Sunday, December 31, 2006

at the close of the year...

We are a few hours away from the beginning of a new year. Usually we receive comments and notes wishing us good luck and health and all the best for the year to come, and while I send you all my best wishes as well, I would like to take a minute and reflect on the year that’s about to be gone.

I like to reflect on the great things that happened, work and personal accomplishments, but I especially like to focus on the wonderful people I’ve met. And this way meeting you on steve’s blog was a very fortunate event.

This blog has helped me improve my writing skills and ability to express myself but has also opened the door for friendships all over the world. Our little group of friends keeps on growing every day.

So, in a nutshell: HAPPY NEW YEAR, it was fantastic to make your acquaintance last year!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

get juiced

from Vogue, January 2007

“Juice may keep us from losing our minds,” says Liz Applegate, Ph.D., nutritionist to Olympians and professional athletes.

New research from Vanderbilt University reveals that people who drink at least three glasses of juice a week are 76 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. Why juice? Polyphenols— plant chemicals in the skins of fruits and vegetables—seem to shield brain cells from age-related decay.

To keep your wits intact, Applegate recommends this ultimate daily tonic: a half-cup each of apple, pomegranate, and cranberry juice.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Big hope for small markets

Akron, as well as New York, star of Federated holiday

by Lisa Biank Fasig
Cincinnati Business Courier - December 22, 2006

To an important degree, the sales performance of Federated Department Stores this Christmas depends on how well it does in Akron.

It is in the dozens of markets such as this one, where Macy's is a new and welcome brand, that Federated has much to gain after converting some 400 May Co. stores in September, analysts and industry veterans say. Sure, shoppers in Chicago are grabbing headlines with complaints about losing the Marshall Field's brand, but in smaller markets - like Akron, Tulsa, Okla., and Rochester, N.Y., - shoppers are waiting, credit cards poised, for Macy's to lift their mediocre shopping experience.

And Federated has a high target: It recently raised its same-store sale projections for December to 5 to 8 percent, from 3 to 5 percent.

The problem? It's the original Macy's locations, known as the legacy stores, that have been driving those sales. The former May Co. locations have been "disappointing," Federated said, without providing specifics. (Federated will not break out figures of its May stores operations until February, after it has owned the company for one fiscal year.)

"They put extraordinary attention to making the transition easier in the cities where there was an emotional connection," said Candace Corlett, a principal at WSL Strategic Retail in New York. "(But) we underplayed the number of cities that are getting a Macy's."

What wasn't underplayed was the relaunch of Macy's as a national brand. Federated's ambitious advertising campaign, featuring Susan Sarandon and other stars, might have contributed to the overall strength of the department store sector this shopping season. In November, the same-store sales index of department stores rose 3.8 percent, compared with 1 percent at department stores, according to Bloomberg.

"The Federated stores are doing extremely well. They're benefiting from the advertising," said retail consultant Walter Loeb. "The May stores still have to gain an identity."

Federated has, for instance, ended the aggressive sales promotions that May customers have grown accustomed to at Christmas, Loeb said. Many shoppers are still holding out, expecting coupons and deep discounts. Meanwhile, in markets such as Cleveland, Federated underestimated the spending power of its May shoppers, said analyst Jeff Stein with KeyBanc Capital Markets.

Regardless, Wall Street is more or less forgiving Federated for May's flavorless sales. (Shares closed Dec. 20 at $38.51, up about 18 percent from one year ago.) Timing is part of the reason: Federated began swapping merchandise at May stores in September, replacing the old labels with the Macy's lineup. Some missteps were expected.

"To expect them to turn 400 stores with new merchandise, new nameplates, the same store personnel and with a reduced level of couponing -- to expect all of that to happen and not have the customers blink once or twice -- I would think is unrealistic," Stein said.

Federated spokesman Jim Sluzewski said the retailer gauged market needs by pairing converted May stores with Macy's stores in similar settings. A store in suburban Cincinnati, for instance, would serve as a starting point to determine what labels to stock in a similarly sized store in suburban Akron. The retailer also asked customers what they wanted to keep at the May stores and what they wanted to lose.

"We continue to learn as we go along," Sluzewski said. "It is simply taking a little longer than we had initially thought."

Among the unexpected trip-ups: the home department, where lead times can be three times longer than those of apparel. It can take more than a year to get certain household items on the floor.

As for markets where beloved brands were eliminated, such as in Chicago where Marshall Field's was transformed into Macy's, observers said the backlash is petering out.

"I've been to a couple of the Macy's that have been converted from Marshall Field's, and they seem just as crowded," said Morningstar Inc. analyst Joseph Beaulieu.

Corlett, for one, said she has seen an improvement in service at Macy's stores in the New York and New Jersey markets. "I think they had gotten in touch with how bad they were and they're really working on fixing it," she said.

"What shoppers expect from their favorite store is respect. Stop putting bimbos out there."

And that would apply to Akron, too.

Monday, December 25, 2006

James Brown Dead at 73

ATLANTA, Georgia (AP) -- James Brown, the dynamic, pompadoured "Godfather of Soul," whose rasping vocals and revolutionary rhythms made him a founder of rap, funk and disco as well, died early Monday, his agent said. He was 73.

Brown was hospitalized with pneumonia at Emory Crawford Long Hospital on Sunday and died around 1:45 a.m. Monday, said his agent, Frank Copsidas of Intrigue Music. Longtime friend Charles Bobbit was by his side, he said.

Copsidas said Brown's family was being notified of his death and that the cause was still uncertain. "We really don't know at this point what he died of," he said.

Along with Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and a handful of others, Brown was one of the major musical influences of the past 50 years. At least one generation idolized him, and sometimes openly copied him.

His rapid-footed dancing inspired Mick Jagger and Michael Jackson among others. Songs such as David Bowie's "Fame," Prince's "Kiss," George Clinton's "Atomic Dog" and Sly and the Family Stone's "Sing a Simple Song" were clearly based on Brown's rhythms and vocal style.

merry christmas from steve's blog

Sunday, December 24, 2006

this year's christmas tree

Well, this is this year’s Christmas tree. I don’t know what I think of it yet.

In terms of detail, it’s a little less interesting than years past. I got sick with a cold and had a bunch of classes at Big Green (I know I said I finished my tax classes a while ago, but these were customer service training classes that met during the week after work) right in the middle of decorating. Mom finished the tree and didn’t put the really big, opulent stuff (that my trees are known for) on, though she did put the gold cherubs on that I bought earlier in the season (to tie the tree together with a unifying design element)

Not that you can see them with the lights on…

I tried some bigger lights (they’re like little globes, similar to C7s, but brighter) mixed with my standard mini-lights this year. The tree literally glows when the lights are on, as you can see. With the lights on, you don’t miss the big ornaments. In fact, when I saw how powerful the lights were, I resisted the urge to add more ornaments, though I had a really strong desire to get some silk poinsettias and stick them into the bare-looking spots on the tree. That didn’t happen, because I never got a chance to go to the craft store, and I vowed to stay out of Wal-Mart after getting trapped in there on Christmas Eve (I told Jamie the story recently)

The new camera (Sony DSC-H5) has a number of preset modes that take a lot of the guesswork out of taking pictures in certain situations. I tried out several different camera effects before I came up with these shots. The room shot is spectacular, I think. In all the years I’ve photographed my tree; it’s the closest I’ve ever gotten to a professional-looking picture. The detail shot below is the one I’m most proud of. It’s still not perfect, but it seems almost surreal to think I did that on my own tree. It looks like postcard, and it also shows off my giant lights that created the glowing effect you see.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Walgreens Adds Apparel

Chain Store Age

Deerfield, Ill. - December 18 - Walgreens is going after Target and Wal-Mart shoppers by introducing apparel and other lifestyle merchandise, according to Women’s Wear Daily.

The report said Walgreen Co. wants to differentiate itself from Rite-Aid, CVS and other drug store competitors. The chain began selling apparel inside stores last year. By next year, the chain says all stores will feature new merchandise.

“We’ve always been a strong destination for health and beauty, and now we’re layering on the fashion, jewelry, accessories and appeal angle to even further meet shoppers’ lifestyle needs,” a Walgreen spokeswoman told Women’s Wear Daily.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A B C Tag

By the Letters - Thanks to DeWitte

A- Available or Single? Both
B- Best Friend: Kevin (boy), Angie (girl)
C- Cake or Pie: Cake
D- Drink of Choice: Blenheim Ginger Ale
E- Essential Item used everyday; Computer, Soap
F- Favorite Color: Red or Green
G- Gummi Bears or Worms: Worms
H- Hometown: Middle-of-Nowhere, Va.
I- Indulgence: Shoes
J- January or February? January
K- Kids and names: None
L- Life is incomplete without: inner peace
M- Marriage Date: None
N- Number of Siblings: 1
O- Oranges or apples: Both
P- Phobias/Fears: You name it!
Q- Favorite Quote: "If someone shows you who they are, believe them"
R- Reason to Smile: All my blog fans :-)
S- Season: Autumn
T- Tag three people: Heather, Ken, Carrie
U- Unknown Fact about Me: What do I have left to tell?
V- Vegetable you don't like: Tomatoes
W- Worst habit: Procrastination
X- X-Rays you've had: Neck
Y- Your favorite food: Chicken, popcorn, pancakes
Z- Zodiac: Virgo

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Saks' Logo Gets a Makeover

By Sandra O'Loughlin

NEW YORK -- Saks Fifth Avenue in January will unveil a new logo that will appear in advertising, shopping bags, merchandise and marketing materials. Pentagram Design developed the logo, which was incorporates Saks Fifth Avenue's classic script logotypes and the geometry of the perfect square, a shape that has become central to the identity of the retailer, from its catalogs to its employee pins.

The move is the latest initiative in a revitalization strategy under Stephen Sadove, who in January became CEO of parent company Saks Inc.

Under Sadove's predecessor, Brad Martin, the upscale department store tried to become more edgy in an effort to appeal to a younger consumer, a strategy that did not work. Sadove is on a mission to repair the store's image by ensuring stores stock merchandise for its core 48-year-old customers and at the right inventory levels, re-instituting its private label brands and bringing back petite sizes. Several of the stores have been remodeled.

A branding program and signature visual created by splitting the logo into 64 square pieces and then re-sizing, rotating and recombining them will appear on stationery, storefronts, charge cards and more. Designers including Diane von Furstenberg, Christian Louboutin, Albert Kriemler of Akris, George Sharp of Ellen Tracy and the design team of Moncler are collaborating with Saks to develop exclusive items incorporating the new visuals.

"Graphic, bold and sophisticated, the new branding initiative is not only a redesigned logo but a new visual language," said Terron Schaefer, group SVP, creative and marketing, in a statement. Schaefer anticipates the logo will become an enduring icon like that of Burberry's Nova Check and the Louis Vuitton LV.

Saks operates 54 full-line stores in 25 states as well as 50 Off 5th Outlet stores and

Blogging the MALL

By Mike Janssen

The malls of our youth have changed irrevocably over the years. Some have even closed their doors for good. But, some nostalgic shoppers are now enshrining cherished mall-hopping memories with an up-to-the-minute technology — the blog.

Over the past few years, devotees of mall lore and history have launched online troves of photos, postcards, floor plans and old newspaper ads with blogs. Labelscar, Malls of America and BIGMallrat's Malls in Northern California and Reno are just a few. And though shopping is often seen as a woman's favorite pastime, many of these mall bloggers are men — an oddity they're at a loss to explain.

The sites have attracted hundreds of readers daily, eager to relive their own mall memories. A community has sprung up that uses LiveJournal, a popular personal blogging tool, and a Remembering Retail forum on Yahoo! boasts 430 members.

Malls of America (, one of the most popular and frequently updated mall blogs, features new pictures of vintage malls nearly every day, along with awestruck commentaries free of even a hint of irony.

“If that ain't Heaven, I'd sure like to know what is,” wrote proprietor Keith Milford of a '60s-era photo of Westland Center in Westland, Mich., in which the promenade is lined with bizarre, towering structures that resemble mutant dandelions.

A vintage picture of kids at a shopping-mall fountain sent Milford into a reverie — “the relaxing sound of the gurgling fountains, the shimmering ripples on the surface, the glistening coins blinking up at you from the fountain's tiled bottom, all mixed with the murmuring din of busy shoppers and lulling Muzak echoing throughout the mall in the background.”

Milford, 40, is among the older mall bloggers, but shares an idyllic view of the malls he visited as a kid with fellow fanatics. They also rue the ways in which malls have changed over time, shedding their aesthetic frills of yesteryear: murals, sculptures, birdcages and huge fountains and courtyards. To these bloggers, today's malls seem more homogenized and, sadly, less central to the social life and shopping routines of today's suburbanites.

“They're a huge part of our landscape in this country,” says Labelscar's Jason Damas, 26. “And yet, not many people are shedding a tear over it.”

Damas, whose Web site Labelscar receives 400 unique visits per day, has not received any comments from mall managers, developers or owners.

Damas's passion for malls is rooted in his youth in Newport, R.I., where the nearest mall with any stores worth patronizing, the Rhode Island Mall in Warwick, was a 45-minute drive away.

At Rhode Island Mall, Damas relished the freedom to wander off from his parents for a little while to play video games, eat junk food and buy alternative rock albums. Going there was an “event,” he says.

It was there he discovered a compilation of British indie rock bands that spawned an abiding passion for music. “It was not a planned purchase — it was hanging out at the mall that brought it on,” says Damas who blogs under the name Caldor in homage to the defunct department store chain.

That warm fuzzy feeling
Scott Parsons, who covers California malls as BIGMallrat (, says malls remind him of outings with his mother and grandmother, who would often visit three malls in a day.

“It's like comfort food in some respects,” he says. “They provided so much for us when we were growing up. We'd look at the birds in the cages, play in the water fountains, all these things you can't do anymore.”

“Looking back, you get warm fuzzy feelings,” Parsons says.

Milford also enjoyed his childhood shopping trips but joined the ranks of mall fanatics after seeing the 1979 horror film Dawn of the Dead, in which the protagonists, seeking refuge from zombies, hole up inside Monroeville Mall, just outside Pittsburgh.

In the early 1980s Milford became “utterly obsessed” with the film and Monroeville Mall. He asked the mall for brochures and floor plans and even built a digital recreation of the center in a 3-D computer modeling program, which allowed him to put himself inside a vintage reconstruction of the mall.

Milford's obsession later grew to include vintage malls in general. (He also maintains blogs devoted to pop culture depictions of Satan, Halloween and Santa Claus, as well as one highlighting YouTube videos of busty, scantily clad women.)

“One of my biggest fantasies has always been to somehow have a huge deserted shopping mall all to myself at night — not so much for all the ‘stuff’ there, but more so I can freely explore the place and run around in it to my heart's content,” Milford says. “I'll be the first to admit that my own enjoyment of malls actually comes from a slightly weird and very personal place.”

The rise of blogging offered Milford and other mall fans a home for their stores of memorabilia and historical research. Milford launched Malls of America in June 2005 because no other Web site catered to his appetite for “lots and lots of groovy photos!”

Parsons, 37, was early to the Web with his Guide to Northern California Malls, which he started in 1998. But, it was not until December that he started its companion blog, when he discovered two boxes of mall-related materials stowed away in his attic — industry magazines, newspaper clippings and hundreds of directories from malls in the western United States and Canada that he has hoarded since the 1970s.

Milford and Parsons, as well as many other of the writers, run their sites using Blogger, a Web-based service that furnishes free site hosting through its Blogspot service.

The mall bloggers buttress their collections of mall materials by scouring eBay, searching other Web sites and visiting libraries, flea markets and estate and garage sales. Their posts often link to related online resources such as mall Web sites, Wikipedia entries and aerial images of malls found via Google Maps.

Damas and co-blogger Ross Schendel take a more encyclopedic approach to mall history on Labelscar (, named after the mark that remains on a building's façade long after a sign has been removed. The bloggers met on America Online in the late '90s and discovered a mutual love for malls and road trips.

Damas and Schendel met in person at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and made pilgrimages to many malls of the Midwest. Damas estimates that together and individually they have visited two-thirds of the country's enclosed malls. He often extends business trips to give himself an extra day or two for visiting malls, then details his travels in lengthy posts illustrated with many photos of the properties.

Their professions suit their unusual hobby. Schendel, a grad student, studies the geographic information systems that are sometimes used to plan retail developments. Damas works in search-engine optimization and brings a marketer's eye to his analyses of malls and their financial fortunes.

Competitive spirit
Labelscar and other mall blogs attract loyal visitors who contribute reminiscences and submit selections from their own caches of old ads and photos. The bloggers also read each other's sites, commenting on posts and collaborating on the creation of a collective store of knowledge.

Damas acknowledges that a competitive spirit fuels his blogging. “You always want to be the first one to get the story,” he says.

As a whole, the blogs embody their authors' dreams of paying tribute to what may be a fading piece of Americana.

“I hope it serves to not only remind people of all the aesthetic design, beauty and character we've lost from our classic malls at this point,” Milford says, “but, also that there's a need to consciously appreciate and celebrate those places, as well as the people who designed and built them.”

Their efforts are time-consuming. Parsons estimates he puts in 10 to 40 hours a week on his mall guide and its accompanying blog, often starting after getting home at 5 p.m. from his job as a technical writer — “I have to cut myself off, really.”

Milford too spends at least a few hours a day on Malls of America, including weekends, which inspires awe among his fellow bloggers. Damas calls the blog a “must see.” Parsons is similarly impressed.

“It would be interesting to talk to him in real life,” he says. “Wow, this person is more of a mall geek than I am. What kind of person is that?”

Mall Blog Roll

Retail Traffic Magazine

Companion to a website launched in 1998, this blog offers contemporary news about NoCal malldom as well as memories and memorabilia from decades past.

This infrequently updated site covers the history of malls and other retail outlets in Georgia and the South, with many photos.

Mall enthusiasts Jason Damas and Ross Schendel write detailed chronologies and commentaries on malls all over the country and in Canada that are living, dying or somewhere in between. Numerous photos accompany their posts.

A relative newcomer to the mall blog scene, inspired by Malls of America (see below).

Keith Milford indulges his love of vintage mall design and paraphernalia with frequent posts highlighting photos, postcards, videos and more. Readers contribute their own memories.

Anita Rose, an assistant editor at, focuses mainly on the fates of two malls in Hampton, Va.: Newmarket Fair and Coliseum Mall.

Monday, December 11, 2006

someday i'm coming back

and it won't be long.

Sorry to up and disappear on you guys (and additionally for including anything from the The Bodyguard soundtrack here).

I feel bad about it, but I haven't had any free time as of late. This week's not looking too good either.

I've got so much to tell you guys, but really, the good stuff evaporates before it reaches the keys. It's a new kind of writers' block, patent pending. Everyone's gonna want it next spring.

Anyway, as I sadly close without inspiration, I implore you: tell me your stories here. It'll give me something to bounce off of in my time at the keys

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Christmas at Ivey's

J. B. Ivey & Company, Charlotte, North Carolina. Exterior Christmas display at the Uptown store, 1968. (Pat Richardson)

J. B. Ivey & Company, Charlotte, North Carolina. Shoppers on the main floor at Christmas at the Uptown store, 1957. (Pat Richardson)

Find more Ivey's memories like this in The Ivey's Archive