Shah & Shah: A ‘Speakeasy-Style’ Jewelry Store

The Washington Post: Colin Shah “has put his family’s jewelry trade in a time machine and turned it back to the speakeasy approach that great-grandfather Izzy used when he ran it in the 1930s. There is no storefront. No marketing. No signs. Shah & Shah boutique lies behind a door on the sixth floor of a downtown office building. You push a doorbell to get buzzed inside.”

“Most customers are referred, which means they come in more positive than fearful … A lot of hustle is involved. Word of mouth means socializing with clients, talking to people, attending parties. Last week, he held an open house with champagne and chocolates for Mother’s Day … Everything is a throwback to the days of personalized jewelry sales. The walls include black-and-white photos of the family’s shops from the past. There is a photo of a young Jack Benny.”

“Shah wants every touch to hint at elegance. He plops down a beautiful silver candy dish filled with Edward Marc dark-chocolate nonpareils. He follows with a bottle of Hildon water, which looks like glass artwork that might be for sale. Most of his business is in creating jewelry for the 2,500 customers on his client list … Shah did more than $2.3 million in sales last year … Profitability can run well into the middle six figures.”

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Lord & Taylor Is Coming Up Roses

Washington Post: Lord & Taylor “has ordered up a big roster of rose-emblazoned pieces, many of them exclusives from labels like Karl Lagerfeld Paris and Calvin Klein, that are meant to cater to the contemporary, trend-conscious shopper … In addition dresses and blouses, they’ve lined up offbeat items like rose-flavored gummy candies and rose-shaped temporary tattoos. And in some stores, the products will be featured in a shop-in-shop it calls The Birdcage.”

“It’s a major merchandising and marketing effort that executives hope will … telegraph a fresh, contemporary direction … without alienating the loyal shoppers who might fondly remember that the rose was a staple of Lord & Taylor marketing from 1946 until it was phased out over the last 20 years … The idea … to harken back to the company’s heritage … is a tactic retailers across all price points are turning to right now based on the belief that millennials will respond to this kind of storytelling.”

However, “the story of the rose may be so obscure and unfamiliar to young shoppers, it may be hard for them to even understand the collection as an ode to history and heritage.”

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The Rutgers 250: A Real Tomato Returns

The New York Times: “This season, Rutgers University introduced a reinvented version of a tomato variety from 1934 that reigned unchallenged for decades. After years of work by Rutgers plant specialists, this old-fashioned tomato with old-fashioned taste has returned as the Rutgers 250, named in honor of the university’s 250th anniversary.”

“The Jersey tomato, red, ripe and juicy, was once revered as the best to be had, with a tangy, sweet-tart flavor that was the very taste of summer. If that kind of tomato perfection has faded to a dim memory in recent decades, blame mechanized harvesting and long-distance shipping, which prize durability over flavor. Pulpy, thick-skinned, flat-tasting tomatoes became the unsatisfying norm.”

“Rutgers’s agricultural programs were once linked to Campbell Soup Company, which is based in Camden, N.J., and is one of the largest food companies in the world. Many of the most successful tomato varieties were the result of collaborations between Rutgers and Campbell Soup.” Rutgers Professor Thomas J. Orton says reviving the old-fashioned tomato was “something almost mystical.” “People have had enough of tomatoes that don’t taste like much and have been demanding that we do better … It wasn’t a sure thing, but we think we got lucky.”

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Artists, Incorporated: The New Creative Class

The New Yorker: “‘Creative’ sits right above ‘innovation’ and ‘disruption’ in the glossary of terms that have been co-opted by corporate America and retooled to signify an increasingly nebulous set of qualities. Consultants are now creative consultants; advertising agencies are now creative agencies. ‘Creative’ was among the top ten most used words in LinkedIn profiles last year, and, these days, ‘creative’ is a noun that can be used for anyone in the workforce who doesn’t engage in doctoring, lawyering, writing code, or doing hard labor.”

“Affixing the word ‘creative’ to something is the quickest way to make it sound virtuous, and creativity has almost become a moral imperative. And yet today the ‘creative class’ no longer calls to mind a generation of struggling artists, but a group of college graduates with soft skills and Internet-based jobs they have difficulty explaining to their parents.”

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The Rolling Stones, Incorporated

“For the past 50-plus years,” The Rolling Stones have “been among the most dynamic, profitable and durable corporations in the world.” Writing in The New York Times, Rich Cohen, author of The Sun & The Moon & The Rolling Stones, says they have used “strategies that any CEO or entrepreneur should keep in mind while playing the long game.” Among them: “Choose the right name. The band was originally called Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys … Know what the market wants from you. Rather than trying to become new Beatles, as many other bands did, the Stones became their opposite.”

“Beg, borrow, steal. At a time when the British pop charts were filled with bubble gum, Brian, Keith and Mick Jagger turned to Chicago blues. Cut the anchor before it drags you down. The Stones were the creation of Brian Jones … But by the late 1960s, Jones was in trouble … He didn’t turn up for sessions, vanished on the road … Mick, Keith and Charlie Watts drove to Brian’s country home and fired him.”

“Never stop reinventing. The Stones have gone through at least five stylistic iterations: cover band, ’60s pop, ’60s acid, ’70s groove, ’80s New Wave. At some point, they lost that elasticity and ability to reinvent—they got old—but the fact that they did it so well for so long explains their inexhaustible relevance.”

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Copeland Barbie Bears ‘Misty’ Resemblance

The Washington Post: “On Monday, Mattel rolled out a Barbie doll modeled on ballerina Misty Copeland, who broke the color barrier at American Ballet Theatre last summer … It resembles Copeland in some ways: It’s clearly a ballerina, with nicely arched feet in pink toe shoes, hair pulled back, stage makeup, dance costume … The doll’s legs are long and thin, but her calves are Copelandesque: pronounced and muscular … So why doesn’t the Barbie look like her?”

The doll, based on photographs, has “neither her looks nor the rich color of her skin.” In other words, she looks “mighty, mighty white.” However: “A Mattel spokeswoman said the skin color seems faded because of the lighting … When you’re looking at the actual doll, ‘you can really tell it’s [Copeland’s] exact skin tone,'” she said. “Seeing the actual doll may be difficult. It sold out within minutes of Monday’s rollout for pre-order.”

misty_barbie

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Gendered Shelves & Toy Segregation

The Atlantic: “Today, toys are more divided by gender stereotypes than they were 50 years ago, thanks to broader marketing shifts in the industry and worldwide … According to the sociologist Elizabeth Sweet, toy companies began intensifying their use of color-coded marketing and segregation of toys in the 1980s … Gender-based compartmentalization in stores and online is meant to help customers find what they’re looking for, but according to … Jess Day of the nonprofit Let Toys Be Toys, ‘it’s driven by a massive assumption about what a child might want’.”

“Let Toys Be Toys’s biggest target is segregation by aisle, because it reflects the infrastructure of toy companies, where separate divisions develop products for gendered shelves. The division ends up reinforcing gender stereotypes and making it more difficult for gender-neutral or gender-inclusive toys to find space in stores.”

“Still, many consumers seem happy to shop along gender lines, and gender-inclusive toys tend to be on the higher end of the market and target progressive parents with time and money to spend. But with the Internet encouraging greater awareness and enabling the production of countless new toys, a revolution within the industry could be on the horizon.”

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The Gucci Experience Goes Up In Smoke

The New York Times: “On Java Road in Hong Kong, a new pair of brown leather Gucci loafers, lovingly wrapped in cellophane, hangs from a storefront — the deal of a lifetime at less than $3. Just not this lifetime. The shoes are paper replicas, meant to be burned as offerings to relatives who have died — a modern twist on an old Chinese custom … But the Gucci handbags and shoes that grandmother may have cooed over when she was among the living now appear to be out of her ethereal reach.”

“It seems Gucci’s zeal to protect its brand extends into the hereafter. Last week, its parent company … sent a letter to six local stores that sell the paper offerings, telling them to stop selling replicas of Gucci products because they were using its famous trademark.” However, a Hong Kong law professor “said Gucci would have a difficult time” making its case. “To successfully sue for trademark infringement … a company has to demonstrate that people confuse the cardboard replicas with real Gucci products, which is highly unlikely.”

“The shopkeepers lament what they see as the absurdity of it all. Their target market — the dead — does not appear to intersect with the well-heeled, or aspiring-to-be wealthy, living and breathing Gucci customers who frequent the outlet’s shops in Hong Kong, one of the company’s top markets. ‘Our customers are totally different,’ said one shopkeeper … ‘They burn these things to send to the spirits’ … Jing Zhang, fashion editor for The South China Morning Post, wrote: ‘The symbolism of a global, multibillion-dollar luxury company ‘warning’ perhaps some of the poorest retailers in the city over items that could not ever be taken for the real thing just seems a little bullying’.”

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John Irving: A Study in Grit vs. Ability

The Wall Street Journal: “Most people would think of John Irving as a gifted wordsmith … But Mr. Irving has severe dyslexia, was a C-minus English student in high school and scored 475 out of 800 on the SAT verbal test. How, then, did he have such a remarkably successful career as a writer? Angela Duckworth (author of Grit) argues that the answer is ‘grit,’ which she defines as a combination of passion and perseverance in the pursuit of a long-term goal.”

“Though verbal fluency did not come easily to (John Irving) as a young man, what he lacked in aptitude he made up for in effort. In school, if his peers allotted one hour to an assignment, he devoted two or three. As a writer, he works very slowly, constantly revising drafts of his novels. ‘In doing something over and over again,’ he has said, ‘something that was never natural becomes almost second nature’.”

“It’s a similar story among the other groups that Ms. Duckworth writes about … including spelling-bee champions and sales associates: Grit predicts their success more robustly than innate ability. And there is no positive correlation between ability and grit. A study of Ivy League undergraduates even showed that the smarter the students were, as measured by SAT scores, the less gritty they were … To be gritty, an individual doesn’t need to have an obsessive infatuation with a goal. Rather, he needs to show ‘consistency over time. The grittiest people have developed long-term goals and are constantly working toward them. ‘Enthusiasm is common,’ she writes. ‘Endurance is rare’.”

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Air Rage: It’s a First-Class Problem

Quartz: “Researchers from the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and Harvard Business School showed that incidents of air rage in economy class were significantly higher when planes had a first class cabin.”

“Their models showed that rage was nearly four times as likely on flights with a first class cabin than on those without. Controlling for factors like seat pitch and width, the researchers concluded that having first class increased the odds of passenger problems amounting to an additional 9.5-hour delay.”

“In addition, the researchers showed that when people had to walk through first class to get to their seats, rage among first class passengers themselves was nearly 12 times as likely as when people boarded from the middle. When people in economy class had to walk through first class, rage was about twice as high among the economy class passengers.”

“The study shows correlation, not causation, so the researchers can’t be sure that simply the sight of wealth makes people more irritable. There are other factors that could contribute to air irritability: Larger flights with multiple cabins could correlate with longer board times and more unwieldy carry-on storage, which could both make people more likely to act out.”

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