“Coffee culture is expanding on Myrtle Avenue,” begins a post on the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership’s website this morning. In Clinton Hill alone, the avenue is already home to Brewklyn Grind, Pillow Cafe, Peck’s, and Pushkin Creperie and Bakery, amongst other cafes and coffee distributors. And what new coffee shop is being added to this array of cold brew and latte art purveyors?
Why, it’s a Starbucks. The coffee behemoth will move into 394 Myrtle Avenue, between Vanderbilt and Clermont Avenues, a 4,800-square-foot space where Home & U discount store once operated.
As recently as last summer, Brooklynites “felt weird” about the intrusion of the hegemonic, international chain brand into our precious borough. And maybe a backlash will accompany the Clinton Hill Starbucks, as well. But if not, don’t be surprised. For one thing, we’ve become accustomed to this type of “chainification”; a new Starbucks is just another reminder that, yep, Brooklyn is changing. It was always better X minus 1-2 years ago, with X being the number of years ago you arrived in the neighborhood.
That’s a more honest assessment of the gentrification for which Starbucks has become a synecdoche, anyway. That’s because Starbucks doesn’t signal impending change so much as it confirms what’s been happening all along. Its very universality makes it an easy, ad-hoc target for despair about late capitalism’s effects on Brooklyn (most often, as felt in real estate prices). A Starbucks is a highly-visual, immediately-recognizable symbol, but it’s just that: a symbol. When a new Starbucks opens literally next door to a small local coffee shop (as happened when the Crown Heights Starbucks opened next to The Pulp and Bean), it makes for an impactful metaphor. But our outrage is better channeled in community board meetings or at the polls.
Follow Phillip Pantuso on Twitter @phillippantuso.