The Cafe Aesthetic

This story is about the local expansion of Atlanta Bread Company and Panera Bread. Both are building more stores here in Brevard County. I ate at Atlanta Bread for the first time last week. The food was good, but what I really liked was the atmosphere. The place was well decorated and had that Starbucks/Carrabbas/Barnes and Noble feel to it. Which got me thinking about something. Is this type of store atmosphere new? (And is there a name for this atmosphere?)

I don't remember any places having an upscale stylish atmosphere back in the 80s, but then again I don't think I ever went to a bookstore or coffee house until college in the early 90s. So I don't really know if there were places that tried to create this type of environment. Maybe there were such places, and I just never went to them. The reason this bugs me is because I wonder if the style will change. I look at buildings built in the 60s or 70s that people probably thought were really cool back then, and now they look stupid and have to be renovated. So I wonder will Starbuck and Barnes and Noble have to be renovated in 15 years? It is hard for me to believe they will, because I have a hard time believing the atmosphere will become less appealing. But it seems like that should happen as design tastes change with time.

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I don't feel like I am making myself totally clear here, so let me try to sum it up with some questions. Since Atlanta Bread Co. and Panera are both attractive primarily for their atmosphere, were there places that sold this type of cafe atmosphere in the 80s (or earlier)? Is this atmosphere appealing because it is in step with modern design tastes, or is it something deeper? Will we look at Starbucks or Atlanta Bread Co. in 20 years and think "damn that's ugly – someone should renovate it," or have they hit up some sort of more permanently likeable style?