REI-mania: Flagship Store Was Beatles Arena

The Washington Post: “The vaulted, concrete-domed Uline Arena in Northeast Washington” is now the “East Coast’s largest REI store, a popular outdoor specialty chain that hopes to become a destination in the nation’s capital … Ice distributor Miguel Uline opened the eponymous arena in 1941 as a hockey rink and repurposed it into housing for service members during World War II. After the war, it was restored as a hockey and basketball arena … it was 1964 when the arena … made its biggest headline: The Beatles performed their first U.S. concert there shortly after their famed ‘Ed Sullivan Show’ appearance.”

‘Throughout the 1990s, the arena served as a trash-transfer station until Douglas Development purchased the property in 2004 … The 51,000-square-foot REI store now joins a changing NoMa landscape filled with luxury condos, office buildings and retail shops.” Norman Jemal of Douglas Development comments: “This is transformative. We looked at it as a game-changer for the community. You’re talking about a lot of history here. A lot of Washington, D.C., here. It touched a lot of people.”

“As an ode to the arena’s history, columns throughout the store are covered with concert posters of the Beatles, go-go bands and artists who performed there. One wall contains rows of seats from the original basketball arena … The store has event rooms, a courtyard and a La Colombe Coffee cafe. The National Park Service also has a kiosk inside, where an employee from the federal agency will be on hand to recommend outdoor travel destinations to customers.”

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Fireside Chats: The Origin of Language

Melvin Konner: “Polly Wiessner … analyzed … how the use of controlled fire might have spurred the development of humanity… Her study analyzed the themes of 174 day and nighttime conversations … She found that daytime talk centered on economic matters (31% of conversations) and ‘social gripes’—criticism, complaint and conflict (34%). The grousing involved people talking about themselves and each other, or negative remarks about the overly ambitious; 16% were joking sessions.”

“In contrast, night was for ‘singing, dancing, religious ceremonies and enthralling stories’ … Darkness and flames enhance drama: Facial expressions were ‘either softened, or in the case of fear or anguish, accentuated.’ Everyone got involved … Controlled fire made these magical evenings possible for all our hunting-and-gathering ancestors.” Polly Wiessner writes: As Dr. Wiessner writes: “Firelit hours created a space and context for…understanding of the thoughts and emotions of others…and the generation, regulation and transmission of cultural institutions.”

“No one doubts the upside of controlled fire, from cooking to warmth to keeping predators away. Yet perhaps the more magical uses of the freed-up firelit hours made the greatest difference: using stories to guide ourselves, empathize, entertain.”

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Joy & The Key to Creativity

Signature: “There’s a critical misunderstanding of the over-used C word. The first thing most of us think of when we hear that someone is creative is: artist, poet, musician, or entrepreneur. That’s not to say that creative people don’t fall into those categories, but … creativity is a state of mind rather than a set of skills in a particular area. Creativity isn’t only about mastery; it is, at its root, a joyful willingness to engage with the world. It is a fearless state of alertness to detail … our level of creativity is determined by our openness to a given situation – and also our love for it.”

“Creative people share three qualities … specific, present and true: 1. Specific: They break down their big goals into small, doable pieces. 2. Present: They take action on those pieces in the here and now – they don’t postpone them for some time in a nebulous future. 3. True: The things they are engaged in are things that they feel passionately about. They are not overly compelled from outside motivators.”

“Someone pursuing a goal in which the majority of her motivations are coming from some external source … will have a very hard time creating resilience against the inevitable challenges she will face in the pursuit of that goal. Not to mention, the difficulty she will have in deriving any joy from it. One telltale sign that a particular creative goal isn’t engaging a person on this ‘truer level’ will be her inability to speak or write with any impact about her love for that thing.”

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Abercrombie & Fitch Tries ‘Inclusion’

The Wall Street Journal: “Abercrombie & Fitch, once the mean girl at the mall, wants shoppers to know it has grown up. The brand that drew teen fans to its stores with shirtless male models, dim lights and heavy perfume is cleaning up its image amid a sharp drop in sales. With a new marketing campaign, and a redesigned logo and website … Abercrombie hopes millennials who knew the brand in high school will give it another chance.”

“What was cool in Abercrombie’s heyday is decidedly out of fashion now. Today’s teens embrace diversity and reject anything that resembles bullying … like a teen culling her Instagram posts after a breakup, Abercrombie is deleting all existing pictures on its website and social-media channels.”

“New pictures will feature brighter lighting, looser styling and a more optimistic mood … Abercrombie plans a new store prototype for 2017; meanwhile, it’s making changes at existing locations … Shoppers can expect more variety within the brand’s jeans, jackets and sweaters” … Abercrombie’s Fran Horowitz comments: “We are a positive, inclusive brand, with a nice sensibility, very different from what they encountered in the past.”

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Innovation & The Theory of Jobs To Be Done

The Wall Street Journal: “Businesses succeed when they help people do certain jobs. They fail when they lose sight of what that job is … Jobs are defined by the customers who hire companies to do them. The jobs are … expressed in verbs and nouns, not adjectives and adverbs. Some of the most successful companies in the world … are those whose very names have become synonymous with the job they help you do, such as Google, Uber, Xerox and TurboTax.”

“By contrast, ‘I need to have a chocolate milkshake that is in a twelve-ounce disposable container’ is a preference that confines both the customer and beverage provider to the milkshake category … The job customers ‘hire’ the breakfast milkshake for is … ‘I need something that will keep me occupied with what’s happening on the road while I drive. And also, I’d like this to fill me up so that I’m not hungry during a 10:00 a.m. meeting’ … Putting it that way forces drive-through owners to think much more broadly about what’s for breakfast.”

The Theory of Jobs to Be Done, as presented in Competing Against Luck by Clayton Christensen, et. al., recommends “creating internal processes that flex according to the needs of the job to be done, not the needs of the organization. When you buy something on Amazon, it will tell you something along the lines of: ‘If you order within the next 2 hours and 32 minutes, you’ll receive your product Tuesday.’ That isn’t Amazon simply trying to keep you posted. It’s a way to force the company’s internal processes to stay focused on what matters to the customer—the basic, all-too-easily forgotten job that customers need done.”

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The Branding of ‘Bodega’

The Wall Street Journal: “Bodegas are hot. Yes, the humble corner stores, with their grouchy cats and reams of toilet paper, are fast replacing the taxi and the bagel as a symbol of New York authenticity, lending urban credibility to any endeavor. There’s Bodega, the clothing line, and Bodega, an art gallery on the Lower East Side. Not to mention the Bodega, a wine bar in Bushwick, and Bodega Pale Ale, a craft beer only distributed in New York. Bodega 88, a sports bar, opened in August on the Upper West Side, in a former bodega.”

“Bodega Magazine, ‘your literary corner store,’ is an online monthly … Managing editor Cat Richardson says each issue provides a quick, accessible hit of contemporary fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction, with a few surprises thrown in. ‘It has everything you need, like toilet paper, and then something unexpected,’ she says … Mark Littman, founder of Bodega Studios, a video-production agency with offices in Chelsea and San Francisco, says the outfit’s name is a nod to its New York roots and personalized service.”

Bodega Pizza “co-founder Jose Morales, who grew up in the neighborhood working in his father’s bodega, remembers corner stores where everyone gathered to drink and play the Dominican lottery … The facade of his pizzeria … is a yellow metal awning featuring a traditional bodega’s red lettering and flashing bulbs. The front windows are stacked with green tins of Keebler Export Sodas Crackers, pillar candles and faded Brillo boxes. Mr. Morales … says he’ll soon offer groceries along with the pizza. ‘You can eat a nice pie, have a beer and go home with some soap, cereal and toilet paper,’ he says.”

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Wing on Wo & The ‘Wow’ Project

The New York Times: “Wing on Wo’s humble red-painted storefront at 26 Mott Street is said to be the oldest continuously run business in Chinatown. It opened on Mott as a general store in the 1890s … The family that established Wing on Wo more than a century ago still runs things … although the shop’s appearance doesn’t suggest any important heritage. Its shelves are dusty, its pace is sleepy and foot traffic is slow.”

“Wing on Wo’s salvation appeared in Mei Lum, 26, the second-youngest of the family’s five grandchildren … She is now reinventing the shop, molding it into a community space that operates against the backdrop of Chinatown’s history … she envisions a forum for panels on issues like neighborhood politics, exhibitions for local artists and a coffee shop. Ms. Lum held an event recently at the store on the neighborhood’s gentrification, and a planned panel will include influential businesswomen from Chinatown. She calls her concept the W.O.W. Project.”

“Ms. Lum’s new vision for Wing on Wo, ironically, resembles the store’s original incarnation over 100 years ago … General stores like Wing on Wo were crucial hubs in this early village-like stretch. They sold tastes of home like dried fish, herbs and tofu, but they also operated as social clubs, representing Chinese villages and counties, and provided mail and money-wiring services.”

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Tycho: Vinyl, Digital & Musical Culture

The New York Times: “In the age of the surprise digital album, what about the vinyl fans? … Scott Hansen, who records spacey electronic rock under the name Tycho, has come up with one solution. Tycho’s new album, ‘Epoch,’ was released online on Friday … Tycho’s record label, Ghostly International, will be offering a custom slipmat — the felt pad that sits on a turntable — to customers who place advance orders for the vinyl record at their local record store. The slipmat will become available in about two weeks, and physical versions of the album, on both vinyl and CD, will come out in January.”

“The staggered timing lets Mr. Hansen and Ghostly release the music quickly — Mr. Hansen said he put the finishing touches on the recording just two weeks ago — while also giving a tangible dimension to what is otherwise digital ephemera.” He comments: “We’ve always been really concerned with the physical experience. A lot of people want the vinyl so that they feel that this music is real, it’s not just a digital file.”

“For fans of major acts, a surprise online release can create a communal moment, with reactions that ricochet across social media. Sam Valenti IV, the founder of Ghostly, described the slipmat as a ‘passport stamp’ for fans, a way to seize on the release of new music yet still have a keepsake in physical form to function as a placeholder until the final product comes out.” He says: “Streaming music is fantastic, but record stores still have a place as the physical manifestation of music culture. How to balance those things is a beautiful tension right now.”

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You Don’t Have to be Weird to be Weird

Slate: “About 15 years ago, an independent bookseller in Texas went to battle against the specter of mega-bookstore invasion. His weapon of choice was something a purveyor of books knew best: a word. And the word was weird … He printed 5,000 bumper stickers urging citizens to KEEP AUSTIN WEIRD … The stickers flew off the shelves. And the Borders bookstore was never built in downtown Austin.”

“Weird campaigns have spread to communities in more than a dozen states. What do they all have in common? The cities have fewer than 1 million people, but most are growing. Many are state capitals or county seats and most have a vibrant arts scene. They all seem to have a strong sense of what makes them unique, and a grassroots urge to stay that way.”

“Despite its countercultural bona fides, weird has economic power. From indie booksellers to microbrews and real estate, leveraging quirkiness is good for business. Weird isn’t just a way of being, it’s an economic strategy, one that has the rough-hewn, indie-rock air of an anti-strategy … Underneath it all, the affinity for weirdness harkens back to the oldest origins of wyrd, which conjured mastery over the fates.”

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