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.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

McDonalds & The Better Burger

The Wall Street Journal: “New, ‘better burger’ chains are pulling in customers with gourmet, made-to-order burgers and quick, casual service. Serving that kind of product is at odds with McDonald’s strategy of six decades, in which speed and low cost are pillars of sales.”

“McDonald’s is testing different grinds of beef, various buns and toppings and is tinkering with cook times and temperatures … Other recent changes include switching from cooking beef patties on Teflon sheets, which are easier to clean, to searing them on an iron grill so they come out hotter. Buns are toasted five seconds longer, resulting in burgers that are 15 degrees warmer.”

“The chain is testing customizable burger menus in some markets, allowing diners to select the type of meat, bun and toppings they want from a self-order kiosk and then sit down and wait for an employee to deliver the food to their table. Options include guacamole, grilled onion or bacon … Switching to fresh beef could slow down customer service and add complexity to a system designed to store frozen food … There are also concerns about contamination.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Foodies & The Single Cow

The Wall Street Journal: “Retailers including Whole Foods Market Inc., FreshDirect, and Amazon.com Inc. are building farm-to-store meat operations that sate some consumers’ desires to trace their burger or bacon all the way back to an individual animal … Other retailers, like Honest Beef Co., are supplying cuts directly to consumers, cutting out the meatpacking middlemen and grocery chains in a foodie twist on traditional mail-order businesses like Omaha Steaks International Inc.”

“Setting up a single-cow supply chain is costly and complex … Customers must be willing to pay princely sums for these cuts. In addition to its minimum order size, Honest Beef charges around $8.50 a pound for dry-age ground beef. Elsewhere, ground beef prices in August averaged $4.25 a pound nationwide … most burgers are made from a combination of lean and fatty scraps left over after higher-value cuts like the T-bone are carved up. That means a 1-pound package of store-bought ground beef could contain meat from hundreds of animals.”

“When officials at online grocer FreshDirect began traveling to Pennsylvania and upstate New York to pitch farmers on ‘disrupting the grocery supply chain,’ the idea was met with skepticism … Today, the skeptics are falling away. Demand for a cut of a cow offered in its ‘hyper, hyper local’ beef, which the Long Island City, N.Y., company can identify down to the group of steers it bought from a particular farm, has been strong since it made its debut last year.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

10 Restaurants That Changed America

The Wall Street Journal: “Through his selection of iconic establishments—Delmonico’s, Antoine’s, Schrafft’s, Howard Johnson’s, Mamma Leone’s, the Mandarin, Sylvia’s, Le Pavillon, the Four Seasons and Chez Panisse,” Paul Freedman, in Ten Restaurants That Changed America, “charts the history of American eating … As Mr. Freedman makes clear, the chosen 10 aren’t necessarily the best restaurants. They made the cut because of ‘influence and exemplification’—each has been crucial in ‘setting or reflecting trends in what Americans think about food and particularly dining out’.”

“Take, for instance, Schrafft’s, the Northeast chain that flourished in the mid-20th century and ‘pioneered the middle-class restaurant experience,’ as Mr. Freedman writes. The food was geared, in the words of founder Frank Shattuck, toward ‘secretaries and stenographers who must watch their pocket books.’ It was also a ‘safe’ environment for these diners: They didn’t have to go with a male escort because the place didn’t serve any alcohol.”

“The Mandarin, opened in San Francisco in 1961 by Cecilia Chiang, a Chinese immigrant, helped popularize stir-fry cooking, kung pao chicken, twice-cooked pork and tofu … Chez Panisse, which opened its doors in 1971, spawned a farm-to-table movement that is dominant to this day—even McDonald’s recently ran a “farm-to-fork” ad campaign featuring their potato farmers.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

A Texas State of Brand

The New York Times: “You can eat waffles shaped like Texas at the Vickery Cafe in Fort Worth and the Texan Diner in Haslet, and you can dive into the Texas-shaped Texas Pool in Plano, as long as you wait 30 minutes after eating the waffles. It wasn’t the pictures of Texas-shaped guitars, tequila bottles, coffee mugs and carving boards that surprised on the Pinterest account called Things Shaped Like Texas. It was the Texas-shaped sinks.”

“The shape of Texas is the Rorschach test deep in the heart of the Texas psyche: the singular, curiously drawn image that somehow encapsulates, with a few right angles and big bends, a state of 27 million people … A few states identify with their shapes, but not many … Maybe Texas is so big that it needed one easy symbol, and a ‘T’ or a cowboy boot or a chicken-fried steak didn’t quite sum it up. Maybe its obsession with its shape is one of many age-old ways that Texas likes to separate itself from the rest of the states.”

2000px-texas_flag_map-svg

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Walmart’s Online Pickup Plan

The Washington Post: “Walmart is America’s largest grocer, and its aggressive expansion of pickup services has turned its parking lots into a laboratory for the future of online grocery shopping — one of the trickiest puzzles in all of retail … With the pickup model, Walmart is testing whether its best weapon in this digital fight is its most old-school — and hardest to replicate — asset: a network of more than 4,600 stores.”

“It is counting on a different idea of convenience, one that caters to time-starved suburbanites who spend hours each day in their cars. Maybe for them swinging into a parking lot for a few minutes makes more sense than waiting around the house for a delivery … While Walmart does not disclose sales figures for online grocery pickup, it has taken the program from five markets to more than 80 nationally in the past year.”

“Walmart will have hurdles to clear as it aims to build the free service into a bigger business: For one, shoppers have often been reticent to buy groceries online because they are worried about the quality of the fresh meat and produce … Yet, if the pickup format keeps gaining customer affection, Walmart could be especially well-suited to ride the wave. About 90 percent of Americans live within 10 miles of a Walmart store.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Lord & Taylor’s ‘Fast Fashion’ Play

The Wall Street Journal: Lord & Taylor is taking a page from Zara. This summer, when an Isaac Mizrahi off-the-shoulder top nearly sold out days after hitting its stores, the department-store chain had the blouse back in stock in six weeks. It used to take nine months.”

“The quick turnaround was the result of a partnership with New York-based Xcel Brands Inc., which owns the IMNYC Isaac Mizrahi brand among other labels and is trying to make a business selling fast-fashion tricks to traditional brick-and-mortar retailers. Here is what it looks like: Xcel keeps stockpiles of unfinished fabric, so it is available quickly to be dyed, cut and sewn into the latest trend.”

“Lord & Taylor is able to procure the goods at a lower price by eliminating intermediaries and buying directly from the factories. That helps to offset the higher cost of shipping some items by air. Xcel, meanwhile, collects a royalty fee from Lord & Taylor based on retail sales.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Home Depot Re-Sets The Experience

Home Depot CFO Carol Tomé: “About 42% of online orders are being picked up in our stores, so we’ve had to allocate capital to build out storage inside of our stores to stage those products. Who would have thought a few years ago that’s where we’d be allocating capital? But we have to, because that’s where the customer is asking us to allocate capital.”

“We perform merchandising resets that cover about a third of each store annually. That could mean a change in our assortment or it could mean a change in how we display the product. All of this is designed to provide a better customer experience and drive sales. It can be a simple reset like resetting the spray-paint section so that when you take a can of paint, the next one drops into place in the display case, rather than standing the cans side by side. That’s a better experience and actually drives productivity in our stores.”

“Or it could be the reset of a millwork or flooring showroom. If you shopped flooring in our stores, in some of our older stores, it’s not the easiest experience. With our new flooring showrooms, we make it much easier for the customer to self-select. The displays are easier to shop off of, the signing is better. Oh, and by the way, sales are lifting. So it’s a good experience, and it’s driving sales.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail