The new hot topic around Seattle these days seems to be this thing called “gentrification.”
With an abundance of new luxury buildings and upscale businesses, and an exodus of the working/middle class and people of color, the city is definitely undergoing some, shall we say, “transitions.”
But it’s not all bad!
Apparently there are ways of gentrifying a neighborhood that are quite groovy – and will help you avoid the ire of the locals while still cashing in on a rad business opportunity. A kinder, gentler gentrification, if you will.
Let’s say you’re a new-to-the-neighborhood entrepreneur or developer-type. How do you know if you’re doing it the right way?
Luckily for you, we made a handy quiz to find out!
1. Do your products contain the following words?
d) These are words?
2. What happened to the business that used to be in the place your business is moving into?
a) They closed because of rent hikes. But all is not lost, I bought the rights to the business name and menu!
b) They closed because the people who shopped there moved to Skyway/Federal Way/out-of-state.
c) They closed because of prolonged construction and roadwork that blocked customer access.
d) It was vacant.
3. Is there at least a one-to-ten ratio of people of color amongst customers and employees at your business at any given time? (We’ll even allow racially ambiguous)
a) I don’t see color. Why are you being so racist?
b) Not right now, but my black friend says he loves the food here.
c) You betcha! (High-five)
d) Yes – and way more than uh, 10%. Also I live in the community and so do the staff.
4. So you want to open a ramen/tacos & tamales/soul food restaurant (hey, at least it’s not tapas!). Does the cuisine you’re offering come directly from your personal or family culture?
a) Not at all. But I did my homework and spent a summer there once. Plus I’m dating someone who taught me all about it. So the dishes are very AUTHENTIC.
b) What does that even matter? It’s just food, why are you making such a big deal about it? I’m taking influences from and honoring the heritage of these people! So basically, No.
c) I hire attractive Asian girls as servers, and they add cultural legitimacy to my business.
d) We’ve been in the restaurant business for years. My family hasn’t had equal access to other sectors due to language barriers, lack of start-up capital, discrimination, etc. so our ability to draw upon our culture and traditions as a resource is one of the only things that has sustained us.
5. Are you using the right vocab to describe the changes happening to the neighborhood?
a) Park District/ West Edge/Gateway District. Sure, these are made up names by developers and condo marketers, but don’t they sound fancy? These “micro-hoods” really come in handy for bypassing any of the yucky associations with existing areas like Downtown and Pioneer Square (homeless people, gross), and they make buyers feel like special snowflakes.
b) Urban Renewal
c) Neighborhood Revitalization
6. Are there existing small businesses nearby that sell similar products, and will now have to compete with you?
a) Yes, but that’s the beauty of capitalism. Survival of the fittest, baby!
b) Wait, there are?
c) Yes, but that’s totally irrelevant because we serve a “different market.”
d) We are that longstanding nearby business. But probably not for long.
7. Can people who’ve lived in the neighborhood for years afford your food or products?
a) I’m trying to run a business here, not a charity.
b) HA! Hahahahaaaa… I mean, we serve an upscale clientele.
c) Absolutely! If they stick to the appetizers.
d)Yes, they come here all the time.
8. You’re a new kid on the block, aka the NÜ biz to the nabe. How do you “give back” to the community you are now doing business in?
a) See the last question: I’m trying to run a business here, not a charity.
b) $2 off Crudités during Happy Hour.
c) We named our craft cocktail menu after notable figures from this area. The “Nate Robinson Roy” features micro-batch quadruple-distilled scotch with a dash of apothecary-extracted botanic bitters and a complex woody finish with anise top notes — served mingled, not stirred. Nate Robinson personally has never endorsed it, but I’m sure he’d like it. What do you mean he has his own restaurant already?
d) I’m not a new business. We’ve been here for over a decade.
9. Hold up, I don’t get this quiz… Can gentrification be “right” in the first place?
a) What’s not to “get?” Are you a Socialist?
b) It sure feels right when I cash the checks.
c) I guess… I read an article in a progressive alt weekly that said it could be… and most helpfully explained how to do it!
d) Good question. Not for me, my family’s business is closing.
Mostly A’s: You’re a Proactive Profiteer
Congrats! You’re doing gentrification RIGHT and feeling great about it! You can now enjoy the self-satisfaction that should flow freely from multiple culinary awards, the adoration of your peers and local papers, and glowing Yelp and Nextdoor reviews. Plus other intangible, immaterial rewards (profits!).
Mostly B’s: You’re an Oblivious Capitalist
You seem to be totally unaware of this thing called “gentrification,” but not to worry – you’re also #winning at this! No one’s ever thought of your unique business concept before…or at least bothered to do it here… or did it with these minimalist interior design elements, so it’s time someone stepped up, and that someone is you! Ingenuity and innovation reap rewards…plus, bonus — it’s profitable!
Mostly C’s: You’re a Considerate Gentrifier
Wow, it sounds like you’ve really put a lot of thought into how to cover your ass be mindful about gentrifying the neighborhood in the most RIGHTeous way possible! There’s more than one way to skin a cat, and your overtures at diversity and authenticity should be appreciated by this community. Pat yourself on the back for all you’re doing for the neighborhood, like bringing relief to a foodie desert (or at least a “decent espresso” desert). And don’t let anyone make you feel bad about your business thriving where others have failed. If not you, it would be another entrepreneur snatching up this space. Well, someone who can also afford the new rent.
Mostly D’s: You’re a Legacy Small Business Owner
Soooo…how do I put this? You shouldn’t be wasting time taking this quiz, you should be rewriting your business plan. There are a lot of entrepreneurs looking to do gentrification “right” in this neighborhood and the competition is getting fierce. Hey, while I’ve got your attention, are you planning on moving anytime soon? Can I get your recipe for fish sauce chicken wings…and your landlord’s phone number?