Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Shack Effect

As the "Shacking of America" continues, Shake Shack is "gentrifying the only good pizza in town," according to a Fulton Mall pizza man who just got the boot.

Developers and the City have been dying to gentrify the Fulton Mall, and now it's happening with the simple addition of a single, powerful burger chain.


The whole thing reminds me of the intentional introduction of alien species. In this practice, humans introduce a foreign species into an existing ecosystem where they hope to gain something from the introduction. Economic gain is the number one reason for doing so. Often, the alien species becomes an invasive species and takes over. Kudzu is one example. The mongoose in Hawaii is another. Originally used as biological control agents, invasive species breed prolifically and spread, destroying major elements of native flora and fauna.

I'm not sure what it's called when this is done with businesses in cities, but it seems a lot like the same concept at work: Put a Shake Shack at Fulton Mall and watch the gentrification spread. I wonder if that was also the point of placing one this summer on the corner of Crack and 8-Ball off Times Square.

It isn't news that the burger chain moved onto this corner previously occupied by the Playpen and its 1916 vaudeville theater, but it is shocking to stumble upon it, suddenly there, clogged with giddy tourists.

It made me worry about the effect it will have on the nearby businesses. To the north, there's Smith's, a dive bar somewhat recently turned flatscreen-style sports bar, but still sporting some of the more beautiful neon signage in town.

Gone is their weird, meat-cluttered steam table for self-served "hand-carved sandwiches," and overall, something darkly Times Squarish has been lost from Smith's. This happened about a year ago and that's already a loss.


In this 2004 shot, you can see that old-timey meats like FRESH BRISKET and KNOCKWURST were still on the menu. Now they're pushing their burgers to compete with Shake Shack.


South of the Shack, cheek by jowl, is one of the last substantial chunks of seedy Times Square, a pair of XXX joints huddled together like endangered bonobo chimps, pretending the end isn't near while they go on humping.

Directly next to Shake Shack there's Lace, "A Gentleman's Club," and next to that is Gotham City. Both of them have live, mostly nude girls. At Lace it's dancers, and at Gotham you can find women in booths upstairs, above the lingerie section. They sit on stools and ask you if you want a show ($30 for masturbation). I believe this "live peep" is the very last of its kind in Times Square.

Just look at that naked lady neon sign. That it still exists, in the New York of 2010, is nothing less than a miracle.

Do you think the powers that be will permit these establishments to continue next to the shiny new Shack with its endless flow of, as Eater once called them, "Midtown office drones, the burger bloggers, the Shack fanatics, the Intercontinental Hotel guests, and the Theater-going tourists"?

We know what happens when popular, higher end businesses are introduced into a neighborhood. Like the mongoose and gypsy moth, they have a powerful effect on the ecosystem. We've seen the ripples from the "McNally Effect" and the "Marc Jacobs Effect." These phenomena move fast. So keep your eye on this block of Times Square, because I fear we will soon see the Shack Effect in action.

The clock is ticking.

"I Shake Shack NY"


Anonymous said...

Great post!

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why anyone would stand in line (in the rain, snow, heat, etc.) to eat the Shack food...what a waste of time! But it's part of a larger campaign to sanitize the Big Apple. The Sanitapple? But the younger people here seem obsessed with it!

ShatteredMonocle said...

I love the Fulton Mall...go there for many things. I doubt I will be able to get a $10 hoody any more after the area gets Shake-Raped.

Anonymous said...

Yes, let's patronize the sex shops that treat women's bodies like meat rather than buy a hamburger from a locally owned and operated business like Shake Shack. Why is the peep show such a superior business to one that feeds people? I have never patronized any of these local Times Sq. businesses, but why is there a heirarchy in your mind about which one(s) deserve our patronage and which ones do not? Is popularity the cause for your scorn? This seems to be the undercurrent of many gripes and grumbles.

Caleo said...

I don't think there's a campaign to sanitize, because the sanitization has been in full swing for a long decade and shows no signs of slowing down. TPTB don't need a campaign anymore, just keep hurtling down the tracks at 110 mph towards fully gentrified oblivion.
As much as I hate all of it, I've become somewhat numb (at least most days), as a defense mechanism.
I shudder to think what another 5 years of this onslaught will bring, but we should all make the mental adjustment now, because this train wreck in progress doesn't look to be over anytime soon.
The EMPIRE strikes back, and will continue to strike back until there's no more fuel in the tank.

Laura Goggin Photography said...

You are so right...the Cane Toad problem in Australia comes to mind.

mingusal said...

I still don't 'get' the Shake Shack phenomenon. I well remember the hype and excitement on all of the food boards when they first opened in Madison Square Park, and the lines snaked on for hours.

I went a couple of times and the place really seemed to me more like some sort of over-priced yunnie Dairy Queen than a place that one would go out of their way for in NYC.

I mean lining up for hours for a burger and a shake? In NYC? Are people really missing their Pennsylvania or Michigan adolescence that badly? Goodness knows that I don't.

The last time someone dragged me there to stand in that line on a blazing hot day, I took one look at how long it was going to take us to get some simple food and took her on a short walk over to Molly's. There we could eat a great burger, in quiet air-conditioned peace, and with an adult beverage or two as a nice added bonus.

Well, now that we can see Shake Shack's long-range plan, it really does seem to be to become an NYC priced slightly upscale DQ type chain for yunnies and tourists. Lovely.

Anonymous said...

Jeremiah's obsession with sex work establishments has been well documented. The truth is, all of this stuff, and more, still exists, all over Manhattan, in spades. You just have to know where to go. I guess it's just harder to find for the tourists. Which should be a good thing by the logic of this blog, but go figure.

Map of the Sidewalk said...

I agree about Smith's signage. I think it probably has the most "classic" bar exterior in the city, the outside shot of a bar you would want to see in a movie. O'Connor's in Park Slope is a strong contender for most classic interior.

Jill said...

I haven't eaten at the Shake Shack, and I haven't even seen these long lines everyone talks about, so I guess I'm not their demographic. I guess I'm supposed to hate them (:), but because they have invaded other neighborhoods, and not mine, I don't seem to mind them. I went to their website to see the hype and was thoroughly annoyed by unwanted and unwarranted sound, but their prices seem fair, and that means something to me. I am far more offended by Artichoke and their long lines and pricey pizza.

Anonymous said...

I'm betting Anonymous 11:06 & 4:42 is the same person that previously was upset by the use of the word 'rape' in a previous blog post.

It's always a bittersweet moment when a blog gets it's first comment troll/EDP.

Love the Shake Shack theory (in the actual blog post), btw.

JakeGould said...

First, grew up in Brooklyn and remember riding the R train to Lawrence Street with my dad and walking to Fulton Street to go shopping.

Fulton Street has gone to crap for many reasons. Not because of so-called "schlocky" stores, but also the destruction of the Albee Square Mall and the general way the businesses there don’t work together AND the issue that Riesse Restaurants own the majority of chain food spots there. Thus, crap city.

And that pizza place being moved is nothing to write home about. In fact as part of the plan they are moving down the block.

Also, I hate change in this city but love Shake Shack because it has been a change for the better. Their food is not pricier than other places and in many ways they are cheaper! But the quality is tons better than local diners and the frozen crap they sell. In my case for $9 I can get a burger, fries & lemonade. That costs more elsewhere.

But the thing that is massively offensive is the fact that places like Shake Shack have become destinations. Really? In this city that offers art, music and museums people travel the globe to enjoy a burger place opening is news? Are New Yorkers who have moved to this city so non-adventurous they consider day-trips to get food a way to spend a day?

That to me is pathetic.

Gena said...

A few things. First:

"a pair of XXX joints huddled together like endangered bonobo chimps, pretending the end isn't near while they go on humping."

I almost spilled my coffee laughing reading that line.

Secondly, to the Anonymous who wonders why we would want to patronize sex shops over Shake Shack, I say: You are missing the point.

This is not about hamburger meat vs. women's bodies being treated like meat. What this is about is Character. For New York to maintain its character, it needs its seedy places. That doesn't mean I will go to them. That doesn't mean you will go to them. That means they need to be there.

What is happening to New York is that all seedy places, and all mom-and-pop stores are being replaced by chain places, with prices designed for tourists. When all of New York becomes chain-store-a-fied, it ceases to be New York and becomes one giant mall.

I saw an excellent documentary about Grand Luncheonette in Times Square a few weeks ago on PBS. This is the kind of mom-and-pop experience New York is losing, and the Shake Shack is not a good replacement.

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks Gena, could not have said it better myself. and for those who want to see that Grand Luncheonette doc, there's a link in here:

Anonymous said...

anything w/the name "shake shack" (????) would be off limits to me. how tacky fast food-y can you get. bet colors & the signs are ugly.

Unknown said...

i got my PeePee touched here