Wednesday, September 14, 2011
One of the driving forces in New York City is that the bar is set higher for virtually every thing imaginable: products, services, culture, architecture, etc. Cream rises to the top, and New York City is where much of the cream of society lies.
I hate to make this read like "Why I Hate Bristol," but Bristol, Connecticut, where I grew up, became a metaphor, for many who lived there, for all things boring, unsophisticated, and closed-minded. A place where no one would think out of the box and where a person was made to feel foolish for aspirations, dreams, or anything that would dare take you away from that place or separate you from the pack.
I broke away and never regretted it. I do travel back there and nostalgize some, but, as I referenced from Jill Eisenstadt, the happiness I feel in those memories are likely about my youth and not the place.
Even finding the simplest things in that town is a challenge, if not impossible. My family, certainly of no great means, never ate in restaurants there. On the rare occasions where we did have a meal out, we had to travel far and wide. Astonishing for a town of 50,000 that no good restaurants existed (or still exist) there.
I recall many a holiday gathering where conversations would turn to how I believed that one could improve the services in Bristol in ways such as opening a cafe. Invariably my brother-in-law would always laugh and say, "Brian, we're talking Bristol." I was always frustrated because I felt that residents there would heartily welcome improved merchants.
Here, with an enormous populace and tremendous competition, the volume of quality goods rises. Many compete on price alone, of course, but that is a very tough road to travel; take a trip through Chinatown and see if you want to engage in pricing wars. A better route to follow is to differentiate yourself with better quality, variety, or specialty. Places such as the Doughnut Plant, Kossar's Bialys, Cones, Il Laboratorio Del Gelato, Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream Truck, Raffetto's, Eileen's Cheesecake, Ceci Cela, Matt Umanov, etc. are what makes New York City unique and a joy to visit or live in.
On a recent visit to the garment district on business (see here), I ran across the Baked Potato King. Nothing could have pleased me more - I was starving and was looking for something satisfying I could get while on the run. I love baked potatoes, and what better way to get some much needed carbs for lunch?
I chatted with vendor Vladislov Rubinov and took photos and video, for which he was very accommodating. When I thanked him, he responded with a very genuine "my pleasure." This was so odd and surprising coming from someone in New York City, particularly a street vendor. It reminded me of the comment made by Jamie Adkins in my office. These things are to be expected in suburban or rural environments but can be rare in the city.
I had many bags and samples to carry, and it was drizzly. Better to take the potato back to my office. I ate it quickly and went back to work. But long after the taste of the potato was gone, Vladislov's words sting lingered. 'Twas a bit of humanity that graced my day. It was, and is, My Pleasure :)