Thursday, December 31, 2009

Cold selling boardgames.

Board games did great for us this Christmas. I'm happy about this, but slightly worried that they will poke their heads a little too much above the radar and get noticed. There is already a cheaper version of Settlers of Catan at Barnes and Nobles -- it has a 'set' board, which in my opinion almost defeats the appeal of the game which uses tiles to create a different board set up every time you play it.

But that would a warning shot.

What I found most interesting is that I could actually sell the games 'cold.' That is, I could sell the games to people who had never heard of them, who hadn't come in looking for them -- or had any idea they could even be interested in a boardgame.

I've developed a spiel, that seems to work very well. I had one customer who told me, "You said almost exactly the same thing last year!" but that's the thing about a good spiel. If it works, you keep using it, refining it, but using it until it stops working. Then, the trick is to quit using it.

(I probably spent a couple of extra years trying to sell my 'deal' of an album and 25 sheets and three or four packs of sports cards, and a Beckett for 20.00. Worked until it didn't.)

The classic example of a spiel that worked (and these spiels are always a trial and error thing, you try a certain phrasing and it succeeds, so you keep using it, trying variations until you arrive at the killer spiel) was the book, The Postman, by David Brin.

"This is a post-holocaust story, which is set in Oregon. In fact, it mentions Bend in the first chapter. It's a great book."

Sold. Sold. Sold. It was frustrating back then, because my distribution channels were so unreliable that I could never get enough in stock.

Then it stopped working. Damn you, Kevin Costner!!

So -- the Settlers of Catan.

I start off by saying, "If you haven't heard of this, you will. What usually happens is, someone goes to a friends house, they talk them into playing, and then they're hooked. This is the "gateway drug" of European boardgames...."

1.) You don't know who is winning until the end. Everyone is in the game to the end.

2.) It's easy to learn, but has complex play. Because of the set up, you never play the same game twice. It isn't like Monopoly or Risk, where you figure out the strategy, and it comes down to a roll of the dice.

3.) You can play the game in an hour or two hours, max.

4.) High production quality. More emphasis on design and colors and pleasing feel.

5.) Interactive. You are usually building something, not destroying something. Even requires a bit of cooperation.

6.) A family game, where you sit at a table, and the pleasing memory of childhood games comes back.

7.) The secret ingredient is enthusiasm.

The other great thing about boardgames right now, is that even if this spiel doesn't work the first time, and it probably doesn't 90% of the time (10% success on a cold sell, is fantastic...) there is a very good chance they'll come back, because it's in the wind -- friends and media-- and I believe they will remember my effort.

Sadly, this isn't true for most product. It has to be a combination of supply and demand, which my little niche is prepared for. Books are everywhere, even graphic novels can be gotten. Games -- at least at this point, are kind of word of mouth and we're in that word of mouth, hopefully.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Excessive ?! Force?

I see that on the 1/1/2010, it will be illegal to talk on a hand held cell phone in Oregon.

Does this mean I can make a citizen's arrest?

I know a Colt-45 is probably excessive, but how about a 2 by 4. Would that be O.K.?


How about a stun gun.....

Surely, I'm allowed a small whiff of mace.


Come back, Little Paul-doh!

IHATETOBURSTYOURBUBBLE writes in the comments:

"Dunc, please write about the simply ridiculous INBRED nature of today's piece in the Bully regarding "affordable condo".

Patty Moss enriching her construction pals while bankrupting CACB.

And the inane nature of a AUCTION where NOTHING SELLS. Only in Bend."

Consider it done.

But more to the point: such inanity is far from over and we really need someone who will write about this. There used to be a blog called Bend Bubble 2 which did a pretty good job of that. I won't say a word if that blog just quietly starts up again.....

We'll just pretend you never left, dude.


Meanwhile, back to the condo's.

The comment "...the condo's were well-conceived." Well, no. Obviously not. Only people in the middle of a bubble would've believe that condo's built above "affordable" apartments would be attractive. I know it immediately struck me as strange. In fact, you'd have to say that the project went wrong in the "conception" stage; unless they're saying they are pieces of crap, and there's nothing in the article about the actual quality.

The Bank of the Cascades loan was as misguided as many of their 'commercial' loans, and they are going to pay the price.

Live by a bubble, die by a bubble.

"This is a great project." Again, no. No. No. No. Obviously not.

"Well-conceived projects" take "bad timing" into account. "Great projects" do not have "zero" ZERO!! sales (even in an auction!) in competition to other projects....

One good thing these bubble blogs did was point out over 3.5 years ago, in writing, for the world to see, that not everyone thought these projects were a good idea. The argument, "It was just bad timing," implies that Who Could Have Known?

Who Could Have Known? Anyone who was paying attention. As a small business owner, I don't have the luxury of counting "timing" as outside the business plans. Indeed, I could make the case that "timing" is one of the most important elements of business planning. As a small business owner, anything that goes wrong is basically my fault, outside of "Acts of God." (And even those, you have to figure may happen). I may blame the mistakes on lack of information, or on lack of experience, but those are reasons not excuses.

What was most ridiculous was to term these "affordable" at the time. Even at the time, their estimated dollars per square foot was firmly in the middle to upper range, especially historically. I can remember specifically doubting on my blog that there was a huge backlog of well-heeled buyers who would rather buy a 'condo' than a real house "...with a yard."


Another boondoogle, financed by the Bank of the Cascades, with the 'help' of government money.

I'm glad the parking garage was built. Someday the retail will be filled. Someday soon, the "affordable" condo's will simply become apartments, like they probably should have been all along.

The "Commercial" bubble, meanwhile, has barely started it's frothy, messy, bubbly burst in your face, exploding act.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I aught not talk.

With everyone panning the Aughts as a horrible decade, I probably shouldn't say, it was a good decade for me. Horrible things happened nationally, Bend got caught up in a bubble, but Pegasus Books had a good decade, and Linda and I started the Bookmark, which has done well. I started to relax a little, enjoy life a bit more. It worked the way it aught to work. (O.K. no more horrible aught puns.)

On the other hand, more importantly, I lost some family this decade. I'm a fatalist about this; it's part of life. The decade more or less took up 12% of my life, so things are going to happen. This was the worst part of the Aught's. But the bad things that come from bad decisions didn't happen as much in the 00's.

I couldn't stop thinking about it, last night.

O.K. The 50's and 60's were my formative years -- life was affecting me, more than I was affecting life. But toward the end of the 60's, I was almost an adult -- I would've been an adult in many cultures -- and I made some very bad decisions.

The 70's in a sense were a lost decade. Depression, and it's aftermath. I muddled through, finished college in about twice the time it should've taken, spent much of my time reading and introspective. I finally started writing my first book in the last year of the decade.

The 80's were great years -- got my books published, came back to Bend, started working at Pegasus Books, married Linda, had two stepsons, bought Pegasus, rode the roller coaster of business.

The 90's sucked, deep in debt most of the decade. I got pretty introspective about business, this time. Trying to figure it out.

The 00's, as I said, were great. Finally got the debt paid, started making Pegasus a paying concern, bought our house -- luckily, just before the bubble -- I've enjoyed it.

So good decade, bad decade, good decade, bad decade, good decade.....

Oh, oh.

I think I need to stay humble and careful. The 70's sucked, because as a teenager I thought I could do drugs and not suffer consequences -- that I could lie about it, and still have my family support me. Much of what happened was genetic, probably, but I didn't help things.

The 90's were tough because I bought into a bubble -- a couple of bubbles, actually -- and expanded beyond my abilities, and just generally made some bad decisions that could be traced back to hubris.

So....I'm going to try to avoid letting my ego get the better of me, this time. Stay on course, make good decisions, appreciate the things I've got.

Steady as she goes.

That aught to do it.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Planning for next year.

I'm well into the process of planning for next year.

I did my comic orders for February over the weekend, and once again I'm shocked by what a low number it is. The result of long years of building my inventory. I'm now at the point where I can pour the cream, pick the cherries on top. For almost my entire career I've been building or changing my inventory, which is way more difficult than simply having inventory in place and replacing as needed..

It's no doubt temporary. Demand constantly changes, and as time goes on the changes come quicker. But for the moment, I feel on top of things.

I'm expecting next year to be about the same as this year.

Turns out, the monthly number I diagnosed about ten years ago as my 'goal'''; the number I thought would allow me to make a living wage, and keep the store up, and which looked nearly impossible to reach, is just about where we currently stand. (2% less). And I think I can hold the line here.

I'm going to continue the shift in emphasis toward new books and boardgames, but I should be able to do that easily through normal cash-flow, and without having to take more risk.

A warning to those of you who find business planning boring; my blog is probably going to be emphasizing 2009 results, and 2010 planning for awhile. Sorry. For me, it's one of the fun aspects of owning a business.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Downtown Openings and Closings, Update.

I believe there may be an article in today's Sunday Bulletin about this list. (Below.)

Just in case it isn't perfectly clear, I wanted to be sure to tell you that this list is mean to be a neutral, objective list. Yes, I'm surprised that there have been more businesses that have opened than have closed, but that's just how it happened. Good for us.

I'm also not a journalist, so this list is as accurate as I can make it from behind the counter of Pegasus Books. I find openings and closing through the media, by driving by, and when I get the information second-hand, I confirm by calling. But I can't vouch for it being 100% accurate -- though opening and closing of stores is pretty obvious, you'd think.

I list these stores when I hear about them, (confirmed) not on the day they actually open or close. I also am trying to list retail and restaurants -- not offices or banks or soft services. I started off with a list of stores that had opened or closed within the last six months or so. Eventually, I decided to add dates; lately I've decided to add addresses.

I place **'s next to stores that have moved, or changed significantly.

Finally, if any of you have information to share, that would be very helpful.


Top Leaf Mate, 12/10/09
Laughing Girls Studio, Minnesota St. 12/7/09
Lemon Drop, 5 Minnesota, 11/12/09
The Curiosity Shoppe 11/5/09 25 N.W. Minnesota, Suite #7.
Wabi Sabi 11/4/09
Frugal Boutique 11/4/09
5 Spice 10/22/09
Cowgirls Cash 10/17/09
***Haven Home 10/17/09
Dog Patch 10/17/09
The Good Drop 10/12/09
Lola's 9/23/09
**Volcano Wines 9/15/09
Singing Sparrow Flowers 8/16/09
Northwest Home Interiors 8/5/09
High Desert Frameworks 7/23/09
Wall Street Gifts 7/--/09
Ina Louise 7/14/09
Bend Home Hardware (Homestyle Hardware?) 7/1/09
Altera Real Estate 6/9/09
Honey 6/7/09
Azura Studio 6/7/09
Mary Jane's 6/1/09
c.c.McKenzie 6/1/09
Velvet 5/28/09
Bella Moda 3/25/09
High Desert Gallery (Bend) 3/25/09
900 Wall
Great Outdoor Store
Luxe Home Interiors
Powell's Candy
Dudley's Used Books and Coffee
Game Domain
Subway Sandwiches
Bend Burger Company
Showcase Hats
Pita Pit
Happy Nails


Ivy Rose Manor 8/20/09
**Downtowner 8/18/09 (moving into the Summit location)
Chocolate e Gateaux 8/16/09
Finders Keepers 8/15/09
Colourstone 7/25/09
Periwinkle 6/--/09
**Tangerine 7/21/09 (Got word, they are moving across the street.)**
Micheal Cassidy Gallery 6/15/09
St. Claire Coffee 6/15/09
Luxe Home Interiors 6/4/09
Treefort 5/8/09
Blue 5/2/09
**Volcano Tasting Room 4/28/09** Moved to Minnesota Ave.
Habit 4/16/09
Mountain Comfort 4/14/09
Tetherow Property 4/11/09
Blue Moon Marketplace 3/25/09
Plenty 3/25/09
Downtown Doggie 3/25/09
**King of Sole (became Mary Janes)**
Santee Alley
Bistro Corlise
Made in Hawaii
Stewart Weinmann (leather)
Kebanu Gallery
Pella Doors and Windows
Olive company
Pink Frog
Little Italy
**Pomegranate (downtown branch)**
Pronghorn Real Estate office.
Speedshop Deli
Paper Place
Bluefish Bistro

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Boggis and Bunce and Bean.

Another short status report.

Pegasus Books almost matched last year in sales the last four days before Xmas, which considering how big those days were, is a real accomplishment. It almost certainly means we'll beat last December, which will mean -- technically -- we'll have beat last year four months in a row.

As I apparently was quoted garbled in the O.P.B. story, beating last year isn't any big deal, because last year was the frickken " End of The World!" Ha. Ha.

At any rate, to be on the safe side, I'm planning for the rest of this winter to probably match last winter, and same with the spring period.

The day after Christmas used to be a very big day for us. Lately, it has become an almost average day. I think people are taking more of a respite, theseadays.

Of course, there is always the possibility of returns. We have an "exchange" policy, which we try to convince people to use -- but you get the occasional customer who insists on money back, and it's not worth arguing. And if it's not worth arguing, you may as well be gracious about it and give in quickly when you realize that's what they want. A little bit of "well, you can have anything in the store for the same price..." weedleing, and then I crumble.

Gift certificates also used to be much bigger. Unlike the chainstores, I credit my balance when I sell, rather than when it is redeemed, so it doesn't help the bottomline.

I pushed gift certificates in my early years because, frankly, I didn't have as much inventory and it stretched my inventory farther. But I also began to realize that I was just pushing off the inevitable, and I felt obligated to 'special order' for people who I had sold gift certificates too, so it ended up not being as helpful as I'd like.

I still take the money, of course, but I'd much rather sell a physical object.

I had two and half beers at Christmas dinner, and slept poorly. Damn. I used to like to drink. That was only about the third or fourth time all year I've drank any booze. It just wrecks the next day, so if I growl at you today (like the animals in the Fantastic Mr. Fox, grrrrr. girrrr. gurrrrrr) please forgive me.

Speaking of the Fantastic Mr. Fox, I gave the book to my wife for Christmas, and then read it outloud to her. Really fun. Mr. Dahl was great at alliteration and surprising wordplay.

Boggis and Bunce and Bean
One fat, one short, one lean.
These horrible crooks
So different in looks
Were nonetheless equally mean.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas to all.

Merry Christmas.

I'm turning my brain off today.




Did I just say something?

Oh, yeah. Merry Christmas and to all a Good Day.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Open all day and still stocked.

We'll be open until 6:00 today, and we're still really stocked. Got a reorder of games yesterday, and getting a reorder of books and graphic novels today -- if U.P.S. delivers. Ummm, I hadn't thought of that.

I apparently was on OPB yesterday, Ethan Lindsey, but darned if I can find the story. Hope I didn't say anything stupid.

Very nice picture of Pegasus on the frontpage of the business section. Makes the store look full and interesting, if I do say so myself. When I'm quoted as saying business was busier earlier in the month, of course I mean it was proportionally busier. I was very, very busy yesterday.

The store is about the same as last year, but I think we will probably end up between 5% to 10% over last year. It all depends on the six days after Christmas, which were relatively slow last year.

Anyway, strange to say, I have pretty much the same level of stock in the store right now as I had at the beginning of the month, so I'll do something I rarely do on this blog and nakedly hype my business. Come on in, it'll be worth your while, and I'm finally feeling Christmasy and may give you a nice ho, ho, ho....

Happy Christmas Eve!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

More this and that.

At long last, have we no sense of proportion?

10 stories on Brittany Murphy, an actress I was barely aware of, in Huffington Post yesterday. 10!

"Is the head dead yet?"

On the other hand:

I actually thought the Tiger Wood story was important, but not for any of the usual reasons. It was important to me because it showed how utterly bamboozled we all were by the squeaky clean 'image.' We literally have dozens of books about Tiger Woods at the Bookmark. And they are all a bunch of malarkey.

Years ago, I decided that autobiographies were useless; that they in no way told the truth. I have my doubts about most biographies. And this points out the unreliability of the daily news -- again.


Speaking of numbers.

I doubt the recovery numbers. I doubt the unemployment numbers. I doubt the Christmas sales numbers.

I doubted a number yesterday, that was one most people would've thought I thought was true. That local income went down a small percent. I'm almost certain there is so much underthetable economy going on, that that probably isn't true, either.


How to lose a million dollars, by the City of Bend. Be obstinate and bull headed. Don't change in the face of change. Over reach. Spend all the money you have, and all the money you think you're going to have. Don't change. Make more ambitious plans. Lose another million dollars. Never believe the negative scenarios, only the positive scenarios. When the positive scenarios don't happen, be sure not to change.

You can always cut emergencies services.

Make more ambitious plans.

New boss, same as the old boss.


You know, despite the right wing screaming of socialism, I think Obama is terribly middle of the road. He's a compromiser. I guess I'm still hoping his compromises will amount to something. Our government may be so broke and broken, that's all that can be done.


"Teen's BB gun triggers brief scare at Bend Target"

Hey, what do you expect when you name your store, Target?


As expected, we had a huge drop from last years huge number at the store, yesterday. I expect pretty much the same today and tomorrow, leaving us -- almost exactly at last year's overall numbers.

I still have a bit of hope for the week after Christmas, though.


Watched a documentary about Andrew Jackson a couple of years ago, which talked about how he railed against this new thing called "corporations" and he abolished the National Bank, consequences be damned.

He seemed like a real crank.

Caught the same segment the other night.

He seemed like a real genius.


Where will all the cranks go? Bendbubble2 turned off the comments!

This blog isn't the answer, if for no other reason than hours go by before I can check comments, sometimes. And, though I've almost never had to delete comments, I doubt I could put up with what Paul-doh put up with.

You know, the next guy doesn't have to write a thesis every week. Just a short theme and then open to comment.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Just hanging in....

Slept until 9:45 this morning, which is unheard of for me these days. I'm a 7:00 - 8:00 morning guy. I think I'm just tired from the sheer numbers of people.

We're up so far this season in sales, but last year the three days before Christmas were so huge that I doubt we can match them. On the other hand, the 6 days after Christmas weren't great, so I'm hoping they'll cancel out.

I was talking the other day about Settlers of Catan going viral. Well, I sold out on Sunday after thinking I'd radically over ordered. I was able to get another order in with my game distributor, so I have 7 more copies arriving on Wednesday. While I was at it, I reordered a bunch of other games, bunches of new books, and lots of graphic novels. Spent the extra money I've earned, so now I have to hope we can match last year the rest of the way.

Going out for the usual Tuesday afternoon pizza with Dad, sister Tina, niece Mattie (?), and Linda.

Another 9 days of this, and then January will hit like a lazy Sunday. Like I always say about summer, I can't wait for these busy months to arrive -- and I can't wait for them to leave...

Monday, December 21, 2009

"I'm a wild animal."

The Fantastic Mr. Fox is a strange little movie.

I mean, I liked it, but how odd that it was made. It's the kind of movie that you like, but you're pretty sure no one else will.

It was all tone and attitude and sophistication. I laughed outloud at some of the unexpected phrasing.

A five year old kid behind me lasted about five minutes. "I have to go to the bathroom!" and then about half an hour later, "I have to go to the bathroom again!"

Anyway, I'm partial to movies that are different than anything else, and this qualifies. A cult movie in the making...

Sunday, December 20, 2009

This'n and that'n.

It seems like every other ad on T.V. last night was for Walmart.


Dollhouse has gotten really, really good in the last three weeks. You know, right after it was canceled. Like Firefly, if Joss Whedon could just figure out how to start his shows at the level they're at when they're canceled, he might have a hit.


Thought I saw a two-headed driver this morning, but it was a guy and his dog. Those of you who were born after bucket seats and seat belts don't probably remember two headed drivers. Oh, nothing like young love, scooting as close as possible, hands on each others, ah hem, thighs....


C.S.I Las Vegas is still a very interesting show, but without Peterson, weirdly, it seems like the character Nick has become the most forward presence. Not who I would've guessed. Fishburne has chosen to take a low-key approach....


Got in a case of Potamus figures, by Kozik, bad attitude hippos, who need a shave and have a cigarette dangling from their sneering lips, and a swastika (or russian scrip) tatooed on their sides. Haven't sold any, strangely.

I like them.


I do believe Settlers of Catan is turning viral...I sold four or five of them, yesterday.

But not yet Redneck Life. (Whoever ends the game with the most teeth, wins!.)


John Costa has an editorial this morning where he maintains Oregon is friendly to people, not business. Oregon, he maintains, has "developed a fear of expansion."

Implied, I guess, is that we should be friendly to business but not people?

Meanwhile, the lead story on the front page of his own paper says about the Bend growth plan, "...state officials said the city's calculation of the need for new housing and residential land contained 'fatal flaws in the city's assumptions, analyses, findings and conclusions,' leading to larger-than-necessary expansion."

So, I guess he's right about the state being against "larger-than-necessary expansion." Only he calls it "fear of expansion."

At first, I thought it was ironic that he's editorializing against "fear of expansion" at the same time as the state has accused Bend of having "larger-than-necessary expansion," but of course it was a not-so-direct challenge.

I guess we know what the Bulletin's editorials are going to be about next year.

But I can tell you, Juniper Ridge as far as I'm concerned was a boondoggle, and I'd be more inclined these days to believe the state than the city.


So Bend Bubble Two can't resist another post, about Bend having the #1 drop in housing prices.

Dude, this kind of stuff is going to keep on coming. You didn't really need to pull the plug. I figure we're only a third or less of the way through this; and there are still plenty of people wanting to pull the wool over our eyes.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

How's Christmas?

It may seem a little strange that, only 6 days from Christmas, I can't tell you if my sales are going to be good or bad. But that's the way it is, these days. People really are waiting until the last minute -- or so I hope, because up until today they haven't been doing much.

Being in downtown, I get a bunch of business from out-of-towners during this last week. The story in the Bulletin today, about tourism bookings, was interesting. It seemed to me, if you read between the lines and the relatively optimistic headline, that bookings are down, down, down.

Let me tell you a secret. Don't you come back an hit me with it, O.K? Whenever a merchant says, "We're doing about what we expected," those are weasel words. In other words, we expected business to suck and suck it does.

I peered into the Oxford Inn, last night, and it appears there are at least a few days from opening. Thus, mostly, missing the Holidays. At least they'll have the six months from January until June for a 'slow' opening. Amazing how often this happens. I suspect no matter how much planning goes on, that circumstances and regulations hold them up until they miss the busy season.

Anyway, I probably won't really know how I did this season until January 1, 2010.

So far, we're doing about what we expected....Heh.

(Actually, we're up about 10% so far, but that could easily be wiped out by a couple of slow, we're just waiting and seeing...)

We're Number One!

Reader Eco, in yesterday's comments, pointed out the following article in

Since I'm not sure this will make the local news, and since the other bubble bloggers seem to think there's nothing more to talk about, I'll post it here.

I've thought, from the start, that we would lag the rest of the nation in price declines, but that eventually we'd be Number 1!!!. Worse than Vegas, baby.

Seriously, this was inevitable. We mirrored what was happening in California, and Florida, and Nevada, only six months to two years behind.

It's a weird thing about Bend. We have plenty of warning about what's to come, both good and bad. This has given me a competitive advantage in the past; I'll see something catching on elsewhere and will be well prepared by the time it arrives here. I'll see something falling away elsewhere and be well prepared for the decline....

Bend is a bubble in more than one way. If you define 'bubble' as standing apart from the rest of the world. For instance, a geographic and transportation bubble. We are a timewarp bubble, as well. Always have been. When I was a kid, fashions and pop culture were always a couple years behind here. One of the things I often see, is some hipster moves to town and slowly, gradually they become Bendites and thus as relatively clueless as the rest of us. Usually they don't even know it.

There was a news story yesterday that the boardgames Settlers of Catan has gone "viral" in the Silicon Valley, with CEO's addicted to the game. Here in Bend, it's still mostly get questions like, "Is it like Monopoly?"

The ramifications of the price declines can be seen in places where it's already happened.

We get see our own future.


Top 5: Bend reports nation’s biggest home decline in Q3

By Ryan Frank, The Oregonian

December 18, 2009

1. Bend reports nation’s biggest home decline in Q3: Yes, prices are still falling the Bend. They tumbled 5.6 percent between the second and third quarter, the biggest decline in the country. Las Vegas was right behind Bend, down 5 percent. That’s according to the IHS Global Insight “House Prices in America” report out today. Much of the nation is starting to emerge from the depths of the housing recession. But the Northwest, late to the housing bubble, continues to be the last to see the price declines wash through. IHS still considers much of the Northwest to be overvalued. Of the top 20 overvalued markets, nine are in Oregon or Washington. The Portland-Vancouver market ranks worst in Oregon at No. 7. Corvallis is No. 9, Salem is No. 10 and Bend is No. 19. IHS says home prices nationally halted a two-year slide in the third quarter, rising .2 percent from the second quarter. California led the way with a 2.1 percent increase. Nationwide, the U.S. housing market is down 10.7 percent from the 2007 peak. Despite the upbeat news, IHS also warned of potential troubles ahead given the still high unemployment rate and the temporary boost the market got from the federal tax credit.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Moderate goals.

I can't decide if it's a good thing or a bad thing that I can still feel so much stress over the performance of the store.

I've redefined the goals of my store. I've scaled down the ambition and challenges.

I'm now working for what I call a "working profit." By that, I mean, paying overhead (including employees) , paying myself a living wage, keeping the store well-stocked, and making enough to pay quarterly taxes and an IRA contribution every year.

This is a lighter load than I had before.


I've had a plan of attack in place for about 10 years now. Goals and Priorities.

During the Boom Times, say 2001 through 2006, my goal was to push sales as high as I could get them, either by making sure every product line was fully stocked, or by adding new product lines which could produce revenue.

At the same time, my goal was to stay current with bills and taxes, and to keep my credit card bills within reach. Dental and health bills pushed the credit cards near my uncomfortable range (I have a theory that a balance of over half the available credit puts you at the mercy of the card companies...)

I could have done a couple of other things during the Boom Times.

1.) Spent the money. Enjoyed myself. Gone out to dinner on a regular basis. Bought a car. Bought a bigger house.

2.) Or I could have tried to save money.

I didn't do the first because I could see we were in the midst of a bubble and I didn't want to get caught with a mediocre store and high debt service.

I didn't do the second, because if I was right about the bubble, I wouldn't have been able to save enough money to survive long in a Great Recession (I didn't know what it was going to be called, but I figured it would be epic.) A drop from the level of sales I had in 2001 wouldn't have paid the bills. I needed my store to be selling at a higher level.

My reasoning here was much like the old saying of giving a man a fish, or teaching a man to fish. Savings would have been having a fish,which would have been consumed pretty quickly with nothing to show for it. But investing in the store, having a highly performing business, with new lines of revenue, was going to like being a fisherman. With the additional benefit of being very diversified, allowing me room to adjust to shifting currents.

I brought in new books and boardgames, and by the end of 2006, I figured I was ready.
I was ready for the second half of my plan, which had 4 parts.

1.) Catch up on all bills and debts.

2.) Get current with taxes.

3.) Start making full IRA contributions for the last 12 years of my career. (Better late than never, eh?)

4.) Pay off the Home Equity Line of credit. This was a bad loan, and I had about 4 years to do something about it. I also wanted to get a larger chunk of the original mortgage paid, and try to pay it off in 15 years instead of 30 years, and have it paid by the time I retired. I also figured I needed to save more than the minimal IRA toward retirement if I wanted to live on anything more the Social Security and a bit.

By the middle of 2007, I had managed to pay off my credit cards, and make a full I.R.A contribution, and to at least pay my taxes within the same year if late. By July I was feeling confident enough to flirt with the idea of opening a second store (in my defense, this was a move that was meant to spread the risk -- but it would've been a disaster...)

Bears Stearns collapsed just in time to save me from that mistake.

Going into 2007, I figured I had at least a year before it all went Armageddon on me. I was obviously wrong.

So I set about working on my four goals. (I had already gotten started part of #4, making double payments on my initial mortgage for 22 months.)

Most of the Goal #4 -- catching up on the HELOC and making further payments on my IRA and house, proved more difficult. Remember, I was also trying to make enough profit to live on. I made about 2 years worth of maximum IRA contribution, out of four, but was lucky enough to time my investments so that it equals 3 years worth. (Invested in March of this year, lucky timing...)

Considering the drop off in sales --- and I've had a drop off just like everyone else--- I'd have to say we've done well.

But I still had that big Heloc payment due, and I was still worried about retirement, so it was going to be tuff doing that while the economy is bad, and it looked to me like the economy was going to be bad for a long time to come.

What's happened is that I can now drop Goal #4. It's taken care of. So I need continue to meet the first three goals, which really means maintaining what I'm already doing. A much more manageable goal.

Still a challenge, but not nearly the mountain I was trying to climb before.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I miss the cranks.

I miss the local blog cranks, the bubble bloggers, the crazies and ranters.

I'm just not cranky enough. I'm prone to touchy-feeley blogs, like yesterday, or blogs about business (I have a couple of customers who plead with me every time they come in; "Quit writing about business! It's boring!")

I suppose it's human nature, but most local blogs are written by people who are calm, and pleasant, and reasonable, and apparently, second cousins to Martha Stewart. People want to put their best face to the blogosphere, and I suppose that's understandable.

But, blah.

Sure, some of these ranters go too far, way too far. But I'm a big boy, I can wade my way through the excess crap. It's not like it's Craig's List, or something. (Those folks are just plain mean and stupid.) There is usually some nuggets of insight and wisdom, if you have a big enough shovel.

There're still a few ranters around, but they are mostly political, and talking about national issues. I've told Homeless on the High Desert that he's a bit too conspiracy minded and anti-jewish for me; and he's prone to sheer profance shout-outs.

I suppose it's a function of anonymity. I can only go so far in my rants -- everytime I've let loose, it seems like I've offended someone, or hurt someone's feelings, and I don't much like that. Almost always, I realize that I don't have all the info, that I haven't walked in their shoes, that I'm being less than emphathitic.

A true crank wouldn't care about any of that.

A true crank would just say what's on his mind, consequences be damned, and even if he or she is wrong, it at least stirs the waters, makes for some interesting comments.

So...who among you is crazy enough, full of enough piss and vinegar, and intelligent enough to create some controversy?

I know you're out there....

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

In and Out of the Garbage Can.

During my years of therapy, 1972-74, and for a short time in 1977, I was given two different books by two different shrinks.

I've talked about the second book before; Reality Therapy, by William Glasser, which I was given toward the end of my depression, and which had a gratifyingly dramatic effect. One of those rare occasions when a psychology book actually made a difference.

The book's message of taking responsibility for one's own actions, that taking a moral and ethical stance in one's decisions affects one's self-esteem, and that making good decisions, and experiencing success, is the path to recovery. And having someone you love and who loves you makes you whole. I bought into the whole message of the book, and I think it worked for me.

The first book I was given, by my first shrink in 1972 here in Bend, I'd almost forgotten about. In and Out of the Garbage Can, an autobiography by Fritz Perls, the founder of Gestalt therapy.

A daring book to give a young burned-out hippy. I remember the hippy-dippy psychedelic swirl on the cover, and though it certainly didn't have the immediate impact of the Glasser book, I have come to appreciate that I did in fact internalize much of the gestalt message.

"Gestalt therapy aims to bring a person's whole existence, mental, emotional, physical, into therapy, and promotes unity of the self in the world. This is achieved through a focus on the present moment and an awareness of current physical and emotional states." Introduction to Gestalt Therapy, Helium.

I always joke that I avoided a mid-life crisis because most all the personal and family issues that might have arisen were more or less dealt with in my 20's. I started paying a lot of attention to my emotional, mental, physical and spiritual states; and how they blended together and what it all meant and who I was and where I was going and --I know this -- I bored the hell out of friends and family with my constant monitoring and questioning of my inner life.

But it was all very gestalt.

The reason I bring this up now, is that I'm dealing with a big enough change in my life that I'm hearkening back to the gestalt message. Our recent windfall has really thrown me off balance.

I had a self image and an approach to life that I liked and which was working for me.

In some ways, this windfall probably only brings us up the actual level of what probably most people thought we were at. It doesn't really change our day to day working life. But it does mean that we aren't on the edge anymore and it means we can have a real retirement at some point. Linda didn't want me to talk about it at all; she doesn't want people to think of us differently. I told her, we aren't that important, and that we are only now really getting to a point in our finances that I suspect most people thought we were already at. That is seems like a lot to us, but everyone I've questioned (a few family and friends) weren't all that impressed.

Still, it really threw me for the first couple of weeks. I was really floundering.

For instance, my image in this blog, is as a scrappy survivor in downtown Bend. A guy who is happy in his job, even though it doesn't pay much.

My first impulse was the draw a firewall between this new resources and my business. To keep them completely separate. But this has proven to be impossible. For all the above reasons; emotional (my urges and fears), physical (ability to take time off), mental (what do I do now?), and even spiritual (I've always been very tight on charity.) It was unrealistic to think I could keep everything separate.

Which brings me back to gestalt. I'm currently going with the flow, trying to figure it all out, how it affects all the different portions of my life. It's not a process I can rush. But it is a process I can consciously monitor, and guide, and try my best to come to the best place.

My business is part of that gestalt whole.

This BLOG is a part of that gestalt whole.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Selling the rowhouse in S.F.

As executor of her sister Lois's estate, Linda has been in the process of selling a rowhouse in San Francisco. (And no, this doesn't make us rich, the bulk of the money goes toward Lois's kids....)

She connected with a very high energy real estate agent; who completely dominated Linda's time in S.F. Linda would call me at the end of the day, totally exhausted by the woman. "I didn't see her eat or drink or do anything else all day!"

The woman talked Linda into renovating the rowhouse. Especially the kitchen, which admittedly needed to be updated. I was a little skeptical; O.K. the house had a few problems, but why spend more money on it? Sell it as is!

Linda put her trust in this real estate agent and another high powered woman, who was going to oversee the renovations and the staging of the sale.

I was in the car once when the real estate agent called and proceeded to explain ad naseum about a problem with a drain, and how it would require a repair and on and on and on. I finally couldn't stand it anymore, and butted in, "Hey, shit happens. Just fix it."

Linda hushed me, and they continued to have another half hour of conversation, which resulted in the decision guessed it, "Fix it."

Anyway, mostly, I've kept out of it.

Good thing.

When we visited S.F., a month or so ago, we dropped by the rowhouse. It was in the middle of repairs, but I could see they were doing a good job. I liked the funkiness of the original layout, but they were definitely probably making it more attractive by updating it. New landscaping, repairs, painting, new kitchen, etc. etc.

I also realized, by seeing it with my own eyes, what an attractive neighborhood it was in. Houses apparently don't come up for sale there, very often. (Linda says it was 5 years since another house on the block came up for sale, though that's a little hard to believe. Certainly didn't see any 'For Sale' signs.) Attractive, but also affordable, at least in S.F. terms. It would be where I would want to live, if I had to live there.

About 10 days ago, they sent us pictures of the results, and Wow, was I wrong. The place looked fantastic. You know how, on the Home and Garden channel they'll show before and after pictures? This looked better than any of those. Amazing transformation.

So it turns out that the people we hired, with their big city high energy, knew their stuff.

Last week, Linda and the real estate agent had a 3 and half hour phone conversation about setting the price. The woman suggested a price upfront, Linda agreed, and they spent the next 3 hours going around the Cape of Good Hope guessed it, arrive at the original price.

The woman's strategy was to price the house almost 10% less than we hoped to get, to get people to make bids and figure the ultimate price would be higher. After watching the Bend market for the last couple years, this seemed a little crazy, but by now the real estate agent had earned some credibility, so we went with it.

They had 50 people show up for the open house last week.

They had 13 offers. All substantially higher than the asking price. The best three offers were mostly in the 12% to 18% higher, range. There were several just as high, but looked like they might run into problems. Even with the money spent, this price will probably be at least 15% higher than we would've gotten selling 'as is.'

Not to jinx it, but this house might sell within a week or two, and at 10% to 15% higher than asking price.

Like I said, it was the kind of San Francisco rowhouse that made the city famous, in a desirable but relatively affordable neighborhood, and I think we lucked into a real estate agent who was more ambitious than we were.

Wish us luck.

Monday, December 14, 2009

One last batch of orders?

The issue I'm struggling with this week, with whether or not to make one last batch of reorders.

I could 'get away with', if you will, not making any orders. Probably wouldn't affect the level of sales too dramatically. I didn't make any firm promises that I would get anything for anyone, though I did allow for the possibility of 'one last order.'

Part of this dilemma is simply trying to figure out how much rationalizing I'm doing, and in what direction.

1.) I have a tendency to order material in advance with the rationalization that I can sell the material earlier rather than later; which pushes my orders into the next month's budget, which then compounds next month's problem. A budget isn't a budget if you don't stick to it.

2.) I have a tendency to over react to the tendency of #1.

3.) I have a tendency to second guess (triple guess?) myself on the tendency #2.



Let me put it this way: have you ever heard of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates?
-Really! In that case, I challenge you to a battle of wits.
-For the princess? To the death? I accept!
-Good, then pour the wine...Inhale this, but do not touch.
-I smell nothing
-What you do not smell is iocane powder. It is odorless, tasteless, dissolves instantly in liquid and is among the most deadly poisons known to man.
-All riight: where is the poison? The battle of wits has begun. It ends when you decide and we both drink and who is right and who is dead.
-But it's so simple. All I have to do is divine it from what I know of you: are you the sort of man who would put the poison into his own cup or his enemies. Now, a clever man would put the poison into his own goblet because he would know that only a great fool would reach or what he is given. I am not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But you must have known that I am not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.
-You've made your decision then?
-Not remotely! Because Iocane comes from Australia. As everyone knows, Australia is entirely peopled with criminals. And criminals are used to having people not trust them as you are not trusted by me. So I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you.
-Truly, you have a dizzying intellect.
-Wait 'til I get going! Where was I?
-And you must have suspected that I would have known the poison's origin, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me!
-You're just stalling now.
-You'd like to think that, wouldn't you? You've beaten my giant, which means that you're exceptionally you could have put the poison in your own cup, depending on your strength to save you, so clearly I cannot choose the wine in front of you. But you've also bested my Spaniard, which means you must have studied and in studying you must have learned that man is mortal, so you wouldhave put the poison as far from yourself as possible, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.
-You're trying to trick me into giving away something. It won't work.
-It has worked! You've given everything away! I know where the poison is!
-The make your choice.
-I will and I choose...What in the world can that be?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Business savings in a Recession?

One paragraph in the Oregonian's story on new Recession Business, really stood out.

"Recessionary economics shake out favorably for fledgling companies in some ways: inexpensive equipment, affordable labor, and better leasing terms from flexible landlords more willing to negotiate. On the flip side, it's tricky to obtain a loan or other start-up capital in this bear market."

That would certainly seem to make sense. But is it true?

1.) "inexpensive equipment." I haven't noticed that new fixtures or equipment have gone down in price. Used fixtures and equipment are always available, boom times or down times, but that is more the choice of the owner.

2.) "affordable labor". Minimum wage is minimum wage. At least in the type of stores profiled, minimum wage is the most likely wage.

3.) "better leasing terms from flexible landlords." Maybe. But with less than .5% vacancy rates in downtown Bend and Lake Oswego, the landlords wouldn't seem to have much incentive. I think there was about a six month to year period where the landlords were worried enough to negotiate. But as the downtown has continued to stay firm, I suspect the savings aren't there much anymore.

They certainly were there 25 years ago. Downtown Bend had more of a 50% vacancy rates. You could get a space with a handshake back then. I suspect it may still be true today, to a lessor extent, in the outlying areas. 3rd St, for instance.

Still, saving 10 or 20% would be an advantage. So that would seem to be the only place that most new businesses could save money. (Don't get too used to it, because landlords will be just as quick to raise rates when things get better....)

On the other hand,

4.) 'utilities and overhead.' I haven't noticed that these rates have gone down much, if at all.

5.)' inventory'. Sure, you can get some cheap stuff, but that's exactly what it is: Cheap Stuff. I haven't noticed that the good product is any cheaper than before. Like used fixtures, cheap stuff is always available, if that's what you want.

6.) 'buyer terms.' If anything, distributors tend to be even tougher on terms during down times than they are during boom times. They'll probably start you off on C.O.D. or with very tight terms. Most discount levels are decided by spending, not by credit worthiness.

Like I said earlier today, I think the advantages of starting a business in a recession are probably more psychological than physical. Being careful, not getting overextended, living within your means, are ideas that are always good, but more likely to be pursued when times are tough.

The worse it gets, the more chances people take.

Interesting article in the Oregonian a couple of days ago, about small business in Lake Oswego. (Below).

If you read the article, I think you can almost substitute "Bend" every time they mention "Lake Oswego," and you wouldn't be far off what's happening here.

They even use the word "counter-intuitive" to explain the phenomenon.

All well and good, but if you'll notice, many of these businesses were started because the owners couldn't find a real job; which ought to have been a warning.

Reading between the lines, it looks like the financing came either from family, or from home equity. Which puts the new owners in a double bind. It's one thing to fall through on a business loan, it's another to lose your home and or lose your parent's home.

New businesses in the downtown core is just great; I'm all for it. It certainly helps my business out to have occupied spaces instead of vacancies. But, it just means that someone is willing to take a chance -- maybe even more willing to take a chance because there are no alternatives -- than because the economic conditions justify it.

Like I said: I'm all for it. As long as the new owners fully understand what they are in for. I suspect it's like parenting -- ignorance is bliss. Some of these new businesses will have the right stuff, and others will flounder, as is true no matter what the surrounding economic conditions.

I think downtown Bend may have had a waiting line for businesses that either wanted to open or to move here. So we've been benefiting from that. And, as I've mentioned before, where else in Bend are you likely to get real foot traffic? (Besides the Old Mill.) So if any place in Bend is going to fill up, it's downtown.

In theory, opening in a recession should give the new owners some clout; in reality, I think the advantages are probably marginal. What they do have, perhaps, is a more realistic appraisal of the economy, and the understanding going in that it will probably be a struggle. And that would probably keep them from being foolish with their finances, and a bit more careful in their approach, and a little more willing to endure the bad times.

Again, I'll use the word 'counter-intuitive'; but that very awareness of the dangers may be enough to get them through.

I should probably mention, opening at the depths of a deep recession is exactly what I did. And for much the same reasons -- no job. The amount of money risked wasn't a killer, but I certainly approached my new business with a great deal of wariness. I think that has served me well, over the years.


A recession marked by new businesses

By Yuxing Zheng, The Oregonian

December 11, 2009, 7:20AM
LAKE OSWEGO -- A peculiar trend emerged here during the depths of the recession: A slew of businesses opened their doors, including about a dozen restaurants.

Helene Rimberg had nurtured the idea of opening her own restaurant for more than a year as a way to combine her passions for international travel, food and wine. "I'd been out of work for a year and a half, and I felt like I either had to go back to work or start this business," said Rimberg, who had spent years as a psychologist at a nonprofit. "In terms of what I could do to go back to work, there wasn't a lot there."

And so, in February, Gusto Bistro & Marketplace opened in Lake Oswego's downtown retail core.

Times like these, it turns out, force us to reinvent ourselves.

It might seem counterintuitive, but recent conditions have swayed a number of new owners to use home equity or cash from corporate severance packages to realize the long-delayed dream of business ownership.

In Lake Oswego, an October retail market analysis commissioned by the city found a 4.8 percent vacancy rate in downtown -- a relatively healthy number in a wounded economy.

Recessionary economics shake out favorably for fledgling companies in some ways: inexpensive equipment, affordable labor, and better leasing terms from flexible landlords more willing to negotiate. On the flip side, it's tricky to obtain a loan or other start-up capital in this bear market.

Rimberg and her husband and co-owner, Doug Boe, took a mortgage out on their Lake Oswego home to open the 1,600-square-foot bistro and shop. They spent weeks laying the floor tiles themselves, painting the walls dandelion yellow and violet, and saving money by doing all the renovations except for the electrical work. The landlord paid to build a wall so Rimberg could lease a more manageable-sized space.

Like other businesses that have opened recently, Rimberg made several adjustments to try to increase her store's chance of survival.

"One thing we hoped is that in creating a business in a fairly affluent community, we would be a bit more recession-proof," Rimberg said. "The other strategy we've tried to employ is having very reasonably priced offerings. We offer high-quality food for a lot less than you find in a lot of other establishments."

The difference quickly became apparent on the marketplace side, where it took seven months to sell the fourth and final bottle of a $29 Italian nebbiolo wine. By comparison, she restocks monthly the $10 bottles of Greek cabernet sauvignon.

Unlike other communities, when the punishing economy forced some Lake Oswego businesses to close, others opened. So far this year, the city has licensed 166 new commercial business and 111 new home businesses. Those numbers are down from last year's 192 for commercial businesses and 124 for home businesses, but still encouraging given the circumstances.

Excluding the financial service businesses fleeing Kruse Way office space, the result has been little net change in the number of retail businesses and restaurants, city and business leaders say.
Three blocks away from Rimberg, Caitlin Massey opened Lakeside Home & Gift in October.

The shop is a reincarnation of the store her mother, Lynne Wintermute, operated for years in downtown before shuttering the doors in 2002. Wintermute had considered getting another job with the worsening economy, so Massey approached her mother about reopening the shop, where Mom is now manager.

"I had always wanted to open a store," said Massey, who grew up working in her mother's shop. "It was a good opportunity. There were a lot of spaces open because of the bad economy. I knew I could do it, and jumped on the chance."

Massey said she got "a good deal on the property" and is hopeful that will help her get through the recession. She's also relying on the store's name recognition with her mother's former customers and Lake Oswego's culture of supporting independent local businesses.

A number of successful businesses that exist today started in recessions, said Bill Conerly, an economic consultant based in Lake Oswego. Now is a better time to start a business than in three years, he said.

"The worst time to start is when the economy looks really strong, because you're likely to pay a lot for rent and for people, and then the economy starts to weaken and you can't support those expenses," Conerly said. "If it's a step you want to make, I wouldn't hold off just because of the economic situation now. The economy is going to get better."

Saturday, December 12, 2009

false dawns, 2.

To continue a post a few day's ago theme about False Dawns. When it comes to planning, it almost doesn't matter what happens at Christmas. Whatever happens, happens. Not much I can do about it now. I'm expecting to pay off all credit card debt, and all bills, and have perhaps a bit of cash I can put toward my IRA. The only question is how much.

But I've already made my pre-orders from Diamond for January, and they are my smallest orders in years. I've been moving more and more away from committing to large pre-orders, and instead putting my money into re-orders. As my inventory has matured and expanded, it's allowed me to have longer shelf life and to less dependent on periodical material that becomes dated. A good book is a good book, and a good game is a good game, and a good graphic novel is a good graphic novel. Sports cards and comics? Don't know until they show up, and then there's very little I can do about it...

(Pre-orders are orders that are solicited in advance. I have no control over when they'll show up, causing constant cash-flow fluctuation and the constant possibility that by the time what you ordered actually shows up, that no one is interested anymore. Re-orders are ordering material that already exists, and which ---by their very nature, if I'm re-ordering it means I've already sold out or that I perceive a demand ---I can accurately predict sales. When I first started this store, nearly 100% of my orders were pre-orders; both comics and sports cards were timely and periodical, and the backstock was so unreliable that I needed to get everything I needed upfront or risk not getting it at all...)

I suspect that nearly 65% of my orders next month will be re-orders, which eclipses the 50% it's been for the last few years.

And half of you completely don't care.

And the other half eyes are glazing....

Friday, December 11, 2009

NIghtmares of out-of-control.

Ever woken up from a series of nightmares and the feeling continues to permeate the morning?

I had my first nightmare of an out-of-control bookstore -- three stories, books everywhere, junk everywhere, employees ignoring it all. Typical. These kinds of dreams are actually useful, because they're warning me that it is too easy for me to take on too much, to overextend. Sometimes, about halfway through my Wednesday shipments, I feel so overwhelmed that I just have to walk away for awhile and do something else. I've got a packed store, with many different product lines, and it seems to me it wouldn't take much to tip my into a situation where I can never catch up.

At least, that's what my subconscious thinks.

My second nightmare was worse. A typical 'ostracism' dream. I have these all the time, being banished, ignored, expelled, ridiculed. I want go into the dirty details. But it is wonderful to wake up and have my wonderful wife saying to me, "I love you."

Anyway, those dreams have thrown me off my stride, so I think this will be it for today.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Downtown Openings and Closings, Update.

I guess it won't be Periwinkle #4. The new store on my street is called Laughing Girls Studio. Too bad we don't still have Wild Tasteful Women on the same street anymore.

That makes one more store opening than closing.

I'm thinking that can't be right, because I know of a minimum of 3 spots that were occupied which are now vacant, and only two spots opened that were vacant that are now occupied (base of Oxford Hotel).

Wait, there's the Oxford Hotel itself.

Still, I'm thinking I might have missed one or two, which is unfortunate because I'd like to make this list as accurate as possible. Help me out here, folks. Any openings or closings? Any I missed?


Laughing Girls Studio, Minnesota St. 12/7/09
Lemon Drop, 5 Minnesota, 11/12/09
The Curiosity Shoppe 11/5/09 25 N.W. Minnesota, Suite #7.
Wabi Sabi 11/4/09
Frugal Boutique 11/4/09
5 Spice 10/22/09
Cowgirls Cash 10/17/09
***Haven Home 10/17/09
Dog Patch 10/17/09
The Good Drop 10/12/09
Lola's 9/23/09
**Volcano Wines 9/15/09
Singing Sparrow Flowers 8/16/09
Northwest Home Interiors 8/5/09
High Desert Frameworks 7/23/09
Wall Street Gifts 7/--/09
Ina Louise 7/14/09
Bend Home Hardware (Homestyle Hardware?) 7/1/09
Altera Real Estate 6/9/09
Honey 6/7/09
Azura Studio 6/7/09
Mary Jane's 6/1/09
c.c.McKenzie 6/1/09
Velvet 5/28/09
Bella Moda 3/25/09
High Desert Gallery (Bend) 3/25/09
900 Wall
Great Outdoor Store
Luxe Home Interiors
Powell's Candy
Dudley's Used Books and Coffee
Game Domain
Subway Sandwiches
Bend Burger Company
Showcase Hats
Pita Pit
Happy Nails


Ivy Rose Manor 8/20/09
**Downtowner 8/18/09 (moving into the Summit location)
Chocolate e Gateaux 8/16/09
Finders Keepers 8/15/09
Colourstone 7/25/09
Periwinkle 6/--/09
**Tangerine 7/21/09 (Got word, they are moving across the street.)**
Micheal Cassidy Gallery 6/15/09
St. Claire Coffee 6/15/09
Luxe Home Interiors 6/4/09
Treefort 5/8/09
Blue 5/2/09
**Volcano Tasting Room 4/28/09** Moved to Minnesota Ave.
Habit 4/16/09
Mountain Comfort 4/14/09
Tetherow Property 4/11/09
Blue Moon Marketplace 3/25/09
Plenty 3/25/09
Downtown Doggie 3/25/09
**King of Sole (became Mary Janes)**
Santee Alley
Bistro Corlise
Made in Hawaii
Stewart Weinmann (leather)
Kebanu Gallery
Pella Doors and Windows
Olive company
Pink Frog
Little Italy
**Pomegranate (downtown branch)**
Pronghorn Real Estate office.
Speedshop Deli
Paper Place
Bluefish Bistro

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

False Dawn?

Every step of this economic cycle feels familiar to me, though sometimes I have to be reminded. "Oh, yeah, " I think to myself. "This is how it happens....this is what it feels like...."

To be clear; I haven't suffered through a 'Great Recession' before. But I have suffered through 50% or more declines in sales because the product I carried were fads. Fads = Bubbles. In their effect, Pogs and Houses, aren't as different as you might think. Beanie babies and Commercial Real Estate; Sports cards and Credit Cards. Trust me.

I'm thinking we're in the False Dawn phase of the cycle.

I'm getting an "Oh, this isn't over," feeling.

Whenever there was a recovery in sales (not always a sure thing) it happened so slowly, so imperceptibly, that we were often well into an uptick before I noticed it or, at least, was willing to acknowledge it. Back in the 80's, we were down so long that it looked like up to us. I wasn't really willing to admit that perhaps the Reagan recession was ending until near the end of the decade.

In other words, it didn't really recover until I'd given up on it ever recovering.

NOTE: I'd already written the above, when I came across the following, from the Times Online:
December 8, 2009

False Dawn for Christmas Spending Spree Hopes.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Well, maybe it's a tad cold....

The Frozen Logger

As I set down one evening in a timber town cafe
A six foot-seven waitress, to me these words did say
"I see you are a logger and not a common bum
For no one but a logger stirs his coffee with his thumb

"My lover was a logger, there's none like him today
If you'd sprinkle whiskey on it, he'd eat a bale of hay
He never shaved the whiskers from off his horny hide
But he'd pound 'em in with a hammer, then bite 'em off inside

"My lover came to see me one freezing winter day
He held me in a fond embrace that broke three vertebrae
He kissed me when we parted so hard it broke my jaw
And I could not speak to tell him he'd forgot his mackinaw

"I watched my logger lover going through the snow
A-sauntering gaily homeward at forty eight below
The weather tried to freeze him, it tried its level best
At a hundred degrees below zero, he buttoned up his vest

"It froze clean down to China, it froze to the stars above
At one thousand degrees below zero it froze my logger love
They tried in vain to thaw him and if you'll believe me, sir
They made him into axe blades to chop the Douglas fir

"That's how I lost my lover and to this cafe I come
And here I wait till someone stirs his coffee with his thumb
And then I tell my story of my love they could not thaw
Who kissed me when we parted so hard he broke my jaw"

(words and music by James Stevens, 1951)

Monday, December 7, 2009

T'aint nothin'

Having stayed home all day yesterday, watching F.B. (Missed the N.O. comeback over Wash.; turned too soon....) I thought the roads would be way worse this morning.

Come on, that t'ain't nothin'.

Reading all the news reports of crashes, I left ten minutes early -- and I got to work 10 minutes early.

Combined with my experience driving back from San Francisco awhile back, I'm fearful of other drivers. I mean, there was a few snow flurries, hardly anything on the road, and yet some nimrod had managed to go completely off the road.

What happens if --no, WHEN -- we have REAL snowfall?

This may be old foggieism; but I could swear we used to get a lot more snow than this, and often.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Small businesses aren't buying the hype.

A couple of very interesting articles about small business, which I've printed below, which combined with the Bulletin's article this morning (Index Reflects Region Still Reeling) ought to give anyone thinking about opening a business in Bend second thoughts.

Thing is, people don't open business based on economic conditions. They open businesses because they want to. Because it's their dream. Because they think they'll do better than everyone else.

How their businesses actually perform, on the other hand, has everything to to do with economic conditions. Which is why there can be such a disconnect between new businesses opening, and how existing businesses are actually performing.

Strange to say, I think we're still benefiting from the froth of the bubble. How long can froth exist without underlying strength? For a very long time indeed. Years. Because plans are made early, and people are reluctant to give up on their plans even when conditions change. Because having started a business, very few people throw in the towel without a fight. Because there is always hope things will turn around.

So the froth, the idea that Bend is a great place to live, that downtown is busy -- that can keep things churning and churning, and spin off yet more dream stores, and on and on.

But eventually, gravity will set in. Eventually coyote will notice there's no ground under his feet. Eventually the steady grind of stagnant or even falling sales will drain the willpower out even the most optimistic owner.

I've been through this before. I seen product lines drop in half, overnight, and yet watched an increase in competition. Made no sense, but the froth created these stores -- and reality eventually pulled them down.

I had to finally recognize that business was never going to return to previous levels. Instead of beating the dead camel trying to get to the next oasis, I'd abandon the poor critter and jump on a donkey instead.

In other words, I adjusted. And I accepted limitations. I accepted that it might take a good long time, and a whole lot of work and effort and stick-to-it-ness to get back to square one. And even more work and effort and hopefully hard won experience to go beyond that.

Read the two articles below, and realize that not only is Bend not better than that, but Bend is going to take much much longer to recover. Read the Bulletin article: "We feel into a very deep hole, and it's going to take a long time to pull out of that."

True enough. But exactly how are we going to do that?

1.) We need a solid replacement, or foundation, for future business.

2.) Even if we find that solid replacement, (by no means certain), it will take a very long time to develop; to fill the hole. (Personally, I think Central Oregon is stuck with tourism and retirement; minimum wage job generators....and I've positioned my store with that in mind.)

Believe me, I'm glad that so many people are willing to open new businesses downtown. It's good for my business. I hope I'm wrong, and they all have a long and prosperous future.

But I do sort of want to have a moment with them. Sit them down. Hand them a coffee to drink, look them in the eye and say, "Um. You realize business is slow right now, right?"

Just that.

Because I really wonder if they have fully thought it through.

November 2009

Economic Confidence Plunges; Low Expectations for the Holidays

November 2009

November Highlights:

  • The mood of small business owners generally has soured in November for three straight years, as economic confidence dropped from October to November in 2007 and 2008. The November 2008 index of 67.5 is the low point for the Watch since it started in August 2006.
  • 52 percent of owners say they have experienced cash flow issues in the past 90 days, up from 44 percent in October. Forty-one percent of owners say they have not experienced cash flow issues, which is the lowest response in this category since the Watch began. The remaining 6 percent said they weren't sure.
  • 53 percent of small business owners see conditions getting worse in the next six months, up from 43 percent in October; while 19 percent report that conditions are improving, a sharp decline from 29 percent in October; 23 percent see conditions as the same, and 5 percent weren't sure.
  • 62 percent of small business owners rate the economy as poor, an increase from 55 percent in October; 30 percent rate it as fair, and 8 percent say it is good or excellent.
  • 53 percent of small business owners think the overall economy is getting worse, up from 44 percent in October but still significantly lower than the 69 percent of owners who felt that way in February 2009, the last time the Watch index was this low. For November; 28 percent say the economy is getting better, down from 35 percent in October; 16 percent see it staying the same, and 3 percent are not sure.

Only 11 percent of Small Businesses Expecting Increased Sales This Year

  • Small business owners have a glum outlook on the holiday season: Only 11 percent expect to see more business this year over last, while 46 percent of them are expecting less business than last year, an increase over the 40 percent who said the same in November 2008; 39 percent anticipate 2009 sales will be about the same as last year, and 4 percent weren't sure.
  • For many small business owners, the holiday season is not necessarily their busiest time. A majority of owners, 56 percent, say that the holiday season falls somewhere in between being their busiest and the slowest time of year, 29 percent say this is their slowest time, and 13 percent say it is the busiest.

Discount Department Stores Still Most Popular for Holiday Shopping

  • This month the Watch also polled 3,000 consumers on issues important to small businesses. When asked to choose from a list of places where they expect to do most of their holiday shopping, they chose discount department stores, 30 percent; department stores, 18 percent; warehouse and club stores, 7 percent; small retail and specialty stores, 7 percent; electronics retailers, 5 percent; some other type of store, 9 percent; not sure, 23 percent. These shopping-preference percentages were little changed from what they were in 2008.
  • When it comes to the Internet, 57 percent of consumers said that they will do at least some of their shopping online this year.

Squeeze on Credit

  • 24 percent of small business owners say that they extend credit to customers, and 73 percent of those that extend credit say that they have customers who have delayed or asked to delay a payment in the last three months. This is largely unchanged from December 2008 when 25 percent said they were extending credit, and 72 percent said that they had customers who delayed or asked to delay a payment.

Helping Out the Little Guy

  • What would you do if that convenient corner market or neighborhood hardware store near you suddenly closed? Did you ever consciously make a point to use a small business in the hope that your patronage would help keep it open? If so, you're in good company – 68 percent of consumers say that they have made purchases at a small business in an effort to keep it from closing.


November 2009

NFIB Jobs Statement

Contact: Melissa Sharp 202-314-2068

Expect Coal in Small Business Stockings

WASHINGTON, December 3, 2009 William C. Dunkelberg, chief economist for the National Federation of Independent Business, the nation’s leading small business organization, issued the following statement on November job numbers based on NFIB’s monthly economic survey that will be released on Tuesday, December 8. The survey was conducted through November 30 and reflects 825 small business owner respondents:

“It now looks unlikely that job creation will cross the ‘0’ line by the end of the year. Small business owners in November reported a decline in average employment per firm of 0.58 workers (seasonally adjusted) during the prior three months, about the same as October’s loss of .52 jobs but down from a loss of 1.26 workers per firm in May. Nine percent of the owners increased employment by an average of 2.3 workers per firm, but 21 percent reduced employment an average of 4.2 workers per firm (seasonally adjusted).

“The job generating machine is still in reverse as November’s report represents the 22nd consecutive month with more small business owners reporting employment declines than employment increases. Sales are not picking up, so survival requires continuous attention to costs – and labor costs loom large.

“Eight percent (seasonally adjusted) of owners reported unfilled job openings, unchanged since August. Over the next three months, 17 percent plan to reduce employment (up one point), and 7 percent plan to create new jobs (down two points), yielding a seasonally adjusted net negative 3 percent of owners planning to create new jobs, two points worse than October. Still more firms are planning to cut jobs than planning to add.

“The largest impediment to new hiring is weak sales. Since January 2008, more owners have reported lower sales (quarter over quarter) in every month, mostly by double digit margins. In November, 15 percent reported gains in sales, but 43 percent reported sales were still declining.

“The consumer is the key to job creation, when businesses have more customers, they will hire more workers. Workers must generate enough sales to pay their salaries, or the firm loses money. Owners won’t pay $30,000 to get a tax credit of, say, $3,000. But little has been done to stimulate the consumer and little is likely to be done, including mitigating the huge uncertainty consumers and owners face from the legislative ‘tax and tax’ agenda.”

Saturday, December 5, 2009

News fodder.

Men of a certain age are probably not going to watch Men Of A Certain Age...


Chris Telfer's "Untapped Millions," in the state budget. Hey, magic money is always good.


You can't walk up Mt. Bachelor? I thought this was Forest Service land. Seems Unamerican. (Besides, you can't tell me it's that big a problem....)

I mean, god forbid people should get some exercise and save money.

But you know what? I think they've stumbled across the solution to the Bend Area Transit budget shortfall. If we ban all walking and bike riding, they would get all the ridership they need! And car dealerships would love it too!!!


Hubble space photo's. They could hire a fantasy artist and get pretty much the same view. I mean, the color enhancement is pretty much fantasy...


The Senator Baucus scandal. Pay back? A warning to other Blue Dog Democrats? I mean, the administration has seemed strangely confident when the numbers seem against them. Does Obama play hardball?


Yes, sir. Destination resorts are the answer to all our problems. Except for bankrupt Tamarack, in Idaho. Or Moonlight Basin, in Montana. Or the Yellowstone Club. Or....?


Really, Bulletin. You're starting to get a little out of control with your headlines again. I mean, today Mt. Bachelor not only got your editorial support, but you gave them top of the front page, to with a "Other people do it, too!" argument. As my Mom would say, "If other people were jumping off a cliff, you would too?" When every other news outlet reported that 13 people were indicted in a real estate scam, you headlined "10 locals". I think that's slicing your slant a little finely.


The article on old surfboards reminds me of the last time I went skiing -- years and years ago, as it happens. But the only skiis I could rent were dinky little things, and I found myself going in circles because I learned to ski on much, much longer skis. Don't actually know if this is still true, or not. Besides, I do like my speed, and longer skiis are better for that.


I can remember a time when there was a serious discussion whether Oregon and Oregon State should be dropped out of the Pac 10 for not being competitive. It was asserted that it was a downhill slide that couldn't be reversed, and the state schools needed to quit embarrassing themselves.


Double Hah!!!!!!!!!!


It looks like CACB has survived another week, despite falling 8.79% on Friday. I wonder how the money raising is going....?


R. Crumb's Book of Genesis is the 1# bestselling graphic novel. And I haven't been able to order it for weeks....If it's unavailable, how can it be #1? Huh?


Christmas Parade Downtown...sorta. I mean, it goes down Wall St. Not that I'm complaining....

Friday, December 4, 2009

'zine culture.

How many of you know what a 'zine is? Raise your hands? Yes? No?

Here's the Wiki definition:

"A zine (an abbreviation of the word fanzine, or magazine; pronounced "zeen") is most commonly a small circulation publication of original or appropriated texts and images. More broadly, the term encompasses any self-published work of minority interest usually reproduced via photocopier on a variety of colored paper stock.

A popular definition includes that circulation must be 5,000 or less, although in practice the significant majority are produced in editions of less than 100, and profit is not the primary intent of publication."

There is also a phenomenon known as 'mini-comics' which are pretty much the same thing. I've carried mini-comics for years, but Zine's I've always thought should be locally done, and for that locals need to do them. (Zines can be more of a catch-all, news and snark and stories and art all together; whereas I think of mini-comics as being story oriented.)

I've had only two young people over the years walk in the door and ask me if I carry Zines. I showed them my mini-comic selection, which was purchased from the last of the indy comic distributors (since defunct) and I told them I'd be glad to carry them, and even buy copies from them.

If comics are a hard sell, zine's are nearly impossible. And yet -- how can you not support such creativity and ingenuity?

O.K. I'm a 57 year old guy, and pretty staid. And yet I'm aware of zines and what they represent, and I pretty sure there is an active 'zine' culture in Portland revolving around art / comics / coffee.

But here in Bend? Mostly you get blank looks. The first girl who came in with a Zine, I told her she should go check out all the coffee shops around downtown, because I was convinced they would have them. She said no.

Still disbelieving, I called a couple of coffee places and got: "What's a Zine?"

A couple years ago, another young lady started coming in with Zines, and I'd give her a buck or two a piece and stick a buck or two price on them and put them with my mini-comics. Her name is Rachel Lee Carman and she's very creative. What's more, she's kept doing it.

I wondered if a Zine culture would startup in Bend.

So far....not so much.

However, Hayley at Between the Covers read one of Rachel's stories, and thought so much of it that she called the Bulletin; resulting in a story by Dave Jasper which is going to be published any day now. (I wish I'd thought of calling the Bulletin...)

I just finished reading two of Rachel's stories: the first is a 'Free' zine titled, KEEPERS OF THE GEMS, starring four young women who protect the gems "The Source of Creativity...." who decide they need to buy new sweaters for "Comic Book Day" (I like it) and leave the gems under the protection of guardian kittens in the Cave of Secrets.

But kittens being kittens and catnip being catnip and villains being villains the gems go astray....

I'm not very good at conveying the light touch and charm of the story.

The second Zine is called, V-D Zine and it's 'Valentine' to a variety of people, from Ira Glass to Oprah to Sean Hannity(!?) ("Dear Sean Hannity, Wow, it's been only a short time since we first met (a month). Remember when you were debunking global warming? I've really gotten to know since then: finding clips of youtube, googling your name and lingering on your squinty-eyed jaw-clenched mug." (Drawing of said-mug) "Already I've developd passionate feelings for you! Feelings I can only fantasize expressing with a knee to the groin."

With a Zine, anything goes -- the only limit is your imagination.

So I'm calling out all the zine-aphiles, and asking you to bring your stuff in. All you need is a xerox machine and a pen and paper and some inspiration...

Patience is hard.

I'd love to jump on the "recovery" bandwagon, but I just don't see it.

One thing is becoming ever more clear to me -- last year really, really sucked. The more time passes, the more perspective can be gained. When I see how weak business is right now, and realize that we're beating last year nevertheless, it gives me a bit of the willies.

It also is gratifying in a "survived a grizzly bear attack" sort of way. Not only didn't I lose money last year, it was one of my most profitable ever. Because I saw it coming, and I really prepared for it, and for once in my career, I stayed patient and disciplined in my spending.

Profits are great, and all. Profits are the real point. Still, sales took a hit and I don't like that and I'd much rather be making bigger profits from higher sales than in more efficient operations. (Or maybe I'd like to be making even bigger profits from higher sales AND more efficient operations.)

Those bad times were just what we were living, and while dealing with it, there isn't a whole lot of historical comparisons. Or the historical comparisons are meaningless while you are living them.

It's like looking back at an illness, and realizing just how sick you really were.

Anyway, the fever may have broken, but I'm still sweating.

It's possible business could get better; it much more probable that if it does get better it won't be noticeable at first.

Bottom line, there are plenty of dangers out there still to play out. So it seems prudent to me to expect at least one or two of them to happen. Not to mention, I've always felt it would take Bend a couple of extra years, so even if a sustained recovery is underway in the rest of the country, that doesn't mean it's happening here.

So as much as I'd love to jump on the bandwagon, I think I'll hunker down for another six months and then take another reading of the economic landscape. See what happens to the credit card industry, and what happens with commercial real estate.

Pegasus Books is in good shape. But I don't want to jump too far ahead of the real world. It can be hard to live within a constrained budget, but I can always -- always-- order more stuff if I see a real recovery.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

November sales results.

This was unexpected.

When I actually did the numbers, we were up in every category; comics, cards, games, toys, books.

Except one. Magic cards.

We were down 75% from last year and from last month. -75%. That is a terrible number, and puts me in a quandary as to what to do with the next wave. Which is coming in the first of February, 2010, but for which orders are due now.

Are the sales to Magic just down overall?

Or is it just a statistical variation fluke?

Or has my competition so thoroughly trounced me?

Thing is, I'm not going to change things. I'm not going to start hosting tournaments, or providing playspace. I made one concession to the new circumstances; I opened many more packs this last time around to sell singles.

But if this is the result, I think I'll go back to the old way of doing things.

It isn't so much that I resent the lower sales, it's that I resent having diverted too much of my budget into a product line that isn't producing.

Since boardgames and books and comics continue to increase, I'd be better off putting my money into them.

The answer will be: I'll go back to the quantity of Magic cards I've been pre-ordering for the last 5 years or so, and let the so called "shortages" happen if they happen. I'm not going to respond the threat of shortages by over-ordering. My gamble didn't pay off.

I'll have boxes and packs for sale as always. But I'm going to stick to retail price which will save me from having to order too much, and sell at too low of margins. Sales may drop even further, but so be it....

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Say, wha?

Contrast these two headlines.

1.) From National Real Estate Investor, 11/25/09.
To Buy or Not to Buy— Moody’s Weighs In on Real Estate Outlook.

Compass broker Darren Powderly, an author of the Compass Points report, said the stabilization is a good sign.

“We're not seeing the death spiral of dramatic increases in vacancies and lower rental rates ... (so) I think we're getting close to the bottom, if not the bottom,” Powderly said.

So maybe Bend is different?

If it's different, it's different in a way that isn't in our favor. First of all, the graph shows a flattening over the last two quarters, hardly a sign of longterm stabilizing. At least, I'd be unwilling to call it over because of one quarter.

The good news is that 39 businesses have opened in Downtown Bend since I started my Opening and Closing List; the bad news is 39 businesses have closed in Downtown Bend. Hardly a sign of stability, though it may be a sign of wishful thinking on the part of new business owners. As a general proposition, I suspect that any retail district is healthier with older, established businesses than with all new businesses.

I don't think we're out of the woods in any meaningful way.

Especially Bend. Too many factors working against us.

The first half of next year will tell the story.