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Madison no longer considered a hippie haven

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Peace sign on Capitol floor

Students demonstrated at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison forming a peace sign on the floor of the rotunda in March of 2011. Madison has long been considered a home to not just political discourse, but also "Hippie" culture. However, the city was not recently listed as one of the nation's 17 best cities for hippies by the online real estate broker Estately.

MADISON — Earlier this week, the Capitol Times reported how Madison failed to make Kiplinger’s list of “10 Great Places to Live,” losing out to cities like Little Rock and Dubuque.

But if that wasn’t enough of a blow, Madison has now been left off the list of “17 Best Cities for Hippies.”

The online real estate broker Estately this week released its list of top hippie towns, using a formula based on factors like marijuana availability and legality, number of stores selling hemp clothing, local counter-culture icons, tie-dye stores, progressive government, intensity of the Occupy protests and a Facebook poll.

No surprise that Eugene, Ore., hometown of Merry Prankster godfather Ken Kesey and Toby’s Tofu, came in at No. 1.

And most of the other cities on the list are familiar to anyone who ever rolled a doobie or drove a VW Microbus: Berkeley, Portland, Ithaca, Austin, Asheville and, of course, San Francisco. Even college towns Bloomington, Ind., and Berea, Ky., made the list.

But no mention of Madison, despite the city’s reputation for left-wing politics, grocery co-ops and the 43rd Annual Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival.

“To be honest, I’m not surprised,” says Rick Ray, owner of Hempen Goods, which will be closing its doors this month after a 15-year run at 911 Williamson St. and shifting to a Web-only business.

Ray says Willy Street once had a lot more “dreadies and hippies” but thinks the neighborhood has become more gentrified with upscale housing and expensive restaurants.

“Things have really changed a lot in the time I’ve been here,” he says.

Ditto, says the manager of Sunshine Daydream, a State Street retailer that offers tie-dye clothing, herbal products, Grateful Dead memorabilia, etc.

Brad Ladwig says the independent retailers that once gave State Street its hippie vibe are feeling increasingly pressured by the national chains and a softening economy. He notes the departure of the Exclusive Company music store, along with the redevelopment of the 500 block of State Street that will displace several longtime local businesses, including ethnic restaurants.

“I know a lot of the store owners are really worried about the direction things are going,” says Ladwig, a native of Fall River who says he first visited Madison in the 1980s to get his “tie-dye fix.”

If Madison is running short of real hippies these days, it seems to have plenty of “hipsters” — which the Urban Dictionary describes as “a subculture of men and women typically in their 20's and 30's that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter.”

The dictionary goes on to note that the "effortless cool" look of a hipster is exemplified in Urban Outfitters and American Apparel ads, which cater to the hipster demographic. Hey, aren't both of those chains on State Street?

Meanwhile, Estately Inc. is a licensed real estate brokerage in Wisconsin, Washington, California, Illinois, New York, Georgia, Virginia, Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Maryland, Pennsylvania, District of Columbia, West Virginia, Tennessee, South Carolina, New Jersey, Vermont, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Massachusetts, Ohio, Minnesota, and New Hampshire.

It has produced other “lists” of places to drum up traffic to its real estate listings, including 18 Best U.S. Cities for Bros; 11 Best States for Bigfoot to Live and 13 Best U.S. Cities for Mermaids to Live.

For better or for worse, Madison is not on those lists either.

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