One of my favorite Simpsons bits proceeds thus:
Hank Scorpio: Hammocks? My goodness, what an idea. Why didn’t I think of that? Hammocks! Homer, there’s four places. There’s the Hammock Hut; that’s on Third. There’s Hammocks-R-Us; that’s on Third too. You got Put-Your-Butt-There; that’s on Third. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot… Matter of fact, they’re all in the same complex; it’s the Hammock Complex on Third.
Homer: Oh, the Hammock District!
I use “____ District” as often as possible when the wares in question have comedic potential. Furniture is too ordinary to be funny in that context, but it does manage to bring the quotation to mind. Here’s why.
Shortly up the street from me in Cambridge is an unmistakable cluster of furniture retailers on Mass Ave, marked on the map above. It wouldn’t give me pause except that in my wanderings around town I seem to encounter odd pockets of ostensibly independent furniture stores all over the place. Where there is one furniture store, there always seems to be at least another one or two. It’s probably not a uniquely Boston-area phenomenon, but still, what gives?
One easy answer points to colleges, whose students are crucial to the life cycle of furniture: from store to apartment to curb to dirtier apartment, ad infinitum. The area above, for example, is close to Harvard. Allston similarly has a nice furniture district.
But that doesn’t explain a neighboring pair of stores in western Cambridge, or a group in the South End, or the lack of concentrated stores around Northeastern. Or, beyond the clusters in student areas, am I only imagining these Furniture Districts? Perhaps it’s simply the same thing as with, say, CVS and Walgreens, which deliberately open locations across the street from one another, for some reason favoring close competition.
I have mapped 200 hundred Google results for “furniture” using GeoCommons, where simple mash-ups are not made of horribly ugly pushpins*. Take a look (or search Google yourself), dear readers—is there anything to this, and if so what do you think is behind it? A caveat, by the way, is that something’s appearance in these search results does not necessarily mean it’s a furniture retailer; it is, after all, a simple keyword search.
*This, I will boast, is partly because my own company, Axis Maps, designed much of the mapping apparatus a few years ago.