So I was up early yesterday to lay posters around the neighborhood for the HotHouse Tsunami Relief Benefit on Sunday and I headed toward the Bridgeport Coffee House. Until I went in there every business I asked to hang a poster had been very amenable to hanging a poster, understanding the gravity of the situation in Southeast Asia right now.
I walked into the Coffee House and askede the owner if I could hang the poster. "Where is the fundraiser being held?" He asked. When I told him that HotHouse was in the South Loop, he hesitated and said, "No."
I was slightly shocked that he would refuse to let me hang the poster, being that it is for a charitable cause; it was his decision and I was content to respect it. Until he felt the need to explain his reasoning, unprodded.
"If the benefit were being held in the neighborhood, I'd say 'yeah.' But it isn't doing anything for the neighborhood."
To add insult to injury, I bought a mocha after he told me that. I was too shocked to wonder if my jaw dropped when he told me that, but went through the rest of the day hanging more posters and arranging for liquor and beverage companies to donate product for the event. I walked west on 31st Street; if I were in my angry days that mocha would've found its way splattered on the door of the coffee house. But I'm not and I was slightly chilly.
Late in the afternoon I sent an e-mail update to the office and realyed the story about the Bridgeport Coffee house in the e-mail. Marguerite responded as she was leaving for the evening about a similar experience she had with the managers of Swedish Bakery in Andersonville. She also said that many upscale boutiques in her neighborhood outright refused to let her hang posters.
Although I appreciated the sympathy, I still couldn't let the Bridgeport Coffee House incident go. Particularly the line: "It isn't doing anything for the neighborhood." My friends will tell you that I'm as proud of my neighborhood as anyone. I patronize the local businesses as often as I can, keeping my money in the neighborhood. But a bullshit line like that is exactly the type of line that people in Bridgeport- for that matter the South Side of Chicago- need to rehabilitate if we expect the kind of growth, transformation, and influx of new residents that we want to see.
Otherwise attitudes like the owner of the Bridgeport Coffee House aren't doing anything for the neighborhood, either. Except getting people ready for the inevitable Starbuck's.