Wednesday, January 29, 2020


The average customer perception in 2020 in Durham is that there are more good restaurants and openings than ever before, but the possibility of oversaturation and market dilution due to online food purchasing, changing diets, and changing work patterns has sparked the fear nerve centers for many restaurateurs. Fine dining holds less cache than it once did, and while this is a small segment of the overall dining public, it is seen as a bellweather for the health and vitality of the industry.  Satisfaction, Tyler's Taproom, Cuban Revolution, Watts Grocery, Blu Seafood, Primal, Big Bundts, Saint & Co. The Boot, Bagel Bar, and Lilly's all closed in 2019. Some of those restaurants were decade(s)-plus mainstays of the community. Greater are the number of restaurants under financial pressure to make it in an environment with a shallow labor pool for skilled kitchen talent and the long pockets of corporate players (such as Wholefoods) and well-capitalized restaurant groups outbidding the smaller players for hiring. In addition, January and February can typically be two of the slowest months all year -- these doldrums amp up the anxiety in restaurant management. 

Outside of the industry, I sense fear, and sometimes feel overwhelmed by a host of bad things that dominate the news, both local and national. Am I the only one? Cell phone distraction, random violence and police brutality, nightly car burglaries, daily car accidents on I-40, climate change disturbances to our growing seasons, child deaths and carbon monoxide poisonings in Macdougald Terrace, a fake Trump impeachment trial, saber rattling in Iran, Kobe Bryant dying in a horrific accident, and the looming one-year anniversary of the Kaffeinate explosion (that took out a city block, was cleared to the foundation, and on top of which will be built what?) which seems largely forgotten. What happened to #durhamstrong? Where is Durham and the country going I ask?

Ninth Street Bakery is protected from some of these prevailing winds by our loyal customer base, our reach into different wholesale bread markets, and our central location in Downtown Durham. Nonetheless, we feel these feelings too and hope that everyone supports good local foods and farmers this Winter and early Spring.