Chief among the new tenants of Chengdu’s main commercial drag, Chunxi Lu, are Starbucks and Häagan-Dazs. I used to live in Chengdu, and I was pleased to see the place spruced up and looking splendid over the Lunar New Year. I didn’t think that it was the kind of town where Starbucks could flourish (really more of a Shanghai type of business, this latte thing). But clearly I was wrong, and the Seattle brewers were right. I couldn’t get a seat in their main store on back-to-back days. This, despite the fact that they have three other locations within a two-mile stretch of prime downtown real estate, all part of their plan to focus on China as their main market of expansion.
Other changes to the strip since I lived there include the tearing up of entire boulevards, since converted into walking streets. Chunxi Lu is now, it seems, several square miles of open thoroughfare, and it was truly bustling over the holiday. Not only high-end coffee and ice cream, but diamonds (Cartier’s) and high fashion (Gucci, Polo, Burberry) have made their way to “Heaven’s Residence.” The message is clear for those who didn’t know: Chengdu is for real.