Unlike Streetwear Shops, Jewish Businesses on Fairfax Embrace Tourists
Not long ago we wrote about how the Fairfax Avenue cool kids -- specifically Odd Future's Tyler, the Creator and employees at streetwear shops -- weren't too happy about the hordes of tourists who have descended on the district. Indeed, we there at 10 am on a recent Thursday, and the line of snapback clad, Hawaiian-shirt donning kids waiting to get into Supreme was a half block long.
But that's not how another group of Fairfax tenants see it. In fact, interviews with employees and proprietors of the Jewish restaurants and shops there reveal that they're quite glad to have the influx.
You can call them the O.G.s of Fairfax -- after all, many of the delis, groceries, and shops selling religious items have been around for decades. And most of their proprietors and employees we talked to were thrilled about the influx.
"We're happy for new businesses," says Kat Green, the manager of Western Kosher Market.
Green notes that many of the older stores in the area have established clientele, and aren't dependent on foot traffic. But others have seen a benefit from the influx of the young, stylish, and skateboard-clutching.
"It's become eclectic," says Jacqueline Canter, one of the owners of Fairfax institution Canter's Deli. She adds the streetwear shops that have come to the street in recent years -- as well as a revitalization project by the Fairfax Business Association, which she heads -- have "resurrected" the area.
Though Fairfax has long had cultural attractions, and this change certainly hasn't happened overnight, its transition has felt something like a move from Jewish cultural hub to bustling, hipster haven. Some of the boutique shops like Israeli music store Hakilet closed, while high-end streetwear stores like Dope Couture and the Hundreds (which specializes in limited release apparel for the fashion savvy hip hop head) have moved in.
But while Tyler would have the resulting tourists back off -- "Stay off Fairfax you are not welcomed we don't fuck with you," he famously tweeted -- the shop owners and employees are rather perplexed by this attitude.
"Tourism is business," counters Yitzy Stark, a yarmulke-sporting cashier at Schwartz's Bakery, "If I have no one in here and tourists walk in, it's business. I hear where Supreme and the others are coming from, but if they're trying to make money, I don't get it."
As Canter points out, waiting in line for hours, hanging out, or skateboarding all day can make you really hungry. "We've learned to live together," she says. "Sometimes they just come in to use the bathroom, but sometimes they buy a sandwich."
She also gives credit to the revitalization project, which has been responsible for the construction of a crosswalk, the median at Fairfax and Melrose, new sidewalks, and grates for the palm trees. Of course, their palm trees were in the news when a kid waiting in line for a record release party at the Odd Future store set fire to one last month; fortunately Odd Future helped pay for the damage to the pizza shop awning caused by falling branches.
Still, not everyone is happy with these great unwashed masses.
Levi Mishulovin, owner of Chabad Atara's book and gift store, notes that his family's shop has been around for 40 years, since "before [Fairfax] turned into Melrose." He laments that the newer stores have attracted not just a young, hip crowd, but the problems associated with them: loud music, complaints about weed smoking, and an increased police presence.
But he seems to be in the minority. Most everyone else we talked to asserted that they didn't care about folks' backgrounds, and that Melrose fashionistas, Midwestern squares, and international Odd Future wannabes are all welcome on Fairfax Avenue, at least for the pastrami if not the skate decks.
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