Community Will Come First

Not surprising but I am thinking a lot about the future of restaurants. Emily recommended Arbitrary Stupid Goal by Tamara Shopsin. A wonderful book that took me back to the days of life in Greenwich village when there was a bohemian community a bit different from the one we have today.

Tamara is the daughter of Kenny Shopshin who owned a grocery store/restaurant on the corner of Morton and Bedford. I still remember eating there. It was the winter of 1980. The menu had hundreds of things on it from sesame noodles to a burger to an Indian dish. Kenny was a short-order cook extraordinaire. His wife, Eve was the waitress and the kids, all 5 of them chipped in regardless of age. The restaurant still exists at Essex Street Market even though the parents are gone.

Between the book and the countless conversations about the future of NYC and restaurants, I truly believe that community will be more important than ever. Like Shopsins.

At one point, the storefront rentals will go down. The city will have to react in order to rebuild an economy. The restaurants are going to have to figure out new business models. I had wanted to open a place in the West Village ten years ago which was a local restaurant (aka kitchen) that also carried food with friendly directions to heat up at home, some groceries too that were only carbon footprint friendly (aka no tomatoes in December) and a small butcher/cheese shop that had deep connections with the surrounding hood. It never happened for multiple reasons but now seems like an even better time to open that store.

The future in retail will be smaller stores, smaller brands, more intimate neighborhood spots down to the Watchmaker. The big brands are done unless they begin to reinvent themselves for the future. Fancy restaurants will exist but very few. Our lives have been all about community and family in the last seven months. The breath of air and reigniting deeper connections feels better than the fast rapid climb of the past decade.

This next generation is done with the explosion of greed. Personally I don’t blame them.  So am I.  I have always cared about building companies to create jobs and economies, not the businesses my friend refers to as “pump and dump”. The wheels are in motion, get on the train.  It is all changing. 

People will not be as stressed, life will be easier and more communal for designers, local stores, local restaurants,  Few will be looking to get to the top where you own 500 spots.  We are witnessing what happens with the 500 spots. They need debt to build, they can’t sustain the debt if things go bad so they fire everyone and leave many people without a paycheck and eventually a roof over their head and food on the table. It is not a good look.

Taking us down to the level of working at home, being with people you want to be with, living your own personal life while working has shifted all of our desires for what we need when this nightmare ends.  We will return to an easier, more equitable way of life.  And we should because we can.  

I am excited to see these changes take place with interesting entrepreneurs and new thought leaders.  I want to get to know the local spots more intimately. I want to know their name and I want them to know mine. I want to know who they are particularly in NYC. 

2020 sucks but we all must think about the silver linings.  Otherwise, we might all just kill ourselves.