The impending closure of Baker Nursery and Mary Coyle’s raises an issue beyond losing beloved businesses or even the extreme struggle faced by locally owned firms in Phoenix. It cuts to something essential to a real city even if it is difficult to define: authenticity.
Critics may dismiss this as nostalgia, a cheap emotion for a golden past that never was (this is one way Very Serious People invalidate my arguments now). Or some academic fad of the latte-quaffing creative class elitists. Instead, it is critical to a city’s success.
“Authentic” in connection with a city involves historic roots, local ownership, places that are valued, human scale and encouraging human interaction, aesthetics, a distinctive vibe (“cool”), and a strong degree of critical mass and density. The asteroid belts of suburbia with their chain restaurants and malls are not authentic — they annihilate it. No wonder educated young people, many empty nest boomers and world talent want to move to authentic cities.