What kind of neighborhood has a Chinese Food and Donut store? I had an irrational obsession photographing that store, which I featured in yesterday’s post. You don’t see that kind of place in a suburban shopping mall or in the swanky downtown shopping districts. No, a neighborhood that has such a store grows naturally, along with other small shop owners trying to make a living. Businesses that serves the community which in turn directly supports their families.
It seems like in most cities in the U.S., chain stores with their formulas and well defined niches strategically plan their locations. Looking at a giant map, overlaying demographics and seeing if an area is adequately covered. Gone, mostly, are the organically derived businesses that service and maybe flourish based on limited resources and Darwinian competition. The Mission District in San Francisco is a throwback.
I wonder how many still exist in the United States — locations with small stores, pack together, walkable and serving a whole community. Not filled with chain stores but with small businesses in a neighborhood connected with public streets and sidewalks. I’m sure the northeast still have them. Areas around Boston, New York and Philadelphia. Chicago, maybe St. Louis? I doubt they exist in the newer cities dominated by the car culture and shopping malls.
I know my kids didn’t appreciate this. A working class area with unimpressive shops catering to everyday needs. But the Mission District reminded me of Queens, New York, where I grew up. Sure the architecture is different and we didn’t have palm trees in cold NYC, but the stores are similar.
There are so many photogenic and famous tourist spots in San Francisco, but shooting these lesser known neighborhoods are interesting too. The everyday places. The kind of places that I photographed in my recent trip to India; I’m doing the same thing, except in the United States. How often do we see corner fruit stores or giant butcher shops in America?
I hear that the Mission District is gentrifying. I wonder how long these stores will be around?
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