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Cereal Cafe Meets Serious Opposition In Shoreditch

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Spreading hipsterism can have a cost. The kind of neighborhoods that realtors call in transition can have more places to buy organic coffee than diapers or nails. People who have lived there for years often can't afford to stay in neighborhoods after they've been gentrified. The Cereal Killer Cafe - that's C, cereal - which serves $5 bowls of breakfast cereal in a changing neighborhood in London's East End, was attacked by people who denounced the way the neighborhood is growing upscale. Somebody threw a smoke bomb at the cafe. Protesters smeared their windows with paint and scrawled scum. Alan Keery co-owns the Cereal Killer Cafe with his brother Gary. Thanks very much for being with us.

ALAN KEERY: Not a problem.

SIMON: You all right?

KEERY: Yeah, yeah, we're not too bad. We're cleaned up sort of after the weekend. After the attacks, luckily, we only had exterior damage from paint. But at the time, there was staff, customers inside that barricaded the doors closed as they were trying to bash the doors down.

SIMON: But how did you feel when you were attacked?

KEERY: I mean, it's pretty scary at the time. It was very intimidating. It just seems like it was completely mental, an attack on a small business for a problem that it's not responsible for.

SIMON: Well, what do you think of the problem? Because we read that protesters were chanting we want genuinely affordable housing and we want community. I realize it might be hard to keep that separate from the people that smeared stuff on your windows, but how do you feel about that?

KEERY: I mean, I think that there is problems. There's problems of poverty in the area, and there's bad sides to gentrification, but there's also really great sides to gentrification. What we have done is we have moved into this area - the protests and gentrification in this area. If you wanted to protest gentrification in this area, you probably should've started about 15-20 years ago.

SIMON: Have you ever had any conversations with any of your critics, your attackers, do you think?

KEERY: I was - I did an interview on a radio station where one of the leaders of the class war was on there. They've protested outside housing developments. They've protested outside banks before and they get absolutely nowhere with it, but as soon as they threw paint on our shop, they hit the headlines. So I think they got what they wanted.

SIMON: Why did you open up in this neighborhood?

KEERY: Shoreditch is a really creative part of London. There's a lot of - new businesses start right around here and a lot of creative businesses as well. So it just seemed like our brand and what we wanted to do fitted in really well here.

SIMON: And what do you serve? I said $5 bowls of cereal, but expand on that menu if you could.

KEERY: We sell 120 different cereals from all over the world. So we import cereals from America, from New Zealand, from Australia, from France, from Israel. We import cereals from all over the world, so it's a real experience coming in here because the walls are just littered with cereal memorabilia, toys that you used to get in the boxes. It's a real experience.

SIMON: Now, I don't for a moment expect you to identify with the people who attacked your store. But can you - can you see where fancy bowls of cereal would kind of fit into their agenda about the world, their neighborhood changing right before their eyes?

KEERY: I can see their point, but there's also a Versace shop that has just opened up around the corner. They're complaining that people in the area can't afford to come here and afford four pounds for a meal. But there's a Versace shop open around the corner and I think it's - very, very few percent of people in this neighborhood would even be able to walk in there and buy anything. I know I couldn't.

SIMON: Alan Keery co-owns the Cereal Killer Cafe in the East End of London. Thanks very much for being with us.

KEERY: Thank you. It was my pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.