Reclaiming Retail and The Story of Coffee Houses (Cafe Society #4)

Plus PPE for Clubbing, Greek Unpopularity Contests, Overpaying at Auctions and more.


We’re starting our own set of virtual events as we settle into the new normal. Next week we’ll have a more comprehensive schedule for you, but Maxwell has thrown a ton of live events with Jiggy, a comedian friend of ours who was in the Impractical Jokers movie and has performed in Madison Square garden. In the past he has taken over our living room for pop-up comedy shows, and he’s going to do that with us virtually now - a full two hours of standup comedians popping in to entertain you next Saturday., May 9th, at 8pm EST. Don’t miss it!

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Deep Thinking

Premium: Small business entrepreneur store closing

9,300 to 15,000. That’s the increase in retail store closures that Coronavirus is expected to have according to this CNBC article. Many of these stores and local establishments aren’t going to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy but Chapter 7 and just liquidate their assets. We’ve heard whisperings this week of JCrew, JC Penney and Neimen Marcus going bankrupt soon.

This plays into a wider trend we’ve talked about at Maxwell. Reclaiming Retail. Our view is that we’re in the middle of a massive realignment, whereas with the invention of chat rooms, Facebook, Tinder and more we’ve continually moved more of our social life online over the past 20 years, we’re starting to see that reverse as people prize in-person social interaction more, while at the same time there are record retail vacancies on main streets all around America.

Read our thoughts here: Reclaiming Retail - from buying in-person and socializing online to socializing in-person and buying online.

What We’re Reading

In case you missed it, Our Own Announcement Post on Medium about what we're doing at Maxwell, and last week’s article, The Clubhouse App & Possibility-As-A-Service.

Greek Unpopularity Contests

It was called ostracism. Every year they cast someone out. The OG impeachment, except you didn’t need to have necessarily done something wrong. “At the beginning of each year, the electorate (adults who were neither female, enslaved or foreign) voted on whether the atmosphere would be improved by throwing out a dislikeable character. If the answer was yes, there would be an unpopularity contest two months later. Whoever received most votes had to leave.”

Diane Shah on Sneaking into the White House, Dining with Sinatra

Diane Shah is a well known sports reporter, and this article, with 5 anecdotes, reminded me of the article we wrote about last week about how the reason you go out is for the possibility of amazing things happening that are, at their absolute best, life defining: “the Lakers were put on one bus and the writers were put on another bus and we headed to the White House. The Lakers got there first and went in. Our bus pulled up, and the guard, who was at the door, looked at his clipboard and said, "I don't have any of your names, you can't come in." So some of the writers got off the bus to argue. I got off the bus -- I had worked in Washington, D.C.; I had done a couple of things at the White House -- and I knew there was another gate just down the block. So I took off. I ran to that gate, I waved my press pass at the guard and yelled, "I am with the Lakers," and I ran in. The door to the White House was open, and there was nobody there! I am just wandering through the White House looking for the Lakers, and I finally found them. I came in right as they were leaving the Rose Garden. I think Reagan was back in the Oval Office.”

Travis Scott, Fortnite & Digital 3rd Spaces.

Travis Scott is throwing a concert inside Fortnite. It’s the second one they’ve done. It’s supposed to be this digital 3rd space. I don’t know why this would appeal to anyone, but whatever, it’s happening and apparently it’s popular so I’m missing something here.

PPE for Going Clubbing?!

Production Club designs drink- and vape-friendly PPE suit for clubbing during a pandemic

Do Pandemics Promote Peace?

“Most wars share a common characteristic at their outset: optimism. The belligerents usually start out sanguine about their odds of military success. When elites on both or all sides are confident, they are more willing to take the plunge—and less likely to negotiate, because they think they will come out better by fighting. Peace, by contrast, is served by pessimism. Even one party’s pessimism can be helpful: that party will be more inclined to negotiate and even accept an unfavorable bargain in order to avoid war.”

5 Levels of Remote Work

Nothing incredibly revolutionary here but I’ve had a lot of discussions recently with people who insist that “I know a lot of people can WFH but I think it’s really essential for MY job to be in-person” and I’ve lightly suggested that perhaps the ton of free time they have right now is either because they haven’t mastered asynchronous communication, or worse, most of the “meetings” that took up their day were not that additive to what they had to accomplish.

The Story of Coffee is a Parable of Global Capitalism & The History of Coffee Houses

We went down a rabbit hole this week after reading a book review on coffee with this quote: “Coffeehouses, an idea that travelled with the refreshment from the Arab world, became information exchanges and centres of collaboration; coffee remains the default drink of personal networking to this day.”

It got us thinking about how Starbucks is always talking about how they want to bring third spaces to everyone, and many people view coffee as the other acceptable way to meetup with people.

We loved this quote from the second link: “Most coffee houses catered to a specific clientele; the Grecian Coffee House near Fleet Street was a meeting place for Whigs as well as members of the Royal Society like Isaac Newton, who once dissected a dolphin on one of its tables. Meanwhile, poets John Dryden, Alexander Pope and writer Jonathan Swift held court at Will’s Coffee House.

At Jonathan’s Coffee House in Exchange Alley, stockbrokers crowded around to trade shares after official trading hours had closed… giving birth to the London Stock Exchange. Lloyd’s Coffee House was a nexus for sailors and merchants, who dreamed up Lloyd’s of London insurance market within its walls. Coffee’s influence began to spread as travelers returned to their home countries, hooked on caffeine and craving conversation.”

A 17th-century London coffee house.

Sparta & Ivy League Schools

Liked this blog post from The Diff - the TLDR is that after Sparta was conquered and eventually absorbed into Rome many upperclass Romans sent their kids to Sparta for education. Sort of an elite boarding school, an ancient equivalent of Chinese billionaires sending their kids to Ivies, etc.

Experiential Retail is Figuring Out New Footing in Virtual World

Every brand seems to be throwing things against the wall and seeing what sticks when it comes to digital events - Camp is throwing digital birthday parties for kids, Burrow is launching Wednesday livestream chats.

Scott Galloway on Empathy & Cooperation
This is almost a month old but I’m catching up on Professor Galloway’s blog. He is a bit of a legend for calling Wework’s demise most vocally and in general being an irreverent NYU professor.

I liked this idea “Could corona be the vaccine for our age? If/when this pandemic ends, might we emerge with a stronger immune system: the ability to ramp hospital beds and ventilators, enhanced systems for learning and cooperation, and a generation that places more importance on cooperation, and less on borders, political ideology, or number of Instagram followers?”

Why Do We Overpay At Auctions?

This links back to last weeks article on possibility as a service, where I spoke about how the unknown is an important part of our social life that we don’t factor in when thinking about how "in-person” is valuable re online.

“Auctions push a number of our psychological buttons, and in fact the phenomenon of “auction fever” is well documented. They are social occasions, with lots of other people around, and this tends to increase your physiological arousal, an effect called social facilitation. As your adrenaline pumps, your heart beats faster, and your reactions quicken. This is ideal for something like sports, but makes cool rational decision making harder. The very rich often send delegates to auctions, and as well as avoiding the paparazzi I suspect this is also a strategy to combat the over-excitement induced by being physically present in the situation.”

Your Weekly Inspiration

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Have a great week!

David, Kyle & Tia