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Damn video rental outlets and cheese stores selling Argentine parmesan!
August 18, 2014 5:49 PM   Subscribe

Has your neighborhood become 'upscale'? Take a San Francisco gentrification quiz from 1985 and find out. In 1985, the San Francisco Chronicle ran a tongue-in-cheek quiz allowing readers to see if their neighborhood had turned upscale. It's interesting to see how many of these types of business no longer exist (travel agencies!) and to think about what some of the others have morphed into almost three decades later.
posted by Blue Meanie (65 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
I would kill to get a Nehru jacket.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 6:00 PM on August 18 [5 favorites]


Custom frame shop 10 points.

For your bike, right?
posted by pwnguin at 6:01 PM on August 18 [13 favorites]


we still have plenty of Duck Toy Only stores where I live, inside a baby's daydream
posted by theodolite at 6:02 PM on August 18 [7 favorites]


I had to look up images of Nehru jackets. They are pretty spiffy -- but even though I was old enough to remember things in 1985, I don't think I've ever seen someone wearing one.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:05 PM on August 18


What's this "newstand" whereof they speak?

Swap "cupcakes" for "baguettes and croissants" and the bakery one is still accurate.
posted by gingerest at 6:07 PM on August 18


I legitimately think my neighborhood has all of these except the video rental store and the travel agency, though I just moved from a place with both of those things so I feel like I've been indelibly stamped with organic soy latte foam, to my deep shame.
posted by jetlagaddict at 6:09 PM on August 18


Not cupcakes, macarons. And churros.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:10 PM on August 18 [2 favorites]


One of the really interesting ones is the Travel Agency. These days, travel agencies that specialize in places other than Italy and France are mostly found in places that haven't yet gentrified. They cater to immigrant populations who are traveling home and often also offer money transfer services.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:13 PM on August 18 [11 favorites]


Croissants were a big deal in the eighties.

"In short, San Francisco has become perhaps the most gentrified large city in the nation. Districts that a decade ago were blue collar are now ghettos for young urban professionals, who have spawned a consumptive economy in which one highly successful new chain mass markets croissants, sort of a Yuppie version of Winchell's doughnut shops."

- The Los Angeles Times, April 3, 1985
posted by roger ackroyd at 6:14 PM on August 18 [8 favorites]


I'm a little surprised that a needlepoint and weaving boutique was upscale in 1985.

I just moved into a neighborhood with a pilates studio. I think that may be the 2014 equivalent of "aerobics gym." On the other hand, we do not have a croissant bakery, gelato store, cheese store, or designer chocolate shoppe, and that makes me a little sad.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:15 PM on August 18


"Artisanal ice-cream" is the new gelato.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 6:18 PM on August 18


I think once either a fruit smoothee or artisanal burger franchise moves in, the neighbourhood is doomed.
posted by Nevin at 6:18 PM on August 18


Oh, and CrossFit is surely the new aerobics.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 6:19 PM on August 18 [5 favorites]


I preferred Jesse Thorn's analysis of gentrifying SF in the late 80s: shirtless men drinking red wine and going to burning man.
posted by like_a_friend at 6:21 PM on August 18 [4 favorites]


I don't think I've ever seen someone wearing one.

It's more a 60s thing - Brian Jones, Dr. No, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, and Dr. Evil.
posted by The World Famous at 6:23 PM on August 18 [4 favorites]


I tried tallying the score for my odd corner of Pittsburgh, in which I live in East Liberty but could drive a golf ball to any of three other neighborhoods (and bounce one off the hillside that serves as a border for a fourth), but it's hard to identify what counts as upscale per the chart. In fact, it seems that a lot of the items are now hallmarks of a grungy neighborhood. Sure, there's a computer store on Penn, but nowadays that might translate to PC repair or cheap cell phones. Go to Shadyside and visit their rivetless Apple Store for a fully-gentrified experience.

I like the status markers that have expired and reversed. For instance, there are no seafood restaurants touting their global reach, but I know of a restaurant that serves "microgreens" (ding, 5 points) from an urban farm within a half mile.

But what replaces the travel agency, video rental store, and newsstand on a contemporary list? And do I get triple points for living near a baby clothes store that is now an empty store front?
posted by Turkey Glue at 6:30 PM on August 18 [4 favorites]


Oh, and CrossFit is surely the new aerobics.

SoulCycle, or any other "gym" that only offers spin classes.
posted by psoas at 6:34 PM on August 18


That "unisex hair salon" iconography so neatly reads "lesbian menace" it's a little astounding.
posted by angerbot at 6:35 PM on August 18 [3 favorites]


But the relatively few city residential districts that that do become outstandingly magnetic and successful at generating diversity and vitality are subjected ultimately to the same forces of self-destruction as downtowns. In this case, so many people want to live in the locality that it becomes profitable to build, in excessive and devastating quantity, for those who can pay the most. These are usually childless people, and today they are simply not people who can or will pay the most in general, but people who can or will pay the msot for the smallest space. Accommodations for this narrow, profitable segment of population multiply, at the expense of all other tissue and all other population. Families are crowded out, variety of scene is crowded out, enterprises are unable to support their share of the new construction costs are crowded out. This process is now occurring, very rapidly, in much of Greenwich Village, Yorkville and the midtown East Side of Manhattan. The uses duplicated excessively are different from those duplicated excessively at centers of downtowns, but the process is the same, the reason why it occurs is the same, and the ultimate effects are the same. The admired and magnetic knoll is destroyed by its own new occupants, by the acct of occupation.
Jane Jacobs, The Death And Life Of Great American Cities, 1961.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:35 PM on August 18 [13 favorites]


Also oh my god, a California restaurant advertising that its seafood is "flown in from the East Coast daily" would be Public Enemy No. 1 in the era of #isitlocal.
posted by psoas at 6:36 PM on August 18 [9 favorites]


Back then, the professor in the urban sociology class I was taking took us on a field trip of a gentrifying Boston neighborhood (Jamaica Plain). She told us you could always tell the blocks that had gentrified by looking for Volvos. These days, I guess it would be Priuses.
posted by adamg at 6:38 PM on August 18 [2 favorites]


How many points for a store that sells nothing but olive oil? My neighbourhood's got that.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:40 PM on August 18 [3 favorites]


That "unisex hair salon" iconography so neatly reads "lesbian menace" it's a little astounding.

Nah, it's really not. Hair salons catered nearly solely to women until marketers decided (some time in 1981, I think) that they were excluding 50% of the potential customer base. It's more "We'll do men's hair, too. And you'll pay out the ass like women always have! But it's totally worth it because you'll look FABULOUS and you are a fancy yuppie who deserves to look FABULOUS!"

Of course, it was the 80's, so that last bit was a lie. But nothing to do with lesbians; they had to use a Flowbee like the rest of us.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:48 PM on August 18 [6 favorites]


One of the really interesting ones is the Travel Agency. These days, travel agencies that specialize in places other than Italy and France are mostly found in places that haven't yet gentrified. They cater to immigrant populations who are traveling home and often also offer money transfer services.

This precisely.

How to tell if your neighborhood is decidedly not gentrified:

-travel agency
-video rental outlet
-computer store selling parts for honest-to-god computers
-news stand
-secondhand store that only has things no one would wear
-unisex hair salons specifically labeled as "unisex hair salon"

I'd add hardware store, but the food processor bit threw me off. What about a hardware store that looks like it hasn't received any new product since 1985?
posted by phunniemee at 6:48 PM on August 18 [19 favorites]


There is a hardware store in my highly gentrified neighborhood that manages to be incredibly practical in a way that seems unintentionally on-trend.
posted by silby at 7:03 PM on August 18 [1 favorite]


Pretty sure I spent $5 for a cup of cold brew at my local coffee boutique recently oh god
posted by oinopaponton at 7:07 PM on August 18


"Honest-to-god computers"? The way you phrase this makes me feel like anything newer than a Pentium III would be viewed with suspicion at best.
posted by DoctorFedora at 7:08 PM on August 18 [1 favorite]


There's a hardware store in my neighboring town that sells expensive furniture and home furnishings and the occasional weird old looking tool. Restoration something, if memory serves.
posted by The World Famous at 7:12 PM on August 18 [2 favorites]


If it's not a no-brand beige box running a version of Windows that came on floppy disks it's not an honest-to-god computer
posted by silby at 7:12 PM on August 18 [3 favorites]


If it's not a no-brand beige box running a version of Windows that came on floppy disks something POSIX-compliant it's not an honest-to-god computer
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 7:17 PM on August 18 [2 favorites]


Within 6 months, either you were cute, or you were gone.
posted by theora55 at 7:19 PM on August 18 [1 favorite]


Also, my brother wore a Nehru jacket unironically. I wish I had it.
posted by theora55 at 7:19 PM on August 18


If it doesn't use IBM cards, it's not an honest-to-god computer.
posted by The World Famous at 7:20 PM on August 18 [1 favorite]


If it's not a young woman with a math degree who's kind of confused to have any of her parts being sold anywhere and how is that legal anyway...
posted by Sequence at 7:22 PM on August 18 [3 favorites]


My brother has one of his high school yearbook pictures of him in a Nehru jacket (and love beads) the first time around -- about '67 or '68. So by the mid-80's they were definitely a revival.
posted by pbrim at 7:23 PM on August 18


$325 was my share of the rent for a big bedroom on the third floor of a nice North Beach flat with a nice living room a nice kitchen and a rooftop patio in 1994 that I and my friends lived in. Our most expensive PG&E was $28, split three ways. It took six days to earn the money necessary to pay the rent and utilities working a not professional job.

We were all upscale back when.
posted by vapidave at 7:24 PM on August 18 [6 favorites]


Maybe there are sewing patterns, somehow, somewhere, archived, of Nehru jackets? I guess you get something with a mandarin collar suit but I can't find anything that makes me go AH I NEED THAT. Also, the womens mandarin collar suits are not impressive at all.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 7:27 PM on August 18


I recently found out that I live in phunniemee's same neightborhood and it is definitely not gentrified.
posted by rossination at 7:52 PM on August 18


What about Twitter and Google employees?

Plus ca change...
posted by Inkoate at 8:02 PM on August 18 [1 favorite]


> How many points for a store that sells nothing but olive oil? My neighbourhood's got that

How many points for a store that sells nothing but doors?

My neighborhood is too boring for the gentry.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:04 PM on August 18 [1 favorite]




How to tell if your neighborhood is decidedly not gentrified:

Payday loan places! Auto repair shops! Way more hairdressers than you think could be sustainable! (this also hold true in rural areas)

I like Orwell's definition "In rich neighborhoods you see dogs but no shit, but in poor neighborhoods you see shit but no dogs."
posted by The Whelk at 8:13 PM on August 18 [20 favorites]


oh! and like nine different cell phone stores and a generic "kids clothing store" that's basically bins of things.
posted by The Whelk at 8:15 PM on August 18 [2 favorites]


-video rental outlet
-computer store selling parts for honest-to-god computers
-news stand
-secondhand store that only has things no one would wear


Those are all things that can be found in gentrified neighborhoods, except they're video rental places full of niche foreign films, and quirky Mac repair shops, and newsstands carrying oversize European art magazines, and secondhand stores that stock unwearable attire but cater to the ironic.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 8:31 PM on August 18 [1 favorite]


Also, the womens mandarin collar suits are not impressive at all.

They do tend toward the Romulan-esque.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:37 PM on August 18 [1 favorite]


The Card Cheat: "How many points for a store that sells nothing but olive oil? My neighbourhood's got that."

Oh, yeah. There's one of those a few blocks from my office. Right across from the new boutique hotel that they're building next to the other boutique hotel that they're building.
posted by octothorpe at 8:42 PM on August 18


Is Argentina known for its parmesan?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:08 PM on August 18 [2 favorites]


Psh! These days parmesean from anywhere less than Parmesia isn't really upscale.
posted by pwnguin at 9:19 PM on August 18 [3 favorites]


I'd say it's not even Parmesan...
posted by symbioid at 9:41 PM on August 18 [2 favorites]


My olive-oil-only store has now branched into wine-tasting and small plate noshes, so maybe there's trouble in Big Olive Oil.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 9:50 PM on August 18 [3 favorites]


Or maybe we have reached Peak Olive Oil!
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 9:51 PM on August 18 [4 favorites]


Coffee for five dollars a pound? Is there even qa store that does that? Even Safeway coffee on sale is $6.50 a pound.
posted by happyroach at 11:35 PM on August 18


$5 in 1985 is $11 in 2014 dollars so the price of upscale coffee seems to have gone up even in constant terms.
posted by silby at 11:42 PM on August 18 [2 favorites]


Do you want foam in your coffee? It's called a cup-a-chino, and wait 'til you see what it costs!
posted by Pizzarina Sbarro at 1:29 AM on August 19 [6 favorites]


Turkey Glue, if it's the baby store front I think it is, I'm pretty sure you either get or lose 5 points for the neighborhood having just completed a successful IndieGoGo campaign to preserve the abandoned building's indie neighborhood vibe. (Plus, I will never stop missing the creepy faceless whistling babies from the old signs on that building.)

A few neighborhoods over, here in Morningside, we are hopelessly ungentrified by these standards. I would possibly kill someone for a neighborhood gelato shop.

I started to try to tally the points for Lawrenceville but realized I'd hit ceiling very fast. This is a fun exercise in Pittsburgh, the city of a thousand twisty little neighborhoods, none alike.
posted by Stacey at 5:24 AM on August 19 [2 favorites]


The odd thing about the neighborhood that I live in (across town from Stacey) is that there's almost zero retail development but lots of residential gentrification. The houses are almost all restored to pristine victorian glory and populated by lots of doctors and lawyers but the two block business district is still largely boarded up. We don't even have a damn coffee shop.
posted by octothorpe at 7:18 AM on August 19 [1 favorite]


That's, oddly, exactly what we're like on this side of town too, Octothorpe! Young people are buying up houses and renovating them like crazy, to the extent where some of the long-time residents are pretty unhappy. But we have no businesses. Well, we have five (five!) hair and tanning salons. Also a Rite-aid and one pizza place, delivery-only, no place to eat in.

But until recently that was it. We had one great but short-lived coffee shop several years ago, and last year we finally got a neighborhood pub that seems to be maybe doing well enough to stick around. I've been supporting them so hard I'm really kind of tired of their menu, but damn, do I want them to do well and stick around because having an actual sit-down eating place in the neighborhood has been awesome. I'm pretty sure a single yinzer bar does not actually count as gentrification, though. There are no micro-greens.
posted by Stacey at 7:28 AM on August 19 [1 favorite]


The houses are almost all restored to pristine victorian glory and populated by lots of doctors and lawyers but the two block business district is still largely boarded up.

That's the main difference between gentrification back then, and what's happening now. Back then, people were buying homes and restoring them themselves, so the neighborhood would gentrify (kind of) organically. Nowadays, it seems to be a process that is driven by developers, speculators, and house-flippers.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 7:28 AM on August 19 [1 favorite]


No, my neighborhood is largely devoid of house flipping and developers. It's mostly long-term single family owner-occupied houses. I'm assuming that it's because most of the residents are like us and buy everything online. If I work from home, i certainly see a constant parade of UPS and FedEx trucks.
posted by octothorpe at 7:43 AM on August 19 [1 favorite]


Yup, Babyland is indeed the relic of former gentrification or the bottoming out of East Liberty in the 80s/90s (I assume the latter, but I'm a newcomer to the city).

My location as described above makes it difficult to identify with any of the surrounding neighborhoods, but I get to experience the complete individualism of each. East Liberty feels too big and business-y (even if half the storefronts are empty) to be a place with residential identity. I think the high percentage of rental properties contributes to this notion. Morningside, on the other hand, has almost no businesses worth visiting, but I feel infinitely safer amongst its gardens tended by the aging Italian residents. Bryant Street in Highland Park has a nice collection of restaurants and stores, all of which fall onto a modern gentrification checklist: Thai restaurant, pasta place with local greens, French bakery, artisan coffee shop, boutique. It's the moneyed small town of the group. Stanton Heights is where you drive between Lawrenceville and East Liberty, a suburb within city limits. And Garfield is the dead old mining town of the bunch, fitting in that it sits atop an old coal mine, but with land cheap enough for new ventures (like the urban farm that houses my bees).

A friend of mine describes Pittsburgh as a collection of small towns in close proximity. It seems apt given the isolation bred by the mountains and rivers and resultant spaghetti on a hillside roads.
posted by Turkey Glue at 8:30 AM on August 19 [2 favorites]


I like Orwell's definition "In rich neighborhoods you see dogs but no shit, but in poor neighborhoods you see shit but no dogs."

I wonder what it means that in my neighborhood one sees both shit AND dogs, in seemingly infinite supply.

Oh my god I do love to pet all of the furfaces though.
posted by like_a_friend at 9:27 AM on August 19


Payday loan places! Auto repair shops! Way more hairdressers than you think could be sustainable! (this also hold true in rural areas)

In my neighborhood the signifier appears to be: nail salons and karate studios. Fully 20% of the storefronts on the commercial drag by my house are one of the two. Although thrift shops are making a strong play.

We might be on the road for gentrification, though: an artisanal pizza company just moved into the old pizza shop. I like their pizza, but it's both less filling and 50% more expensive than the old guy's was.

Back then, people were buying homes and restoring them themselves, so the neighborhood would gentrify (kind of) organically. Nowadays, it seems to be a process that is driven by developers, speculators, and house-flippers.

That's what I've noticed in the East Bay: the tech boom has resulted in lots of housing being gentrified but crap all being done with regards to commercial real estate. So you get houses in some neighborhoods selling for a hundred thousand over the asking price, but the commercial units down the block remain as empty as they've been for the last five years. Everyone wants to live here, but nobody wants to open businesses in all the available commercial real estate.
posted by suelac at 9:33 AM on August 19 [3 favorites]


On further reflection, my neighborhood is gentrifying: the CB radio store went out of business last year, and was replaced by a "taphouse."
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:34 AM on August 19


How to tell if your neighborhood is decidedly not gentrified:

-travel agency
-video rental outlet
-computer store selling parts for honest-to-god computers
-news stand
-secondhand store that only has things no one would wear
-unisex hair salons specifically labeled as "unisex hair salon"


Oh I wish I had those stores available to me. On Main Street after 10 years of "Main Street Development" headed by a Main Street Development manager paid for by the town, we have:

2 Barber shops
2 Hair salons
1 Store Front church
1 Police Station
1 Main Street Development office
1 Florist Shop with really shitty taste in flowers that mainly does funeral wreathes
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 12:26 PM on August 19 [3 favorites]


My olive-oil-only store has now branched into wine-tasting and small plate noshes, so maybe there's trouble in Big Olive Oil.

Actually, there's a genuine problem with bootleg olive oil these days.

...fiction has to make sense (unless it's Dadist.)
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:29 PM on August 19


Oh yes, storefront churches, another big indicator.
posted by The Whelk at 2:06 PM on August 19


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