Well, yet another head shop opened up in downtown Ithaca recently, this one just a half block away from the west end of The Commons, where six other head shops now do a bustling business. With such a heavy concentration of head shops in one area in such a small town, I've taken to calling this block "the Bong District".
Why so many head shops in one area? A convergence of forces; the city's large population of hippies and progressive/alternative/crunchy/natural baby boomers, about 27,000 college students with large disposable incomes, the close proximity of glassblowing schools in Corning, and New York State's lenient drug laws created a "perfect storm" of sorts for the emergence of the Bong District. The Bong District is also something of a regional tourist attraction; it's a day trip destination for those looking for exotic, unique and often very expensive glass.
Agglomerations of specialized businesses are nothing new; electronics stores in the Akihabara district of Tokyo; the Diamond District of New York City, the Furniture Rows, Antique Rows and Auto Rows of many large and small American cities. I'm curious about the more unusual agglomerations of businesses -- the Bong District of Ithaca, the Mommy District along West 32nd Street in Denver, the Curry District in downtown Niagara Falls, New York (a city with an almost nonexistent Indian population) and so on -- and the forces that caused such districts to be formed.