Yesterday, the Times took a look at the new Fedora and the expanding "Little Wisco" of Greenwich Village, a "self-perpetuating machine" in the words of the new Fedora's owner. We've discussed this Wisconsinization of the Village before and how it has come to exemplify the current trend of newcomers longing to recreate their hometowns in New York City.
Ever curious about this trend, I look to the Little Wisco phenomenon for answers. As we learned from The Feast, the new Fedora features a cocktail called the Black Squirrel Old Fashioned, an homage to the bartender's hometown of Reedsburg, Wisconsin, where the Black Squirrel Lounge is the "hip bar...where everybody goes and hangs out" at the America's Best Value Inn-Voyageur Inn and Conference Center.
I searched out the America's Best Value-Voyageur Inn and Conference Center to see if I could understand more about this whole phenomenon.
View from the parking lot
"Fun and excitement await you at America's Best Value Inn-Voyageur Inn and Conference Center," says the hotel's website. "Whether it's after a long day at work, a cocktail after dinner, or a night out on the town, come relax in the Black Squirrel Lounge or at our on-site Marty's Steakhouse."
They feature HBO in every room and are close to many recreational activities, such as the Antique Mall of Reedsburg, Christmas Mountain Golf Course, and something called Wizard Quest, "the leader in computer interactive games played in a live setting," a fantasy-themed labyrinth they call the quadrasphere.
The Black Squirrel Lounge
After a day of antiquing, golfing, and wizard-questing, you can also return to the America's Best Value Inn-Voyageur Inn and Conference Center to enjoy the indoor swimming pool, video games, and the hall of Norman Rockwell. Said one TripAdvisor reviewer of the permanent Rockwell exhibit, "I can't wait to get back and check it out. The restaurant was good, too. On Friday nights they have a seafood buffet that is really good... and everyone is really nice."
Reedsburg, Wisconsin, actually has (or had) a couple of Rockwell-related exhibits. It's a mystery as to why. Norman Rockwell was from New York City and lived later in Massachusetts, not Wisconsin. Maybe they just adopted him as their own, identifying with the wholesome niceness of his work.
The game room
So, is it niceness that newcomers want to bring to New York City from their small Midwestern towns? In the Little Wisco Times article, the author points out the "hyper-sincere" and "disarmingly friendly" nature of these restaurants. These are not traits usually identified with New York City, a town long known for its abrasiveness and aggression, its tough (usually ethnic) way of being warm--in short, its "edge."
As I wondered here before, "What will the city look like as Little Italy and Chinatown give way to Little Michigan and Ohiotown?" Maybe it will be a place where everyone is super nice. Maybe it'll be just like Minnesota Nice. However, says Minnesota playwright Syl Jones, this niceness "doesn't have all that much to do with being nice. It's more about keeping up appearances, about keeping the social order, about keeping people in their place."
According to a niceness study, the people of Wisconsin score very high on the niceness scale--they are sociable, extroverted, and friendly. Said one, "we don't like making waves. We are a very polite group of people." As for New York, concluded the report, people here were "found to be the most high strung, stressed out, and unfriendly." Also neurotic. You could say that, for many years, the city not only bred, but also attracted such personalities. It was a haven for the unsunny. (That's why Woody Allen doesn't live in LA.)
If we are in a niceness trend, thanks to Midwestern transplants who don't want to leave the Midwest behind (as past generations of transplants did gladly), we could be experiencing a powerful wave that will spread as quickly as the recent "tsunami of cute"--in fact, the two trends are likely related; for example, "cute" cupcakes could also be described as "nice."
What kind of New York will we have once it has been completely won over by the Midwest's brand of hyper-sincerity and disarming friendliness?
For more on the city's suburbanization, see also:
Gated New York
Suburbanization of New York