Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Yeah! I want Cheesy (Tots)!

I'm not hip enough to publicly not like fast food, so I'll admit I eat a lot of it on my "dinner hour" between The City and Big Green. Usually Arby's, McDonald's or Long John Silvers (Long Green Slivers as Eddy calls it).

There's a Burger King on the way as well, and though I'm pretty much off The King after eating so much in college (they were open late), I pop in so every so often I won't suffer from McBurnout, Roast Beef Malaise, or whatever the hell eating too much LJS will do.

The latest trip was largely disappointing as usual, but I discovered a new menu item: something called Cheesy Tots.

This one-time experimental breakfast item apparently caught on at BK and has built up a following. Some people have raved about them, and others have urged its return when taken offf the menu temporarily

I love tater tots (almost went to Sonic to get some actually) and I like cheese sticks, so I figured these golden brown, saucer-shaped chicken nugget-looking bites might be worth a shot.

Not so fast.

Maybe I got a bad batch or something, but I thought they were awful. The mix of mozzarella and cheddar cheeses was decent enough, but the deep-fried coating was hard and starchy and the few potato bits found inside distracted too much from the cheese. The lack of a dipping sauce was a problem, as ketchup didn't work well at all with the other flavors, and there are only so many condiments that might work. Though I might suggest they find some to mask the overall taste :-)

Still, for the price, it wasn't a bad deal. Burger King isn't exactly known for their culinary prowess in the first place (see also: Chicken Fries), and if you're sick of french fries and onion rings, it does add another option to the palette.

Just don't offer me any. I'll pass.

joke week '07 | day 4

An 80-year-old man went to his doctor for his quarterly check-up. The doctor asked him how he was feeling and the 80-year-old said

"Things are great and I've never felt better. I now have a 20 year-old bride who is pregnant with my child. So what do you think about that?"

The doctor considered his question for a minute and then began.

"I have an older friend, much like you, who is an avid hunter and never misses a season. One day when he was setting off hunting, he was in a bit of a hurry and accidentally picked up his umbrella instead of his gun. As he neared a lake he came across a very large beaver sitting at the water’s edge."

"When he realized he'd left his gun at home and so couldn't shoot the magnificent creature, out of habit he raised his umbrella, aimed it at the animal as if it were e his favorite hunting rifle and went 'bang, bang'. Miraculously, two shots rang out and the beaver fell over dead. Now, what do you think of that?" asked the doctor."

The 80-year-old said, "If you ask me, I'd say somebody else pumped a couple of rounds into that beaver."

The doctor replied, "My point exactly".

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Federated Plans to Change Name to Macy's

MSN Money & Business Wire reports

The management of Federated Department Stores wants to change the company's name. The retailer said a vote on changing its name to Macy's Group will occur at the company's annual meeting May 18. If approved, the name change will go into effect June 1.

"We're no longer a federation of retail stores; Macy's is 90% of our business," CEO Terry Lundgren told CNBC today.

Federated Department Stores, Inc. was originally chosen as the company's name in 1929 by a group of family-owned department stores that joined together under a corporate holding company umbrella.

Federated became an operating company in 1945, and its portfolio over the years has included various regional department store names.

In 2005 and 2006, all regional nameplates were converted to Macy's. The company today operates only Macy's and Bloomingdale's stores, with both brands expanding nationwide.

joke week '07 | day 3

A new supermarket opened near my house. It has an automatic water mister to keep the produce fresh. Just before it goes on, you hear the sound of distant thunder and the smell of fresh rain.

When you approach the milk cases, you hear cows mooing and experience the scent of fresh hay.

When you approach the egg case, you hear hens cluck and cackle, and the air is filled with the pleasing aroma of bacon and eggs frying.

The veggie department features the smell of fresh buttered corn.

I don't buy toilet paper there any more.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Wake Up, Smell the Coffee

Starbucks Coffee founder and chairman Howard Schultz complains that the chain's atmosphere has changed. Actually, it's worse than that: its stores are now an overdesigned, overcrowded mess. took them this long to figure out they're weakening the concept?

Gap to close Forth & Towne chain

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Gap Inc. is closing the Forth & Towne chain that was supposed to help the struggling retailer sell more clothes to older women, aborting the 18-month expansion so management can concentrate on reviving the company's more established brands.

The decision announced Monday affects all 19 Forth & Towne stores opened since Gap unveiled the concept in West Nyack, N.Y., north of New York City in August 2005. Forth & Towne's other stores are located in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose and Santa Barbara.

The store closures are expected to be completed by the end of June, jettisoning about 550 jobs. Some of the affected employees may be transferred to one of the San Francisco-based company's other chains - Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic.

Signaling that some layoffs are likely, Gap is budgeting $7 million to cover severance payments and other benefits for former Forth & Towne workers, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Gap hoped to develop Forth & Towne into a specialty channel catering to women older than 35 who grew up in Gap jeans but found themselves sized out in the market in middle age. When it launched Forth & Towne, Gap estimated it only held a 3 percent share of over-35 female market compared to an 8 percent share of women shoppers under 35. Gap had hoped to woo boomers - who are at the peak of their earnings and spending power - back with a store that combined the service of a boutique, the broad offerings of a department store - and a more forgiving fit.

"Forth & Towne was a great test of a promising concept and an illustration of the innovative risks you need to take in our business," said Gap Chairman Bob Fisher. "We made the tough decision to close the brand and focus our efforts on stabilizing the existing businesses."

Fisher has been Gap's interim chief executive officer since last month when the retailer ended the nearly 4 1/2-year rein of Paul Pressler after a dismal holiday shopping season that represented a new low point in a prolonged sales funk.

In a key measure of a retailer's health, Gap's same-store sales fell 7 percent last year, deteriorating from a 5 percent decline in 2005. The closely watched yardstick measures sales at stores open at least a year.

Despite its troubles, Gap intends to continue investing in other promising concepts, including a recently launched online shoe store called Piperlime, company spokesman Greg Rossiter said.

Although abandoning Forth & Towne will drive up Gap's expenses by about $40 million during the first half of this year, industry analysts believe the company will be better off without the potential albatross.

"This brand never gained much traction, suffered from fit, style, and image problems and became a big distraction," Lazard Capital Markets analyst Todd Slater wrote in a Monday research note.

Retail analyst Jennifer Black said the expansion never made much sense, given Gap's troubles connecting with shoppers of all ages. "The landscape is so competitive that each retailer has to have a clear reason to be (in existence) and Forth & Towne, never had that," she said.

Gap shares fell 16 cents Monday to close at $19.65 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Scrapping Forth & Towne also may free up some merchandising talent to help with the turnaround efforts at the Gap and Old Navy chains. Analysts are particularly intrigued with the possibility that Forth & Towne's current president, Gary Muto, might now return to Gap, a chain that he led from August 2002 through September 2004.

Gap's sales improved during most of Muto's tenure at the chain. "If he were to return to the Gap brand, (it) would be a positive influence on the division," Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. analyst Richard Jaffe wrote in a Monday research note.

If Muto were to come back to the Gap, it probably wouldn't be as president because the company just promoted Marka Hansen - the former head of Banana Republic - to that job earlier this month.

Muto also once ran Banana Republic, making him a possible candidate to return to an upscale chain that has emerged as the best-performing of Gap's three brands.

Gap and Muto haven't agreed on a new assignment yet, Rossiter said. The company is expected to discuss the ramifications of the Forth & Towne closure Thursday when it reviews its fourth-quarter results in a conference call with analysts.

Forth & Towne's closure underscores the challenges facing clothing retailers catering to the graying baby-boom generation. Many merchants like Gap recently have been intensifying their focus on the niche, inspired by Chico's FAS Inc.'s successful formula for targeting boomers.

But now even Chico's is hitting a rough patch, having registered a 2.2 percent gain last fiscal year in its same-store sales. Chico's slowing same-store sales growth followed double-digit increases in the previous two years.

A Shopping Center is Born

David at Retail Memories From Coast to Coast uploaded 2 videos (split) about Hillsdale Shopping Center in San Mateo, California, as it was in 1957 when it opened.

The videos show the center before it was enclosed, activities related to it, and vintage fashions, stores and signage. They serve as almost a class as to "how to shop" in what was then a new style of commerce.

Check them out. I think you'll enjoy them.

A Shopping Center is Born

(photo courtesy of Scott at BIGMallrat's Malls in Northern California and Reno Blog)

'time' for McFly

(submitted to steve's blog by Al Cabino)

TIME Magazine's Lev Grossman blogged about The McFly Project here (scroll to the end)

Nerd World - Lev Grossman - Technology - TIME

joke week '07 | day 2

A motorcycle patrolman was rushed to the hospital with an inflamed appendix. The doctors operated and advised him that all was well. However, the patrolman kept feeling something pulling at the hairs in his crotch.

Worried that it might be a second surgery the doctors hadn't told him about, he finally got enough energy to pull his hospital gown up so he could look at what was making him so uncomfortable.

Taped firmly across his pubic hair were three wide strips of adhesive tape, the kind that doesn't come off easily. Written in large black letters was the sentence:

"Get well quick...from the nurse you gave a ticket to last week."

Sunday, February 25, 2007

joke week '07 | day 1

On the first day of school, the children brought gifts for their teacher.

The florist's son brought the teacher a bouquet of flowers.

The candy-store owner's daughter gave the teacher a pretty box of candy.

Then the liquor-store owner's son brought up a big, heavy box.

The teacher lifted it up and noticed that it was leaking a little bit. She touched a drop of the liquid with her finger and tasted it.

"Is it wine?" she guessed.

"No," the boy replied.

She tasted another drop and asked, "Champagne?."

"No," said the little boy. "It's a puppy!"

Sunday, February 11, 2007

A Winter White That Works for Spring


WHATEVER the charms of the International Tennis Hall of Fame gala, held every year during the United States Open, looking for men’s fashion trends there would seem to be a fool’s errand.

But at last September’s event, the tennis legend Stan Smith spotted a spring look months ahead of time: a group of stylish young men had come in black tie and brand-new Stan Smiths, the white, stripe-free Adidas sneakers that have done more to enshrine Mr. Smith’s name in the annals of pop culture than his tennis record ever did.

“It was pretty neat,” said Mr. Smith, 60, who won the United States Open in 1969 and had the shoe named after him in 1971. “For me, they’re my work shoe.”

And now city men are wearing them to work, too, bringing sprightly new meaning to the WASPy old-man expression “white shoe.” A combination of factors — hip-hop stars who brag that they wear a new pair of clean white Nike Air Force 1’s every day; designers like Marc Jacobs (who has worn Stan Smiths since junior high) and John Varvatos (who made Converse Jack Purcells and Chuck Taylors must-haves again) — have converged to make the all-white, old-school sneaker into Le Shoe for the smart set.

They are, it turns out, perfect for young, for old, for rich, for poor. They go with jeans, a suit, even a tux; you can wear them to work, to play and even to appear on Oprah (as Mr. Jacobs did). They can be cheap (basic Stan Smith’s are $55 at or not (the 25th anniversary Air Force 1’s are $2,000 at Barneys New York) or in between. They even come with a brand of fashion approval: several designers now offer their own version of the white sneaker, among them Stefano Pilati at Yves Saint Laurent, Neil Barrett, Dries van Noten and Miuccia Prada.

Sneaker craziness may not sound like anything new, but this time there’s a rub, and like it or not, it involves a toothbrush.

“They need to be clean,” said Daniel Peres, the editor of Details. “It’s a good look, a right-out-of-the-box-clean pair of white sneakers, and it’s the only kind you can wear with dressier clothes, nice jeans or even a suit.” But he reiterated his proviso. “Some people do everything they can to make them look worn and dirty, which is wrong. I’ve seen fashion editors in the Tuileries Gardens in Paris, shuffling their feet in the dirt to make their Chucks look worn in. I just stood there in horror.”

According to a nurses’ advisory site, the best way to keep white shoes dazzling is with Murphy’s Oil Soap and a toothbrush, and those white rubber soles might call for a go with whitewall-tire cleaner. Or you can subcontract the work and take them to the shoeshine man.

Sean Donovan, a sneaker collector who just bought a fresh pair of Stan Smiths for a new job (as a salesman at the Marc Jacobs store, in fact), said he was careful to keep his new shoes in rotation with, say, his white Air Force 1’s. He sprays them immediately with water and stain repellent, which makes normal scuffs easy to wipe off. “If you want to get crazy, you can go at them with an old toothbrush and some Soft Scrub,” he said.

Mr. Donovan, who has about 65 pairs of sneakers, agreed that clean is key. “A white shoe, it makes you feel fresh,” he said. “It’s like when you wash and iron your clothes, it makes you feel like everything’s together.”

Given the care the humble shoes require, the current trend is not without a kind of upended silliness. “It’s really turned an ordinary product into a luxury product,” said Bradley Carbone, an editor at Complex magazine, an urban young men’s magazine, which, naturally enough, follows sneaker obsessions closely. “A few years ago when you had rappers like Fat Joe and Jay-Z talking about wearing a new pair every day, people responded by trying to keep theirs as crisp and clean as possible. So it has an aspirational seal to it, even though it’s on an inexpensive shoe.”

While Mr. Peres likes the look, he won’t be sporting it any time soon. “They draw all attention to your feet,” he said. “I don’t want to have to compete with my shoes.”


For all those interested in what's going on with me, here is an 'interview' I gave myself this morning:

Q: So how are you?
A: I've been incredibly busy with the City and Big Green. So much so that once I've checked my email and read the paper when I get home, I'm pretty well spent.

Q: How's work?
A: Work is work. There's some stuff that bothers me about my City job, but I never know who's reading this blog, so I'll leave that alone.

Q: Done anything fun lately?
A: I've gotten out to a couple of malls as of late, and my mom is hosting a Valentine's party next week, but not a lot of traditional "fun" - type things. I'll get out and do a little more after Big Green slows down and the weather breaks.

Q: What are you reading these days?
A: I found this great book: Service and Style: How The American Department Store Fashioned The Middle Class by Jan Whittaker. As you can tell from the title, this is right up my alley. :-)

Q: Heard any good new music lately?
A: No (laughs). I'm really disappointed in what I hear on the radio these days. There's not much feeling. It all seems like demographic marketing set to a beat.

Q: How's your parents?
A: Good. They always seem to stay pretty stable.

Q: Been to New York lately?
A: Not since Thanksgiving, but I hope to soon. There's several exhibits at the Met and Cooper-Hewitt that I want to check out, as well as MoMA.

Q: Just museums, huh?
A: Okay, there are more than a few stores that are on my radar there, too.

Q: What's with all the shopping anyway?
A: That's a question I don't have an answer for. All I know is that I like it, but not for the sake of it. It's more of an experiential thing. I like stores that make an effort to offer things that people need in a way that is creative, interesting and fun.

Q: Any good stores you wan to talk about?
A: Well, Urban Outfitters for one. They do a great job at marketing to their target audience. The design quality of their stores and advertisements is exceptional.

Q: Do you ever not talk about retail?
A: Sometimes I don't. Actually a lot of times I don't. But I'd be lying if I didn't say it was a big deal to me. Always has been.

Q: What happened to Steve's News Annex?
A: I decided to close it down. It was starting to get to the point that I wasn't updating it much, and it was basically floating around without a purpose other than as a depository for stuff I didn't have space for here. It was fun to have for a while, and I'm proud of what I did there, but it was time to do something different.

Q: Can we expect a new blog in its place?
A: Not likely. I have a couple of ideas for blogs, but I don't have the time or resources to make them any good. It's not like I don't have other plces you can find me :-)

Q: Anything you'd like everybody to know out there?
A: I dunno. I guess the main thing is that despite all appearances otherwise, I'm still here.