Saturday, February 07, 2009

What Makes a Good Store?

A local psychic made the new on channel 7 last night in a fraud investigation. The interview turns sour and both verbally aggressive and profane. [LINK to video] [LINK to blog & comments on report].

Throughout today I've seen at least a dozen comments on a neighborhood Yahoo group about the need to close this store down and remove it from our shopping neighborhood. The issue really isn't about the business owners, the store, or even the report on channel 7, I think it simply touches the nerve, the root of the problem, the desire of residents for different stores, more diversity and particular desires such as a brew pub, breakfast joint or family-friendly restaurants. It's about the tension of community, the one we live in and which is emerging around us and the one we dream of and work to live into.

So I find myself thinking and wondering today as I walked through the Dimond District taking pictures of neighborhood businesses both old and new, both well-loved and tolerated, what makes for a good neighborhood store? How do you balance that with fears of gentrification and needs of development? How do you balance that in terms of age, cultural background, class and family/single issues? What do we do to encourage new desired businesses in Oakland when it seems to be so hard to open one [See today's trib article "Oakland Zoning Rules a Minefield for Businesses"] In the end I wonder for my own thinking what I deem a good business is it simply because of my individual tastes: this is ghetto, this is trashy, this is bobo, this is chic, this is locally empowering; or do I think about businesses in the district a systemic or community way: this is good for the community because it addresses this or that sub-population, or in the sense that this or that business is sustainable and will contribute to the ongoing transformation of the business distrcit for the good of all?

In the end I think I probably most think about it in an individualistic way even if I am intentional about how I spend my money to invest in and encourage locally-owned sustainable businesses that meet my - the the needs of my family. Can we get beyond our individual own tastes and preferences? And should we try to?

What do you think? What makes a good neighborhood store?


Rebecca Ruth said...

hey, saw your blog through my sister's. Crazy video re: the psychic shop. We always have thought that place seemed shady...we've seen several fueds there, and seems like the family lives there too. They had a 3-yr old kid handing out flyers for them at oktoberfest- seemed weird (PLUS, they spell Dimond, Diamond). The stores we like are peets, la farine, 1/4 pounder, dimond beauty salon (esp. stephanie), farmer joes, la jalesience (they closed), club 2101, the indian place, the meat shop, nama... we like when we make a personal connection somewhere and the vibe feels friendly.

Monte said...

I like pretty much the same shops (still haven't tried the 1/4 pounder. I love Los Compadres and Paws and Claws too (even if we don't have any pawed or clawed animals). A lot for me has to do with what's being sold (in particular food)....and really about the people. The owners of my 2 favorites are really engaging, personal, care about and committed to the neighborhood and their own business - seeing and getting the connection and integration between individual business and the wider community. There's a lot of places in the Dimond that either don't get that, don't want it, can't do it, or just don't care. Of course I think it's a pattern repeated everywhere not just in the Dimond.

Monte said...

If you're interested the blog on channel 7 is hosting an ongoing and emerging conversation about the Dimond

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