Wednesday, December 03, 2014


Just as Only a Game is the only sports show I listen to regularly, Marketplace is my sole business program, since most business-oriented journalism embraces too many of the simplifying assumptions of neoliberal economics. Even Marketplace was testing my patience in recent days, ending a recent segment with "Buy Early, Buy Often" uttered without irony.

 But my Marketplace is back this week, redeeming itself with thoughtful and creative journalism about economic geography at a very local scale. And as if to welcome me back into the fold personally, its series on gentrification begins in ... wait for it .. a Latin-themed coffee shop.

For the series York & Fig, Marketplace has actually set up an office in the Highland Park area of Los Angeles, where the intersection of York Boulevard and Figueroa Street ten miles north of its main office and right in the middle of a rapidly changing neighborhood. The purpose is to investigate the process of gentrification, with a focus on exactly what indicates that a neighborhood is beginning a process of rapid economic and social change.

The first indicator: coffee. In this case, Café de Leche is a local establishment that has been gaining a lot of positive attention, and whose very presence is seen as a bellwether of changes that are underway. For those who care more about coffee than economic geography, this story is a great hook -- come for the coffee, and learn just how interesting urban geography can be!

The café that drew me into this series is actually about a mile ENE of the intersection that is the hub of this changing neighborhood. The next time I am in LA (it has been close to thirty years, so I'm overdue), I'll visit so that I can review it for GeoCafes.


While I was thinking about these stories, my favorite librarian shared another story about a very different kind of change in the economic geography of Los Angeles. The article LA's Mom & Pop Donut Shops Have Harsh Words for Dunkin' Donuts gives hope that the City of the Angels might be able to resist the sweet temptations of Coffee Hell.

DK Donuts owner Mayly Tao says, "Dunkin' is the McDonald's of donuts. I haven't tried their donuts, but I hear they're stale."

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