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The Big Apple & The Big Gulp: People In New York’s East Village Just Say No To Chain Stores
January 30, 2013
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One of the great things about New York City is just that... it's New York City.

It's just one of those places, that's unlike any other city - certainly in North America.

The people, the energy, the culture, the neighbourhoods, the diversity, the eclectic mix of businesses, the mom & pop shops, the markets.

Put it all together and you have a city that is one of a kind - a place that is distinctly urban, diverse and full of character and life.

One of New York's great neighbourhoods is the East Village - the one time home of the poet Allan Ginsberg, writer Jack Kerouac and punk legend Patti Smith.

Well now, people there have started a community protest against corporate America - specifically 7-Eleven.

In the late 1970s and early 80s, 7-Eleven had a handful of stores in Manhattan - that's about it. But in 2005, it made a new push into the city.

Right now, it has 32 stores, with plans to open 100 more - including one on Avenue A and East 11th Street in the East Village.

But many of the folks, who live in that area, don't want any part of it.

Not because they hate 7-Eleven as a company, but because they don't want chain stores in their neighbourhood.

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As one local business owner, Bob Holman, told the New York Times, 7-Eleven and other chains are "boring, bland and not New York".

He went on to say it's part of a trend toward "suburbanization" and will further gentrify the already-changing area.

The thinking being that those kind of stores are part of the subdivision, big box, car culture.

On the other hand, in a place like the East Village, people walk around, pop into the local market, and the owners and customers know each other by name.

That's really what's at the heart of the protest - a concern that chain stores are set to invade one of the last parts of the city that's made up of small, uniquely New York businesses.

The area itself is often called 'Alphabet City', and is north of Houston Street between Avenue A and Avenue D.

As part of the protest, residents have started Facebook and Twitter accounts to get the word out.

They've organized a bodega walk, where local business owners tell stories about the neighbourhood and its history.

Others have talked about creating a "No 7-Eleven alternative shopping guide."

Another person decided to print 20,000 stickers that read "Shopping 7-11? Shame on You!"

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And as the Times reports, others "said they planned to lobby elected officials to adopt a measure like one in San Francisco, where chain stores and chain restaurants are not allowed to open in certain areas without a public hearing and approval from the city planning commission."

Others have gone out "night chalking", where they take chalk and write in big letters "No 7-Eleven" on local streets and sidewalks.

"One of our tactics is to spread the word wide," protester Rob Hollander told the Times.
"To dynamize New Yorkers who sit and watch this happen around them."

For its part, 7-ELEVEN said in a statement...

"There is a high concentration of young adults and young families on a budget. They all have harried, on-the-go lifestyles, and we can help make their lives a bit easier and more convenient."

The BBC spent a day and a night in the community to find out more. You can watch that video here.

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