A few readers have written in to let us know about the return of Chock Full o'Nuts to New York City, and this weekend both the New York Times and the Daily News did stories about it, about how "some things do come back," meaning things that have vanished and were missed. Both stories are full of nostalgia.
Now and then, I get a comment on this blog about how someday, in the distant future, New Yorkers will be nostalgic for the vanished Starbucks chain. Whenever I hear that, I think of Chock Full o'Nuts and its onetime domination of the city, topping out with 100 locations. And then I try to imagine a future in which people actually wax nostalgic for Starbucks (17,133 around the globe).
It makes me wonder: How do we decide to bestow our nostalgia? Thinking over the commentary trends of my readers, I put together this totally unscientific Nostalgia Point system:
+3 points for a longtime (20+ years) mom-and-pop shop
+2 points for a native, locally owned business
+1 for immigrant-owned, only if that immigrant is non-white or arrived in the city prior to the 1990s
+1 point for a mom-and-pop that grew to local "mini chain" proportions
0 points for hipster businesses disguised as mom-and-pops--at least until they've stuck it out for 20, or maybe 30, years
-1 point for native, locally owned cupcake shops
-2 points for a local mini-chain that grows to the gargantuan size of Duane Reade
-2 points if the business goes national
-3 points if the business sells to a global conglomerate
2004, photo by souslesdents
So how does Chock Full o'Nuts score?
Chock was founded by Russian immigrant William Black. He was not a native New Yorker, but he arrived long before the 1990s, so he earns Chock 1 point for getting in early. Chock also gets points for longevity and its (initial) mini-chain size, for a total of 5.
Before its demise, Chock grew to have 100 shops in the city, less than half that of Duane Reade. Still, 100 is a lot, so let's shave off a point. Chock also has plans to expand to 50 stores citywide in the next 15 years--we could have another DR on our hands.
Chock loses a significant 3 points for selling to Sara Lee, bringing its New York Nostalgia Total to a meager 1 point.
But it's a local guy who is bringing back the full-service Chock shop at 23rd and 5th--Joey Barone of Bay Ridge--who told the Daily News, "I remember as a kid, my Uncle Arthur used to take me to the Jets games, and he'd take me to the Chock Full o' Nuts on the way. He loved the coffee, and a tuna sandwich. I believe in this so much."
Mr. Barone's legitimacy gives the new Chock 2 points, bringing its total to a respectable 3.
Of course, this is all very tongue-in-cheek. As we hear in Mr. Barone's words, and as we all know, nostalgia doesn't work on a point system. It works on an emotional system, in mysterious ways that have to do with flukes of memory, brain chemistry, and the taste of cream-cheese sandwiches.
"Nostalgia" comes from two Greek words--it means "homesickness." For those who are homesick for the city of memory, the new old Chock Full o'Nuts might be just the remedy.