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article imageLos Angeles bemoans 'death by franchise' of its landmark local businesses

By Paul Wallis     Nov 5, 2007 in Environment
An LA native has a few problems with the Starbuckization of the world. LA Times staff writer Steve Hymon has revived the common curse of a previous generation about the advent of commercial monocultures destroying the character of their homes.
Hymon has almost raised the dead with this short but obviously heartfelt piece. The Word War Two generation almost universally loathed the glitz of what was then modern suburbia in the 60s and 70s. Words like “crass”, “tasteless”, and other forgotten descriptions of forgotten social skills were pretty common.
Now, “crass” and “tasteless” are synonyms for the culture and the food.
Not to say “bestial” and “inhuman”. That would be just tautology.
He reels off a list of local landmarks, Mom and Pop businesses, the “home turf” of a neighborhood. One of his favorite places, a hot doggery called The Wiener Factory is moving out, after 36 years. It’s being replaced by a franchise thing that sells a product of indeterminate origins and ancestry.
The franchise is talking about parking issues, that ongoing sublime joy of all residential ‘hoods. What the world really wants is more people using their local parking. This fact is relayed deadpan, while The Wiener Factory is getting multiple offers of help relocating.
It’s an interesting perspective, because the alienation of a neighborhood really equates to its blurring into the mainstream. McEverythings, Crazy Someone Or Others, the hallmarks of malldom slither in to local environments like some introduced animal.
What’s always fascinated me is the sheer monotony of these cereal box businesses. No personality, no character, no ID, really, except a generic blandness with publicists. Tedium personified. Anonymity with a logo.
How many people actually remember anything worth remembering from shopping in places like that? The non-experience of eating something forgotten even faster than it’s eaten? People are supposed to eat at places like that “because they know what they’re getting”, but what was it?
The Wiener Factory’s owner says that the streets were "paved with gold", once, and based on Hymon’s piece, at any social or cultural exchange rate, that seems a fair valuation.
I went back to the place I grew up a few years back, and the very first shop I ever went to as a kid still had the same door.
More about Suburbia, Franchises, Los angeles
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