Richie’s Guitar Shop: (212-253-7643)

The New York Times: “Got a gig downtown in two hours and there’s no sound coming from your ’68 Stratocaster? Action need adjustment? Are you afraid your bass is possibly haunted? ‘Call Richie’ is the mantra — if you’re connected enough in the music world to have the business card with the phone number for Richie’s Guitar Shop, which has been promoted solely through word of mouth since Mr. Baxt started teaching himself to fix guitars in 1978. Upon calling (212-253-7643), Richard Baxt will tell you where to go — to a modest one-bedroom apartment on East 11th Street.”

“If you are a new customer, you will be handed a single-spaced, double-sided sheet of paper titled ‘The Richie’s Guitar Shop Philosophy.’ These are the rules of engagement, which include both the practical and unexpected — from the importance of appointments, to the $15 surcharge if Mr. Baxt has to clean ‘blood or other bodily fluids’ off the instrument.”

Mr. Baxt says big retailers “‘charge you $100 just to change the strings and make a few adjustments. To me, that’s unconscionable. I try to charge as little as possible’ … Customers’ needs vary. Mr. Baxt recalled a job he performed for a man convinced that there were demons inside his guitar. The man asked Mr. Baxt to carve the outline of a swastika into his pick guard, which he hoped would scare them out. ‘I did it,’ said Mr. Baxt, who is Jewish, with a laugh … The man called several weeks later, swearing that the demons had been exorcised. As it says on the guitar shop business card, ‘Psychotherapy extra’.”

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Apple’s Insanely Great Idea? Stores.

Scott Galloway: “Apple made this crazy irrational decision 20 years ago to forward integrate into the medium that was supposedly going away. Stores. And they have somewhere between five and six billion dollars in store leases now on their balance sheet and have reallocated capital out of traditional broadcast media, which is declining every day in effectiveness, into the store where people still make physical contact if you will. They still consummate the relationship with the brand at the point of purchase.”

“So you have this temple to the brand which is this unbelievable experience called an Apple Store, and then you have this very mediocre experience called an AT&T or Verizon connect your phone experience for Samsung and the other Android players. The biggest value-creating decision in the history of modern decision: Apple’s crazy decision to forward integrate into stores.”

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Danny Meyer & Enlightened Culture

Fast Company: “How do you persuade your waiters to forgo a 20% tip on each table they serve? Danny Meyer says they never wanted to hire people who would only have been nice to you if they assessed it out of the four tables in their section, you were the richest or you were the most generous.”

“By that he means building a culture where employees focus first on pleasing one another, creating a warm energy that in turn fuels the staff as it tends to patrons, the community, and suppliers. His restaurants offer employees a variety of rewards, from bonuses to birthday cakes. And employees in turn have discretion to give customers free extras, all creating a virtuous cycle of hospitality.”

“Meyer regularly tests his approach to see if it’s is working by asking members of the team to share their understanding and experience of the culture … He says these discussions happen at pre-service meetings and in employee town halls, and through multiple internal channels that employees can use to offer their honest feedback.”

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Wingtip Club: Like Costco For Millionaires

Business Insider: “Wingtip Club charges monthly dues and a one-time admission fee between $1,000 and $3,000, depending on the number of visits a member wants to make annually. It’s a pioneer among the handful of brands that pamper and offer places to socialize inside brick-and-mortar shops — a tactic to help them compete with popular online retail companies like Bonobos, Everlane, and Amazon.”

“Wingtip Club opened its first San Francisco store in 2008 and piloted the clubhouse at a barbershop nearby in 2010. The two concepts combined at the current address in 2012 … currently has about 900 members, with an average age of 45. Women make up about 11% of membership … A ‘visiting’ membership includes five visits per year and costs $25 in monthly dues and a one-time membership fee of $1,200. The more frequent ‘social’ membership allows six visits per quarter (24 times a year) and costs $125 in monthly dues and a one-time fee of $2,000.”

“All membership levels come with a 10% store discount.”

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Bodega: The Future of Convenience?

Fast Company: “Paul McDonald, who spent 13 years as a product manager at Google, wants to make this corner store a thing of the past … launching a new concept called Bodega with his cofounder Ashwath Rajan, another Google veteran. Bodega sets up five-foot-wide pantry boxes filled with non-perishable items you might pick up at a convenience store. An app will allow you to unlock the box and cameras powered with computer vision will register what you’ve picked up, automatically charging your credit card. The entire process happens without a person actually manning the ‘store’.”

“The idea is to preempt what people might need, then use machine learning to constantly reassess the 100 most-needed items in that community. In a sorority house, for instance, young women might regularly purchase pretzels, makeup remover, and tampons. Meanwhile, in an apartment block, residents might regularly buy toilet paper, pasta, and sugar. When an item is bought, Bodega gets a note to replace it, and regularly sends people out to restock the boxes.”

“In most cases, Bodega doesn’t pay for the retail space, but pitches itself as an amenity or a convenience to property managers. At gyms for instance, McDonald makes the case that having a Bodega stocked with power bars and protein powder might make the facility more attractive to members … The major downside to this concept–should it take off–is that it would put a lot of mom-and-pop stores out of business.”

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Nordstrom Local: Manicures, Not Merchandise

The Wall Street Journal: “Nordstrom Inc. is opening a new store next month that is a fraction of the size of its typical locations, where shoppers will be able to enjoy services such as manicures and on-site tailoring. Something it won’t carry: clothes … Nordstrom Local, scheduled to open Oct. 3 in West Hollywood, Calif., will span 3,000 square feet, far less than the 140,000 square feet of one of Nordstrom’s standard department stores.”

“It will contain eight dressing rooms, where shoppers can try on clothes and accessories, though the store won’t stock them. Instead, personal stylists will retrieve goods from nine Nordstrom locations in Los Angeles, or through its website. The stylists can also pull together looks for shoppers through a ‘style board’ app.”

“In addition to manicures, Nordstrom Local shoppers will be able to order wine, beer, coffee or juice from an in-store bar, and those who place orders on Nordstrom.com by 2 p.m. can pick them up there that day. They will also be able to return items at the store that they bought online or from other Nordstrom locations. Tailors will be available for alterations or to help members of Trunk Club, an online clothing service that Nordstrom acquired in 2014, select fabrics for custom garments.”

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Eataly Regulars: Try Some & Buy Some

The New York Times: “Eataly NYC Flatiron, which opened in August 2010, has become a popular attraction for tourists. They pack the 50,000 square-foot Italian food emporium, cameras in hand, to buy Italian imports and dine at its several restaurants. But in the produce section, there’s nary a tourist in sight. This is where regulars … stock up on their fruits and vegetables. Produce is delivered and restocked twice daily. Some of it, like blood oranges, Italian frisée and radicchio di Castelfranco (a red-streaked, bitter yellow leafy vegetable) is shipped in from Italy while the rest is from around the United States and nearby farms.”

“On the hunt for fresh baby corn or purple baby cauliflower? They’re here. So are about 17 kinds of mushrooms, including lobster and blue foot, and all sorts of radishes like Easter egg and Cincinnati. The staff of 14 is well-versed on the produce, and tasting is encouraged.” Produce manager Lenny Espinal comments: “I’m a big believer in the try-before-you-buy philosophy. If you don’t like it, you won’t waste your money buying it.”

“One of the department’s most interesting features may be the vegetable butcher, Nicole Williams, who stands at a counter with a sink at Eataly’s vegetarian restaurant, Le Verdure. She washes and chops customers’ fruits, herbs and vegetables for free. She also prepares samples. Recent offerings included watermelon chunks and jicama rounds dressed with olive oil, salt and lemon.”

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Sey What? A Nordic Coffee Experience

The New York Times: “This season, two New York roasters are unveiling shops that are designed to impress. One, the airy Sey Coffee, which opened this month in Bushwick, Brooklyn, is all raw concrete and whitewashed walls, a skylit showcase for a roaster with a following among coffee-heads who favor the bright, clean profile of the so-called Nordic style … Its owners, Tobin Polk and Lance Schnorenberg, started roasting in 2011 in a fourth-floor loft around the corner from the new shop … Mr. Polk built the burnished maple bench that runs along a cinder-block wall himself, and the ceramist Erin Louise Clancy will set up a work space in the back that will supply the shop.”

“A roaster taking a similar tack is Nobletree Coffee, which … is unveiling a shop in front of its Red Hook, Brooklyn, roasting facility that sets out to make a statement, a state-of-the-art coffee bar with all the shiny toys: a gurgling Steampunk brewer, a streamlined Modbar brewer and espresso machine, kegs of nitrogenized cold brew on tap. While the other Nobletree locations are built for speed, this is a place to nerd out, a destination coffee bar. It helps that the roaster is in a mid-19th-century warehouse, on a pier with a postcard view of the Statue of Liberty across the harbor.”

“Eric Taylor, the general manager of Nobletree, says the purpose of the coffee bar isn’t to make sales but to create a tasting room, a place where you can refine your palate. Nobletree is a part of FAL Coffee, which owns coffee farms and a processing mill in Brazil. Some of the beans that make it to Brooklyn are the cream of those crops — the baristas behind the counter are familiar with every link of the supply chain.”

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Academy Sports: First-Responder Retailer

The Wall Street Journal: “A sporting-goods retailer found itself at the center of the rescue effort in flooded Houston, first opening its stores to rescuers in need of boats, life preservers and other supplies, and then converting its headquarters into temporary residences for hundreds of police and other emergency responders. As of Wednesday morning, retail chain Academy Sports + Outdoors was hosting more than 400 rescue-team members at its corporate campus west of Houston, with people coming to work in 12-hour shifts from as close as Waco, Texas, and as far away as Connecticut.”

“Academy has a history of contact with law enforcement because it sells firearms in its chain of 235 sporting-goods stores. Dealing with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other federal agencies is a daily part of its business. So when the first call came in Sunday from the Houston Police Department requesting flat-bottomed jon boats and paddles, Academy brass weren’t all that surprised. But the calls kept coming … they wanted kayaks, canoes, ponchos and pontoon boats. In many cases, Academy opened the doors of closed stores so first responders could grab what they needed.”

“As waterlogged evacuees made it to dry land, they needed more. Sleeping bags, air beds, backpacks, fresh T-shirts, socks, shoes and underwear. Rescuers needed all those goods, too, and a safe, dry place to rest. So Academy opened up its four-story sport-themed headquarters, which hasn’t flooded and still has power. It also has gyms for sleeping and places to shower … Academy is offering financial assistance for immediate needs like hotels for about 150 employees … (and) is deciding where to donate $1 million worth of clothes and shoes later this week.”

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Driverless Cars To Deliver Domino’s Pizza

The New York Times: “The Domino’s pizza chain this week plans to start testing deliveries using a self-driving Ford Fusion sedan outfitted with enough sensors, electronics and software to find its way to customers’ homes or offices in a section of this city 40 miles west of Detroit.” Dennis Maloney, chief digital officer at Domino’s, comments: “It’s going to be a real learning experience. No one really knows what’s going to happen when customers walk out to the car. They’re faced with a car. There’s no human interaction. What happens if they approach the car from the wrong direction? Will people mind coming out of their house? We want to understand all that.”

“For the Domino’s trial, Ford is providing a self-driving Fusion that scans the road with radar and cameras. It also uses lidar – a kind of radar based on laser beams – that can be found in a rooftop unit featuring distinctive spinning canisters. The images collected are compared instantaneously with highly detailed digital maps to ensure that the car knows precisely where it is on the road and how to reach its destination.”

“Because there is no delivery person to bring pizzas to the door, customers will have to walk outside the retrieve their order. They will be alerted by text when the car is nearing their home and when it arrives. A red arrow on the car’s rear, passenger-side window tells customers to ‘start here’ and directs them to a touch screen. Keying in the last four digits of the customer’s phone number causes the window to open, revealing an insulated compartment large enough to hold five pizzas and four side orders. One customer advantage of taking delivery from a self-driving car: If there’s no driver, there’s no tip.”

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