Thursday, August 16, 2007

There goes the neighborhood

The best thing to happen to my little corner of the Original Highlands neighborhood has been the opening of Quills, a coffee shop/bookstore on Kentucky Ave, one block off of Barret. Not much of a bookstore yet-- only three or four shelves of barely-used and new books at extremely good prices-- but a heck of an urbane place to sit and drink good coffee in an excellent environment.

Today was my third visit to Quills in the past week. In a moment of weird concordance, I spent 18 minutes listening to Bryant Simon's excellent lecture on Starbucks and its popularity from this year's TASTE 3 convention. And while I dug the lecture and totally buy into his observations about the safely hip and artistic "brand" that Starbucks has forged, it begs the question: hasn't that brand been seized upon by just about every coffeeshop-- corporate or mom 'n pop-- that's opened in the past decade?
  • Safely hip-- not hip enough to be alienating. Quills? Check. Great graphics on the logo and frequent-buyer cards. Bulletin board full of alt-culture happenings.
  • Artsy so you don't have to be. Quills? Check. Fanciful bird and feather related art on the walls. A gorgeous photo series in the women's rest room. Fantastic alternative music on the sound system.
  • Archictureally eccentric. Quills? Check. Industrial pipe-and-duct-baring ceilings. Dark walls. Mansion library style built-in bookshelves with intricate moldings. Window-seat-ish nook for reading.
  • Fosters intellectual atmosphere. Quills? Check. Issues of the Economist and Paste readily available. Stock of books definitely on the literary end of the pop-lit spectrum.

No slight against Quills intended. In the end the Starbucks-Quills-Highland-Heinie Bros. question remains one of which of these attempts at artsy-feelgood-eccentric-intellectual-hip coffee-serving establishments best meshes with your own balance of the aforementioned attributes. Quills just happens to mesh best with mine.

In my experience:

  • Highland is more hip-alt.
  • Heinie Bros is more hippie-feelgood.
  • Days is more mature.
  • Starbucks is more boho-bobo-yup.

And Quills, for me, is just right. Beautiful to look at. Quiet. Good tunes. Free WiFi (enjoyed by all aforementioned establishments except Starbucks). Good coffee. Roommate says good food. A bit off the beaten path. A bit more expensive than Highland, which has been my coffeeshop of choice for the past year. But worth it to avoid the sometimes-less-than-desireable crowd that tends to congregate at Highland, particularly in nice weather.

Note: they've been having AC issues there, and at times the place is quite hot. Quills would benefit from installing outside plugs for computer users.

1 comment:

jscs said...

Gasp! Less-than-desirable at Highland? I've been in there plenty and seen plenty of desireables.