Don’t be fooled by the smell of sticky buns. You are under attack.
Yes, the new Panera Bread on Bardstown Road will be offering delicious baked goods. Yes, you want some. And yes, you should run the other way.
Let me start by saying I realize that training the cross-hairs of the enormous and devastating rhetorical power of Raised Relief on a stupid chain bakery is a little bit like using a Gatling gun to fish for minnows. It may seem like a trifle when there is so much in the world that is unjust and actually evil.
But I’m of the opinion that our neighborhoods and cities, our most immediate communities, are the places where we should be able to exert the greatest degree of efficacy, and that our responsibilities to those places should not be short-circuited by uncertainties and injustices elsewhere.
I think Panera’s new location critically endangers the aesthetic qualities of the neighborhood where I grew up, and, against all odds, I am hopeful that the business will fail totally and completely. If you truly don’t understand this concept, let’s meet sometime for jalepeno poppers and happy-hour Coors Light at Chile’s on Hurstbourne Lane. I’ll be happy to explain it in detail. Call me an elitist if you like, but I’m unrepentant in my desire to keep the 8th District from turning into Fourth Street Live-East.
Just like the blighted BW3s in the former location of the Bardstown Road Youth Community Center, Starbucks, and the Brave New Walgreens at Highland Avenue, the new Panera Bread will seamlessly integrate itself into the landscape of the neighborhood, and the hopes and expectations of Deer Park residents will soon trail off.
I’m not totally immune to the seductive, slow creep of corporate hegemony, which relies on forgetfulness, inaction and diminished expectations. I’ve crammed countless burritos into my face at Qdoba on Eastern Parkway and Bardstown Road, in what was the lobby of Louisville’s last independently owned neighborhood movie theater — The Uptown — where I was, like so many in my generation, critically scarred by “Bambi,” “E.T.” and “The Last Unicorn” as a boy.
But damn it, you’ve got to draw the line somewhere, and I will not eat stale crème hornes or completely sub-par egg sandwiches in the same sunlit window where the Local Music section used to stand at ear X-tacy. I understand the economics of the situation: A record store, whose roll in the grassroots musical culture of this city simply cannot be overstated, didn’t sell enough records to pay the rent, which was about to increase dramatically. They were squeezed out and forced to move down the street to 2226 Bardstown Road, where they are still selling music to people who buy music. Now Panera is moving in and will likely never leave. That this type of “progress” is familiar and very difficult to avoid is simple and true and sad.
Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much precedent for creative zoning that can limit the ability of gigantic corporations to slip into unique neighborhoods and destroy their character. They simply have more money and a bigger umbrella to weather the financial storms that sink many small businesses.
William Burroughs is purported to have attacked businesses he disapproved of through a shrewd campaign of psychic guerilla warfare, which consisted of parking a car in front of said objectionable establishment and playing the recorded sounds of gunfire, screaming and general mayhem over a public address system every day for a week. He swore by its effectiveness in making businesses fold within six months. Now I’m not suggesting anyone should employ this type of totally legal if obnoxious harassment in front of BW3s or Panera Bread in the Highlands (yes I am) — psychic warfare against your shitty corporate neighbors is not the answer (yes it is).
The remedies that are always available to us are choice and legislation. Call Councilman Tom Owen and Mayor Greg Fischer and ask them how we as a community can zone business corridors to favor local vendors over corporate ones. More importantly: Buy local. It’s not just a damn bumper sticker. These are the names of some locally owned businesses who need your support more than Panera: Bussman’s Bakery, Blue Dog, Breadworks, Plehn’s, Nord’s, Highland Morning, Twig and Leaf, Nancy’s Bagels, Homemade Pie and Ice Cream Kitchen — just to name a few.