Chattanooga “hipsterfication”: Is the Gig City the next Austin, Texas?

Authored By Chloé Morrison

Chattanooga has long been called the Scenic City and more recently dubbed the Gig City. Now, a Texas publication has called Chattanooga an emerging “hipster” city that might be the “next Austin, Texas.”

“It’s definitely an honor to be called the next Austin,” Dave Santucci, vice president of marketing for the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau, said. “The vast majority of Chattanooga would not want to be called the next Atlanta, and that’s not something we are striving for. [Austin is known for] having a great culture of music and art and for creative thinking. There is a very productive and energized workforce in Austin.”

Lauren Modery, columnist for CultureMap, a daily online magazine in Austin and Houston, declared this week that Chattanooga is on the verge of “hipsterfication.”

Also making the list are Asheville, N.C., Burlington, Vt., and Detroit, Mich.

The Hipster
The definition of “hipster” can be as elusive and broad as the group’s members.

According to Urban Dictionary, “hipsters are a subculture of men and women typically in their 20s and 30s that value independent thinking, counterculture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence and witty banter.”

It’s unclear if that entry is meant to be ironic.

It’s also unclear, at times, if the term “hipster” has a negative or positive connotation, and it may depend on the context, but the comparison to Austin and the publicity for Chattanooga is another in a recent string of mentions that is good for the city’s tourism, Santucci said.

Chattanooga resident Chanté Newcomb said she isn’t bothered by hipster label.

“I hope people will know better than to box Chattanooga into an urban dictionary term,” she said. “But I don’t take offense at all. We are a melting pot of styles, tastes and behavior in Chattanooga.”

Chattanooga on the map
There has been an increase in publicity for Chattanooga recently.

The Scenic/Gig/Hipster City has also recently gotten mentions on The Today Show, Outside Magazine The New York Times, Taste of the South magazine and Southern Living, which has a writer who declared a “city crush” on Chattanooga. 

Santucci said that decades of planning and improvements are finally paying off and that people are starting to take notice.

The city has also felt only minimal effects of the recession, which helps the city’s profile, he said.

“We are on the map like we’ve never been on the map before,” he said.

Austin “hipstercrite” 
Modery has a background in film and writing and worked as a personal assistant in Hollywood before moving to Austin, a city she had only read about.

“It kept showing up in news stories and lists, just like Chattanooga is doing now,” she said via email.

In her column, called Hipstercrite Says, Modery said that “Chattanooga has been wooing the panties off the popular urbanite mag GOOD Magazine, with tales of their new citywide typeface and ‘super green’ VW plant.”

She hasn’t visited Chattanooga, but she wants to-if citizens will have her, she said.

Modery said she follows a lot of news outlets, especially ones that focus on progress and green initiatives, and the articles keep leading her to Chattanooga.

“I was really impressed by the stories I read of your streetlights, Internet service, encouragement of artists to move there and, of course, your new font, Chatype,” she said.

The self-proclaimed hipster or, more accurately, hipstercrite, said she is aware of the negative connotation surrounding the word “hipster” but doesn’t support the hating-on-hipsters stance.

“Unfortunately, the word ‘hipster’ has become an umbrella term for any young person who has nontraditional fashion sense, interests and opinions, and some people are getting sick of it,” she said. “I hate to break it to them, but the word ain’t going nowhere, and neither are its people.”

More publicity-Local company Retickr featured on Tech Crunch
Local company Retickr, which launched the 2.0 version of its social news readers application for Mac OS X, also drew media attention.

The technology publication TechCrunch featured Retickr Tuesday. 

Retickr is an app that combines RSS, social networking updates and news and aims to personalize the news-reading process, according to the article.

The updated version, which is now available on the Mac App Store, allows users to sync Facebook, Twitter and Google Reader feeds and also incorporates those streams into “playlists,” along with news feeds from more than 85,000 sites, TechCrunch reported.

Publicity boosts tourism
Winter months are typically slower in the tourism industry, Santucci said. But in the past year, and especially in the past couple of months, leaders have seen very strong visitor numbers, he said.

Research shows that there has been a significant increase in the city’s appeal to the younger generation and couples, he said.

Santucci also said he has seen an increase in the number of people who said they plan to visit Chattanooga in the next six months and a 15 percent year-over-year increase in hotel traffic.

Chattanooga typically attracts about 3 million visitors a year.

In 2010, tourism in Hamilton County brought in $810 million, he said.

“This year is the slower time of year,” he said. “It’s about to be spring break, and everyone is excited and waiting to see what this means for a time when we have a higher volume [of visitors]. We do expect a very good spring break pushing into summer, even if the gas prices go up, because we are a regional destination.”

Leaders and community members said it’s important to manage the city’s growth. As Santucci said, most residents don’t want the city to become the next Atlanta.

And Modery said she has seen some negativity directed toward Austin’s growth in the past 10 years.

She said the city has changed as more people have migrated to Austin. There is more traffic, and there is no free parking after business hours. The cost of real estate has also increased.

She knows that some people fear that growth will change “the essence of the city,” but she doesn’t agree.

“People move here because they want Austin to change them, not the other way around,” she said.

Disclosure: is affiliated with the Lamp Post Group, which has a partnership with Retickr. Editorial decisions for are made independent of the Lamp Post Group.

Updated @ 9:38 a.m. on 02/23/12 to add the above disclosure.