Recently, a new banana frozen serve place opened up where two unsuccessful frozen yogurt places previously were. This banana place (Let’s call it – AweBan) already had a food truck and used a very successful kickstarter to go from food truck to brick-and-mortar. In today’s world of instagram and yelp, I’m not sure what new restaurant can open without a social media buzz. However, I am sure that it is easier for a young person to use an app in her native language than a forty year old using it in his second.
When we talk about gentrification, we often talk about rising rates, a loss of culture, and the somewhat overdone image of an artisan coffee shop taking over a bodega. So what about gentrification of our taste buds? It’s not a new concept and there’s been a great conversation around the idea of traditional non-American food being major inspirations around for chefs (primarily white men) in haute cuisine.
A restaurant that uses organic local ingredients might be great and maybe that does help the local economy. These days though, sometimes it feels like the only people who can afford to be local organic farmers are former stockbrokers having midlife crises with their wives.
Here’s what I worry about – a world of AweBans. Cool local expensive stores owned by people have figured out social media and the other side – big box stores. Big box stores that don’t give good wages, have paid family leave, or any of the other “luxuries” that have become necessities. AweBans are wonderful, we need them and young business owners are awesome. What I worry about are immigrants who come over and because they can’t figure out yelp, close their businesses and lose their life-savings. I worry about working class people who want to support their friends’ businesses but can’t because the only people who can make rents are people with huge nest eggs and big-box retailers.
I worry about well-meaning tourists who only go to these “cool” places but look down on 7-11s and Subways. I worry that I’m contributing to the creation a playground for the rich.