $15-20 on a ravioli dish. Therefore, a place like Trinity restaurant tends to exclude the majority of its nearby residents.
Berwyn Bagel Factory is an establishment located in the suburbs of the Philadelphia area. It is known to be a place with excellent breakfast sandwiches and coffee. Its location is also walking distance from the local nearby high school named Conestoga High School. The primary customers that go there for a bite to eat are mostly the local high school students who stop in on their way to school. Other people that often eat there are people who live in Berwyn that will often stop in for a coffee on their way to work to either another town or the city of Philadelphia.
I have eaten at Berwyn Bagel Factory before. I recently spoke with my younger brother about the establishment. He attended Conestoga High School and was a regular customer and even knows most of the workers by name. He told me that it basically serves as a place for a lot of students to go and socialize after school. It has some competition down the street as there is a Dunkin’ Donuts, however, the customers that attend Bagel Factory prefer it much more. My brother even claims that the reason many of the students get their coffee from Bagel Factory as opposed to Dunkin’ Donuts is because of the cheaper prices. Global Cities, Local Streets talks a lot about how shops can help the local community in various ways and Berwyn Bagel Factory certainly serves as a place where students can enjoy a nice meal and coffee before going to school. It is very apparent that many people in the area stand by it and are proud of their bagels from there.
Franklin Giant Grinders Inc., a local family run business in the South End of Hartford, Connecticut has been an iconic place to grub out with family and friends while enjoying a piece of this city’s food history. Since the 1960s, residents from neighboring towns come have been going there to indulge in its delicious over-sized grinders and pizzas. Located right on Franklin Ave, a constantly active street full of people from all different backgrounds, this eatery is a great hub for both commercially healthy and socially strong interactions.
Typically I visit Franklin Grinders on a Sunday afternoon where I purchase my classic order of a half chicken cutlet grinder (don’t be fooled by the label “half”). One thing that will never let you down about Franklin’s Grinders is its portions; a half grinder is about the size of a young child’s forearm and I assure you that it will be sufficient if you are coming back from work and hungry. Its working hours for the week are Tuesday – Thursday 8 a.m. – 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday 8 a.m. – 8:45 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. – 5:45 p.m., while staying closed on Mondays. Within the shop it almost seems like you have walked back in time; walls are covered with old faces from past historical events, local sports teams pictures, all the way down to old school looking dinning tables. The one thing that stands out the most is the fact you get to experience a first hand interaction with the owner as he both cooks and rings up your total some days of the week. There is nothing more respectable and cordial than being welcomed by the owner of the company you are visiting with a smile on his face and grin on yours as a massive grinder is being handed over, ready to be devoured.
In Global Cities, Local Streets, there is an emphasis on the importance of interactions and sprawling of cultural and economic engines in local small shops within a community. Franklin Giant Grinders Inc. provides supportive evidence as this family run business competes with other fast food chain shops up and down the street, Dominoes Pizza or other locally run food markets. While making a fair living they are also doing a service to the people that have been coming back for years just to enjoy a meal and a good laugh.
Pascarella Bros. Delicatessen is a local deli in my hometown of Chatham, NJ. Chatham is located in Morris County, New Jersey and is sometimes referred to as “The Chathams,” as it consists of the Chatham Borough and the Chatham Township. The town was settled in 1710 and the township of Chatham was incorporated in 1806 (Township of Chatham). By 1837, the Morris Essex line was established in Chatham, allowing residents to get into New York for work and return home on the same day (Borough of Chatham). While Chatham is located only about 25 miles from New York City, and therefore a little more than a half hour drive, the train remains an easy method of transportation for residents to get to their jobs in the city.
I visited Pascarella Bros. Delicatessen over Thanksgiving break, as it is a local deli I go to regularly in my town, located in the Chatham Borough. The deli is owned and operated by two brothers, Anthony and Gino Pascarella, who are both local residents and are always seen working there. Gino grew up in Chatham and now resides in Madison, a neighboring town, while his brother Anthony went to school in Madison and now lives in Chatham. The brothers serve both breakfast, with delicious breakfast sandwiches, and lunch with options including salads, wraps, and a variety of sandwiches and paninis. The deli has been praised in the area for offering a gluten free menu for patrons.
The deli has built up a number of loyal customers from around the area, with friendly interactions between the owners and staff with their customers, as most interactions are usually on a first name basis. The deli is decorated with articles from the local newspaper, The Chatham Patch, about the high school, its sports teams, and its students as well as pictures from around the area. While the deli does serve delicious food, it is best to take your order to go because the actual shop is small in size and has limited seating.
In Global Cities, Local Streets, Zukin, Kasinitz, and Chen (2015) state, “…today, in an accelerated mobility and global ‘flows’ local shops risk losing their livelihood to both suburban shopping malls and online retail sales” (p. 2). However, Pascarella Bros. Delicatessen seems to be thriving, as customers keep coming back for the great food and friendly atmosphere. It seems that the interactions between store owners and staff with the local customers has kept people around town coming back. Zukin, Kasinitz, and Chen also stated, “Both inside the store and outside in the street, local shops sustain social interaction” (p. 3). This statement encapsulates Pascarella Bros. Delicatessen and its role as a local shop in the town of Chatham.
Over Thanksgiving break I visited a coffee shop in my hometown, Bronxville NY, called Slave to the Grind. Slave to the Grind is a traditional coffee shop with a welcoming environment where customers can sit down and drink their coffee or simply sit there and do work. Slave to the Grind plays an interesting role in the town because it has to compete with Starbucks. When I spoke to customers at Slave to the Grind, they explained that they are too loyal to “Slaves” to even consider going to Starbucks. After living in the town for many years, I know that Slave to the Grind has a very loyal customer base from the people who live in the village and Starbucks pulls customers who are new to the town or simply stop by. Slave to the Grind is on the main street of stores called Pondfield Road and Starbucks is on a side road called Park Place. The customers at Slave to the Grind tend to be Bronxville High School students or Sarah Lawrence College students. Sarah Lawrence is located half a mile away and students love the atmosphere of the café. Slave to the Grind is also located next to a very popular restaurant in the town, which help it draw in a new crowd. To the right is an Asian Bistro called Haiku, which is almost always crowded.
Throughout the years Bronxville has seen gentrification, a term discussed in Global Cities, Local Streets, but Slave to the Grind has fought this by keeping their prices low. I believe this helps it keep a strong customer base. Slave to the Grind has been in Bronxville for twelve years and is seen as an old shop, but there is a balance between commercial stores and new shops in the town as well. Slave to the Grind is very important to the town because as the town has experienced gentrification, to the dismay of some residents, people support this café not only because they love the coffee, but also to preserve the local street and businesses.
Shu restaurant in West Hartford, CT opened about one year ago. It is located in a commercial complex on the edge of the city of Hartford and West Hartford. This is a Chinese restaurant or more precisely a Sichuan restaurant. It is next door to the big A-Dung Supermarket, an Asian-run hair salon, and a couple of Vietnamese restaurants. These stores mostly attract customers with their relatively inexpensive products and services whereas the Shu restaurant intends to attract middle class diners given their higher priced menu.The name Shu of the restaurant is a nickname for Sichuan province. The map below highlights the area of Sichuan province.
As a student from China, I usually have foods at home that are significantly different from the mainstream foods served in the US. After living the US for almost 6 years, my stomach is still reluctant to accept western food. I am not a unique case, I have seen Asian professors from Trinity College and University of Connecticut bring their families to enjoy food at Shu Restaurant. Therefore, food is an important element in Asian culture.
Unlike Americanized Chinese take-out restaurant, it takes considerable efforts and skills to cook an authentic Chinese dish. Once I asked the owner of the restaurant, who is originally from Sichuan province, and she told me her husband was a cooking teacher at one of the most popular cuisine vocational schools in China. Their family immigrated to the US and started this restaurant later. According the owner, the restaurant is doing very well because there is a demand for authentic Chinese food from the growing Asian population in the area. She said the costumers are mostly Asian students from nearby colleges and universities, as well as local families. In addition, because of the similar cultural background, she knows almost all the frequent diners very well.
From my personal experience, I as well as my Asian friends at Trinity College have frequented this restaurant many times since it opened. I have also taken friends from other cultural backgrounds to this restaurant to allow them to taste authentic Chinese food. I think it is a great way for them to gain exposure to Chinese culture.
Fruitive is a vegan restaurant/health and wellness bar located in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Not only is it Virginia Beach’s first 100% certified organic restaurant but it is also a first in the state of Virginia. Fruitive is located on a highly visible and popular street in a shopping center called Hilltop. As stated in the chapter “Local Shops, Global Streets,” local streets create a sense of place. This is exactly what Fruitive does for the local Virginia Beach community. At Hilltop there is a mixture of a handful of national chain stores integrated with primarily locally owned shops. Hilltop is located close to the oceanfront of Virginia Beach, which is home to a primarily white population. Greg, who owns Fruitive with his brother, has been health conscious all of his life. The brothers wanted to make their lifestyle of eating healthfully a possibility for everyone. They spent a lot of time and money to research and create Fruitive in the most unique way possible. Greg was debating whether to locate the store in Norfolk or Virginia Beach, VA. He ultimately chose the shopping street in Virginia Beach as the area had a more high-end clientele as well as much more traffic. Fruitive’s location close to the beach is considerably more expensive to rent therefore the prices in the store are relatively high. A smoothie is close to $8.00 but you are getting the finest and best organic ingredients available. In just three years Fruitive has become wildly popular and successful so much so that the brothers have just opened a second location in Washington D.C. This reminds me of the case study in Tianzifang, Shanghai. Café Dan is a local coffee shop that made “quality home brewed coffee” (p. 74). This café caters to high-income local consumers who can pay over $4 for a cup of coffee. The owner explains “our costs are higher because we use really good imported coffee beans and quality ingredients for our Japanese dishes” (p. 74). With the high rent that Café Dan faces they have to increase their prices. In many cases this is ok because as the rent goes up prices goes up around the world too.
I have been going to Fruitive since it first opened. I have observed that while there are always new customers at Fruitive, there are many regulars. I notice while I am waiting for my smoothie that the staff know many of their client’s names and makes conversation with them. The friendliness of the staff as well as the quality of the food makes people want to come back again and again. Most clients are dressed in their workout clothes, which makes it appear as if they are coming from working out or going to workout. The clientele is very health conscious.
Whether you are in a local suburb in New York, Massachusetts, perhaps even on the west coast there is an organic connection between globalization and migration. This past Thanksgiving break I stopped by one of my favorite hometown shops, Southdown Coffee. Southdown Coffee was started a couple years ago and lies in the village of Lloyd Harbor, which is located inside the town of Huntington, New York. The north coast of Long Island has many times been referred to as the “gold coast” and is a prospering area to start a business. Huntington has a fairly high median house value of $555,098, while the rest of New York’s median is $277,600. In the Southdown area, there are other stores such as Southdown Pizza, Southdown Cleaners, and the most popular along the commercial strip: Southdown Market. Southdown Coffee epitomizes the social importance of a small business. Every time I enter the shop, I am greeted with joy, and the manager Chelsea is constantly on top of her staff and the shop. After a chat with Kim, one of the employees at Southdown Coffee, she explained how well the business was doing. Not only does the shop serve as a convenient store for refreshments, it also doubles as a social environment for the residents in the town of Huntington. Having read the chapter on Amsterdam in Global Cities, Local Streets and revisited Southdown Coffee, I have learned a lot about both the commercial and social functions of local coffee shops.
Recently, I went to lunch with a friend in the neighboring village of Willimantic, Connecticut. Willimantic, which is located in the town of Windham, hugs Mansfield and Coventry, two quiet, quaint towns located in what was formerly known as Tolland County. According to the 2010 census, the population of Willimantic was 17,737 (United States Census 2010). Small and hardly noticeable, for the majority of my life, I rarely dared to enter it. Known as “Heroin Town,” with a dangerous reputation and run-down buildings, Willimantic is not exactly the kind of place you desire to find yourself in, day or night. That is why when I arrived at Not Only Juice, a recently opened restaurant on Main Street, I was pleasantly surprised.
Not Only Juice is a vegetarian and vegan restaurant with cozy wooden chairs, bright walls, and a friendly staff. The website markets itself in the following way: “our goal is to provide a healthy alternative to fast food that is fresh, local, and all natural…our prices are tax inclusive and reflect house-made prices and foods free of pesticides and refined sugars” (Not Only Juice, Menu). The menu reflects fresh, tasty options – ranging from $6 avocado toast, $10 cold-pressed juices, and $9 salads and smoothie bowls. According to the Yelp, other customers as well were impressed with this diamond in the rough: “Had a great, unique breakfast here! Love the eclectic mix of Main Street….” (Yelp 2015).
Willimantic, however, did not always have such favorable views. It has experienced drastic change since its incorporation into Windham in 1692. With abundant river waterpower due to its proximity to the Willimantic River, Willimantic was the heart of the cotton and silk production in the midst of the Civil War and up until World War II. This made it attractive to European immigrant groups like the Irish, Italians, Poles, Germans, Puerto Ricans, and Ukrainians who migrated to the United States in search of jobs (Windham Town Hall, 2015). Despite the industrialized nature of the area throughout the 1800s and most of the 1900s that led it to become known as “Thread City,” Willimantic’s economy crashed in 1985 when American Thread Company moved to North Carolina. A borough of Willimantic in 1833, a city on its own in 1893, and finally a borough again of Windham by 1983, Willimantic was no longer the prosperous New England mill town it once was by the late 1990s (Windham Town Hall, 2015).
Following the economic collapse, Willimantic turned to heroin and within decades, it became a major hub for buying and selling the drug, especially given that it sits between the large, prosperous cities of Boston and New York. The popularity of the drug in Willimantic was particularly noted when it was covered in the early 2000s by several newspaper articles like The Hartford Courant and news outlets like WFSB Channel 3 Eyewitness News. Willimantic ran rampant with drugs, unemployment, crime, and prostitution. It was only after such national reporting which took notice of the major issue that Heroin Town began to change.
Today, Willimantic’s Main Street is buzzing with restaurants just as successful as Not Only Juice. Main Street offers a eclectic offering of restaurants like Jamaica Me Crazy, Tacos La Rosa, Oriental Café, and Cafémantic just to name a few (Willimantic Downtown, Eat). The desire to revitalize Willimantic has created projects like The Willimantic Whitewater Partnership, which looks to improve the riverfront and organizations like Thread City Development, which works to enhance the Main Street area and business relationships within the town. In addition, the assistance of a federal grant and improved policing has led to a reduction in narcotics and prostitution arrests. Narcotics arrests reached 326 in 2008 and declined to 193 in 2010. Similarly, prostitution arrests reached 16 in 2007 and declined to 2 in 2010 (WFSB 2010).
The rise and fall of Willimantic’s Main Street mirrors the stories of the streets discussed in Zukin, Kasinitz and Chen’s Global Cities, Local Streets. While none of them exhibit exactly the same kind of circumstances and challenges that led to change in Willimantic, Willimantic does showcase commercial development from below as occurred in Shanghai. Likewise, while Willimantic is still approximately 70% white, it has begun to capitalize on its ethnic diversity through the installation of diverse shops and restaurants. While much is still to be done in order to bring returned prosperity to Willimantic, the assistance of local organizations, money, and improved policing has already made it a more pleasurable place to live and visit.
Water Street in Exeter, NH is a commercial street that is home to many local businesses and cafes. One of the most successful and well known local businesses is a clothing store called Lunachics, which is located in the middle of this commercial street. Lunachics has been around since 2002 and has been greatly successful to women and men of all ages. This store attracts students from the boarding school Philips Exeter Academy and many local residents as well. Ever since its opening in 2002, Lunachics has been known to sell quality denim, but the atmosphere of the store is what attracts customers as they state on their website, “We are known for our extensive denim collection, our friendly and knowledgeable staff and our incredible accessories selection. But what makes LunaChics a truly unique shopping experience is our comfy couch section complete with a TV, toys and of course Dana’s infamous black lab Sophie.” The store is run by 5-9 employees all of whom are from around the area and are well known to local customers. Over the Thanksgiving break and anytime I have entered the store; the customers are usually white as well as the employees. The socioeconomic status of the customers seem to vary however the clothing prices remain fairly expensive. The past history of Lunachics is very similar to the present. Lunachics has been selling the same brands of jeans, clothing, and bags as it always has granted a few exceptions as they now sell more items and of a greater variety.
Lunachics and Exeter’s downtown commercial strip can be connected to specific case studies in the book Global Cities, Local Streets: Everyday Diversity from New York to Shanghai. Chapter 6 “Toronto’s Changing Neighborhoods” states that, “Commercial strips are essential in maintaining the cultural and socioeconomic identity of the neighborhoods” (p. 141). The downtown area of Exeter, NH relies heavily on the commercial strip of Water Street due to its steady income of local customers and visitors. Without these stores, there would be no street available to local vendors within Exeter, and it would be seen as very difficult for residents and visitors to walk around and shop within the town. In the same chapter of the book, there is a case study on the Bloordale shopping street. Bloordale’s past used to be associated with drugs, suffering storefronts, and crime, however in recent years it has undergone a transformation with the construction of art galleries and cafes among other attractions. The town of Exeter has had a history with drugs and suffering storefronts, especially along Water Street. There have been numerous businesses that have become bankrupt and replaced by new businesses which created a negative economic cycle. However in the past twenty years, these commercial shops in Exeter have been successful due to an increase in neighboring cafes that have been attracting many customers. Lunachics and other local commercial stores and cafes along Water Street have kept the downtown area of Exeter a prosperous and entertaining place where local residents and visitors enjoy shopping and walking around.