A Look Back: The Durham Effect

This week, I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic as I start my new position at the American Underground. The space is one I’m quite familiar with, having worked here since 2014.

When I started, I was writing more frequently for Clarion Content. My employment at Runaway was in its infancy stage so my status in the downtown scene was unknown. The piece below is what put me on the radar.


The Durham Effect

January 12, 2014

After completing my first full week of employment with ShiftZen at American Underground, “hard work” evolved from something I thought I knew into “GOODNESS GRACIOUS! People do this for a living?” To be fair, they do have slides and Ms. Pac Man here…

Fortunately, I am surrounded by and work with a variety of amazing people. To close out the strenuous week with something delightful (work hard/play hard), a group of us decide to grab lunch together at local Mexican food hotspot, Dos Perros. I was simultaneously coordinating with Aaron Mandel, our superb Editor here at the Clarion Content, and Luke, a childhood friend who also works in various outlets here in the Underground.

The lunch date consisted of us three, Luke’s boss, Aaron Huslage at iilab, and Luke’s friend, Joseph, from The Startup Factory in American Tobacco Campus. I had only briefly made the acquaintance of Huslage earlier in the week at an American Underground pow-wow in the co-working space, and this was my first time meeting Joseph.

As we were seated at the restaurant, pleasantries were exchanged and back stories explained. Joseph, an aspiring musician, and Huslage, a seasoned techs-pert, are both transplants here in the Bull City. Luke and myself are die hard Durhamites. Mandel joins us not long after we order, appearing from one of his many behind the scene roles, bookkeeper here in the restaurant.

Somehow, he got his food before us… you get your own table next time, Aaron.

As he begins to detail his New Jersey heritage, and it’s comparability to Durham, I see it happening again.

That thing that always happens.

We all have a different reason for being here, and yet, here we are at the table, enjoying a fabulous meal and chatting like old college roommates. Mandel knows someone at Duke who is connected to the work Huslage is pursuing, Joseph knows style and food maven, Cady Childs, who is one of our favorite people here at Clarion Content. We are all groaning about the parking situation and the ticket happy meter maids, about how beneficial coworking environments like American Underground and Mercury Studio are to the blossoming tech and arts cultures, respectively.

Right before my eyes, I witness the immediate impact that Durham has on its citizens. For a city that only five short years ago was seen as the underbelly of the Triangle area, it has maintained the GRIT while capturing the GRANDEUR. People like Mandel and Huslage, who did not originally intend to take up residence for the long-term, now cannot help but rep for the City of Medicine. The transformation is swift to strike, yet lasting.

Durham, through the ashes of the tobacco industry, has transformed into one of the fastest growing cities in America all while keeping its unique identity. Converted warehouses and service stations reimagined as coffee shops, Google-sponsored tech hubs, and some of the tastiest restaurants on this side of the (B)east Coast. The best part is the citizens are intrigued and open to the idea of a “Welcome to Durham: Remix.”

From all across the country, people are flowing back to be a part of the evolution, bringing with them their own style and influence. Durham takes those raw materials, that influx of talent and skills, adds the Bull City flavor, and produces some of the most creative innovation of this generation.

Durham may not be a cult, but it will convert you.