McDonalds: our love/hate relationship
June 9, 2008 · Updated 9:41 PM
At first blush, renovation plans for a well-known Winslow building sounded like they might bring a sophisticated, cosmopolitan edge to the island skyline. The tantalizing description of form a little more modern, a little retro called to mind the calculatingly contradictory locutions that connoisseurs use to describe favorite wines: Simple...yet complex. Delicate...yet robust.
Turns out they were talking about the High School
Road McDonalds; the analogy went out the window, as did most hope for a tasteful structure. The owners planned to revamp the islands only drive-thru eatery, and designs on file with the city planning department showed a glowing, poly-hued facade and giant golden semi-arch sweeping over the building like a vintage automobiles tail fin taken together, an architectural statement that might best be described as intergalactic.
As chroniciled in last Saturdays edition, the proposal brought out veterans of the long-ago fight to keep chain fast-food off the island altogether, a day when even the town mayor unapologetically described McDonalds trademark golden arches sign as probably the most hated institution in America. Taking up the battle anew, critics last week said the plans would, at best, violate design conditions imposed when the restaurant first went up in 1989.
Then, late Friday afternoon, a new and decidedly toned-down set of designs showed up by email, without explanation. Had the architects had a change of aesthetic sensibilities, some renaissance of form if not function? Or had they just sent out the wrong drawings by mistake, plans for some other McDonalds franchise in Tukwila or Tennessee or Tunisia or Timbuktu?
You have to feel a bit sorry for McDonalds these days, truly the Wal-Mart of fast food and a perennial target for everyone from anti-corporatists to pro-nutritionists. (Can you even imagine the film Supersize Me being done about, say, Wendys? A 99-cent Super Value Menu meal says the answer is no.) The Bainbridge McDonalds and its famously fried fare do, nevertheless, enjoy quite a following that you can easily experience (assuming you dont have kids and have no taste for the menu yourself) by motoring down High School Road any noon hour and observing the drive-thru queue. Now, youd think that if a McDonalds was going to fail anywhere in America, it would be on Bainbridge Island, where the chain received a chilly welcome and We Like To Think Were Different might as well be the community motto. But not so; the restaurant thrives.
Admit it, Bainbridge Island: Youre lovin McDonalds.
That said, were not surprised to see the owners rethink their plans to offer a building a tad less, um, McDonalds-like. We are, after all, still the community that a few years ago brought a telecommunications giant to its knees, giving the company such a flogging in the Reviews letters columns that it cut islanders basic cable rate in half. Perhaps word gets around; the McDonalds redesign now has gone through so many iterations yet another set of drawings showed up Monday were not sure what its going to end up looking like. One thing it seems you wont see: the golden arches. Bainbridge wins again.
Seems like the owners could have saved some grief by simply hiring a local architect in the first place, someone who knows the lay of the land. But then, when you think of McDonalds, the first word that comes to mind may never be local.