I've been thinking a lot about the matter of scale.
It's been bothering me ever since that nice Victorian-style house on the corner of Mirror Pond was torn down, and replaced with a Jabba the Hutt monstrosity with its belly hanging out over the river.
Like my first sighting of a Hummer, it was a harbinger of things to come.
Linda was saying that she "Kind of liked" the Franklin Crossing building. When I looked closely, I decided I liked the first two stories of the building, which has simple brick facing -- before it rears its ugly head on the third and fourth and fifth stories.
But the biggest problem is that it is just so out of scale with the rest of the buildings on that block. Whose design I prefer. Small town America. Versus -- what?
Pretentious and overweening design.
Same could be said for several other of the new buildings downtown.
I don't expect everyone will agree, or have the same taste as me, but that's how I feel.
Merenda was another example of something that I thought was out of scale for Bend.
Another example is more recent and pertinent. DiLusso has closed their Galveston location. Why does this ring a bell? Because Dilusso bought out another business that I thought was out of scale (and which our county commissioners in the infinite wisdom saw fit to loan a buttload of money): Royal Blend Coffee.
I thought at the time that that DeLusso was taking on an outsized business, and adding it to their own business, that made it even more problematic. I don't know the reasoning behind the scenes, but it just seemed too much for a local.
The big chain stores, of course, Know No Scale. They build as big as the local community allows them to build, with a generic architecture that apparently appeals to the majority of consumers. (Old Mill, Factory Outlet, Forum Shopping Center, and Cascade Village.)
But if you're a local business, you probably better have a pretty good handle on what the local economy will provide you.
I'm convinced that most newcomers totally and completely overestimate the scale. They look at the population of Bend, they compare it to communities that have same sized populations, and if those communities have two of something, and Bend has one, they see an opportunity.
Or if Bend's outlet is smaller than the outlet in the other community, they see a chance to be bigger and better.
Problem is, I'm convinced Bend -- mostly because if its isolated location, as well as other factors like having no Interstate, no real four year college, and mostly minimum wage industries -- faces unique challenges.
Above a certain minimum, I suppose, just about any business can survive -- if it has the proper scale. Too big, and you're playing catch-up on finances from the beginning. Too small, you can always ramp up.
The psychology of Bigger is Better doesn't always work for the little guy. Because, you know....you're the LITTLE GUY!!!
Certainly, it's possible to go fairly big and succeed. I always have Deschutes Brewery as an example, but most of the time I think one would be more prudent to plan on a smaller scale, and then grow the business.
Finally, another reason to start humble and then grow is that -- unless you have actually run a retail business -- you may not be aware of the true customer counts.
People often shop at the same time -- weekends, Christmas, and so on. They look around and see crowds of people just like them. What they don't see is that just about every business has 'down' times, when it's pretty quiet.
It's supposed to average out.
But because they have in their heads the image of busy stores they see on T.V. and movies, they think it's just a steady flow of customers. The last few years have been completely misleading about how much business is normal for Bend. I suspect if you want to get a reasonable estimate of sales over the next five years, you'd be better off looking at the numbers from, say, 1998 to 2003.
So it can be a real shock to have an hour of twiddling your thumbs. Especially, if you built out of scale.
(I do have to point out that there are exceptions: any smaller, and I think the Bookmark wouldn't have worked. Like I said, there is a certain minimal size needed for the business model.)
6 days ago