Duane Reade – Oh Noes!

Oh great, now the Guardian (UK) is on the Duane Reade story. Must be news.

Give me a break.

It’s not news.

It’s a drugstore.

A shiny new, clean and characterless drugstore (I never thought I would use the words “shiny”, “clean” or “characterless” in describing a Duane Reade, but there you go). The second such shiny new, clean and characterless Duane Reade to open on the Northside in the past year.

In an article practically oozing with ridiculous Williamsburg stereotypes – hipsters, beards, tattoos, piercings, lifestyles “funded by middle-class parents” (in Ohio, no doubt), and rumors (rumors) of a Starbucks (a boogey man we’ve been hearing about for 15 years) – the Guardian tries to find deeper meaning in the opening of a new Duane Reade in a ugly condo on Bedford Avenue.

There isn’t any deeper meaning. It’s a drugstore. A lot of the “poor… Jewish, eastern European and Hispanic working-class immigrants” who populated the neighborhood until a decade ago are probably just fine with a new drugstore. But who knows? – the Guardian (and every other newspaper that has decided that this is “news”) didn’t interview anyone who has lived in the neighborhood for more than 7 years. The basis of the entire article is that people who have lived here for less than a decade are being forced out by the taint of corporatism. Other than acknowledging that there were groups of people who lived here before 2000 (but no artists or non-ethnic white people, apparently), there is no attempt to find out what longtime residents think about this – or even if, and more importantly, to what extent, those residents are moving/have moved out of the neighborhood.

Maybe the longtime residents aren’t shopping at Duane Reade. Maybe they don’t need growlers and frozen frat food. Maybe they like their neighborhood pharmacies but don’t sign petitions. (BTW – has anyone actually comparison shopped between DR and King’s? My scientific sampling shows that they both charge exactly the same amount ($10.99) for a bottle of contact lens solution, but that King’s has way better music).

The only sane person in the entire article is Josh Freeman, history professor at CUNY, who notes “Cities and neighbourhoods change all the time. You can’t freeze them. You don’t want to create a sort of museum”.


So shop where you want. Just shut up about it. And remember, it’s just a drugstore.

4 responses to “Duane Reade – Oh Noes!”

  1. Also, how old was the pic they used? at least a year judging from photos in the bg.

    That said, I’m only about a 10-yr resident, not an artist, and the DR and the nail shops and the kiddie gym wholly bum me out, but nothing compares to the density increase. Wmsburg used to feel cozy and free. Now it’s so crowded I feel like I have to fight your way down every sidewalk.

    I don’t think you can point to the DR or anything as the ONE THING that is terrible but the cumulative affect of all this change, on nearly every block, is intense. they say moving and loss are two of the most psychically difficult transitions people have and I think we all have essentially, moved to a new neighborhood and lost our old one. That’s part of what makes people so easily upset by each new thing.

  2. The photo just adds to the ridiculousness of the whole article – it’s from Williamsburg Walks, a two-day event that is a lot of fun but not necessarily the best way to meet the full cross-section of Northsiders.

    The whole article is just lazy journalism.

    And I agree with your points – like I said before, Williamsburg goes through a quantum leap every 18 months or so. It’s been happening since the late 90s, and shows no sign of letting up.

  3. Whereas Ward I agree with you on almost every point, there is just one we differ on: there is a deeper meaning–gentrification. Irrespective of the axiomatic dynamic nature of all communities, the circumstances of Williamsburg’s gentrification are unique and demand appraisal. Duane Reade IS JUST a drugstore (sorry caps), insofar that “is just” is never “just” what it appears to be. The introduction of a variable into any field transforms that field. It’s not trite, it’s anthropology. It’s fine, even excellent, that Duane Reade, or the process of Duane Reade, should undergo its examination–it’s unfortunate that hitherto it has been caricature drawn by ‘outsiders’ as you describe.

    Whereas I agree with the other commentators that we should ridicule this article, I wish to emphasize probing “deeper meanings” into community changes. The sheer absence of those “deeper meanings” is endemic in Williamsburg–99% of the population, as has been earlier argued elsewhere and demonstrate here by you, have zero knowledge as to the reasons why so much hysteria swarms Williamsburg these days.

    And Williamsburg “[seemingly going] through a quantum leap every 18 months or so…since the late 90s” [which is an ironic myopia calling other vision ‘myopic’] only proves the cyclical nature of time. It doesn’t and shouldn’t preclude examination into any particular cycle in time, especially this one known as the “gentrification of Williamsburg.”

  4. Thank you for this. The petitioning drives me crazy.