On Tuesday, the News reported the closing of News Haven and the future opening of a Panera Bread in its place. Skimming the article as I avoided puddles on Elm Street, I wilted a little. In truth, I had been to the international periodical outlet just once during my freshman year, and even then only to buy pens. Confused by the “No Browsing” sign, I hadn’t stayed to peruse, and yet, as an aspiring writer or editor or “something involving books,” I felt this closure as another wound to my cherished industry. A moment of silence, please.
Walking briskly to get out of the rain, I probably would have forgotten all about the death of News Haven by the next block. But then I came to this line: “Two of [13 students interviewed] said they think Panera will provide students with a much-needed breakfast option around campus.”
“WHAT??!!,” I thought. There was an angry pressure behind my eyeballs. “A MUCH-NEEDED WHAT??”
Granted, I rarely eat breakfast. I usually prefer extra sleep to a banana and cold cereal (sorry, Mom), and I don’t really care where other people consume their Most Important Meal. But if even close to 15 percent of the undergraduate population thinks New Haven is lacking in delicious breakfast locales, I kindly suggest that they poke their befuddled heads out of Commons and tear an itty bitty hole in that Yale culinary cocoon.
An overreaction? Maybe. But here’s the thing:
You want pastries? I can’t think of a single Panera baked good that tastes better than a Blue State raspberry muffin, and JoJo’s, Willoughby’s and Koffee all have house-made treats. You want an egg sandwich? Try the Gourmet Heavens on Broadway or Whitney for 24-hour breakfast-y goodness or hit up Wall Street Pizza for a bacon, egg and cheese with perfectly runny yolks and a 10-percent student discount. Craving a sit-down affair? Chap’s, Claire’s or A1 Pizza is your place. Weekend brunch? Find it vegan-style at Red Lentil or in full force at, of all places, Rudy’s. Looking for the real deli feel? Stroll over to Orangeside Luncheonette for pastrami and eggs with pancakes. And of course there is always trusty Atticus for your book-browsing and quiche-eating needs.
So call me a locavore, call me a hipster, call me a trust-busting wannabe or some other laissez-faire-hating epithet. Fine. But my dollars will keep on voting for the Book Traders, the Woodlands and all the other superior, intimate New Haven establishments that have stories of origin instead of marketing copy, and that make this city feel like home.
In the same article about the end of News Haven, Abigail Raider of University Properties was quoted as saying, “national and regional merchants have the marketing and brand to draw people from the suburbs (who otherwise might never come) into the city to enjoy the city’s cosmopolitan look and feel.” And that may be true.
But this is also true: While traveling through northeastern Germany this past spring, a new friend, Nicole, took me to Rostock, a Hanseatic city about the size of New Haven. She had visited the city often as a teenager, and after more than two years away, she was eager to check in on fond memories. We wandered quietly together down Doberaner Strasse.
“It’s very different,” she finally told me in German. “Now there are so many Ketten (chains).” Then she started pointing out storefronts. A pizza chain that used to be a gelato parlor. A nationwide drugstore that used to be a trendy boutique. A ubiquitous media outlet that used to be a local university bookstore. A Starbucks.
Never having been to Rostock, I couldn’t exactly relate to Nicole’s loss. But during the three months I’d spent in Germany, the large signs of the popular Ketten — their colors, their typefaces, their slogans — had grown familiar to me. Despite its characteristic Brick Gothic churches and the copper plaques commemorating events from centuries past, Rostock felt a little too modern and a little too prefabricated.
We strolled through the Old Town for a few hours, I snapping photos and Nicole reconciling her childhood Rostock with the new one. We had a fine afternoon, but on the train out of Rostock I had the distinct sense that the marketing of Germany’s national merchants had ensured that Nicole would not be coming back any time soon.