Always Home

Always Home

It's just economics of scale, we like to tell ourselves. On my last rushed morning in Boston I set off to seek out a few extra gifts for my return to the bay, something unique and memorable. Instead as I orbitted in increasing circles through downtown it was clear that I was less in Massachussetts and more in the United State of Generica, with every storefront filled with familiar brands and stocked with goods in no way different from those in Santana Row or The Great Mall. In the end I settled for some team shirts, sold every fifty feet throughout the mall under the Prudential tower and all supplied by... a centralized web site in Washington State.

Okay, the big guys succeed on costs and inevitably the little guys end up either losing on price or having to carve out a space based on tradition, design, or quality... right?

Then I got home and found this Metro story waiting un-read on my kitchen table: how Stanford Coffee Roasters, a small, popular, successful and long-established business in Stanford's tony mall, was pushed out not, apparently, for any economic reasons, but because the mall owners prefered homogeneity.

"I was told that they preferred to rent to a Triple A tenant," she recalls. "I said, What is a Triple A tenant? They told me it was a business that would have a national chain and national marketing."

In other words, the mall managers prefered Starbucks over the successful Stanford (in Stanford) not for the rent values but simply because they felt that national chains were inherently superior to anything that might have a local flavor (literally or figuratively) — so superior that it was worth crowbarring-out a local landmark for the sake of enforcing dullness.

Note to self: never shop at Stanford Mall again.

When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other. — Eric Hoffer

August 06, 2006

 

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