So, here I am in Miami Beach developing business contacts and looking at distressed real estate and I happen upon this. Well it just hit me funny. I mean, here I am in the heart of the worst market for residential foreclosures. People are loosing their homes to the banks. Prices have crashed as much as 75% in some neighborhoods from their peak in 2006. The clerk of Miami-Dade County has an online foreclosure auction site so people can buy up foreclosed properties like it's an eBay auction. Banks are not lending money to anyone with debt or an existing mortgage. Cash is king and cash buyers walk into a distressed property and beat up the seller. Yes, its like a banana republic in the real estate market.
So I look across the street and I notice this beautiful, modern architecture thinking it might make an interesting picture. I walk a little closer and see over the door "MEMBER OF FEDERAL HOME LOAN BANK SYSTEM" and right above it "BANANA REPUBLIC". Yes it seems that a retail store now lives inside a former bank and they retained the character of the original architecture. Several years ago, this would have little meaning but today the social context is stunning. And then I see the "Save up to 30%" sign outside the door and I begin to think this is a unique moment in history. Ironically enough 30% below market value is about the discount you can get at auction on a distressed property. Every day hundreds if not thousands of shoppers walk past this store in one of Miami Beach's posh shopping districts and probably never notice the irony.
For those of you who are unsure about the meaning of "banana republic" Wikipedia defines it:
Banana republic is a term that refers to a politically unstable country dependent upon limited agriculture (e.g. bananas), and ruled by a small, self-elected, wealthy, corrupt politico-economic plutocracy. The original concept of banana republic was a direct reference to a "servile dictatorship" that abetted (or supported for kickbacks) the exploitation of large-scale plantation agriculture, especially banana cultivation.