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 k / o
                                       politics + culture

Sunday, July 31, 2005

bookstores and coffeeshops

When I think of:

  • Papyrus
  • Odegaards
  • Shambhala
  • the Hungry Mind

  • what comes to mind are the smells, the narrow aisles, the countless hours I spent in each of these bookstores. There's just something cool...something organic, friendly and particular about the disheveled nature of the local book shop. Of course, none of those listed above exist anymore.

    A friend of mine, sitting at the family-owned cafe we both like to frequent, said to me:
    "You know, my financial adviser just told me to invest in... insert name of major coffee chain ... and I'm torn. It'd be a good investment, I'm sure. But wouldn't it drive places like this out of business?"

    It's an interesting thought. You could be sitting drinking coffee while your portfolio was effectively working to pull the chair out from under you.

    We can all agree that we love neighborhoods with local bookstores and coffeeshops. And we can all agree, on some level, that local ownership has real advantages....a dollar you spend at a neighborhood business tends to stay in your community, bouncing around from business to business. An owner/proprietor becomes a part of the fabric of a neighborhood in a way that a manager who commutes and parks in a parking lot does not.

    Nothing guarantees that any small business will last forever. What's always got me, though, is that nothing guarantees that a large business will either. In fact, it's always seemed to me that the exponential growth in major chains in this country will someday bump into that reality in a very visible way.

    We progressives have always been falsely seen as simply being about regulation. I disagree, we have, all along, also been very much about innovation in business and entrepreneurship in ways large and small. Just think about recycling and REI and natural foods. Think about fair trade coffee and stores like the Body Shop and Global Exchange.

    Is there a way to grow and compete and still be connected to the community, ie. to achieve some balance here? Is this a moment to enunciate a "green economics?" Is there an innovative way to keep our communities lined with locally-owned, persnickety bookstores and coffeshops in the digital age? From what I can see, the mainstream isn't even trying to answer these questions.

    Shouldn't we?


    • This is a conundrum I've been wrestling with for some time. On the one hand, I want to invest some money, but on the other, I don't want to support companies I detest. There are a few mutual funds that make a conscious effort to invest in only liberal companies, but they are few and far between. When my wife had to choose funds for her 401k, every single option had tobacco, alcohol, Big Pharma, outsourcers, monopolists, etc. But in order to get her company's matching funds, we had to choose from what they were offering. It sucks.

      By Anonymous mrboma, at 2:44 PM  

    • Conundrum is right.

      Your dilemma is so perverse...since it is your money we're talking about here. Even according to right wing economists, your money should be free to engage the market as you wish.

      However, as the economy becomes more and more linked into fewer and fewer large corporations...we're all affected by it, and "invested" in it. It becomes a question, literally, of who does our economy serve?

      People / Communities / Investors?

      Isn't there some overlap of interests here?

      Many people, inside and outside of the corporate world, are afraid to stand up and say..."maybe there's another way"...even though, for all of our sakes, we should be pursuing one.

      Here in Berkeley / Oakland / SF there is a node of people....similar to other nodes across the States...who take a "purist" approach, and try to just get "off the grid" so to speak. Others of us either can't, or choose not to.

      As someone who is engaged in our economy....ahem....imo, the time has come to suggest some alternatives that are innovative and realistic and allow for all of us to participate, to engage the "corporate economy" for the common good.

      I think the time has come to talk about a "green economy" and what that means....

      more blogging to do . And more links to point up.

      Thanks for the comment, mrboma, good to see you here!

      By Blogger kid oakland, at 3:22 PM  

    • Sad about the Hungry Mind. I made a point of stopping in there on a random trip to St. Paul once. It seemed like a great place.

      I'm "between" bookstores right now. The vast, mandatory, library-based reading needs of graduate school mixed with the background of "fun" books I just pick up somehow or get as gifts--it's all conspired to keep me from going to bookstores for about five years now. I've stumbled across a few nice ones, but I haven't wandered in and browsed aimlessly like I used to do back in The Day.

      In The Day, aimless browsing occurred at the fantastic Caveat Emptor Bookmongers (used books) in the town where I grew up. Hearing about the Hungry Mind gave me a panic--quickly to the google! Whew. Caveat Emptor is still alive, in what was the "new" location the last time I was there, about ten years ago. Looks like it's still run by honest Janus (I think that was his name--the bearded gentleman in the background photo.)

      So, not to rub it in or anything, but at least one great bookstore still survives.

      About the investing, this article by William Greider in The Nation was interesting--about how public pension funds and unions are dealing with (and should deal with) the conundrum. I need to reread it.

      By Blogger &y, at 4:43 PM  

    • Papyrus is gone? I thought I saw one around the financial district! Jeez. Time just blows right by me these days.

      BTW, your blog looks & feels very good.

      By Blogger x, at 5:09 PM  

    • So many here have gone away, we used to go out of our way to find those bookstores that are owned by real people, not corporations.

      Still a few around here though, but few is a key word.

      By Blogger SanJoseLady, at 6:01 PM  

    • About those large businesses; according to sprawl-busters.com, there are over 4000 abandoned malls and shopping centers in America. A 2001 Preservation Trust of Vermont study found that as of that time there were already 380 abandoned and mostly empty former Wal-Mart stores in America.

      I'm active in a local citizens group opposing a giant new shopping center here in town; it appears that we've just gained what might be a significant victory in the effort.

      By Blogger DancingLarry, at 6:48 PM  

    • Every time you shop at Wal*Mart, you are shopping away your job, your community and your country.

      By Blogger NYBri, at 7:32 PM  

    • Is Black Oak bookstore in Berkeley still open? Or did it get too big to fit into the category. I loved that place.
      And do you think Peet's Coffee lost it when they expanded?
      One good thing about being a UC employee/retiree -- they have socially responsible investment opportunities for the retirement accounts. The bad thing -- no matching funds.
      I sure do miss Berkeley.


      By Anonymous gretel, at 10:31 PM  

    • What a great set of comments....really good links...all read.... (thanks &y...for turning up material for a front page post again!)

      Greta, I just bought a book at Black Oak, so I can assure you they are open.

      And Dancing Larry...I read your links and all I could think of was folks I'm close to who've worked at Wal-Mart.

      There's a kind of "oh well" that you get from rural America. There's been so many changes. So many. And all from distant forces over which you have no control. I think folks have tended to just make the best of it...

      By Blogger kid oakland, at 10:48 PM  

    • It's my pleasure, k/o. While I have next to zero time to deal with my own blog right now--it will rise again (for the first time)--I get a vicarious thrill from helping out my comrades-in-blog with a link or a comment or whatever I can offer. And a fellow Cartelian will always merit special attention.

      Quick question: About a year or so ago, somebody wrote a diary at Kos about how he was a radio operator (or something) on one of the ships that was involved in the Gulf of Tonkin incident. My feeble memory recalls that you were the author, but I can't even find the post now (even more feeble than my memory is my ability to search for things at Kos). Was that you? And, if so, can you supply the link?

      By Blogger &y, at 5:58 AM  

    • try


      it's a "starbucks delocator" -- aka find a local cafe near you that's not a starbucks.

      p.s. can you make links in these comments?

      By Anonymous arb, at 5:25 PM  

    • Let me try...

      Kid Oakland's Blog

      By Blogger NYBri, at 8:52 PM  

    • Guess you can...

      By Blogger NYBri, at 8:53 PM  

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      By Blogger William, at 7:06 PM  

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