Graeter’s Winnetka brings an authentic sense of community
April 13, 2017
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When sitting in the new Graeter’s on Green Bay recently I had moment of clarity. In the midst of eating my heavenly cotton candy ice cream, I looked around and realized the subtle genius of places like this.
There are so many draws to a family friendly local restaurant of ice cream shoppe, way more than simply easy access to a sugar fix.
When glancing over the cute ice cream shop I realized for the first time in as long as I could remember, no one was on their phone.
A group of junior high girls all sat around a table and not a single screen was in sight. Most likely the only reason I even noticed was because I also had left my phone in my purse and didn’t feel the need to use it.
Not to be a curmudgeon about “kids these days” and our obsession with social media and electronic devices, but it was surprisingly awesome to see.
To be completely honest, it was almost off putting. Usually at least one mom is checking emails or chatting to someone on the other line.
Not even the other high school students I recognized were occupied by small bright screens.
Although our society seems to be hurdling ever faster to a digitally dominated world, there are still some safe havens where there really is no need to be on a cell phone.
This is not the only great thing about places like Graeter’s, but it does seem to be something that everyone can agree is a good thing.
Much more significant, and more hidden genius of the success of Graeter’s comes with the fall of another titan of late night ice cream.
For much of high school, the go-to spot to hang out after football games or to escape our homes for an hour was always Homers.
It is almost a guarantee that if you go to Homers late Friday or Saturday night, you will see someone you know or at least recognize from school.
These interactions can be serendipitous reunions or unbearably awkward interactions, but either way they are so perfectly “high-school”.
Like the diner from grease where the Pink Ladies go to meet up with the T-Birds, Homers always has been a place to go when there is nothing else to do.
It is not the adequate food or overpriced ice cream that draws crowds to Homers after NT football games or when the doors to a party are closed for the night. It’s the atmosphere of happy, care-free teenage years and the nostalgia the environment promotes.
With the opening of Graeter’s in Hubbard Woods, however, Homers seems to be slowly slipping into irrelevancy.
Now, when a friend suggests meeting up, it is most often at Graeter’s. Has this new ice cream shoppe taken over? Is Homers no more?
It might be the newness of it that draws crowds of high schoolers now, or the higher quality sweets that draw crowds to the store.
While Homers supplies a priceless sense of nostalgia that brings back memories of eighth grade dance and awkward first dates (at least for me :/), Graeter’s is a brand new slate to form new memories.
Homers has become so popular and frequented that there isn’t anything special about it anymore.
That doesn’t mean I won’t be visiting the place hundreds more times before I leave for college, but it does limit the new memories I can make there.
The connotative meaning behind Homers is one that is very specific, and one I treasure immensely. Many influential memories between sixth grade and sophomore year were made there.
However, just as I matured out of shopping at Forever 21, or listening to KissFM, I too will mature out of my favorite fast food places.
Maybe Graeter’s is so popular for high schoolers now because it isn’t the place their moms took them to lunch in the fifth grade. It doesn’t hold memories of awkward phases in junior high, but rather allows for an entirely new phase.