The North Shattuck Association announced Sept. 27 that it will no longer promote or associate with the area’s well-known name, “Gourmet Ghetto.”
According to a statement prepared by Heather Hensley, North Shattuck Association executive director, the area will remove the name from its marketing and district identity banners. This decision came after Nicholas Cho, co-founder of Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters, submitted an official request Sept. 12 asking that the name be changed.
Cho said he had mixed feelings about the decision, given that some people from the community have vocalized their disapproval of the name change. Cho said, however, community members he spoke to before officially submitting the request agreed that “Gourmet Ghetto” should no longer represent the area’s businesses and restaurants.
“That word ‘ghetto’ … it’s been a word with negative connotations to describe Black culture,” Cho said. “Like ‘that’s so ghetto’ has been a thing for a while. It’s at least casual racism. At worst, it’s overt racism.”
Business owners in the area have expressed mixed feelings on the change. Some believe that the change is unnecessary and others are ambivalent.
Cathy Goldsmith, a worker and owner of The Cheese Board Collective, said the name was intended to be humorous. She said Cheese Board has been around for 50 years, and during the time the area was nicknamed the “Gourmet Ghetto,” the name was not a loaded term.
Lisa Tana, owner of A Priori, said she disagrees with the name change. Tana believes the name “Gourmet Ghetto” has been taken out of context as time has passed, and the name has lost some of its intended humor.
“I’m Jewish,” Tana said. “I have a clear understanding of the historical meaning of ‘ghetto.’ My boyfriend is African American, and we don’t think there is a negative connotation of the name.”
While Goldsmith said this conversation was needed and that this was an interesting discussion, Tana said she believes that this request was not conducive to a conversation.
Tana also expressed her hesitancy to believe that the name change is coming from a place of true intention for inclusion and racial sensitivity. Tana said she believes that the community needs to collaborate to attack more salient issues, such as public school funding and community outreach.
“We are trying to address issues of diversity, inclusion and affordability, but is changing the name the main thing?” Tana asked. “That’s where Berkeley gets itself into trouble. It’s more about words than about actions.”
The North Shattuck Association stated that it hopes this change will start an organic evolution toward a new nickname. Until a name is agreed upon, the association will change its domain name back to northshattuck.org and its social media handles to @noshaberkeley.
Cho said while he didn’t intend to start this conversation to swing favor toward another specific name, he saw the most enthusiasm online for the name “the Nosh,” which is an abbreviation for North Shattuck. According to Cho, “nosh” is a Yiddish word, and in his eyes, this preserves the origins of the word “ghetto.”
While the name “Gourmet Ghetto” will be removed from the area, Tana and Goldsmith believe that the official name change won’t stop most people from referring to the area by the old name.
“(Gourmet Ghetto) was reflective of what people were calling the neighborhood,” Goldsmith said. “There’s no way you can stop people from calling it that — language is a living thing.”