Daniel Mellinkoff, owner of Highland Park's Classic Burger, is seriously considering selling the restaurant's long-term lease to Starbucks. Naturally, area H-words are apoplectic at the news. Though the super aggressive coffee chain already has a store skirting the border with Eagle Rock, a proposed new location will strike right in the historic neighborhood's heart, at the corner of Figueroa and York. Mellinkoff's family has held on to the lease since the 1930's. He tells The Eastsider, "At one point, some of my family members wanted to sell the property and I encouraged them not to. I told them that this is an upcoming area—and it has turned out to be that."
Despite the entrepreneur's endurance, he most likely doesn't speak for everyone when he predicts the ubiquitous global chain could provide "a hub for the neighborhood [and] for art walks." Let's hope Cafe Con Leche needs a good laugh today.
But the very boom from which Mellinkoff stands to profit can, in many cases, be traced to a surge of broke, young, and/or artistic-types fleeing the Starbucksian blanching of neighborhoods like Echo Park for the Northeast. Does the arrival of Starbucks signal that the denim dream of perpetual open mike nights at activist coffee shops is already over for the neighborhood?
Not without a fight. Since the encroaching Starbucks is still just being proposed, the neighborhood will rally to discuss it at a City Council meeting this Thursday night. Mellinkoff will be in attendance to hear what neighbors have to say about the matter and the potential impact on the neighborhood.
If Highland Park residents don't want to watch their city end up as a free development-zone like Santa Monica's are, it would probably behoove them to be there.