– Mark E. Smith

As go venti lattes, so goes fromage. Michael Simpson’s business plan for the Leslieville Cheese Market (see its early, terrible site) was unaccountably published in the Globe and states:

This neighborhood is exploding…. Cheese-loving customers are moving to the neighborhood.

In other words, none of the poor people who were already here love cheese.

The local socio-demographic [sic] is evolving. What used to be a primarily white and extremely-low-SES population is shifting to families who can afford to buy a house and renovate. In order to do this, they need to have confidence in their surroundings. At some point in the last few years, critical mass has been attained: Quality middle-class people with comfortable finances have arrived and settled [emphasis added].

As opposed to those of us who were already here. I’ve never had my quality called into dispute before. Have you? (Honest to God, the first thing that came to mind was “Treblinka.” Am I going to be frogmarched out of the neighbourhood because my quality isn’t up to snuff?)

Development is happening everywhere…. There are dumpsters on front lawns of every side street, as people buy and renovate the beautiful Victorian rowhouses in the area.

There actually aren’t many of those, and if the renovators are anything like Simpson, what they’re doing is flipping them. (“Last year, he spent six months completely gutting and renovating a house”; he helpfully lists increases in “valuation” of 25% and 17%.)

High-end condos… At least 167 high-end units… More high-end condos… In contrast, there remain quite a few low-income families who have owned their houses for a long time. Real estate has made them wealthy.

So why not sell to them? I guess they’re the wrong kind of wealthy: They’re new money (last year), not old money (the turn of the century).

There is one rooming house left on our street. When the owner of that house realizes the difference between the potential sale price and the house’s monthly revenue, it will be on the market.

And he’ll make those residents homeless. This is gentrification, but it’s clearly nothing to worry about, as it does not affect quality people with high-end condos or flippable houses.

It’s interesting to note that, despite Price Chopper’s consistently lower prices…, Loblaws has… three or four times the number of customers… These customers are in a financial and social position in society that allows them to decide that they will never cross Leslie St. to set foot in Price Chopper.

It makes them fools, spendthrifts, or snobs, at least two of which are important niches for the Leslieville Cheese Market.

Memo to Michael Simpson: You have to cross Leslie St. to get from the Loblaws to your store. If you’re holding up Leslie as some kind of dividing line à la Parliament in Cabbagetown, note that all the action’s happening on the Price Chopper side.

An impulse purchase at the Cheese Market after brunch on a Sunday requires employment and financial security. People in this segment are homogeneous in their middle-class food needs: Quality meats, produce, cheese, and other dairy including eggs. These items are purchased locally at supermarkets and specialty stores, and cooked at home many nights of the week.

I live here and my needs aren’t “homogeneous” with that list at all. Simpson hasn’t done enough homework on his new neighbourhood to realize a lot of us are vegetarians.

Although the name Leslieville Cheese Market and Fine Foods may imply otherwise, the shop is not envisioned to be a “high-end” shop, but rather, a shop more or less affordable to the middle-class people who live and work in this and nearby neighbourhoods.

A shop more or less affordable to the quality people who just moved in.

OK, so they’re snobs

I have to assume Simpson did not set out to write a business plan that makes him sound like an arriviste, a grasper, or a social climber, but that’s what we’ve got. Nor, presumably, did he set out to assail the existing residents of Leslieville, whom he thoroughly dehumanizes. Really, what worse state could there be than to live in a rooming house – or in anything other than a high-end condo or a beautiful Victorian rowhouse? What must be wrong with you if your needs are anything but middle-class and homogeneous?

I grew up dirt poor and we ate cheese. It’s always expensive. Back in the day, maybe if I’d had a shop in my neighbourhood that didn’t make me feel like a serf I would have shopped there. Perhaps Simpson does not actually need to put on airs in a neighbourhood where that sort of thing simply is not done. We seem to get by with an overrepresentation of antiques dealers and mid-century Modernist shops, yet they don’t get anybody’s noses out of joint. What is Simpson’s problem?

Whatever it is, he is manifesting it graphically in the signage for his lovely new “market.” If only Freud had typographic training.

Blue sign has yellow lettering reading LESLIEVILLE CHEESE MARKET & FINE FOODS in a bank gothic with script initial letters

The little wheel of cheese is cute (even if the removed wedge of cheese makes no sense sticking out of the wall). But note the superclassy usage of a bank gothic with script initals. In fact, it’s bog-standard Copperplate Gothic, and yes, at least it ain’t Arial. Bank gothics read as classy to type neophytes, but they read as conservative and offputting to type sophisticates, since they connote starched shirts and bankers’ hours. (And we know how overused they are.)

The real problem is the script initial letters. Could we try any harder to suggest refinement and elegance? But what we’re actually suggesting is stepping out of one’s station: We’re jumping the socioeconomic ladder (upping our SES) from normal workaday type to frilly filigreed fonts with no practical usage. Our cheese is so decadent we don’t even have to use a readable font!

This is the sort of thing I associate with lower-middle-class and working-class people whose idea of luxury comes from ’80s TV and Judith Krantz novels. (Dig the frilly filigrees on the logotype for Scruples.) These people thought Dynasty was a documentary. They just couldn’t wait till they made it big and bought themselves the same really classy houses, hair, and wardrobe. Get me out of my rooming house, my low-end condo, my non-Victorian rowhouse and let me accessorize like the rich bitch I am inside!

Simpson seems like the kind of person for whom “sophisticated” means “fancy.” In another misreading of the neighbourhood, he went for the antiques side rather than the Modern side, and blew even that. If he wanted to do this properly, he’d use designed swash capitals from an existing face, and he certainly wouldn’t use all caps. But the whole idea needs rethinking. Try not to be so damned obvious.

We’re not done yet, though. The letterspacing of FINE FOODS is beyond dreadful, the ampersand matches nothing, and the cutesy font (a scrunched Papyrus) on their tacked-up JUNE 17 sign further cements the impression that every word in their signage has to be decked out in an evening gown and lipstick.

This is the store you want to agitate against, not the Starbucks. At least a Starbucks doesn’t put on airs.

In his business plan, Simpson writes:

I am dedicated to maintaining a high standard of products and services.

I think he’s dedicated to something else, like climbing the social ladder and shitting on the residents who made this place good enough for him to colonize. Bonjour Brioche is hard enough to take. A namby-pamby cheese shop is the last thing this neighbourhood needs.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2006.05.07 15:28. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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