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Monday, September 29, 2014

Turnover

Why does anyone bother starting a business in Cambridge? I've lived here on and off for the past six years, and walking down Mass Ave from Central to Porter Squares, I'd say that more than half the businesses that line it have changed during that time. The life cycle, especially in Harvard Square, is something like:
1. discover boring old thing is closing, lament, b/c small local business that tried so hard, like little engine that could (but couldn't)
2. hear that new thing is coming in its place! we don't have one of these particular things yet! cast aside lamentation, recall pleasures of novelty, rejoice!
3. new thing opens, so new! stand in line during opening week for it, rejoicing!
4. within first three months, new thing acquires 200 gushing Yelp reviews, six regular customers, 12 irregular customers, and 24 people who are perennially planning to check it out soon, thereby reaching equilibrium, while other new things open in the vicinity and novelty of this old-new thing begins to wear off
5. within six months, Yelp reviews begin to emphasize lack of "creativity" in food or merchandise, complain that place is "bland" and "tired," notice that it is "overpriced"
6. within two years, profits sink, overhead costs increase, place looks empty all the time and cuts its hours
7. evince concern, recall fond memories of the two times you ate/shopped there when it first opened, insist that old-new thing is "an institution" that can't possibly be permitted to close even though, yes, it's a bit dated and no, you personally haven't stepped inside in the last 12 months
8. old-new thing announces closure, lament, rend garments, decry corporate capitalism
9. new-new thing announces opening in old-new thing's place, promises novelty, inspires new bout of rejoicing
10. old thing is gutted, new thing opens, everyone rejoices and forgets what was even there before, but probably something old and lame?

There do seem to be some establishments that are neither churches nor hospitals yet remain insulated from the laws of novelty and boredom, like this wretched hole. But the survival of such places can probably be attributed to the indiscriminate appetite-increasing side effects of illicit substance use among the undergraduates under whose noses they are located.

UPDATE: A timely case-in-point. Ramen! We don't have one of those yet (except up in Porter Sq.)! So new! Rejoicing stage commences.

5 comments:

Pudge said...

I take it you're not a fan of the People's Republik?

Miss Self-Important said...

I've never been there actually. Too close to Central Square and its associated yuckiness. I prefer the beer dispensaries along the Harvard-to-Porter stretch of Mass Ave. Is it good?

Pudge said...

I haven't been inside since recently moving back to MA, but I was glad to see it still there- as I recall it fondly as a place suitable for contemplative conversation but not overrun with the future self-entitled elite. Essentially it is both literally and as-the-kids-say Harvard-adjacent. As you say, though, I find much of the rest of Mass Ave unrecognizable and yet unchanged.

mike shupp said...

Ah! In my day, we Tech and Harvie types had Elsies. But that was 50 years ago.

Miss Self-Important said...

Pudge: Unrecognizable and yet unchanged is pretty much it.

MS: So too may be the terms "Tech and Harvie types."