Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Stuff White People Like (David Brooks) in Detroit: A “Pop-Up,” Native American Biergarten
Owners Seek to Turn Idealistic White Volunteers into Slave Labor, While Calling Business “Non-Profit”; Community Development Functionary Funding It Calls It “Commercial”
By Nicholas Stix

It’s a “community” thing, except when it comes to splitting up the proceeds, at which time it becomes a “private” thing. At some point, the 50 unpaid volunteers (read: slaves) are going to see the “nice,” “cool” people they helped making a profit off of their labors, and even paying people—other people, the owners’ friends and cronies, who didn’t build the business, while leaving the “volunteers” out in the cold.

Note that Suzanne Vier already has a profitable local business, Simply Suzanne Granola Company. She could use money from her profits to pay the people slaving for her and her partner, Aaron Wagner, and using the other business as collateral, could easily get a bank loan, to start the second business.

In America, the “21st century economy” is increasingly based on slavery, in which the slave owners seek to convince the slaves that the latter aren’t slaves at all (newspapers that deliberately rely on unpaid interns and bloggers for their profits; ditto for many Web sites; social media; Wikipedia’s Jimbo Wales, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, et al.), and on political connections, which Vier and Wagner also clearly have, with which one gets perks and money, at the taxpayer’s expense (see after the Detroit News column).

(Although “Vier” is a German name, in a certain light, she looks like she might have some South Asian blood in her. South Asians have sucked the federal Small Business Administration dry for years, and gotten every other kind of affirmative action goody under the sun, but even if Vier is white, she still gets AA through “Women and Minority Business Owner” programs, at taxpayer expense. It’s a wonder that all “Women and Minority Business Owners” aren’t gazillionaires.)

 

 

Last Updated: October 9, 2011 7:27PM
Donna Terek: Donna's Detroit

Unexpected beer garden pops up in Detroit's West Village

Detroit —Some 100,000 lots are vacant in Detroit, and do-it-yourselfers keep dreaming up ways to use them. In the West Village, an entrepreneurial partnership is putting a new spin on the urban garden. [N.S.: If they’re “entrepreneurs,” what does that make the 50 “volunteers”?]

On Van Dyke just north of Agnes, Suzanne Vier and Aaron Wagner have turned two empty lots into a beer garden that will materialize at noon on five Sundays and disappear again at nightfall. [Shouldn’t that read, “Fifty volunteers have turned two empty lots into a beer garden…”?]

"Tashmoo Biergarten is a European-style beer garden with a Detroit sensibility," says Vier, 39, who lives in Midtown and operates the Detroit-based Simply Suzanne granola company. [“With a Detroit sensibility”? Does that mean that part of the experience is getting shot, or witnessing other people getting shot? Or the place getting torched on a regular basis? That sort of thing is the only “Detroit sensibility” I’m familiar with.]

She should know. She's lived in Eastern Europe and recently witnessed the proliferation of pop-up beer venues in New York City. [She’s what passes for an “entrepreneur” in David Brooks’ SWPL world.]

Tashmoo — named after a sunken ship — is adjacent to a party store and across the street from an abandoned house that sports a familiar neighborhood watch poster with giant owl eyes. But the open-air gathering place is true to its European roots with its communal trestle tables nestled under a massive shade tree. [“European roots”? I lived in and crisscrossed Europe from 1980-85, and again for three weeks in 1989, and never saw or heard of such bars. Those roots must be pretty shallow.]

It's in the center of the area known as The Villages, which includes East Village, Indian Village, West Village, Island View and English Village, Berry Subdivision and the Gold Coast. Aside from All That Jazz in the River House, the area has no neighborhood bar.

It could be a niche begging to be filled, judging by attendance at Tashmoo, and organizers hope it could eventually become a for-profit business.

The pop-up venture's opening day Sept. 25 drew about 1,000, getting a bump from a real estate open house that day in the neighborhood. The second Sunday's attendance was closer to 600. It has three Sundays to go before it disappears like Brigadoon on Oct. 23.

Vier describes the Michigan craft beer selection, five each week, as "session" beers, which are typically moderate in alcohol content. So Tashmoo is not a place where heavy drinkers are going to get smashed and wreck the place. Food vendors include People's Pierogi, Corridor Sausage and Porktown Sausage.

It's a place for people to meet their neighbors. It's kid-friendly, with a cornhole court and board games.

"We want families to come to the biergarten," says Wagner. "And we didn't want them to be saddled with baby sitters."

[Wait a minute. Donna Terek said that “pop-up bars” had Eastern European roots. But now we hear of it as a “biergarten” which as the name implies, is German. So, to the degree that this Terek person’s words mean anything, the “European roots” are to beer gardens. I’m getting the impression that I made a mistake in taking anything Terek says seriously, and that this column was simply an instance of moron fodder for SWPLs.]

You don't have to be from The Villages to hang out. Helen Broughton, 36, came from Detroit's East English Village and says, "I want this kind of thing in my neighborhood."

Historical connection
So what's up with the name?

One of the beer garden's lots used to belong to the head engineer of the White Star Line, which owned a ship called Tashmoo, which traveled to an amusement park of the same name on Harsens Island until it sank in 1936.

"That's part of why we used the name Tashmoo," says Wagner, a West Village homeowner. "The other part is we found out in our research 'tashmoo' is a Native American word for 'meeting place,' and that just seems perfect for what we want to do with the beer garden." [Indian names—SWPLs love that! But why would one mix a German name with an Indian one? Anything SWPLs do is o.k. They make up their own aesthetic rules. By the way, I went through entry after entry at Google and Google books, and while Tashmoo is an Indian word, and the name of an early 20th century steamboat, the combination of “Tashmoo” and “meeting place” turned up only references to Suzanne Vier.]

"I wanted West Village to have something communal, something everybody could enjoy."

Help from friends

Vier and Wagner have not been alone in this venture, which they hope eventually will become a for-profit business.

They're borrowing the lots from Eastside LAND, Inc., a nonprofit subsidiary of Warren/Conner Development Coalition, which facilitates commercial development on Detroit's east side.

The liquor license and insurance are from The Villages Community Development Corp., a nonprofit that wants to lure more businesses to the area and is keeping profits from beer to fund the eventual construction of a permanent structure for a three-season beer garden.

Some 50 volunteers have built a fence and tables from reclaimed materials, designed T-shirts and work the beer-ticket table and taps. For some, it's an opportunity to prove that for-profit business can thrive in Detroit.

"It's no different than what the state does giving tax credits to for-profit businesses so they can flourish and they'll relocate here," says Donna Gardner, 45, of Detroit's Midtown.

"It's just another mechanism of economic development: volunteering." [That’s the first time I’ve heard that one! And what happens when the volunteers’ rent is due, and their larder is empty?]

Others have a less lofty motivation.

"I wanted to volunteer and get more involved with the community and drink beer at the same time," says Giuseppe Palazzolo, 22, who lives in New Center.
"It's a win-win situation."

[So, exploiting slave labor for one’s personal enrichment is a “lofty motivation,” but wanting to “volunteer and get more involved with the community and drink beer” isn’t? By what moral calculus?

My own experience with “socialism” included first being a member of a socialist vegetarian co-op, “Harkness East,” at SUNY Stony Brook, and a few weeks later, getting sucked into running it for its last three semesters of existence.

Harkness was situated in a huge, luxurious, unused university kitchen and dining room that had been built at a time when all students were forced to use the school meal plan, before students successfully went on strike, demanding the right to cook in the dorms.

The problem was that Harkness East’s founder, a poi sci grad student named Peter Hickam (or was it “Hickman”? Peter left SB several years before I arrived, and we never met) who had been a member of the Harkness Co-Op at his Ohio undergraduate school, Oberlin College, gave the restaurant a philosophical basis joining vegetarianism and altruistic socialism, but not only were few members vegetarians, but their lip-service to socialism and altruism notwithstanding, a large proportion of them sought to exploit the other members, either by being free riders who got other people to do their work, by sneaking in their non-member friends for meals at everyone else’s expense, or by using the co-op for their personal businesses.

The members also sought to privatize public property. Through the university (read: the taxpayers), the kitchen and eating area belonged to all Stony Brook students, but some leading Harkness fell in love with the fantasy that Harkness was our “property,” and that we could keep other student groups from using it. Once when a black West Indian student group wanted to use the kitchen late one night to cook curried meat for a festival the next day, the leading members insisted that I not permit it. There was metaphysical talk of “meat vibes” contaminating the pots and pans; there was talk that the kitchen was ours.

A university official was going to let the West Indians in, and then padlock the place, ending the co-op. the student government president engaged in telephone shuttle diplomacy, calling me in my dorm suite, the university official, and the West Indians. I didn’t tell the dead-enders at my end, or any other players during the negotiations, but if they hadn’t come around, I was going to quit.

Eventually, they came around, and I opened up the kitchen for the West Indians, who were Rastafarians who took the whole matter in good humor.

It was a kinder, gentler time on university campuses.

During my first semester as manager, I’d had to get rid of one-third of the membership, mostly for not showing up on their work days (though they never missed their meal days), and a few for stiffing us. I also had to routinely call on the stowaways to pay their freight, and when they wouldn’t, go up to them, publicly humiliate them, and make them pay.

As soon as I left for West Germany in the summer of 1980, Harkness died, after a history—seven years? 10? I no longer recall—of mangers suckering new people into running it, who often quit in disgust, as Peter eventually had. (The story I heard was that after getting the place up and running by working 60-80 hour weeks for a semester or two without being paid or even taking a free meal, Peter asked the members for permission to eat for free, they roundly turned him down, and he quit.)

People found it cool to tell others that they were in a co-op, but they didn’t find rolling up their sleeves and actually cooperating cool.

The pop-up bar is different, in that Suzanne Vier and Aaron Wagner have clearly founded it, in order to make money, they are suckering their neighbors into doing all of the work, they are using other people’s property without paying rent, and picking the taxpayer’s pocket—via the Community Development Corporation and illegal “non-profit” status for financing and fees.]

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