Monocle Weekend
Edition: Sunday

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THE FASTER LANE / TYLER BRÛLÉ

Waking up

I spoke to my mom the other day (she says hi by the way) and we caught up on various goings-on in her corner of Toronto: people who’ve not left their apartments in a year, poor leadership on the part of the provincial and federal governments, and the general state of the neighbourhood. Fresh from a walk around the local shops, she said it felt like every second business had closed down for good and she wondered what was going to happen when the city managed to get back up on its feet.It’s a question many of us are pondering as spring 2021 is turning out be considerably less sunny than the 2020 edition, with many corners of the world still enduring strict lockdown measures and once-buoyant neighbourhoods starting to unravel as greenery shrivels, bored youth get creative with spray-cans and many legislators fail to recognise how important a lively street is to not just economic but also mental health. Okay then, what are we going to do about it? Is this really time for a great rethink? Or should we focus on just getting things up and running again and leave the philosophising for a later date?If you passed by our operations in London last week or Zürich yesterday and (even today) you’ll know that we’re working at speed to crank things up a notch and make our neighbourhoods as perky as possible. This has meant multiple visits from our friendly florists (more on them in a moment) to get the plants and trees looking their best, new window displays, refreshed graphics and some additions to our menus and product mix. (Achtung, Swiss subscribers! You can come by Dufourstrasse 90 in Zürich for a free Cüpli any evening this week.)The past year has taught us that we need to hustle and be ready to transform a café into a mini department store (Zürich), ramp up to become an essential flat-white stop for hospital staff (London’s Paddington) or simply stay the course and be a place where familiar faces can gather for a chat (London’s Chiltern Street). The past year has also taught us that neighbourhoods don’t need complex and costly interventions in order to bounce back. They need government support that simply compensates for enforced measures; sympathetic landlords and reasonable tenants (yes, we’re all in this thing together); and a bit of flexibility as businesses try to find their momentum and locals are reminded that a successful neighbourhood is never silent.When I look out the front door in Zürich, I sometimes think we have the perfect mix of neighbours to ensure there’s enough traffic and repeat customers. On one corner we have a pizzeria that’s not trying to do anything fancy and it attracts builders, publishers and students throughout the day. Across the way is Martin Grossenbacher Blumen and its beautiful gallery-style space with the best selection of flowers in our stretch of the city. Given the queues and the amount of times I spot its delivery van doing the rounds it’s clear that this is a business that has performed rather well this year. We also have two hairdressers anchoring the other corners and if there’s one other thing we’ve learned this past year it’s that you don’t mess with Switzerland’s hair and beauty lobby, as they managed to position themselves as the “safest” of the country’s service sectors by always being the first to reopen. As for our contribution, we supply the magazines and newspapers, books and stationery, Japanese roll cakes and coffees, and handsome menswear, and act as a hub to bring Seefeld together.On Monday morning the streets of Switzerland will come alive again when terraces and boulevard seating return after an almost four-month-long pause. It will make for interesting viewing as businesses and citizens alike have become very good at getting around the rules, and are now quite comfy standing and drinking wherever they please. Nevertheless, an added layer of commerce and community is exactly what’s required to get a few more smiles and salutations happening on our streets and people gathering in more dignified settings. So, dear reader, there you have it: the neighbourhood needs to get back to basics and fast. If you need a couple of visual and audio cues to get you in the spirit, can I suggest having a listen to Clara Luciani’s just-released “Le Reste”. It’s already on heavy repeat on Monocle 24 and, if nothing else, it’ll have you considering yellow trousers for your next stride through your ‘hood. All thoughts and suggestions can be sent my way to tb@monocle.com.

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