Sunday, July 31, 2005

god my legs are skinny

This is a camera phone self-portrait in a funky metal mirror in the Juniors section of Hecht's at Hanes Mall

Shopping's Center

By Wendy Tanaka
Philadelphia Inquirer Staff Writer

Once a month, high school friends Brian Adams, Lauren Herb and Alex Foimoyer make the pilgrimage from Reading for their fix of glitz and glamour. Their destination: the King of Prussia mall.

"Reading - it doesn't have any of this stuff," Foimoyer, 16, said as she shopped recently at the mall's Armani Exchange and Tiffany & Co. stores. "You definitely take more out of your bank account when you come here."

Shoppers spend more than $1 billion a year at the 42-year-old mall, still the largest on the East Coast and third-largest in the country, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. Only South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, Calif., and Mall of America near Minneapolis are bigger in terms of leasable space, the council said.

And despite the current shakeout in the retail industry, with recent mergers and buyouts affecting six of King of Prussia's eight major department stores, the mall is well-positioned to weather any changes that might result, according to analysts, mall executives and tenants.

Mall tenant Sears was bought by Kmart for $12 billion in March. Neiman Marcus agreed in May to be acquired by two private equity firms for $5 billion. Federated Department Stores Inc. and May Department Stores Co., which together own mall tenants Macy's, Bloomingdale's, Lord & Taylor and Strawbridge's, are in the process of merging in a deal valued at $11 billion.

While last week's announcement that nine Strawbridge's stores - including the King of Prussia store - were put up for sale sealed the fate of one mall tenant caught in the merger frenzy, some experts said King of Prussia would not be harmed.

"There will always be different adjustments," said Brian Ford, a partner with consulting firm Ernst & Young L.L.P., who specializes in retailing.

"But space will never be empty in King of Prussia."

Mall general manager Bob Hart said he had a waiting list of retailers ready to move in as openings arose. Simon Property Group Inc., the Indianapolis real estate investment trust that has a 12.4 percent ownership stake in the mall, said in its 2004 annual report that occupancy at King of Prussia was at 96.8 percent.

Kravco Simon Co., which manages the King of Prussia mall and other area malls, would not discuss possible new tenants for the 215,000-square-foot Strawbridge's space, but it was confident it would find a replacement.

Before the Strawbridge's news, Hart had said: "There's a lot of demand for our property."

So what's the attraction?

Shoppers cite the mall's location (at the intersection of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, Route 202 and the Schuylkill Expressway) and the number and diversity of its offerings. Among its 400 stores and restaurants are many high-end names - including some, such as Neiman Marcus and Versace, that have no other locations in the Philadelphia region - along with all of the typical mall fare.

"It has everything in it," said Jennifer Walker, 28, who regularly treks to King of Prussia from Wilmington.

The mall says 20 percent to 25 percent of its customers are tourists, some of whom arrive on the 1,000 tour buses that visit each year. Five million people live within a 100-mile radius.

The 200-acre mall - it actually consists of two adjacent, enclosed shopping centers, the Plaza and the Court - contributed $7 million in taxes to Upper Merion last year. About 6,000 people work there.

When Urban Outfitters Inc., the hot Philadelphia retailer, decided to open its first mall store in the area in 2002, it chose King of Prussia.

"They have a prime location, in terms of transportation," said Richard Hayne, founder and president of Urban Outfitters. "When you look at the numbers of people who have access to the King of Prussia mall fairly easily, it's incredibly powerful."

Crate & Barrel has had a store at the mall since 2000.

"Once we determine a market makes sense for us, we're looking to open in the center of gravity," said Peter Rusnak, director of real estate for the home retailer.

Many chains noted that their King of Prussia store is among their highest in sales. Sue Ertell, a manager at Rampage, a young women's clothing retailer, said the King of Prussia store was among its best. "It's in the Top 10 for the company," she said.

Patti Rozecki, store manager at upscale baby boutique The Right Start, said it was sometimes a chicken-and-egg issue for retailers.

"We are a high-volume store because we're in King of Prussia," she said. "King of Prussia mall is a big attraction."

The Plaza came first, established in 1963 by mall developer Kravco Co., and housed department stores E.J. Korvette and J.C. Penney, plus an Acme supermarket. The Court opened in 1981 with Bloomingdale's as its centerpiece.

In 2003, Simon Property Group increased its ownership in Kravco, changing Kravco's business name to Kravco Simon Co.

Today, Kravco Simon manages the mall, which is owned by a private partnership called King of Prussia Associates. Another private partnership, PS Court Associates, owns the Pavilion, which houses Borders Books & Music, Urban Outfitters, and Cheesecake Factory.

Ten years ago, the mall began focusing on attracting more high-end retailers, so they in turn could attract the growing number of higher-income shoppers in the region. It now has some of the world's most exclusive retailers, including Burberry, Cartier, Hermes and Louis Vuitton.

It also features:

About 2.62 million square feet of leasable space, according to the shopping center council - 2.85 million if the attached Pavilion is included, according to the mall.

More than 13,000 parking spaces.

Shoppers with average household incomes of $70,000.

Average annual sales per square foot of $512 for stores in the Plaza, excluding department stores, and $470 per square foot at Court shops, according to the council. The national average is $366.

Hart said the council's average revenue figures for the mall were low; some luxury retailers there have sales of more than $4,000 per square foot, he said.

He declined to say exactly how much the mall has spent on maintenance and advertising, but said it had a multimillion-dollar marketing budget. It changes its billboard advertisement on the westbound Schuylkill Expressway every two months, and it continually updates its glossy store directory brochure.

"What King of Prussia has been able to do," said Ernst & Young's Ford, "is take an area that was farm country, redevelop it into a significant regional shopping center, and then turn it into the regional shopping center in the country."

Shop Till You Drop
The nation's biggest shopping centers, measured by gross leasable area (in millions of square feet):

1. South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa, Calif. 2.80
2. Mall of America, Bloomington, Minn. 2.78
3. Plaza and Court, King of Prussia *2.62
4. The Galleria, Houston 2.40
5. Woodfield, Schaumburg, Ill. 2.22
6. Roosevelt Field Mall, Garden City, N.Y. 2.19
7. Sawgrass Mills, Sunrise, Fla. 2.17
8. Del Amo Fashion Center, Torrance, Calif. 2.10
9. Lakewood Center Mall, Lakewood, Calif. 2.09
10. Scottsdale Fashion Square, Scottsdale, Ariz. 2.05

* King of Prussia mall operators say that if their Pavilion is included, they have 2.85 million square feet of leasable space.

SOURCE: International Council of Shopping Centers.

Anchors Aplenty
Major department stores at King of Prussia mall:

The Plaza
J.C. Penney
Lord & Taylor
Neiman Marcus

The Court

two headed virginia pack attack

After a search for tickets that led me to Winston-Salem to find a Ticketmaster outlet that would accept out-of-state buyers (see comments on post), I came up short on my quest for Green Bay Packers tickets.

I did, however, get tickets to the Pittsburgh Steelers game in Charlotte in September. :-)

Kevin's going to check on possibly getting tickets for a game in Baltimore or Atlanta, but Charlotte is definately out.

For anyone interested, here's a couple of pictures of me and one of my friends in Packer regalia:

Me in my Packers T-shirt and green and gold Nikes.

My friend Eddy: Packer Fan #1

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Fences lined with fans from near, far

First chance to catch Packers action draws a crowd

By Rowena Vergara

Binoculars, digital cameras, even camera cell phones and all the green and gold apparel you could imagine.

You name it, Green Bay Packers fans had it as they lined the fences and filled the bleachers surrounding Clarke Hinkle Field in Ashwaubenon on Friday for the first full day of training camp practice.

While fans say each year is more or less the same, the start of a new season never fails to excite people, especially those from out of town.

The fan base was made up of folks from North Dakota, Massachusetts and as far away as the Middle East.

“You drive up and you see Lambeau and you’re like, ‘OK, here we are.’ You get your heart pumping,” said Angie Czerwinski, 42, of Fort Myers, Fla., and originally from Milwaukee.

Czerwinski was thrilled to be present at training camp after watching games on satellite television all last season. For each game, the family is “decked out in Packer attire,” said the woman who wore green and gold Chuck Taylor sneakers and a matching football jersey.

The concentration of fans as they studied players’ every move surprised Percy Robertson of Milwaukee, a first-time attendee.

In fact, not much talking was going on among these railbirds.

“Everybody is actually paying attention. They want to see everything in detail. I’m almost afraid to talk now,” he said.

“I’m just happy to see Javon (Walker) show up. I was about to be real upset,” he added.

The Packers receiver skipped the offseason minicamps and workout sessions because he wanted the team to renegotiate his contract. Walker returned Wednesday for the first official team meeting.

Ronna Washines, 33, of Washington was in Green Bay once 13 years ago. She was back in town, attending a conference and found out training camp was going on.

“I know everyone at home is going to be really excited once they know we were here,” she said.

It’s been too long since Jan Bustrak, originally from Superior, has seen the Packers in action. She moved to the Middle East four years ago and wakes up around 3 a.m. to listen to games through Internet radio.

“We never get to see the passes or tackles, so seeing it with your own eyes is fun,” she said.

Coach Mike Sherman also created a new activity which gives children the chance to be a “ball kid” for a day, said team spokesman Aaron Popkey.

Kids must first gather around the bike corral where players exit the locker room at Lambeau Field to get a raffle ticket. Before the start of each training camp day, a ticket number is chosen and the child must be present to win.

The “ball kid” also receives freebies such as a T-shirt, Packers cap and a spot in the autograph line.

In addition to being randomly selected as a ball kid, Brandon Rhoades, 13, of Green Bay had at least five Packers players ride his bike. Antonio Chatman was one player who persuaded Rhoades to consider being a kick returner or punt returner.

Chatman told him, “It isn’t too bad being too small. It’s kind of fun,” Rhoades said.

Maurice Brown of Sheboygan was in town for a wedding and encouraged several out-of-town guests to check out the practices.

Brown appreciates “actually seeing the players as people who practice rather than machines at game day,” he said.

Fans also said they noticed a larger turnout than last year. And that was just the first day.

Iconic retailer flickers and fades

© 2005 Philadelphia Inquirer

In the end, like rival Wanamaker's before it, Strawbridge's went out with a whimper, not a bang.

Its fate was written when stockholders approved Federated Department Stores' merger with the May Co., Strawbridge's current parent. Federated announced Thursday that it would not continue using the Strawbridge's name.

By next year, another Philadelphia icon for shoppers will be relegated to memory. Those who go back far enough will forever recall the store brand as Strawbridge & Clothier. It was mostly under that name that it waged mercantile warfare against the long-gone Wanamaker's stores.

John Wanamaker and Justus Strawbridge both began their businesses in 1861 on Market Street. Wanamaker's went on to become the legendary model for almost every huge, multi-floored, restauranted department store found in America's downtowns. Strawbridge's forged another route to success as an innovator of the surburban mall idea.

But neither store name has survived the flurry of department store acquisitions and mergers that have abated little since the mid-1980s. Other familiar brands that the Federated deal will kill include Hecht's, which in the mid-1990s briefly operated the Strawbridge's stores. Samuel Hecht opened his first store in Baltimore in 1857.

The ultimate survivor seems to be New York's Macy's. It is so famous nationally through its annual Thanksgiving Day parade and showings of Miracle on 34th Street, that it makes sense for Federated to keep that moniker. Lord & Taylor is also a survivor - for now. But if this keeps up, one day there will just be The Store. (Run by Wal-Mart, no doubt.)

Galleria facing space challenge

An old Houston name, Foley's, is leaving the famed landmark

Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle

When Macy's closes its store in the Galleria, Houston's largest shopping mall will be left with another big empty space that presents a challenge for the landmark mall.

Federated Department Stores said Thursday that the Foley's store there will become a Macy's, as it drops the Foley's brand, leaving the old Macy's location empty.

This switch, prompted by the merger of Federated and May Department Stores Co., which owns Foley's, will occur in 2006. It will be the second big loss for the Galleria of late. Lord & Taylor closed its store there in January.

While mall manager Simon Property Group won't yet say what will be done with the 256,000-square-foot Macy's space, real estate experts say the possibilities could include movie theaters, outdoor shops or even high-rise apartments.

The one thing that seems least likely is another department store.

It's not uncommon these days for mall owners to lose anchor stores as retailers consolidate and close underperforming stores, said Terry Montesi, president and CEO of Fort Worth-based Trademark Property Co.

"In most cases, what's happening is those spaces will be adaptively reused," he said.

Macy's planned closing and the recent exit of Lord & Taylor are signs of how the retail industry is changing.

Simon Property has already had to reinvent the space that up until January housed Lord & Taylor. The company is subdividing about 100,000 square feet for restaurants, specialty shops and a children's play area. The Oceanaire Seafood Room, Del Frisco's and Kona Grill have signed leases to open restaurants there.

Older, enclosed malls across the country have had to adapt to changing shoppers' preferences. Many shoppers would rather park near their destination and shop, rather than spend time wandering through a mall.

In Houston, owners of regional shopping centers in The Woodlands and First Colony have added outdoor or "life- style" components to their properties.

These areas typically comprise smaller boutiques and restaurants around some sort of pedestrian plaza.

"This may give Simon the opportunity to allow the Galleria to evolve," said Lance Gilliam of Moody Rambin Interests, a local realty firm.

Montesi, whose company recently developed Market Street, an outdoor shopping center in The Woodlands, said mall owners will often subdivide vacant department stores with smaller tenants like book stores or sporting goods outlets.

Other options include movie theaters or even apartments.

"It provides an excellent opportunity for the Galleria to take that section and re-merchandize everything west of Saks if they wanted to do an outdoor shopping environment or some sort of residential component," said Blake Tartt III, president of New Regional Planning.

Simon Property said recently that the company is considering its options for some of its retail properties that could include residential components.

The company has already begun developing mixed-use shopping and residential pro- jects in other markets.

The vacant Macy's could be prime for a residential retrofit, but folks from Simon Property are not announcing any plans for the Houston property.

"We have already initiated conversations with a wide range of potential users that are interested in stores that might become available," Rick Sokolov, president and chief operating officer of Simon Property, said in a prepared statement.

Longing for a Cuss-Free Zone


ACROSS the land, word-bombs are falling.

In May a New York television reporter who apparently thought he was off the air lit into two men who had intruded on his shot, broadcasting a word-bomb to the five boroughs.

This month a card player at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas made his name by launching a word-bomb across the table early in the tournament.

This weekend "The Aristocrats," a documentary film about a spectacularly crude joke, opened in New York and Los Angeles, strafing the coasts with 86-minute cluster-word-bomb raids.

And all that art, if you want to call it that, reflects life, if you want to call it that. In the schoolyards kids bomb the pencils, the books and the teachers' dirty looks. Outside office buildings smokers bomb their bosses, and nonsmokers bomb the smokers. On the streets T-shirts bomb milk in favor of marijuana, bomb the space between the words New York and City and even bomb you just because "we're from Texas."

Even the culture's hallowed spaces are no longer bomb-free zones. Baseball players can be seen on television mouthing inaudible bombs in the dugout. The vice president of the United States bombed a colleague on the Senate floor.

For cultural Chicken Littles, these are heady days. It is easy to make a case that the particular word-bomb on all these lips - that undefeated heavyweight champ of profanity, that King of the Cuss Words - is so commonly heard now that it's moving toward ho-hum status. Once the word gets in, the argument goes, there could be no line of defense against all the other words known by their first letters. "You know what I blame this on the breakdown of?" as Moe Syzlak of "The Simpsons" once asked. "Society."

But now polite society (if you want to call it that) seems to be taking a stand. While some profane words gain tacit acceptance over time, repetition is having the opposite effect for the word-bomb. For every inroad it makes (peppering the scripts of HBO programming like grapeshot, for example), the old word-bomb is encountering some pushback. That broadcast reporter, Arthur Chi'en of WCBS-TV, lost his job. That poker player, Mike Matusow, known as the Mouth, was banished from the table for 40 minutes, losing forced bets. And AMC Entertainment, which owns the country's second-largest chain of movie houses, declined to book "The Aristocrats," effectively keeping the movie and its word-bomb payload from 3,500 screens.

And with each round of back and forth, the dual standard seems to come into ever sharper relief. Take the clunky construction "word-bomb" itself. I've made it up as a stand-in for a well-known hyphenated term that refers to an actual profanity. In use for at least a decade, the original hyphenated term (which begins with the first letter of the profanity and ends with "bomb") gives a knowing wink to the actual profanity's paradoxical place as a taboo in wide circulation.

All this shorthand in letter-word form may be infantilizing, but it illustrates a kind of cultural cognitive dissonance over when, where and whether to use profanity. Among some people, in some social settings, the well-timed word-bomb is a knowing bit of transgression meant to flash the message: I'm no square. It shows a streak of rebelliousness, even if a mild one, in a world where rebellion has few outlets. In other words, it shows a certain cool.

"When we want to break the rules," said Geoffrey Nunberg, a linguist at Stanford University, "you have these words."

But when those same transgressors get to the office, they will most likely watch their tongues, at least away from the water cooler, as they uphold the polite-society taboo. "The idea that there are no rules is a big mistake," Mr. Nunberg said. It's just that "the rules are more flexible, and we break them more often."

EXAMPLES of deliberate omission abound: The New Yorker and this newspaper both address an educated readership, but the magazine prints the actual profanity, while The New York Times does not. And very rarely does the paper print those obvious, winking, letter-word stand-ins. As The Times's two-page stylebook entry on obscenity says, "An article should not seem to be saying, 'Look, I want to use this word but they won't let me.' "

"Word-bomb" does not directly refer to any particular vulgarity in an easily identifiable manner; so problem solved for the newspaper. But score a point, too, for the deepening lines of the dual standard, polite society's claim on the preservation of civility.

In the Victorian age, women went through life pretending that they had never heard curse words. It was not long, though, before acknowledgment began to serve a purpose, like demonstrating level-headedness through restraint from profanity.

Turn-of-the-century efforts to ban profanity made an open secret no secret at all. By 1900 a criminal defendant in Washington was acquitted on the ground of "justifiable profanity." With that, the stage was set for the dual standard to come. Soon people were throwing word-bombs under the thin veil of acronyms like fubar and snafu, and from there it is not hard to trace the path to Lenny Bruce and George Carlin.

But a funny thing happened on the way toward mainstream acceptance, a point that won't come until middle-class families routinely word-bomb the corn flakes across the breakfast table. Through battles couched in comedy, then the vilification and triumphant return of network censors, the chasm between what is acceptable from one place to the next only grew wider.

"In the workplace, where so many of us spend our time, we are on the verge of a neo-Victorian age," said Anthony J. Oncidi, a Los Angeles labor lawyer with the firm Proskauer Rose. "Anybody can now take the position that they are subjected to a hostile work environment, and a hostile work environment can be made up of profanity."

In one case, now before the California State Supreme Court, an assistant who worked in the writing room for the television show "Friends" based a sexual harassment complaint in part on profanity. A lower court had said that a defense of "creative necessity" may apply, Mr. Oncidi said.

Blaming the lawyers is always fun, but there is something else going on here. In an age of word-bombing, clean language becomes a more powerful tool to make a statement - of grace, calm, femininity or fustiness, you pick.

"In advertising you hear it all the time," said Linda Kaplan Thaler, the chief executive of the Kaplan Thaler Group, an advertising agency, and a conscientious objector to word-bombing. "This is an agency that is run by women, and we weren't brought up to talk like truck drivers."

Truck drivers, sailors or pirates; it doesn't matter. The stand-ins for riffraff change, but plenty of people are still genuinely offended by profanity, not posing. James Bovino, chairman of the real estate investment firm Whiteweld, Barrister & Brown, says he watches only G-rated movies and has fired people for cursing. That's walking the walk, and it sends a message as unmistakable as a bow tie's.

Office work has always called for pretty reserved language, but the establishment of profanity rules at the World Series of Poker marks new territory for the anti-word-bomb campaign. The image of the card table calls to mind pictures of men, probably with cigars, possibly armed, cursing up a storm. But at the World Series of Poker, words can lead to suspensions, and the word-bomb, said Dave Curley, a spokesman for the event, is "an automatic."

The rule, he said, was not set as a concession to television.

"If it's on television, it can be bleeped," Mr. Curley said. "We want to safeguard the dignity and integrity of everyone who's playing."

To some, this darkening of dividing lines is misplaced, prudishness masquerading as dignity. Royal S. Brown, chairman of the European languages and literature department at Queens College and an avowed word-bomber, offered an elegiac defense of profanity.

"It's a kind of poetry that gets beyond what Hamlet called the pales and forts of normal discourse," Mr. Brown said. "Given the high Puritan tradition, the sort of anti-life and anti-body Puritan tradition, I'm guessing that slang words for body parts and body functions and bodily activities such as sex are never going to be fully acceptable in this society."

Friday, July 29, 2005

memories of kaufmann's

Okay, I know we've been covered in department store stories today in Steve-land, but there's some more I want to share. I posted this at Tube City Almanac, in response to the death of Kaufmann's

Macy's is one of my favorite stores when I visit New York, but somehow I think when they set up in my town (replacing Hecht's), and towns across America, it'll just be the same old thing. Sadly, I know it will, if the stores in the DC area are any indication.

I knew the day would come when Kaufmann's et al, would bite the dust, but knowing doesn't make it any better. I just hope they keep the Downtown [Pittsburgh] store (but you know they won't, you just know it)

I collect shopping bags, among my other retail geeky hobbies and I remember inquiring at Kaufmann's a few years back and getting a beautiful lithographed one showing an illustration of the exterior of the store, complete with the famous clock. Not only is it one of the nicest bags I've ever gotten, it's also now a collector's item. I didn't even have to buy anything to get it; they just gave it to me.

Compare this to the cold reception I got from writing to Federated about the same time. they held their bags like they were a precious commodity and they weren't nearly as nice as my Kaufmann's bag when I eventually wrangled a couple from the individual stores.

Federated Mulls Future of Lord & Taylor


The future of Lord & Taylor, the upscale department store that catered to the carriage trade in its heyday but has more recently fallen on hard times, remained uncertain yesterday, following an announcement that did little to quell speculation that the business could soon be for sale.

Federated Department Stores will inherit Lord & Taylor as part of its acquisition of the May Department Stores Company, a deal that has kept Seventh Avenue tongues wagging over the future of the various chains within the May empire.

Some of those rumors were set to rest yesterday, when Federated announced plans to convert 330 of May's regional department stores, names like Famous-Barr, Filene's and Foley's, to its Macy's brand.

A further 68 stores, including 41 May stores and 27 Federated stores, will be sold to eliminate overlapping locations in the same malls.

Still under consideration is what to do with Marshall Field's, the upscale department store that May acquired in June 2004, which has a strong presence in the Midwest.

Of Lord & Taylor, which operates mainly in the Northeast, Federated said only that it had no plans to convert it to the Macy's brand, essentially leaving open other possibilities that include a partial or full-scale sale of the division.

Lord & Taylor is in the fifth year of a turnaround under Chief Executive Jane Elfers that has attempted to regain some of the brand's polished image. Middle market labels like Liz Claiborne have been dropped in favor of more upscale, edgier names like Nanette Lepore and the company has closed laggard stores.

Analysts said the real test of the turnaround will come this fall, the first time a year-over-year sales comparison can be made of the newly formulated merchandise.

Some observers remain skeptical that the changes will do much to halt the long-term slide of the brand.

"What does Lord & Taylor mean today?" said Dana Cohen, an analyst with Banc of America Securities. "It doesn't have the power and cachet it once did."

Nor does it have the earnings power of other May Company divisions. Cohen estimates that Lord & Taylor's operating margins are half those of its corporate parent.

If Lord & Taylor's turnaround has been slow in coming, much of the blame rests with Gene Kahn, May's former CEO, who resigned in January, industry observers said.

"Lord & Taylor needed a facelift and that costs money," said Harry Bernard of Colton Bernard. "Jane was fighting an uphill battle, and she got no corporate support."

Jim Sluzewski, a Federated spokesman, would say only that the company is continuing to study Lord & Taylor.

What’s in a Name?

Federated to find out if a rose by any other name still smells so sweet in a “cow town”


Following the announcement by Federated Department Stores Inc. (Cincinnati) that it would be converting nearly all the former brands of The May Department Stores Co. (St. Louis) into Macy’s stores, The New York Times did some research outside existing May Co. stores.

At a Filene’s flagship store in Boston, which sits across the street from a current Macy’s, the paper said shoppers had mixed reactions about the name change. Damian McNulty, 30, a contractor from Boston, said he did not care what the store’s name was as long as the bargain basement at Filene’s stayed put.

“If the basement remains, I’ll still shop here,” he said. “But as far as Macy’s or Filene’s, they’re both essentially the same to me.”

Matt D’Ambrosi, 29, a Boston resident who works in real estate, agreed that a name change was not significant. “Honestly, it’s not too big of a deal to me,” he told The Times. “I equate Macy’s and Filene’s as having the same quality. Neither one stands out.”

Similarly, shoppers at Famous-Barr in Richmond Heights, Mo. (a suburb of St. Louis, where May has its headquarters), said the name of the store was less important than the merchandise.

Lee Akers, from west St. Louis County, said, “The name doesn’t mean anything to me. It’s the quality of the merchandise. If it doesn’t improve, I won’t shop here anymore. Famous has let its quality go down. I’ve been to Macy’s in New York and Chicago and they’re not high-quality.”

Akers said what bothered her the most is the implication that a long-time retail giant in St. Louis will now be identified with New York. “I’m not proud to participate in anything belonging to New York,” she said. “Why? Because of their attitude toward the Midwest. They think we’re a cow town.”

Hecht's, No Longer Marking Our Spot

By Paul Farhi
Washington Post Staff Writer

Washington is suffering a name drain.

Once proud and famous local names, emblems of our singular regional identity, are disappearing like Amazonian rain forest. Where have you gone, Woodward & Lothrop and Riggs Bank? You, too, Hot Shoppes and Little Taverns? Long time no see, Garfinckel's and Raleigh's and Britches and Hechinger.

If those names seem a little unfamiliar (you're new here, aren't you?), try an easier one: Hecht's. Within the next year, the department store that anchors so many major malls in the region will join the likes of Lansburgh's and Kann's on the All-Washington Dead Name Team. Hecht's owner, Federated Department Stores of Cincinnati, decreed yesterday that the Hecht's name -- which worked perfectly well around these parts for 148 years -- will be phased out, replaced by a familiar but nevertheless distinctly New York name, Macy's.

Not that we're keeping score, but Washington seems to be the nation's capital of losing its homegrown names. Businesses that started down the block get big, establish name recognition and customer loyalty. Then they up and die, or sell out to another company from Somewhere Else.

Perhaps this is a sign of entrepreneurial vigor -- you've got to be pretty good to become big enough to sell out in the first place. It's also a sign of relentless and brutal competition -- in capitalism, you eat or get eaten, and many of these companies became lunch, like Crown Books and Trak Auto.

But the net effect of the name drain is like the effect of soil erosion. Little by little, much of a region's distinct character is leached out, one takeover deal or bankruptcy at a time. Soon enough, Here starts to look like Somewhere Else, or Everywhere Else. Does a Sutton Place Gourmet (now owned by Balducci's from New York) taste as sweet?

And so Erol's Video became just another Blockbuster. Peoples Drugs and Dart Drug and Fantle's Drug and Drug Fair became CVSes (or maybe Rite Aids). And just about everything else became a Starbucks.

Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone became the geographically general Bell Atlantic, which became Verizon, wherever and whatever that is.

There's no more Waxie Maxie records and no more Penguin Feathers records. No more Gino's and very little Roy Roger's fast food. Soon, there will be no more Nextel (it was recently bought by Sprint). And there's no more Washington Star or Washington Daily News to report all the names that are no more.

For that matter, there are no more Washington Bullets, no more Jack Kent Cooke Stadium and no more National Airport. If city fathers intend to follow through on plans to sell corporate "naming rights," Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium may soon grow an unsightly corporate appendage, too. ("Hooters Restaurant Park at RFK Stadium," anyone?)

Well, goodbye and farewell, Hecht's. It's been a pretty good 148-year run.

At least we'll never have to explain to an out-of-towner what a Macy's is, or how to pronounce it.

song of the day | july 29, 2005

Guess Who Loves You More - Raheem DeVaughn Listen

Marshall Field's fans get reprieve for now

Chris Serres, Star Tribune

Employees for Marshall Field's breathed a collective sigh of relief Thursday upon learning that the department store will keep its venerated name.

At least for now.

Terry Lundgren, chairman and chief executive of Federated Department Stores Inc., said the company will survey customers before making a decision later this year about whether to change Marshall Field's name to Macy's.

"Certainly, there is something different about Marshall Field's," he said in an interview. "It's a long-established name, particularly in the Chicago market ... and we need to talk to a broad range of customers before we make a decision."

Lundgren's comments kept alive the possibility that Federated will preserve Marshall Field's headquarters in downtown Minneapolis, where about 1,500 to 2,000 people work for the company.

"[Marshall Field's] doesn't fit the mold of Macy's. It doesn't fit the mold of Bloomingdale's," said Frank Guzzetta, president and chief executive of Marshall Field's. "It has remained a stronger part of the local retail scene than some of the other department store chains. ... In the final analysis, I think the decision will be made to keep the brand."

Earlier this month, shareholders of Federated approved the Cincinnati company's $11 billion purchase of May Department Stores Co., which owns Marshall Field's and its 62 stores. Federated said Thursday that it plans to replace the names of 10 department store chains it bought from May to the Macy's moniker. The move would nearly double the size of Macy's to 730 stores nationwide.

"It was just about everyone's assumption that the Marshall Field's [name] would not survive" the acquisition, said Jim McComb, a Minneapolis retail consultant. "Now, I say it's not out of the realm of possibility that the name will remain."

Federated may be responding to pressure from some of Marshall Field's customers, analysts said. On Tuesday, a 25-year-old from Minneapolis named Nick Potts launched a website,, created "with the intention of preserving the Marshall Field's trade name for future generations." Nearly 2,400 people have added their names to a petition on the site pledging to take their business elsewhere if Federated changes the Marshall Field's name to Macy's or Bloomingdale's.

Chris Cliff, 30, an insurance adjuster from Brooklyn Park, was among them.

"Marshall Field's is enough of a high-end store that people care," said Cliff, who buys most of his dress shirts at the department store. "From what I know, Macy's is more cookie-cutter -- just a kick above Kohl's."

Yet Cliff may be in the minority. Many shoppers in the Twin Cities still feel aggrieved about Target Corp.'s decision to convert the Dayton's stores to Marshall Field's in 2001.

"In Minneapolis, I need to understand if the connection to the Marshall Field's name is as important as it is in Chicago or Detroit," Lundgren said. "There will be more to do and more research required."

Lundgren dismissed speculation that Federated might convert Marshall Field's into Bloomingdale's, not Macy's. "The Macy's customer is almost identical to the Marshall Field's customer," he said. "Bloomingdale's has a substantially higher average ticket sale."

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Pittsburgh Mills

Courtesy Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Federated Announces Plan to Expand Macy's Brand in 2006

Federated announces plans for converting about 330 May Co. stores to the Macy’s brand and shutting about 70; Marshall Field’s still pending decision


Federated Department Stores Inc. (Cincinnati) has finally revealed some of its plans for the new locations it will acquire through its pending merger with The May Department Stores Co. (St. Louis).

The department store retailer said it will add about 330 Macy’s locations nationwide in 2006 as it converts some of its new regional department store nameplates. And it will shut nearly 70 stores where it feels there are duplicate locations.

The following May Company stores will be renamed Macy’s some time in fall 2006:

*Famous-Barr locations in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Missouri;

*Filene’s locations in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont;

*Foley’s locations in Colorado, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas;

*Hecht’s locations in Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and the District of Columbia;

*The Jones Store locations in Kansas and Missouri;

*Kaufmann’s locations in New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia;

*L.S. Ayres locations in Indiana;

*Meier & Frank locations in Oregon, Utah and Washington;

*Robinsons-May locations in Arizona, California and Nevada; and

*Strawbridge’s locations in Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

The company said the Lord & Taylor name will not be converted to the Macy’s brand. A decision regarding the Marshall Field’s name has not yet been made, pending further study.

In conjunction with the conversion process, Federated said it has identified 68 duplicate locations in 66 malls which will be divested starting in 2006. Included are 41 current May Company stores operating in 12 states under various nameplates, as well as 27 Federated stores operating in 14 states as Macy’s. Federated said the number of divestitures is consistent with its original expectations, and that it will continue to study the May Company store portfolio in light of the merger. Some plans may change as conversion dates approach.

In addition to the locations being divested, a small number of stores are being studied for potential conversion to the Bloomingdale’s nameplate.

The current plan is to operate all May Company stores under their existing nameplates at least through the 2005 holiday shopping season. Divestiture of duplicate May Company and Macy’s locations will begin in 2006. They will be offered for sale to landlords, developers and interested third parties. Federated said it intends to comply with all existing lease and operating agreements, and the divestiture of certain locations will be subject to the satisfactory completion of negotiations with various third parties.

“Macy’s emerged as a premier national retailer in March 2005, when we changed Federated’s regional department store nameplates,” said Terry Lundgren, Federated’s chairman, president and ceo. “We will continue that process in 2006 by converting many of May Company’s regional store nameplates to Macy’s. With these additions, Macy’s will operate about 730 stores, representing virtually every major U.S. market.

“We have chosen to proactively announce our decisions as they are made so that our intentions are clear,” Lundgren added. “This decision to expand the Macy’s brand was based on careful study and new research on customer preferences in May Company communities. “Customers have told us they want the fashion and affordable luxury they find in Macy’s stores. We have strengthened the Macy’s brand with distinctive assortments, simplified pricing, an improved shopping experience and enhanced marketing. With this expanded geographic coverage, we now will be positioned to nationally advertise the Macy’s brand.”

Lundgren said Federated “respects that May Company’s regional store names are deeply rooted in their communities, we appreciate the heritage and traditions associated with those names, and we expect to continue to play an important role in the communities where our customers live and work. At the same time,” he said, “we also have learned from our own experience converting Federated’s regional nameplates. Our customers tell us through research and from their behavior that what’s inside a store -- the merchandise, the service, the people, the shopping environment - is what matters most. And this is where Macy’s excels.”

Spiral 115-story skyscraper designed for Chicago

This artist's impression released by the Fordham Company shows plans for a Chicago skyscraper - what is to be the tallest building in the United States, developers say(AFP/FC-HO)

By Andrew Stern

A twisting 115-story glass and concrete tower that would be the United States' tallest building may soon grace Chicago's lakefront, its developer said on Tuesday.

Critics compared the proposed 2,000-foot (610 meter) Fordham Spire to a giant candle fit for a cake, while others said it was out of place in a post-Sept. 11 world in which landmark skyscrapers could be terrorist targets.

The tower, which would house condominiums and a hotel, is the brainchild of Christopher Carley, chairman of Chicago-based Fordham Co. It was designed by award-winning Spanish-born architect Santiago Calatrava, who is known for his curvaceous bridges, as well as for designing the winged addition to Milwaukee's art museum and the transportation center to be built on the site of New York's Ground Zero.

The slender tower will soar 1,458 feet to its roof and then add a spire to reach 2,000 feet, topping the 1,450-foot-tall (442 meter) Sears Tower, currently the nation's tallest, and New York's proposed 1,776-foot-tall (541 meter) Freedom Tower.

"Chicago was America's birthplace for modern architecture, nurturing the genius of Louis Sullivan, Daniel Burnham, Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe," Carley said in a statement. "We want to carry that tradition into the 21st century and give our city a masterpiece by one of today's indisputable geniuses."

At least two previous designs to build the world's tallest building in Chicago fell flat for lack of financing since the Sears Tower lost the title of world's tallest building in 1996 to Kuala Lumpur's twin Petronas Towers.

Current title-holder Taipei 101 in Taiwan is 1,670 feet tall but it will soon be eclipsed by the Burj Dubai tower in the United Arab Emirates that may reach 2,300 feet.

No cost figure for the Fordham Spire was announced but for it to break even when completed in 2008, prices must average $650 a square foot, translating to condominiums worth up to $7.5 million, the Tribune reported.

Each floor of the building will be turned 2 degrees from the one below to give the impression of movement. The concave glass facade will deflect lakefront winds and a massive concrete core will allow column-free spaces and 9.5-foot-tall (3 meter) floor-to-ceiling windows for its 250 condominiums and a hotel.

Neighbors will have less to worry about at least in terms of the tower's shadow. It will take up only 14,000 square feet at its base and contain just 920,000 square feet -- compared to 4.5 million square feet in the Sears Tower.

Developer and reality television star Donald Trump cited security concerns in scaling down his self-named Chicago hotel-condominium tower now under construction a few blocks from the proposed tower's site near the mouth of the Chicago River.

"In this climate, I would not want to build that building. Nor would I want to live in that building," Trump told the Chicago Tribune.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

A tasteless line, even for hard-core

Celeste Ward

The marketing effort for the latest CD from Montreal hard-core band A Perfect Murder carries this line: “Pantera is gone. Metallica is old.”

Say what you will about Metallica being ancient in their 40s. But the Pantera comment is harsh, given that former guitarist “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott was shot to death on stage in December while performing in Columbus, Ohio, with his band Damageplan.

Even though Pantera broke up before Abbott was killed, his death is still pretty raw. Couldn’t these guys have come up with a better line?

my neighborhood: paradox unbound

Mitch Glaser's blog, Paradox Unbound

I had a comment tonight on the save Marshall Field's post from a friend of mine from remembering_retail, Mitch Glaser. Mitch is a zoning official and retail buff from Los Angeles, and you may remember the post I did on his project documenting all the malls of Southern California. If you haven't checked it out, you should, because it is impressive, to say the very least.

I found out tonight that Mitch also has an excellent blog called Paradox Unbound that foucses on retail and evelopment issues, along with trips and events from his personal life. It's an interseting and insightful read, and if you're digging this blog or LiveMalls, you'll love Paradox Unbound as well.

save Marshall Field's

MINNEAPOLIS (United Press International via COMTEX) -- A Minneapolis man who can't bear the thought Federated Department Stores might phase out the Marshall Field's name has started online resistance.

Nick Potts, a 25-year-old architect intern in the Twin Cities, said he is concerned about the loss of Midwestern regional identity in the face of globalization.

So he has launched a Web site,, which seeks shoppers' stories on what Field's means to them, and permits visitors to sign an online petition to show "tangible support for keeping Field's as Field's."

Federated bought Marshall Field's and other stores owned by St. Louis-based May Department Stores for $11 billion.

Federated has already dropped Lazarus, Rich's, Burdine's, Goldsmith's and other longtime store names in favor of the Macy's brand, the Chicago Sun-Times said.

For his part, Potts wrote on the Web site Macy's brand is "one that stands for nothing but an over-hyped parade in a faraway city and economies of scale."

P. Diddy Rations Out "Sean John" Logo, Preps Lifestyle Brand

The Wire / Daily Hip-Hop News
written by Carl Chery (

Sean "P. Diddy" Combs recently met his designers to discuss changes in Sean John, including an upcoming women's line in hopes to get past the "urban" stigma.

First, Diddy revealed that the forthcoming Sean John collection will only feature three T-shirts. Since becoming one of fashion's most popular brands, Sean John has become recognizable courtesy of the signature logo and "SJ" initials featured on its clothing. Yet, Diddy says he wants to do away with the famed lettering.

"I'm putting you on rations," Diddy told his designers, according to the NY Times. "From now on, I want people to read the name without seeing the name. You get me?"

Not satisfied with racking up approximately $400 million per year in sale, Diddy now wants Sean John to cross urban boundaries and establish itself as a universal brand. If successful, the move could prove highly profitable for Puff considering that he still owns the line. Last year, Russell Simmons sold Phat Fashions to Kellwood, a giant clothing manufacturer, for $140 million.

Though still successful, Sean John suffered shrinking sales in the last two years and a net loss last year. Insiders say the low sales are evidence that urban fashion is now decreasing. Disorganized distribution is also believed to have caused SJ to slip in sales.

Hoping to return Sean John to more glorious days, Diddy made critical changes in his team. He replaced his former executive vice president, Jeffrey Tweedy with Robert J. Wichser; Joseph Abboud Apparel Corporation's former chief executive. Prior to hiring Wichser, Diddy held the chief executive title. Now, word is Wichser said he wouldn't work with SJ unless he got the chief executive title.

Diddy is also readying to launch a Sean John's women's line and is looking to associate the brand with licensed products like leather sneakers, belts and rims. Insiders say Puff is likely to rise again partly because Sean John makes 70% of its own clothes. Most celebrity-fronted brands are made under licenses with other companies.

"If he can get the women's working, he can become a true lifestyle brand," analyst Eric M. Beder shared. "Sean John can become more than just Puff Daddy's company."

Everyone wants 'free' Windows and sneakers

by ZDNet's David Grober

Research by a piracy-prevention consultancy, reports's Sylvia Carr, shows that software ranks second among the most popular categories of counterfeited goods, and that Microsoft is the top IT brand to be pirated. (Among all categories of pirated brands, Microsoft came in second behind Nike.) No surprise, then, that Microsoft customers looking to get the [more]

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Bon-Ton May Join Saks Bid


The Bon-Ton Stores is considering a partnership with a private equity firm to make an offer for all of Saks Inc., including the upscale Saks Fifth Avenue department stores, according to research that has been quietly circulating among dealmakers.

Saks sold its Proffitt's and McRae's stores to Belk Inc. in April, and put its northern department stores on the block. But the company intended to hold onto its prized Saks Fifth Avenue division, which is attempting to reverse a longstanding decline.

Sources close to Saks said that the Saks Fifth Avenue division has not been formally put up for sale, but acknowledged that board members would have to evaluate any offers.

Industry sources named Bon-Ton, based in York, Penn., as a front runner for the northern stores, which operate under names like Carson Pirie Scott and Younkers, a possibility that gained ground last month when Bon-Ton netted $90 million from the sale of its credit card business.

A report from Mergermarket, a proprietary research firm, said that Bon-Ton was considering a bid in partnership with one or more private equity firms, including Bain Capital, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Thomas H. Lee Partners and Apollo management.

Under the scenario being discussed, Bon-Ton would keep the northern stores and the private equity partner would take control of Saks Fifth Avenue.

Mary Kerr, a Bon-Ton spokeswoman, declined to comment. Representatives of Bain and Apollo also declined to comment. Executives with KKR and Thomas H. Lee could not immediately be reached.

Interest in Saks is high following the purchase earlier this year of the Neiman Marcus Group by Warburg Pincus and the Texas Pacific Group.

Industry sources said that private equity firms have been "running the numbers" on Saks Fifth Avenue.

Charlotte revels in puttin' on the Ritz

City thrives on dramatic growth and the chance to talk about it


The things big cities take for granted, such as the arrival of a Ritz-Carlton, is huge news in Charlotte.

The day after Bank of America's Wednesday announcement that it would develop a $60 million, 150-room Ritz-Carlton next to its uptown headquarters, the city was still atwitter.

Attracting the lodging industry's biggest name in luxury puts Charlotte among the world's elite cities.

As Bank of America Chairman Ken Lewis put it: "The arrival of Ritz-Carlton is one more step in Charlotte's emergence as a primary destination for American business and tourism."

At rates in the $300-a-night range, not many working stiffs will ever set foot in a hotel whose name is synonymous with extravagance.

But in Charlotte, they cheer, they gloat, they go gaga.

This must seem like strange behavior to transplants from larger cities, but we natives understand completely.

This is about image, civic pride and ambition.

Charlotte is a city on the rise. Relocation advisory firms often list it among the best places to live and conduct business.

That rapid ascent over the past 15 years -- and the cheering that accompanies it -- is as much a part of the narrative of this place as the stories of growth, schools and politics.

Combine Ritz-Carlton with other firsts -- a 60-story skyscraper, the NBA, the NFL, an uptown culinary and business university -- and you have something concrete to illustrate Charlotte's dynamism.

They are trophies that help outsiders see what we've bagged, and we like to display them prominently.

It's difficult to imagine the Ritz-Carlton having any effect on our efforts to improve public schools, unclog traffic or retrain laid-off workers.

Pondering those weighty issues -- for most of us -- is too much like doing homework and too complicated to discuss in a breezy phone chat with cousin Susie in Ohio.

So she and others are going to hear about the pending arrival of Ritz-Carlton uptown, a Whole Foods Market in Elizabeth and Neiman Marcus at SouthPark.

Charlotteans are so eager to show off their city that newcomers sometimes wonder whether they were born with a boosterism gene.

Suburbanites will grumble that uptown has little to offer them, but on weekends we see them driving around, proudly pointing out skyscrapers to their out-of-town guests.

Decision makers at the companies the Charlotte Chamber recruits are always impressed with what they refer to as Charlotte's "can-do spirit."

That was a deciding factor in December 2001, when then Charlotte Center City Partners Chairman Jim Palermo was helping recruit Johnson & Wales University.

University President Jack Yena recalled that he was in the final stages of signing a deal in Charleston when he toured uptown Charlotte.

Palermo called after the tour and asked him to wait 60 days for Charlotte's proposal for a new campus. "I'll never forget the enthusiasm in his voice," Yena said. "I was trying to thank him for the interest and tell him no, but he wouldn't let me."

On the prestige scale, bagging Johnson & Wales, Ritz-Carlton and Neiman Marcus is big.

But will we ever be so big that these trophies don't make front-page news? Probably not. We enjoy the hoopla. And we enjoy the chase.

Charlotte is a second-tier city. I can live with that. You can still get to work without a two-hour commute and still eat in a nice restaurant without a reservation.

Besides, even the biggest booster would have to admit first-tier cities such as New York, San Francisco and Chicago are too far ahead for us to catch.

Of course, that hasn't stopped us from chasing the next big trophy -- the NASCAR Hall of Fame. NASCAR is expected to choose from among five competing cities by the end of the year.

But why stop there?

Charlotte doesn't have a major-league baseball team -- yet.

The city has hosted the men's and women's Final Four college basketball tournaments, but unlike arch-rival Atlanta, we've never hosted the Olympic Games.

Now, that would be something to talk about.

It's a mall world

By Tucker Mitchell
The Huntersville (NC) Herald

It's not obvious to the layman's eye, but work on the new Northlake Mall just south of Huntersville is proceeding on schedule, says Mall General Manager Phil Morosco, and the Taubman Company's 55-year string of never missing a stated opening date is in no jeopardy.

Taubman is planning for its grand opening on Sept. 15. Morosco said last week during a walking tour of the 1.1 million- square-foot facility that "we're right where we need to be." As is usually the case in large mall projects, the various tenants are at different stages in their building work. Some, like Kay Jewelers and Dick's Sporting Goods, appear to be just days from being open. Others are much further away and Morosco says there's no doubt that all the stores won't be open on Sept. 15.

The mall is about 95 percent leased, Morosco says. Of that number, about 80 to 85 percent will be ready when the mall's doors finally open. "That's fairly typical, too," Morosco says. "Right now is when a lot of your retailers start moving in and that's what's happening here, too."

The two-level mall, with architecture loosely based on textile mill designs, will house up to 150 stores and restaurants. Besides typical mall amenities, it will be home to a large play area and "sports court" where three flatscreen televisions will broadcast sporting events and televsion around the clock.

Monday, July 25, 2005

New motto for guys: Exfoliate this!

By Lee Ostaszewski

Maybe you are a guy, and maybe every once in a while you catch yourself looking in the mirror and thinking: "Gosh, my skin sure is dry and could use a good moisturizer and perhaps even an exfoliant to help reverse the effects of aging." If so, I have one important piece of advice to offer: Stop it. Stop thinking these thoughts right now. Pull yourself together and remember one thing: you are still a guy, so act like one.

Throughout history, guys have had a major advantage over women, other than the obvious major advantage of not having to go around creating new life by giving birth and becoming so full of hormones for nine months that they can't pass within 100 feet of a baby store without blubbering. Guys only get that emotional over important matters, such as receiving playoff tickets, or while in the presence of a classic sports car.

But the major advantage I was thinking of is that, traditionally, guys don't worry much about their appearance when in public, other than to check that their fly is zipped up.

That's about the extent of a guy's "primping." Any time you see a guy dressed up it is almost always due to a socially mandated circumstance beyond his control, such as a job interview, or getting married. If you want to see how guys really want to dress, and would dress all the time even at their own wedding, then drive along the streets of any neighborhood on a Saturday morning when guys are out in the yard performing massive amounts of fertilizer-company recommended lawn care.

You'll find men wearing worn sneakers, gym shorts in a wide variety of odd colors, and old, yet sentimentally significant T-shirts that predate the wearer's mid-life emergence as an extra-large.

Since I work a lot from home, I have the pleasure of dressing as if it is Saturday morning most days of the week. But many of my brethren (i.e., brothers) are not so lucky.

From what I am told, this problem is compounded further by the so-called "casual Fridays." That's a day when, instead of wearing whatever shirt, suit and tie (all s of blue) that a guy can easily find in his closet while still in a half-comatose state of sleep, corporate America now forces guys into being awake enough every Friday morning to consciously attempt to figure out what casual business attire even means.

This is putting too much pressure on personal appearance for most of us. Going back to the wedding example for a moment, the average bride-to-be spends 1,454 hours actively picking out her wedding dress. A dress that will cost more than the groom spent on his first car. A dress that will be worn once, then carefully packed away in a hermetically sealed, lead-lined box and placed in the newlyweds' attic, where years from now it will still be in the way every time the groom climbs up into the attic to get the Christmas decorations down.

In contrast, the groom rents his wedding tuxedo; a tuxedo that hundreds of other grooms also got married in.

You could imagine a situation in which two women, married in a similar geographical location, and within a year or so of each other, might be looking at each other's wedding album and unbeknownst to them their respective spouses wore the exact same tuxedo. Not merely the same style, mind you, but the actual same one!

So I find disturbing a recent trend showing that some men -- mainly men belonging to the "younger generation" -- are taking an inordinate amount of interest in their appearance, resulting in an increase in sales of skin care and beauty-aid products for men. Hey, do you think tough guy Charles Bronson ever exfoliated? His face looked as smooth and supple as a peach pit. You could have used his cheeks to sand down wood.

And if peach pit skin was good enough for someone who starred in movies with titles such as Death Wish and Death Wish II, then, guys, who are we to argue with that?

Sneaker collections: Shoes definitely not for play


Sneaker companies are hiring celebrity designers to create limited edition footwear.

Some collectors are paying up to $600 for shoes that they won't even wear out of the house. And the kicker? The sneakers, like good art, appreciate in value with time.

Don't touch West Smith's Silver Surfers. Or his Terminators. And especially not his Oompa Loompas.

These are his precious limited-edition Nike sneakers, for which he waited in line for hours and paid more than $100 a pair. Like a growing number of people worldwide, Smith is a collector.

The 31-year-old personal trainer began accumulating sneakers once he moved to New York from Annapolis, Md., last fall and discovered a community of like-minded footwear enthusiasts.

"I've always really liked shoes," Smith said, but he only became an aficionado after he relocated. "When I moved to New York, it all exploded. The collector in me took over."

Smith is not the only one with an appreciation for rare footwear. "Sneakers have taken on an icon status," said Bobbito Garcia, author of "Where'd You Get Those," a study of New York sneaker culture. "The insular community of people who want something different has grown considerably."

According to Garcia, Nike revolutionized the sneaker industry by releasing the first pair of Air Jordans in 1985. Thanks to the fame of their namesake, basketball legend Michael Jordan, the black, red and white high-top shoes attracted worldwide attention. Their continuing popularity caused Nike to re-issue past editions in the early 2000s, and a trend was born.

Today's "sneakerheads" can now read about their hobby in magazines like Sole Collector and Complex and discuss it in online forums. In April, Thames and Hudson, a publishing house best known for its art books, released "Sneakers: The Complete Collectors' Guide," written by the London design firm Unorthodox Styles.

To fuel the growing demand for high-end footwear, shoe companies frequently do "quick strikes," in which a limited number of a particular model of shoe will be delivered to a certain store with little warning to the public. News of an upcoming strike spreads by word-of-mouth and on Web sites like, which is not affiliated with the sneaker maker.

Collectors line up hours before the stores open, hoping to acquire the rare offerings. Companies also create a buzz by hiring celebrities to act as guest designers.

Reebok has cultivated a hip-hop connection, with Pharrell Williams of the producing duo The Neptunes and N.E.R.D., rappers 50 Cent and Jay-Z responsible for different sneaker designs. Nike recruited the Japanese professional skateboarder Iwasaki Shingo to create a special pair of Dunks, a high-top model with a padded tongue particularly popular with skateboarders.

Competition is so fierce that some collectors won't reveal where they buy their sneakers, said Carmelo Peguero, co-owner of Closet, a hip-hop clothing store in upper Manhattan.

"I have a lot of people coming up to me wanting to buy wholesale," he said.

This isn't just a New York phenomenon. Thanks to the Internet, high-end sneaker collecting has gone global. Because companies frequently "drop a colorway," or color scheme, in only one location, collectors must go online to purchase shoes unavailable in their part of the world. Opportunistic buyers race to snatch up rare models, and then sell them on eBay for huge profits.

In certain instances, prices soar almost instantaneously. Smith said he recalled seeing a pair of Nike Pigeon Dunks, so-called because a bird was stitched into the suede, sell for $2,000 on eBay after having been purchased earlier that same day for $300 at a Manhattan boutique.

Smith said he is more of a collector than a speculator, but he will occasionally sell a pair or two if the price is right. While he will wear a few of his favorite models, he keeps most pairs in mint condition by never putting them on his feet.

"As soon as I put them on, it's over. People don't buy shoes that aren't 'dead stock,'" Smith said, using the term for just-out-of-the-box. "Even lacing them up and trying them on in the store lowers the value."

Smith estimated that he had purchased 45 pairs of sneakers in the past six months, spending between $6,000 and $7,000. He pointed out that his collection was now probably worth between $10,000 and $12,000.

One store Smith frequents is Dave's Quality Meats in Manhattan's East Village that, despite its name, is an apparel store, not a butcher shop.

Shoes line the wall opposite a deli-style meat cooler, and the cash register sits on a butcher-block counter.

Co-owner Dave Ortiz, who designed his own pair of pink, brown and white Nike Air Max 90s around the theme of bacon, said that the sneaker craze is driven by nostalgia. Aging 20- and 30-somethings want to re-create the feeling of buying their first Nike Air Jordans, and that interest has created a ripple effect, with younger teenagers aping their style.

"You run to buy a piece of that time period," said Ortiz, 35. "You can appreciate it now."

Smith said he has long since run out of closet space in the one-bedroom apartment he shares with his girlfriend, Elizabeth Hermann, and shoe boxes line the wall of their living room.

On Feb. 14, he gave Elizabeth a pair of red patent-leather sneakers with the familiar Nike swoosh logo and a heart sewn into the material in white - the Valentine's edition of low-top Nike Air Force Ones, of course.

"She loved it," Smith said. "That was my version of buying flowers for her."

Bloomie's to blend old with the new

New drawings show Bay Area's biggest mall-to-be

Dan Levy, San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer

It's a huge curiosity -- wrapped in plastic on Market Street and looking like an immense, empty glass box along Mission Street.

But new renderings of the Westfield San Francisco Centre released to The Chronicle provide the first glimpse of what to expect when the $420 million downtown development opens in autumn 2006. Contemporary architecture, upscale fashion and a burst of new eateries will blend with historical echoes of the city's past in the Bay Area's biggest shopping mall.

The elements of the gigantic project are impressive even in an era in which developers nationwide have increasingly looked for downtown renovation opportunities. They include the 19th century Emporium store's dome, rotunda and facade, preserved and highlighted; a sleek new Bloomingdale's dominating Mission Street; and a riot of new stores on multiple levels offering diversions, from a food hall in the basement to a roof garden.

"This has given us a historic opportunity," said James Ratner of Forest City Enterprises, co-developer with managing partner Westfield, commenting on how the project would support the city's longtime goal of invigorating Market and Mission streets and uniting Union Square with the Yerba Buena redevelopment district. "This has got to raise the level of all boats."

For all the optimism, however, the imminent arrival of the center raises questions about the effect of so much new retail space downtown, not to mention whether the mall will draw shoppers away from stores in the neighboring San Francisco Centre, anchored by Nordstrom.

There are also concerns about a parking shortage -- no spaces are being added, despite the project's size -- and how the nine-screen cinema will fare against the wildly popular Metreon theaters down the street. Meanwhile, the center's office space will come on line amid a still-high, albeit falling, commercial vacancy rate.

One thing seems certain: The center will be a visual treat. The renderings show glistening marble and granite floors, soaring shopping arcades and sexy spotlighting. Given the sheer size of the project -- it's a 550- foot walk from Market Street to Mission Street -- the shopping experience will be something like strolling along vertical indoor streets.

Escalators will take shoppers up from the subterranean concourse level, past a food hall and high-end grocery store, and deposit them in the mall atrium. Cutouts between floors will give visitors spectacular views toward the light-filled dome and rotunda on the fourth level and, not incidentally, encourage the eye to ricochet off shiny merchandise displays.

The cinema on Mission Street will have its own multistory lobby. Visible from the mall interior above Bloomingdale's, the lobby forms one side of the four-story atrium space at the heart of the shopping arcade.

Floors generally will be arranged by price point. The street level is for luxury shops. Slightly less expensive stores will be on the second floor. Contemporary fashion will be on the third floor and restaurants and gift shops on the fourth floor, radiating around the restored rotunda.

Above that, the center is providing 235,000 square feet of Class A office space arrayed in a U shape around the dome on levels five through eight.

On Market Street, the niches in the old Emporium facade, which is almost the length of a football field, will be reopened with boutiques. "We'll have selected street-facing shops to replicate what was done historically and give it less of an imposing feel," Westfield leasing manager Keith Browning said. "It's all in keeping with bringing the street back to life."

The developers say the center will generate $400 million in new sales and attract more than 20 million shoppers a year.

Combined with the adjacent Nordstrom mall, which is also owned by the Westfield-Forest City partnership, the center's 1.5 million square feet will be bigger than either Valley Fair in San Jose or Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto.

Westfield, which joined the venture during uncertain economic times in 2003 and helped shoulder Forest City's financial and leasing burden, has begun aggressively marketing the center under its own name. It's the Westfield San Francisco Centre now, the company insists, not the Bloomingdale's project.

"At least for Market and Mission streets, it's going to be a huge boon," said Carolyn Diamond, director of the Market Street Association merchant group and a longtime project booster. "Bloomingdale's will bring in a different population of shoppers, younger and hipper than Nordstrom. And there will be a lot of curiosity seekers during the first year."

Westfield, which has interests in 129 malls in four countries and is one of the largest publicly traded companies in Australia, won't comment on the rents being charged or prospective tenants, saying only that 60 percent of the mall is leased, mostly to retailers who are new to the market.

However, Draeger's, the Peninsula-based grocer, is rumored to be negotiating for the 30,000-square-foot basement grocery space.

San Francisco retail experts, bracing for the flood of new merchants, say average base rents are likely to range from $150 to $300 per square foot, depending on the location in the mall. Luxury boutiques on the first floor closest to the Market Street entrance may go for considerably more.

"They are going to be leasing the majority of the center to everyday retailers that you would find at Valley Fair or Stoneridge (in Pleasanton)," said Julie Taylor, director of retail services at the Whitney-Cressman brokerage. Westfield's huge international presence and its relationships with retailers also mean that it can offer attractive rates, Taylor added.

"They have the ability to lease space in San Francisco at a loss if necessary, because they can offer retailers a portfolio deal," she said. "They can sign up stores to different projects, and the numbers will blend out for them."

Taylor said she believes Westfield is asking $200 to $225 per square foot for prime locations. But surcharges of $64 per square foot for taxes, maintenance and insurance -- four times the average for street-front shops outside the mall -- will push effective rents closer to $300 per square foot for prime space.

Rhonda Diaz, a retail broker at Terranomics in Burlingame, said retailers near Union Square may take a second location in the center, viewing the mall and the square as two different markets.

"Coach, Kenneth Cole, Aldo, Ann Taylor, Bebe, Guess, Lucky jeans -- they may decide to do it," Diaz said.

While most brokers expect the overall effect of the new center to be positive for merchants -- the rising tide theory promoted by Ratner -- Turner Newton, head of mall developer Capital & Counties USA in San Francisco, said stores on the periphery of Union Square may suffer from the new competition.

"The 200 block of Sutter Street won't be affected, but maybe the 100 block will as the center of retail gravity moves south," Newton said. "Powell Street is getting better, and Stockton will stay strong, but (Westfield) could take some business away from Stonestown."

One issue the developers don't like confronting is parking. No parking spaces have been added in the area except for the 450-space Jessie Street garage, across from Yerba Buena Gardens on Mission Street between Third and Fourth streets.

Finding a place to put the car is likely to be an ordeal, if not a nightmare, especially during the Christmas shopping rush and busy convention periods at Moscone Center, which relies on the same Fifth and Mission parking garage that Westfield says will accommodate its shoppers.

Westfield executives downplay the concern. "Our observation is that the garage is pretty accessible and rarely full," project manager Steve Eimer said. But the recent Semicon convention filled the entire 2,500-space facility and surrounding surface lots, causing much parking stress.

But for people who do find a spot or go to the center by BART, Muni or other bus lines -- as city officials insist they will -- this will be a new retail world.

"This is obviously a massive development," said Chris Martin of the Cannery shopping complex at Fisherman's Wharf. "Walnut Creek, Concord, Emeryville and Mill Valley have built their malls, but this is going to put San Francisco front and center again."

Sunday, July 24, 2005

hey it's me linus

Okay, second ”me “ post in as many days. I wasn’t going to and Carrie kind of talked me into it without meaning to :-) That’s probably a good thing, by the way. I’ve gotten so wrapped up in what’s going on that I should talk about it instead of internalizing all the time.

On the sidebar I mention being like Linus or Franklin from “Peanuts.” Sometime tonight it hit me like a truck how real my sidebar musing is.

I was talking to my frequent poster about matters of love (not between us, though I did try to make something happen for a while) and realized that a number of my friends have (or have had) unrequited love or friendship for someone else and that the other person that could requite could really care less.

That, the one-sided love and less than ideal situations, when you think about it, is one of the themes of “Peanuts.” Charlie Brown digs the Little Red-Haired Girl and she doesn’t know he’s alive. Sally wants Linus, and he could care less because he likes Miss Othmar. His sister Lucy loves Schroeder, but Schroeder loves Beethoven. Both Peppermint Patty and Marcie like Charlie Brown, but he likes baseball more than both of them combined. And finally Snoopy likes to kiss Lucy on the nose but Lucy’s not having it. Had to throw one zinger in there. :-)

In the strip, nobody ever gets their problems solved and that too happens the same in real life. We tell ourselves we’re better and we move on, even though if that person that we really liked came back, we’d be back there to live the fantasy with them.

I can’t say that I have a lot of lost loves. I’m not a romantic, or at least I say that I’m not to fool myself into thinking I’m clinical enough to avoid that pesky “L” word. But still, there are some girls (at least two) and friends that I wish I could have gotten to know better and never had the chance to for whatever reason. You never get those days back and there’s no point of dwelling when life offers so much more to think about than if Miss Othmar knows you’re alive.

Closing? I don’t need no stinkin’ closing. :-)

Unrequited love music notes:
(Guys) If You Were Mine - George Howard
(Girls) He Doesn’t Know That I’m Alive - Janet Jackson Listen

Tinker’s toys

Nike designer has shod 2 million feet, and he’s not done yet

The Portland Tribune

It seems such an appropriate first name for the mad scientist behind the genius that is known as the Air Jordan.


For 24 years, Tinker Hatfield has been a creative giant at Nike Inc., his latest title being vice president of special projects.

Hatfield’s expertise has covered many projects over the years, but none with so bold a stroke as the Air Jordan, the most successful sports shoe of all time.

The Air Jordan — signature shoe, of course, for the great Michael Jordan — made its debut in 1986 and has been reissued with a different design on an annual basis since then. Hatfield became principal designer in 1988 with the advent of Air Jordan III, recently voted the most popular shoe ever.

The Northeast Portland resident laid his imprint on the next 11 Air Jordans, and when the 20th anniversary came around this year, he was asked to return to the scene of his most memorable work.

So when Air Jordan XX was unveiled in February during NBA All-Star Weekend at Denver, Hatfield was front and center, accepting accolades and meeting with the media. ESPN The Magazine played up the occasion with an article. The industry magazine Sole observed, “Michael Jordan and Tinker Hatfield are both men who dream with open eyes and have the passion, talent, dedication and force of will necessary to make their dreams a reality.”

Heady stuff for the native of little ol’ Halsey, a burg of fewer than 500 folks in grass-seed country near Corvallis when Hatfield was single-handedly leading the Cobras to the 1971 state Class AA track and field championship.

Hatfield, 53, is the son of the late Tinker Hatfield Sr., a legendary figure in Oregon coaching circles who won three straight state Class AA titles during his son’s time at Central Linn. As a senior, the younger Hatfield scored 40 points in the state meet, winning the 100, high hurdles, low hurdles and pole vault, then signed with Oregon and renowned coach Bill Bowerman in what proved to be an astute career move.

Hatfield became the Ducks’ first 17-foot vaulter and finished sixth in the 1976 U.S. Olympic trials, but it was his personal relationship with Bowerman that proved pivotal in his professional life. Bowerman retired from coaching after Hatfield’s freshman year but by that time was involved in the embryonic stages of Nike, tinkering with the waffle-iron sole in the workshop of his Eugene home. Hatfield, an architecture major with an artistic bent, hit it off with the Hall of Fame coach.

“Bill mentored me quite a bit,” Hatfield says. “You could say I was one of his test pilots. After he retired, he was still working on shoes and I saw him all the time. I would go with him to the mold-makers. He liked me because I could sketch up some ideas and give him feedback in a visual way.”

After graduation in 1976, Hatfield was employed for four years as a corporate architect in Eugene but also worked part time doing testing in Bowerman’s shoe lab.

In 1981, Hatfield’s history with Bowerman and one of Nike’s early employees, Geoff Hollister, led to his hiring by the fledgling firm. Hatfield spent four more years as a corporate architect before moving over to the product design department.

Third version posed a test
“Tinker created an amazing footwear design studio for us called Brand Design in the early ’80s, working trade show design and packaging,” says Nike President Mark Parker, then heading up the footwear division for the company. “I’d stop by his work area and see some sketches of shoes and think, ‘Wow, you have some real talent here.’ One day I said, ‘What would you think about doing some footwear for fun?’ ”

Hatfield’s first major thrust into footwear design was with the Air Revolution and Air Max shoes, “which sort of energized Nike and took our business to another level,” Parker says.

Hatfield’s next big project was Air Jordan III, which came at a crucial time in the evolution of Nike. Sales of Air Jordan II hadn’t been strong, in part because Jordan had missed much of the season with a broken foot, in part because the retail price ($100) was high for its time. A few weeks before deadline, Creative Director Peter Moore left along with Rob Strasser, another high-end executive, to start their own company. The pair had been responsible for bringing Jordan to Nike and working with him.

The project fell into the lap of Hatfield, who had watched but hadn’t been involved in the design of the first two Air Jordans.

Meanwhile, Nike Chief Executive Officer Phil Knight was on pins and needles because Moore and Strasser were pursuing Jordan.

“They were going to develop their business around Michael,” Hatfield says. “Phil was pretty nervous about MJ leaving. It was a very anxious time. I felt super pressure.”

Building shoes like a house
Hatfield called on his architectural background to establish rapport with Jordan.

“My first inclination was to get Michael on the phone and meet personally with him,” Hatfield says. “As an architect, I was used to dealing with clients. I treated him like I was building a house for him. If you are designing a house for someone, you don’t just go, ‘Here’s your house.’ You have to know about the person’s life.

“I don’t think Michael had ever been worked with that way; in fact, I don’t think anybody in the footwear business had done it that way. It was kind of a natural extension for me, to sit there and find out more about the person as well as the player in order to design the product.

“Dr. J., Magic Johnson, Larry Bird all had a shoe, but they were just endorsing it with their name. This was the first time anyone ever sat down with an athlete and really involved him in the process of building the shoe. That’s what I feel most proud about.”

Jordan had mixed emotions.

“We had some pretty tense meetings where he was ready to bolt, but kind of got drawn back into it because of the excitement of the design,” Hatfield says. “The development of the shoe and some apparel that went with it, along with advice his father gave him — to stay with the people who had done a good job for him — kept Michael with us.”

Air Jordan III was the first luxury sports shoe with high-quality material, lighter than the normal basketball sneaker, three-quarter cut instead of high- or low-top at Michael’s behest.

“He wanted to wear a new pair of shoes every game, so they couldn’t be stiff and difficult to break in,” Hatfield says

Passing the Air Jordan torch
Despite a short window of time for design and production, Air Jordan III was off the charts in sales and popularity. It began a famously productive relationship between the greatest basketball star of them all and the small-town kid from the mid-Willamette Valley. Hatfield had many responsibilities within the company, but each year devoted a portion of his time to devising a new and improved Air Jordan. Sometimes it worked better than others, but each one was a rousing success that retailers scrambled to keep in stock.

In 2001, Hatfield backed away from Air Jordan duties.

“Over the years, there was this tremendous pressure,” he says. “(The Air Jordan) is more than just a shoe. It’s a leadership-type project that drives customers into the stores to buy other shoes and apparel. You have to design something that is compelling and innovative, but not so far out there that people couldn’t get their hands around it. It did wear on me a little bit. It was time for me to pass the torch to someone else.”

When it was suggested that Hatfield retake the lead design role in Air Jordan XX, “it took me about five seconds to say yes,” he says. “It was a nice opportunity to connect a little more closely with Michael. I’d been in touch with him all the time, and had seen him a fair amount, but this was more serious and back to the old days almost.

“One of the things I wrote right off the bat: We’re going to look back at Michael’s career and at all of our lives and how the stuff happened, but it’s only a mechanism to take the next step forward. We’re going to design the world’s most advanced performing basketball shoe; we’ll use the look back to take the step forward. It was a bit nostalgic, but in a fresh new package.”

Details tell the story
There are several creative wrinkles to AJ XX: 20 pods built into the soles of each pair, 69 dimples on the side (for each point in Jordan’s highest-scoring game), a leash that can be used to convert from high-top to low-top.

And Hatfield borrowed an idea from a custom-trumpet designer in Southeast Portland, David Monette, for the central theme of Jordan XX. Monette had a jeweler engrave symbols on the bell of a piece he had made for Wynton Marsalis, reminding the great musician of important moments in his career.

It got the wheels turning in Hatfield’s brain. He flew to Chicago and spent four days with Jordan, sketching as he relived memories. The result: a midshoe strap decorated with a mosaic of some 200 lasered graphics — roughly half of them depicting important pieces of Jordan’s life, the other half reflecting those at Nike who have had an important role in helping design the Air Jordans over the last two decades.

“Maybe the most important (graphic) for MJ,” Hatfield says, pointing to a spot on an AJ XX, “is this toolbox. It says Pops — that is what he called his dad, who was gifted with his hands and could fix anything.”

Hatfield calls AJ XX “the best project of any we have done” and says the chance to reconnect with Jordan made it special from a personal standpoint.

“We both were in a certain way forced to get in touch with how we felt about our relationship and how the whole process has gone over the years,” Hatfield says. “It was a cathartic experience. Michael is all about what’s around the next corner. It was good for him to slow down, force himself to answer some questions and think about some of the influences in his life. It was a little bit emotional for both of us.”

Strategy sells itself
At $175 per, the AJ XX shoes sell as quickly as retailers can put them on the shelves.

“We hold down the number we sell these days,” he says. “We used to sell many more pairs of Air Jordans a year, but because the Jordan line has expanded to a number of other products, it doesn’t make sense to flood the market. In the first 10 or 12 years, we sold a million or more, and that doesn’t include the less-expensive kids shoes, which sometimes sell bigger than the adult versions.”

Different color versions, known as color ways, are being released separately this year.

“The first color (white) came out in a limited quantity of 30,000,” Hatfield says. “The second color (black) came out at between 75,000 and 100,000. And then there will be third, fourth and fifth color ways that will come out fairly soon and will be regional colors. West Coast, Midwest and East Coast will all get different color ways that will only be sold at their location.

“We’re always trying to find ways to keep the product limited in numbers and exclusive. It’s not like you’re going to see them on every street corner, and that’s part of the mystique of keeping special a high-end product.”

The Air Jordan XXI already is designed, incidentally, though with a different creative designer, D’Wayne Edwards.

“It’s going to be a really nice shoe, to be released somewhere around the 2006 All-Star break,” Hatfield says. “When we look at inspiration each year for how these shoes get designed, we always involve something in Michael’s life. He has a beautiful new Bentley, and there is some inspiration from the high performance of this superluxurious car that is one of the main focus points of XXI’s design.”

Hatfield estimates between 5 percent and 10 percent of his time at Nike is spent developing Air Jordans. Hatfield does his work in a segment of the Mia Hamm Building on the Nike campus that is called the Innovation Kitchen.

“Our thinking is, rather than having Tinker there doing it himself, let’s surround him with some great talent and make him even that more powerful,” Parker says. “He’s in a position to lead them through special projects not necessarily on Nike’s formal agenda.”

Phil Knight’s in kitchen, too
Knight, who now carries the title of chairman of the board of directors, has worked out of the Innovation Kitchen since his retirement from the CEO post last year.

“Phil comes in just as much as he did over there, but is now a little more involved in talking to us about products,” Hatfield says. “Other than dealing with athletes, that’s where he finds the most fun. He’s still interested in whom we should be signing and how the products relate to those people and how we can innovate.”

About 30 employees work out of the Innovation Kitchen, including Mark Smith, with whom Hatfield worked most closely on AJ XX.

“We are a little segmented from the main business at Nike, so I don’t have to get bogged down with that,” Hatfield says. “It allows me to continue to be part of the creative process and not so much of a managerial executive. I’m a VP, but my value to the company is to touch base with the athletes and design stuff or lead groups that do.

“I’ve always been a floater, working on projects wherever Nike or Brand Jordan feels I need to be. Though I’ve never reported to a particular group or category like basketball, I’m one of the few people who cuts across most sports categories and work on projects as they pop up.”

Says Parker: “Being an ex-athlete, Tinker has a great sense of what athletes are looking for. He has that ability to pull it out of an athlete, take it deep and turn it into something that can help the athlete perform better. Tinker quickly became an all-star in that category. If there is a major project we need big guns on, Tinker is first out of the bullpen. He has consistently hit it out of the park. His body of work through the years is amazing, not just for Nike but for the industry.”

And then there’s Lance
Of the relationships Hatfield has built with athletes over the past 24 years at Nike, the closest besides Jordan may be with Lance Armstrong.

“A cool guy,” Hatfield says, “inspirational to be around. I’ve worked out, been on a ride and played hoops with him, been to the weight room with him, and had a good time.”

Hatfield helped engineer the “10-2 collection,” named after the date of the cycling champion’s cancer diagnosis. “I was at the Tour de France last year, and we were trying to figure out what we would call his product line,” Hatfield says. “Lance kept talking about how he wanted to introduce some products on 10/2, which is what he sort of celebrates as his rebirth day. I thought about it and said, ‘That’s it. We’ll call the line 10//2.’ We have a pretty involved program of putting the 10//2 mark on all our cycling products, as well as designing new products like his training shoe and apparel.”

Hatfield keeps busy outside his job at Nike. He coaches select pole vaulters and serves as an assistant coach on Grant High’s track and field team, and stays active through cycling, rock climbing, Pilates and weight training. The 5-10 1/2, 175-pound Hatfield is within a few pounds of his college weight. His three daughters are grown and out of the roost, so he and his wife of 28 years, Jackie, are free to travel when time permits.

There remain plenty of professional challenges for Hatfield, who doesn’t see retirement coming anytime soon. Being on top is never good enough at Nike. Just Do It is the slogan, and Hatfield will be in the thick of it for at least a few more years, trying to do it even better.