It took several attempts before I worked up the courage to settle down in The Other Place, a bar-cafe off of Beiluogu Xiang that caught the Gulou crowd's attention last spring when it was redesigned by electronic music aficionados Wu Fei and Markus M. Schneider. Outside, its expansive bay window it draws attention with its display of stacked vintage radios and portable televisions in faded reds and blues. The interior is a soothing palate of forest green, teal, and burgundy, spotted with chairs upholstered with the same taupe stripes that graced your hipster dad's legs circa 1970s. It's been dubbed "lovely," "homey," and "nice and warm," yet no matter how gorgeous its sun-stroked plants are or how ironically-tacky-so-that's-why-it's-hip it is to have a shabby indoor couch in the courtyard, it's hard to shake the feeling that The Other Place is someone else's home.
One of the cafe's pint-sized front rooms, newly dubbed The Other Shop, hooked me in the end. Perhaps this was partly because of my fascination with Beijing's foray into the cafe-shop combo concept, which has been executed in ways which radiate overzealousness and a poor understanding of clientele. This is just the opposite.
For a hub intended for the movers and shakers of Beijing's electronic scene, The Other Shop's selection of DJ and production equipment makes sense.Nicely incorporated are Schneider's own locally produced Metrobags, which are boxy, sturdy totes in decidedly masculine colors ideal for carrying home the gear. What's more, all of it is offered at price points that mean budding DJs don't have to lug their overseas-bought controllers on a plane, which, in turn, means more room in the luggage for dope trucker hats, second-hand high tops, and clever t-shirts.
Schneider says The Other Shop is working with companies like Native Instruments to allow serious music-makers to give products a spin before buying them, yet another reason to say sayonara to your beloved out-of-town DJ controller. Another perk: Browsing The Other Shop will often mean stumbling on an art collaboration or event featuring local photographers and artists.
The Other Shop’s stock is so curated that they’re able to display a full list of items in the store on their website. It’s yet another demonstration of their aim keep their brand focused because if you ask Schneider, "pure consumption sucks."
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A version of this article appears in the March 2014 issue of the Beijinger.
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