Monday, December 31, 2007

May it be small!

INTO HEALDSBURG THIS MORNING for a little last-minute shopping. A book at Levin & Co., a fine local bookshop. Rolls at the Downtown Bakery & Creamery and a conversation with Kathleen. A wedge of good Parmaggiano at The Cheese Shop, as good a cheese shop as anyone needs.

These are all fairly small locally-owned businesses. You can trust them. They give back to the community. And they make me think that perhaps the Next Big Thing that everyone seems to be wondering about on the radio today, perhaps the Next Big Thing will be Small.

Take Café St. Rose, for example, a perfectly wonderful 24-seat restaurant I wrote about the other day. Mark Malicki runs close to a one-man kitchen, far as I can see; and one serving-person takes care of the dining room. Mark can shop, think, prepare, and cook as he likes, and that means locally, among other things.

Joe Stewart runs a similar operation at the Downtown Bakery, fixing breakfast and lunch, cooking the menu he likes. The clientele is mostly locals. Fine.

I've written before, too, about Marius, Kees Elfring's restaurant in Amsterdam. No more than thirty diners. Kees in the kitchen, with a part-time assistant-cum-plongeur.

Levin & Co. is a mother-and-son operation for the most part, and they know what I might want to read next. If they don't have it, they can order it, of course.

Big box stores have their place, I'm beginning to think; it makes sense to buy a case of typing paper (as we used to call it) or a refrigerator or a dozen sacks of cement at one of them; why would you want stuff like that downtown? It should be out by the highway, where the trucks can unload all that stuff.

But Small is Beautiful. Small specialty shops and restaurants can respond to their communities while keeping their owner-workers interested. So I predict we'll see more of this in 2008, and I hope I'm right.

And a Happy New Year to all of us!


John Whiting said...

I read this just as I've gone back to listening extensively to the string quartets/quintets of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert. It's the scale I want at the moment--not so one-to-one as solo sonatas, more of a social experience, like a good meal with a few companions. We are surrounded with commercial products produced and sold on an enormous scale--and that includes our politicians, our writers, our artists and our musicians. Any relief is precious.

Charles Shere said...

Someone described the string quartet as a conversation among four intelligent men; someone else complained after hearing a Schoenberg quartet that he felt as if he'd been ganged up on by four uncommonly intelligent men. The quartet is of course a peak of european cultural invention. I mean "quartet" loosely; numbers can range from three to six or so, and the music can be jazz, Baroque, or avant garde.

Any (limited) number may play, as long as reasonable rules of conversation are respected (which does not mean they may not be occasionally broken).

John Whiting said...

If we were to go on the air with a theme sting, it would have to be from Charles Ives’ Second String Quartet. Ives headed the score with the following description:

“S[tring] Q[uartet] for 4 men [quartet players were all men is those days] – who converse, discuss, argue (in re ‘politics’), fight, shake hands, shut up – then walk up the mountainside to view the firmament.”

See you at the summit!

Gail Jonas said...

Ha! I've found another person who loves Healdsburg for the same reasons I do. It could be a little more downscale, but the the stores you mentioned, especially Levin Books and Downtown Bakery and Creamery, are my favorites, too.

One thing I miss: a hardware store on the plaza, where rope is purchased by the foot as it is pulled out of a hole in the wooden floor...Healdsburg in the 60s.