6 hours east of Columbus, back in the midwest for a wedding.
I opted to stay downtown in Williamsport, at the Genetti Hotel, the most prominent landmark in the area. Owned by Gus Genetti, whom I assume is a giant of the town based on the size of his name on the property.
And if you haven’t been to the Midwest, you’re probably unfamiliar with how these towns work. How beautiful the foliage is, how communal the neighborhoods, and there’s always someone stopped on the street having a conversation with a friend that they bumped into.
You ever notice that the wider the streets are, the less a place feels like a community?
That’s why New York City has kept its tight-knit culture: everyone is bustling together, mixing in the subway, like the capillaries of the city. Now in LA, we’re all bubbles in a car on a giant highway, spread out….
So I’m in a cafe on Pine Street called Alabaster.
It’s possible that I’m in a new bubble, and haven’t realized that there’s always been so much art, culture, coffee, veganism, and small batch kombucha in towns everywhere across the country… or, everything has been slowly changing behind the scenes.
I’ll call it the "Hipsterification of America," a process that is most likely almost complete. Because as I walk into Alabaster Coffee, I might as well be in any city in the U.S. I’m now at “the shop,” which is well decorated and almost too cliche, with Notorious B.I.G. playing, wood-paneled walls, a big chalkboard with hand-scripted lettering.
But the coffee's great and I'm at my watering hole with my people. Coffee culture people.
See, I worked on Death to Stock out of coffee shops for 3 years before I got an office. That, plus my constant travel, made me somewhat of a coffee shop connoisseur of sorts. I judge coffee shops based on criteria no one in their right mind would notice. Like chair to desk height ratio.
So, I'm in the middle of nowhere in the midwest, and what does my morning here look like?"
Well, it starts at the farmers market: a mix of Amish and country type vendors with veggies, meat, and baked goods. Your typical farmer’s pull, as local as you can get.
As you go through the market, you notice another wave. Every few shops it’s vegan soaps, beard oils, and soy cheeses. I stopped by a vendor to pick up a muffin, and they told me that they now carried a “paleo” muffin but hey weren’t sure how to describe it.
Apparently, their daughter bakes them (and is “trying paleo”), and said vendor didn’t care for them but believed they carried no eggs or cheese if I was into that.
Is this because of Pinterest? Instagram?
While we’re no longer synced up with TV shows or music, it seems like there’s an undercurrent of cultural trends that are playing out in every town and city across the country. Maybe it’s the “Image” that pervades once again.
When everything is documented, when everything is stylized, we want to belong, we want to be on trend.
This is the irony of our times. We crave to be unique, and so often we buy what we see online, like Supreme, Glossier, 5-Panel hats. The problem is, EVERYONE IS BUYING IT. Or, all of your friends.
So the culture here is changing.
Are you feeling it elsewhere too?
Sure, you can be the guy or girl who rags on the vegans or lifts their chin at the new coffee shop serving a $5 cup, but then suddenly YOU’RE the square. The Luddite.
You see, culture permeates just like products do.
Actually, it is culture that drives the products, not the other way around.
Which as Geoffrey Moore explains in “Crossing the Chasm,” moves through a cycle and then repeats itself.
First, among the innovators. Those willing to take the biggest risk on something that might not work, like, a pour-over coffee bar with $5 cups.
Then, the early adopters, who notice the talents, don’t understand the science but want to believe in and support the makers.
Eventually, once made safe, and with the help of the prompting from the cool kids on the gram, the early majority arrive. That's when the wave hits when the coffee shop goes mainstream and begins cashing in on their bet.
But, there’s still the holdouts. Loyal to the old brands, they opt out from pride, ignorance, or the desire to keep things as they’ve been or as they were. And we all do that to an extent. Like the Amish, we too make decisions about what tech to adopt, what to embrace and what to shun.
I've been off of Facebook since 2012. And I'd be lying if I didn't dream about a place in the country where it's quiet, and no one cares about what's happening on Twitter...
But today, you feel pressure to be ahead of the curve, not behind the 8 ball.
It’s just not promoted or accepted at this point to not go forward. Call it a sign of the technology revolution. And so, these memes of coffee and Kombucha and veganism eek through the rivers and streams of our culture. The more diverse the city, the quicker the adaptations.
And the good news is mostly these are new healthy expressions of who we are. New lanterns are being lit for segments of the population that didn’t have a voice in a monoculture.
Remember, hip-hop was taboo. Yoga was taboo.
So the cultural revolutions always happen slowly and then suddenly they’re here. The new culture has spread, and now it's up against the “late majority.”
It’s called majority because it is a large segment of the population who doesn’t want any part of this change. But the cultural always shifts.
I think the Hipsterification of the U.S. is already here.
It's already spread. And sipping my coffee, feeling at home in a town a thousand miles away, I can't complain.
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