Friday, January 31, 2014

Guerrilla Geographies of Artisanal Toast

Gentrification of urban industrial food space at Pacific Standard magazine.

Theme: Globalization and urban geography.

Subject Article: "Foodie frenzy helps push up San Francisco industrial values."

Other Links: 1. "A Toast Story."
2. "Buns, Germs and Steel."
3. "Gentrification of Work in the City."
4. "Rebecca Solnit: Resisting Monoculture."

Postscript: Much more going on in the story by John Gravois than paying $4 for artisanal toast in San Francisco. The source of the trend, Trouble, reveals the social technologies underwriting a global labor market. Bowling with strangers:

If Trouble’s toast itself made instant sense to me, it was less clear how a willfully obscure coffee shop with barely any indoor seating in a cold, inconvenient neighborhood could have been such a successful launch pad for a food trend. In some ways, the shop seemed to make itself downright difficult to like: It serves no decaf, no non-fat milk, no large drinks, and no espressos to go. On Yelp, several reviewers report having been scolded by baristas for trying to take pictures inside the shop with their phones. (“I better not see that up on Instagram!” one reportedly shouted.)

Nevertheless, most people really seem to love Trouble. On my second visit to the shop, there was a steady line of customers out the door. After receiving their orders, they clustered outside to drink their coffees and eat their toast. With no tables and chairs to allow them to pair off, they looked more like neighbors at a block party than customers at a café. And perhaps most remarkably for San Francisco, none of them had their phones out. ...

... At first, Carrelli explained Trouble as a kind of sociological experiment in engineering spontaneous communication between strangers. She even conducted field research, she says, before opening the shop. “I did a study in New York and San Francisco, standing on the street holding a sandwich, saying hello to people. No one would talk to me. But if I stayed at that same street corner and I was holding a coconut? People would engage,” she said. “I wrote down exactly how many people talked to me.”

Greater density won't catalyze innovation unless you have a coconut.

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