Monday, January 3, 2011

Seen and Architecture 3: So Long to Pinkberry

I must confess I was not sad when I noticed that the Pinkberry on Larchmont Boulevard had vaporized over the holiday, vacated, gone, cute metal facade dismantled and shipped off for scrap, only a forlorn 25' wide yellow stucco facade with show window and Herculite glass door covered with brown paper and awaiting the next tenant who will pay way too much rent for the privilege of selling something you really don't need, or need to eat. My misanthropic feeling at the demise of this shop had little to do with the quality of the Pinkberry product; I confess I stopped and bought a frozen yogurt or two during the store's duration on my neighborhood shopping street. I do the same thing when I visit the beach, or Mackinaw Island. However, Larchmont is not really a tourist destination. Or is it?

No, rather than disappointed at a vacancy, perhaps a sign of the ever collapsing local economy,  I saw it as an optimistic sign that maybe every corner and nook in Los Angeles, or at least in my neighborhood, was not doomed to be another trendy chain, all brand and no soul, another venture that made my street that much closer to being like every other mall and every other street.

At one time there were lines of eager patrons on the sidewalk in front of Pinkberry jostling to get in, waiting for a tart treat. But even early on, even as Pinkberry was expanding like Starbucks onto numerous corners throughout the wedge of Los Angeles I call home, I noticed grumblings. I have now reached the age where brand cool is not defined by what I think or what I do, but by what my daughter consumes. In this regard at least Pinkberry was quickly supplanted by Yogurtland, a storefront that occupied decidedly more humble settings on La Brea Boulevard, one mile to the west. Even as Larchmont became more polished, more slick, more full of "shoppes", each trying to appeal to a local demographic in the hopes of defining a national brand - for me an empty vessel of a neighborhood street - La Brea somehow became more authentic. The kids got it and the lines moved to another neighborhood that wasn't quite so shiny and predictable.

Larchmont is left with is one more empty storefront. There are quite a few these days, the result of real estate speculation hell bent on defining the street as a mini-Robertson Boulevard. Perhaps the property owners and the commercial brokers and the brand concept marketers are right, this is the street to be on. For those of you who need a frozen Larchmont delight you could try Twirl (again, frozen yogurt), or Baciami (gelato), or the old standby Baskin Robbins, and prove them right. Yet, on December 1, 2010 there were four icie treat purveyors on one longish block in the middle of a wealthy upper middle class community in the middle of Los Angeles, and that was finally one too many.

Is it any wonder we are overweight and have an ever-increasing incidence of diabetes? And what about the children? I am not that far from young dadhood and my memory at least was struggling to control sugary temptations. Now Larchmont is a street that is increasingly all temptations all the time. It has all the quality of a food court, a quality food court, but a food court nevertheless. I want to think that the burghers of Pinkberry looked up and down Larchmont and came to the conclusion that their brand would suffer if they remained. So, in this fantasy at least, they took off to pinker more authentic pastures. And, now that they are not in my backyard, I might finally seek them out.

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