When A-1 Music closed a few months ago, after doing business in the East Village for 26 years, we wondered what would take its place. The rent was too high, so the only options were, as usual: Bank, national chain, frozen yogurt shop, upscale boutique, or artisanal food something or other.
A-1's replacement is a candy shop. It's artisanal and it's from Williamsburg, Brooklyn. They also make snocones.
And so the sweetness trend continues, as countless such stores have opened across the most hyper-gentrified parts of the city in the past couple of years, from the girlishly gooey Sugar & Plumm on Bleecker Street to the aggressively sugar-jacked It'Sugar on Coney Island.
Why so many, so fast? Is it part of our cuteness overload problem? As Jim Windolf wrote on the topic awhile back, "A studied childishness is a big part of the cute movement, and the cupcake’s surge in popularity is a reversion to the gustatory pleasures of that time in our lives when sweet plus soft plus damp equaled yummy."
The cupcake craze started it all, followed by macaron mania, a billion frozen treats shops (fro-yo, artisanal ice pops, novelty ice cream, etc.), chocoholic extravaganzas, cronut insanity, and candy stores. Have you walked on Bleecker lately? Every other new business will give you a toothache just from passing by.
What is this trend saying about the new culture of New York City? Do hyper-gentrification and self-imposed infantilization go together? Windolf concludes, "Cute culture is soft and brain-deadening. It privileges the inner child, who, necessarily, has awful taste." What does it all mean?
In this week's New Yorker, a Talk of the Town piece on food trends. Says author David Sax, "The cupcake trend reflected a desire for comfort and childhood simplicity in the years after 9/11." Maybe so, but I sense something more sinister in all this sweet-eating.