Monday, November 30, 2009


"Combat Shopping." Term I heard for Black Friday. I like it.

I've posted my doubts about Black Friday every year on this blog. I simply don't believe you can't get similar deals later.


Why am I not surprised to find Upper Deck advertising on an online card dumping site?

Major League Baseball and the NBA have both dropped Upper Deck.

It couldn't happen to a nicer group of guys. Heh.

Upper Deck has always been dodgy. It's nice to know that karma has finally caught up to them.

It only took 20 years.


In the same vein, Image comics recently released a title called 'Image United' which brings back the original 6 founders of Image comics. It's supposed to be a celebration of the founding of Image.


I'd like to forget it ever happened.

These guys were arrogant and irresponsible. But what was worse, they were completely inept.

Most of their comics stunk, frankly. They were designed for the 'investor' crowd. (Where have you gone, Investor Crowd. Our nation turns it's lonely eyes to you.)

They completely bungled their scheduling, causing me huge problems with my cash-flow that I almost didn't survive.

So..for this 'Celebration' .I ordered just one copy of each creator's cover, the lowest amount I could get away with. guessed it....they screwed it up. I got five covers, two of a cover I'm unlikely to sell, and none of the cover I was most likely to sell.

They haven't changed much.

(O.K. O.K. maybe I'm a little hard on them. They created some good comics, too. They created some memorable characters, which later (more talented) creators fleshed out. And they have a nice little niche today, of good comics. So they have changed. But I still don't have fond memories of the original bunch.)


Tiger, Tiger, Tiger. The media is not a golf course...

Marriage is a hole in one, Tiger. A hole in ONE!



One in eight Americans on food stamps? It's looking more like Bread and Circus's Rome all the time, isn't it?


See, here's the thing. If you are going to try to sell condo's, don't build them over apartments for low income housing...


Really, now. Was there any point in the planning for Juniper Ridge where anyone thought a four year college situated there was likely?


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Here, there, and everywhere.

The Beatles wrote some good songs.


I dreamed I had Japanese toilet paper.

No, I don't know what that means.

I dreamed I had an Arabic language Previews (my comic ordering form); and that I was testifying in Congress about it.

And no. I do not know what that means -- except that it's ordering weekend.


Apparently, Wabi Sabi has opened, over on Brooks St. near the Pine Tavern, and it's all Japanese stuff.

I can see some of you rolling your eyes, but you know what? It isn't as crazy as it sounds. They'll have a strong reaction from the Japanese-philes; and the material is unique and interesting enough to probably garner a curiosity purchase from most browsers.

It's apparently not as Otaku oriented as I had expected; not much manga or anime. (Wiki: OTAKU: "... a Japanese term used to refer to people with obsessive interests, particularly anime, manga, and video games.")

Which means there is still someone out there who has expressed an interest in opening a comic shop downtown.

I'm hoping the Wabi Sabi people willl be friendly; and send people my way who ask for Otaku stuff, and I can send all my Otaku customers their way.


I can just see it. The Desert Sun guys scam a bunch of money and buy two Dodge Vipers. Someone takes them aside and says, "Dudes. Vipers are so redneck!"

So they go out and buy a Ferrari....


Every time they profile a family in need in the paper, I have the opposite reaction I'm supposed to have. I think I'm supposed to feel compassion, but I just see them wasting money, mismanaging their money, being incredibly unwise. And sure enough, the Mom is shown smoking a cigarette. Her excuses -- paying 900.00 a month for a motel room because she can't save the money for a down payment for cheaper lodging; buying only microwavables; and so on....are just hard to take.

It's like saying:

"I only eat steak, because the only restaurant within walking distance is a steak house."

"I only drive a new car, because there isn't a used car lot near by."

"I had to buy the big screen T.V., because it's the only one the fits the empty space in my motel."

But I suppose if they had brains, or willpower, or common sense, they probably wouldn't be in that position in the first place.

But, damn. I just want to take that money and show them how to handle it...except, they'd probably be right back where they started the minute they were on their own.


So Black Friday sales were down .5%? Baloney. Stuff and Nonsense. They have no possible conceivable way of really knowing that. Hell, they were talking about Black Friday being better by 2:00 in the afternoon!

No one asked me.

Nor, I suspect a single store in Bend. Or Redmond. Or anywhere else around here.

It's putting too fine a point on a basically unknowable number.


We're open on Sundays again. I'm hoping we won't have to start from scratch again. Last time, it took years before enough people knew and it paid off.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Black Friday results.

I'm writing this on the morning of Black Friday, before I go to work.

I'll update at the end of the day.

My expectations are very low, today. For years now, the big boxes have clamped a lock on this weekend's sales. Downtown Bend gets pretty good foot traffic, but at the same time, for some reason I've never understood, my regulars tend not to think of my store as a Christmas shopping kind of place.

The reason I'm writing this in advance is because this a game of expectations. It can be a real heart breaker if you expect too much of this day. I've learned over the last few years to treat it as a normal day.

Anyway, I'm even for the month, sales vs. costs. Not as good as being ahead, but better than being behind. I'm also currently 10% better on a daily average than I was last year; which considering how slow this month is, shows how dreadful last year was.

So I'm going to just relax and take what comes...

O.K. The day lived down to my expectations. I hit my low projection, which was 50% better than average. To put that in context, I used to almost always at least double average and sometimes triple and quadruple. This year's total wasn't even as good as the preceding Wednesday.

I'm just not willing to blow out my inventory. I'm sticking to my prices. And if that means lower sales, so be it.

The media is trumpeting a better Black Friday.


That may or may not be true. But it doesn't affect how I approach the season. I'd rather have lower sales and a small profit, than higher sales and stray into red.

Personally, I doubt Black Friday was all that great. Asking a retailer how sales are is like asking a real estate agent if you should buy a house. You'll get the answer you deserve.

I've pretty much decided this is going to be a long haul, and the trick will be to stay in the black month after month.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Hanging in there.

I wrote the following about a year and a half ago. At the time, I thought it might seem too egotistical. know what? it seems truthful to me. And more true than ever. I've now blogged for 3 straight years, I've not missed a day of blogging since I started, and I've written over 1600 entries.

As follows:

It's funny. Without meaning to, I've exhibited one of my major personality traits with this blog.

I tend to be...dogged. Tenacious. Nose to the grindstone. Steady.

The same way I write this blog, every day, is the same way I approach my business, or indeed, most things I do. I just keep doing them again and again and again.

I'm not saying I do this with a dour, heavy touch. Sometimes it's barely perceived by others. But I'm steadily moving in a certain direction, or adding brick by brick by brick.

It's never noticeable to other people at first, but I just keep a'comin' and a'comin'. What I do isn't flashy, just steady and reliable and built of small parts.

I don't give up very easily. I don't tend to make big changes. Things change around me all the time, but I'm usually living in the same place, with the same family, and at the same job for days, months, years, decades.

I think people do tend to underestimate me, for a long time, but it doesn't seem to matter. I simply outlast them, and it doesn't matter what they think.

I love my routines. I keep things simple. I do just a few things at a time. But I keep doing them.

I'm not saying this is all a good thing. I've probably missed a whole lot of spontaneous-ness. I've missed lots of exciting changes, and traveling, and experiences.

But I've also missed lots of turmoil.

Frankly, I don't have to be as good or as smart or as strong or as charming....I just keep doing the whatever it is I'm doing and sticking to it. I'm the turtle and I don't mind when hares go flashing by. I know I'll find them sleeping by the road, and saunter right past them.

If it's something I want to do, I can spend many years preparing and then...with what seems sudden to everyone else, I do them. But I've been thinking and mulling about them forever.

But it's got to be something I want to do. It's almost impossible to get me to do anything I don't want to do. But as long as it's my own idea, I can really be very patient and paced and measured.

I can get blown off course, just like everyone else. But I tend to trend back fairly fast.

And just keep doing it. Like this blog.

Day after day.

And the little bits add up to a life.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy................3rd Year Anniversary.

Coincidentally, I started Best Minimum Wage Job a Middle-Aged Guy Ever Had on November 26, 2006.

Hard to remember now, that I actually started a few days before Bend Bubble 2 did; we were both spin-offs from Bend Economy Man's initial blog. We turned out to be more right than wrong about our warnings; which at the time seemed somewhat outrageous, and certainly wasn't being said by anyone in the mainstream media. Paul-doh has had enough, apparently, but I'm just going to keep posting merrily along.

I can't say it's always easy to write; but it isn't hard either. Along with that, of course, is that I'm not always (usually? ever?) funny, or insightful, or rockin' the scene. But it is what it is. As long as I keep enjoying doing it.

HBM mentioned that he thought Paul-doh would be back, that he was addicted to blogging. I think addicted is the right word. I know in my case, my day wouldn't be complete without me saying something opinionated.

I wrote a somewhat egotistical post about blogging about a year and a half ago, and put off posting until I hit some major milestone; but it's Thanksgiving and not the right time. I think I'll go ahead and post it tomorrow while everyone's distracted with Black Friday.

So for now, I'm just going to say to all and sundry -- Happy Thanksgiving!!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Linda and I watched a Nova program last night about dreams.

Dreams have always been one of Linda's interests; she even put on some dream workshops in the '90's.

So before I went to bed, I decided I was going to try to remember my night's dreaming when I woke up. This is what I remembered in the morning:

Linda and I are on one our little road trips, this time to Boise. I see her throw a soda cup out the window. "Did you just throw your soda cup out the window?" I ask. She gets a sheepish look, and says yes, and I start to ball her out and she says, "Quit telling me what to do."

We get to Boise, and Linda tells me to get the keys to the motel room. I walk in and the Indian guy behind the counter smirks and says, "You don't have a reservation." I insist that my wife called, and he says, "Yes, she inquired, but she didn't book the room."

So I go off wandering the streets of Boise, which are all torn up and chaotic, and I see a sign to a Ramada Inn. I follow the sign to base of a very steep hill, but there is no motel. There are these incredibly steep steps that switch back and forth up the hill, and a button at the bottom that says, "Push for help."

I keep pushing the button, but nothing happens. I look up that steps and see at the very top this incredibly luxurious hotel. I see some kids playing on the steps, and then Linda is there and says, "Oh, yes. These steps are dangerous and management refuses to do anything about it."

Just then, a hotel worker comes down and starts sawing off the sides of the steps, and I'm thinking, 'That makes it even more dangerous.'

I wake up, and to me, the meaning is pretty clear. The steps to riches are long and dangerous, but you can't take any sidesteps to get there. There are no shortcuts.

I tell Linda my dream, pretty proud of my little humdrum escapade and my neat little interpretation. It's also pretty clear that I'm worried that I've bullied Linda a little too much about this whole frustrating legal process that she's going through as executor.

Then she proceeds to tell me her dream.

"My dream was a little different."

"I dreamed I was one of 30 young virgins, who have been captured by villains. The women are using steel wool to take of the hair -- down there -- so that they can seem younger, because the villains are killing the older women. (Linda's correction: she says the Men were using the steel wool to make the women seem younger because they are going to sell them to another group of men. The women are being raped and tortured.)

"I manage to escape and I cut the throats of the guards. I don't see myself doing it, but I know that I have.

"I find the leader, and I somehow manage to tie him up, and I take the steel wool to him. He is begging for mercy. (Linda's correction, she says, "Did you show the women any mercy...)

"I tell him, 'I'll show you mercy!' and I take out a gun and shoot him."

I just kind of stare at her for a moment.


"Yeah," Linda says. "I woke up and couldn't believe how bloodthirsty it was. was a hero dream."

Linda is often the hero of her dreams, saving innocents.

"Are you ... a tad mad at men right now?" I ask. Like me? I mean, if ever there was an emasculating dream!

"No," she says. "I'm not mad at men. Just mad at men who hurt women...."

Linda's dreams are incredibly vivid, and almost always tell a story. Amazing. One can never upstage her dreams -- her brothers used to accuse her of making them up, they were so storylike, with her as the action hero.

Mine tend to be ostracism dreams, or wandering lost in the big city type dreams. Still, humdrum or not, I going to start trying to remember them. When I was in the throes of depression, (through much of the 1970's) I used to sleep 10 or 12 hours a day and had incredibly vivid dreams.

The program last night said that depressives seem to dream more REM sleep, which can reinforce negative feelings.

That's not what I remember. My dreams always seemed positive, in contrast to my actual life. It was like I was living two lives. And it seemed to me that they reinforced my hopeful feelings, because unlike most clinical depressives I've heard of, I was always convinced I would come out of it. (And I've not had any recurrence in the last 30 years, thank god.)

When I was writing full time, I came to count on my dreams for solutions to story problems. I'd wake up, and whatever was blocking me the previous day was often solved. I even began my second book with a dream I had.

I've never believed some of the research that says that dreams are meaningless. If nothing else, I just got too many answers in my writing days to believe that.

I think it's time to start paying more attention to them again.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

How low can they go?

Here's a statement to reckon with:

"Our company is based on low prices. Even in books, we kept going until we were the low-priced leader. And with will do that in every category if we need to."

Raul Vazquez, president and chief executive of (This mornings Bulletin.)




Talk about laying down the gauntlet.

I should remind myself of this statement every time I complain about comics being such a small industry. Yes, comics are a small industry and as such only provides about 60% of the revenues I need, but it is the base of my business. All the other 7 or 8 product lines are 'sidelines' and provide the other 40%. It would be difficult to make it on only sidelines. As it turns out, it's fortunate comics are also relatively difficult to sell, taking up space and energy and organization for very little return. To a very small audience. So far, the big boys haven't quite figured out a way to do it. So far.

Yet, I think that may be the future of a store like mine. Assembling together enough unique product that Walmart can't quite take it all. Hard work, that.

"...we kept going...until we were the low-priced every category..."

Does anyone think through the logic of such a statement? Where do those cost-cutting savings come from? Material? Labor? Transportation?

Because it has to come from somewhere. Either the cost cutting comes from the suppliers, or their own operations, or from the material in the product itself.

I had a 'customer' in yesterday, who occasionally buys the supplies for sports cards he can't get anywhere else, but never....never, ever...actually buys anything worthwhile from me. (Supplies are a courtesy, not a profit center.) He was complaining about the card sleeves he had bought from Walmart.

"They're rejects," he said. "Really low quantity."

"Well, you know," I ventured, into dangerous territory. "You're not quite getting the deals you think you are on anything else, either." I proceeded to inform him of the "Home Team Advantage" program that Topps has for hobby stores, guaranteeing a higher rate of autographs, etc. etc. etc.

I lost him right away. He had the example of crappy sleeves right in front of him, but wasn't ready to extrapolate from that. It still hadn't quite entered his thinking that maybe, just maybe, he was getting lower quality on everything else he was buying from Walmart.

Next book I'm going to read is CHEAP, THE HIGH COST OF DISCOUNTS. Even though I suspect it may be disheartening reading.

I believe the publishing industry, which is already in trouble, is being forced into very dangerous territory.

What's the most likely result of Stephen King's latest book being sold for $9.00 at Amazon, Walmart and Target?

That these stores become an even bigger slice of the publishing pie.

And what are they likely to do with that clout?

Well, we already know what Walmart is going to do. They've told us. They'll drive the prices of books down. And down. Until they are the "low-priced leader."

And the publishing industry will have to agree. Because it's more than possible that Borders won't survive this; or any number of independent bookstores; and I wouldn't think Barnes and Nobles is going to do so well, either.

I won't be buying wholesale copies of Under the Dome for 24.00 from my distributer, which extended to every other independent retailer can't be helping them much. And so on, up and down the line.

How many best-sellers can I ignore before I become irrelevant? So do I buy and lose money? Do I buy, and explain to my customers that they have to pay 4 times as much from me, but, gee, I'm such a nice guy?

It all seems so self-destructive to me. To our culture. To our economy.

But, hey. What do I know?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Just what's going on.

Sunday felt like my first real day off in a long time.

I feel a need to get back to my core interests, one of which is reading, and I've been on a bookish jag lately and it feels good.

Liz opened the store yesterday. Don't know how well she did -- probably not too very, what with the snow. I'm hoping that I can earn enough on Sundays to pay for most of the employee wages -- not counting Cost of Goods, which since I'm not probably changing my ordering levels, probably don't matter. (Yes, if I sell an evergreen product on a Sunday, I probably should subtract it from the total -- which is one of the reasons I was willing to drop Sundays....oh, hell, it's complicated.)

Also got my personal room squared away. My family commissioned a painting of my Mom's garden on Roanoke Avenue before she died. My sister Tina has made copies, prints that look like an oil painting, for all the kids, and I put mine up on the wall yesterday. It is very evocative of that 'lost garden' and very nostalgic. I need to get the info about the artist and what the painting represents, and have it taped to the back and pass it along to my kids.

We were going to have Thanksgiving dinner at the Pine Tavern, but Tina's condition has worsened and her daughter Mattie flew home from Chicago, so we'll probably get the turkey somewhere else and have it at her house. Tina's MRI was clear, but she's having difficulty, and they don't really know what's causing it. It's tough to see my strong, vibrant sister laid so low; and I was so angry at myself for not understanding what she was trying to say to me. I felt like I was letting her down. It's hard because I just want to hang out with her, but she gets tired. She seems at peace listening to her friends and family jabber around her.

This month at the store, I've sort of let nature take it's course. Too much else going on. Sales are way down, and it may be my worst month since the beginning of the downturn. I don't think it's because I've taken my eye off the ball -- I'm still fully engaged, and I'm there 5 days a week, so it's not like I'm slacking. I'm thinking that a real recovery hasn't arrived, despite my good September and early October, and I'm now preparing for next year as though it will be at least as bad as this year.

I'll have more to say about that at the end of the month. I got a small windfall from Linda, and so financially I'm pretty solid, but still....I'm kind of disappointed.

I made a huge boardgame order this Christmas, especially of the main three games, Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan, and Carcassonne, and all the spinoffs. I'm hoping to see a repeat of the demand I saw this summer, and if it doesn't happen I'll be well stocked for next year. As I said, I ordered one case (six boxes) of Magic too much; about 20% too much, which is a quantity that will probably take me though the next year to sell. But I really didn't want to get caught short.

My planning has been a bit different. Because our financial situation has changed, I no longer feel the need to make so much money that I pay for my IRA, my taxes, AND enough money to retire on. Now I NEED to make enough money for my overhead and living, and my taxes, and I WANT to make enough for my IRA, but I'm not as concerned with making more money beyond that. So that gives me the freedom to hire my little employees. The hours are still less than what my previous employee was doing; but it should give me the freedom to get away for a few days at a time, and maybe even a week in the summer.

The relative security changes the dynamic somewhat -- for instance, ordering enough product for longer periods of time, making sure I don't run out. That's a real luxury, but not a foolish luxury as long as it's legitimate product. As long as I don't make speculative purchases, it should help the store in the long run.

I managed, once again, to receive a huge graphic novel order in and find space for it. I seem to have a real talent for consolidation, for finding space I didn't think I had. But, damn, is the store packed.

Just what's going on.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Turning Point.

I'll be keeping this entry short and directing those of you with stout hearts and strong stomachs and feeble minds and a hazy grasp on political correctness over to Bend Bubble 2 for Paul-do's last Rant.

Don't know why he's so eager to quit. Seems like he has much to say still; and say and say and $&^^^#&% say.

I guess I'm the last of the Bend bubble bloggers, now.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Never mind the Viper.

I don't know about the rest of you guys, but I had several different people during the boom years tell me I should get 'into' the housing game. I suppose, since I own a business, they actually thought I had money.

Anyway, about the time someone like me is told I should get 'into' something, is about the time someone like me shouldn't get 'into' something.

People were telling me it was stupid of me to be leasing a store space instead of buying. But even then I was aware that the time to buy commercial real estate was looonnnggg past.

If someone tells you it's "easy", run don't walk the other way....

I feel really fortunate that I had a real estate guy lead me to a good mortgage broker and I got the standard 30 year fixed rate with taxes and insurance included. I wasn't all that aware of the dangers back then, but I knew I wanted a 'fixed' rate.

I was also fortunate that because we started shopping in January, 2004, with snow still on the ground, we were more or less paying 2003 prices -- the big run-up in prices started only a couple of months after we finalized the purchase.

Our home equity line of credit, (a year and half later) however, was a little too manipulated. Interest only for five years -- we're fortunate that we'll be able to pay it in full before it comes due. I'm intending to pay off our house in 15 years, instead of 30. And I'm going to absolutely insist that I be allowed to make two payments per month. I've asked over the phone, but nothing came of it.

Handing them a big check ought to have a salutary effect. But I'll keep going up the channels until I get it done.

All this is a roundabout way of commenting on the recent arrests of Desert Sun people.

If there is one thing that owning my own business has taught me is that nothing is easy; that immediate gratification usually has a higher price in the long run. I think there was a lot of smudging of economic details (doing it on a computer you don't see the tale-tell erasures on the income line) going on just about everywhere by just about everyone.

How bad do you have to be to stand out in that out of control system?

Bad enough to drive around in a Ferrari and a Viper.

How stupid do you have to be to be caught?

Stupid enough to buy a speed boat.

Selling houses. In Bend.

Yeah, no one would notice that.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Oh....NOW I see.

What can one know about a town theseadays, just driving around?

I think maybe in the old days it was a bit easier. There would be the downtown district, usually consisting of retail; surrounded by a halo of churches and old government buildings, then housing and rentals. In the heights and along the river would be money; and across the railroad tracks would be light industrial and poorer housing.

That sound about right?

When I say we stayed in Vallejo, that was just a zip code. Really, it was in an interstate exit, with box stores and newer retail.

Vallejo itself, when we finally found it, was pretty sad. We stopped for coffee at Starbucks (my first experience -- very impressive), and that again was in a little upscale conclave. Sub-divisions have become the real towns.

What I noticed -- and if I'm wrong, I'll be glad for anyone to enlighten me who knows Northern California better than me -- is that downtowns were either completely run down, or completely upscale. No in-betweens. Run down or shuttered stores, lots of antique (junk) stores; lots of iron bars in the windows. Or the opposite -- upscale touristy type stores.

Most of the traffic was in the areas that are equivalent to 3rd St. here in Bend -- strip malls and chains. Lots of cookie cutter mass market centers. And I do mean, they look EXACTLY the same no matter what town you go to.

San Francisco didn't feel comfortable to me until we got out of the downtown district, and especially the red light (by that, I mean porn shops and hock shops) and mission districts, and got close to Lois's house.

Towns, too, seem to divide between upscale and run down. Napa and Benicia were upscale, Vallejo was run-down. Downtown Napa has been converted into a little Big Box center, and didn't appeal to me at all.

We finally found a local who knew something, and who could give good directions, and we found the only bookstore in all of the Napa valley, or in Vallejo, or in Fairfield, or the surrounding areas; according to both the locals and the yellow pages. Everywhere we went, we got the same answer: "There 'used to be' a bookstore..." It's very possible that the locals just don't know; but the Yellow Pages has a free listing, and there weren't any bookstores in there....

Hard to believe that there isn't an old book exchange or maybe just a small type used bookstore run by a semi-retired person or something. I suppose the answer could be that everyone drives into S.F. proper, but with traffic the way it is, that seems crazy.

Copperfield Books in Napa was nice, and apparently they sell used books in their Santa Rafael store, which we didn't get to. But there still appeared to be about half a million or more souls unserved by a used bookstore. And yet little old Shasta had two of them.

To get into the more politically incorrect observations; the minority I expected to see, Hispanic, I didn't much see. But like the blind monks examining an elephant, I'm sure there were many parts I didn't see or observe. Lots and lots of Asians in San Francisco, and Vallejo seemed very black.

The weather was moderate for the whole trip; but it wasn't nice enough to make up for the traffic.

I know these probably aren't terribly original observations; but they come from a native Oregonian whose probably only been to that area half a dozen times in my life.

Coming back to Bend, you can't help but notice how clean and nice it feels. Even 3rd St.

Oh...Now I see.

I can totally understand why Californian's want to move here.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A-wandering S.F.

Well, it's good to get out of town and visit someplace very different to get a perspective.

As I said yesterday, my memory of the trip to San Francisco will be traffic, traffic, traffic. I'll never complain about traffic in Bend again. I'll never ask where people learned to tailgate again.

Of course, most people probably don't travel 1200 miles in three days, either. But still....traffic. I would so want out of there....

I also am reminded that I seem to have very little travel stamina. Amazing that people travel so much without wearing themselves out while they 'vacation.' But again, the 1200 miles.

Linda's new car has plenty of juice, and drives very smoothly. I finally became a convert to auto-pilot (cruise control) on the way back. However, it seems to me to be a recipe for napping: adjustable seats, cruise control, HEATED seats -- all it is missing is a massage vibrator.

We finally turned on the stereo about halfway back, and the music was great, but I still like the silence more. We forgot to take any CD's.

The car had 150 miles on it when we bought it, and I joked to Linda that someone had returned the car because the radio only brought in Christian stations. I mean, I'd be listening to some peppy, or rocky tune, that I didn't recognize, and finally realize it was Christian rock. Which to me, is a sheep in wolf's clothing.

What's with that?

Trouble is, I haven't listened to commercial radio for so long, I don't actually know what they play. Finally settled on a 'oldies' station, but when they started playing too many bland songs in a row, turned it off.

We left Bend around noon on Sunday, though Linda was itching to get going sooner. She had booked a room at a Comfort Inn in Vallejo, because she didn't want to face the freeways of S.F., looking for our turnoff, at night.

As we approached the California border, I asked if they still at the "Fruit Control" stations. Linda said, "Yeah, I had an apple and banana, and they said those were O.K. They aren't the fruit they're looking for."

This kept going through my head as I approached the station, so I rolled down my window and I Waved my Hand at the young female ranger girl, and said, in a portentous tone, "These are not the fruit you're looking for."

The cute ranger girl blinked, and grinned fixedly, and said, "Oh....O.K."

"Move along..." I said.

"Oh...." she said, backing up an inch or too. "O.K. then!"

Probably not very funny, but Linda and laughed for a good 20 miles afterwards.

We try to visit as many bookstores as we can on these trips, so we stopped in Shasta, which is a Sisters-like town, and checked out the two stores there. Then turned off in Dunsmuir and checked it out.

The traffic really is amazing down there. Here it was, Sunday night, and the freeway was packed. 2 lanes turned into 3 lanes into 4 lanes into 5 lanes into 6 lanes. I didn't know they had 6 lane freeways.

We found our motel pretty easily, and tried to activate the air conditioner though the clerk thought we were crazy. In fact, when we went by the desk in the morning, the guy had his heater blasting even though it felt like a nice fall day outside. In fact, it was perfect weather as far as I'm concerned -- not too hot, not too cold.

As I said yesterday, we drove into the financial district of S.F. the next morning, checked out the safe deposit box, and then drove toward Lois's place. We had hamburgers at a place called Tower Burgers -- best burger I've had in years.

Then met the 'stager' at Lois's place. In my opinion, the stager was becoming more of a renovator. My own feelings was that Lois had a 'frozen in time' townhouse, with all kinds of funky features -- from the '50's and 60's -- and my instinct would've been to play up those features, instead of changing them. The remodeled kitchen -- O.K., I get that, but the lady seemed determined to change the space into a modern location, and with a fairly big chunk of money spent to get there...

She was pressing Linda to change the parcay flooring, but Linda told her to sand and buff.

We were told there was a little 'village' down the steep streets below Lois, so we went a-wandering until we found Glen Park. (Lois was between Glen Park and Meraloma and Sunnyside...) Found a nicely funky bookstore there called Bird and Beckett, and he gave us directions to other bookstores. We managed to find Ocean Books, but there was a long letter in the window that explained that the owner wasn't REALLY a stalker, no matter what we might have read in the paper, that she was only trying to TALK to the customer who complained to the police, and that she was sure that once she actually MET the customer everything would be ironed out and the CONFRONTATION was really just one big misunderstanding and going the customer's HOUSE and BANGING on the door probably hadn't been a good idea though it was INNOCENT.

We backed away slowly, and drove on.

Got to the ocean and turned off. After walking a distance, it became very very clear that this was a dog park, and we had dog after dog run up to us in a friendly way, and wag their tail as if to ask, "Hey, where's your dog?" I started watching where I was walking in the sand a bit more.

Then hit rush hour on the way back to Vallejo and spent, Oh, 15 or 20 hours to get fifty miles or so....

Watched Castle. Fell right to sleep.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Long walk to a shallow pond.

Of all things, Linda forgot to check Lois's safe deposit box while she was in S.F., so we decided to make a trip of it. We drove down on Sunday, stopping Vallejo. As is our custom, we checked for used bookstores, but there weren't any -- in a town one third bigger than Bend.

Next morning, we drove into the financial district. Parked just inside the borders and started walking and walking, got as far as the pyramid building and realized there was no way we'd finish up in time for the parking meter. Went back, found a parking garage, and -- and as it happened, found the Bank of America across the street.

The safe deposit boxes are downstairs, and after filling 15 forms in triplicate, they let us into the inner sanctum. I mean, that's what it felt like -- huge broad doors and paneled wood walls and echoes.

We open the safe deposit box and discover:

Lois was an international jewel thief and it was overflowing with diamonds and rubies.

Lois was a international money launderer and the there were stacks of one hundred dollar bills.

Lois was a master blackmailer and there were pictures of McCain and Palin you wouldn't believe.

It was empty.

The guy just laughed, and wrote across the closing form, "NIL".

Talk about anti-climatic.

A thousand miles in Linda's new car, and the both boring and terrifying freeways, and a memory of traffic and homeless people and traffic and more traffic. It was warm, though.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Mix and Match.

I've decided to try something different with employees this time.

I think I'm going to hire two or three young people who can work anywhere from half a day, to a day each; none of which are depending on me for a living, either because they already have another job, or are collecting unemployment, or who are still in school.

I won't expect a long term commitment from them, and I'll juggle their hours so that everyone is happy, but I'm not having to spend too much.

I want to keep a personal presence in the store of at least 4 days a week; which means there may be some overlap with the employees, but I want enough of workers to cover a few longer vacations per year.

I'm hoping that having 2 or 3 young people will bring some energy to the store.

I've already got three young folk lined up, who seem excited to be part of Pegasus. (They'll get over it...but I'd rather they at least start with some excitement.)

Liz has been great so far. She picks up things really fast. I have kind of decided to take a slower pace in training, letting employees learn things as they go, and try not to infect them too much with my attitudes and pre-conceptions.

If I try this method, there will probably be some inefficiencies at first, but there may also emerge some new ways of doing things. I can afford to take a different slant.

With 2 or 3 part-part timers, I can mix and match, and if one leaves, start looking for another.

We'll see.

Monday, November 16, 2009


I've come down with the Flu -- Paranoia.

Not the actual flu, just the paranoia. I seem to have many small allergies, and each of them are magnified into the Beginning of the End.

Uh, oh, I sneezed......

From past experience with the flu, it hits quickly, usually with a few aches and pains, and then.....BAM!

I have lots of aches and pains, it seems. I think I must mostly ignore them on a daily basis, but right now I'm acutely aware of every little twinge.

If anyone sneezes in my store, I quickly hide in the back.

If they sniffle, I wash my hands after they leave.

Shake my hands? Really? Must you?

I've already decided if I actually get the bug, I'm just going to put a sign on the door saying,

"Oink! Oink!"

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Downtown Comings and Goings,

With the new addition of Lemon Drop, there are now as exactly as many new businesses as there are businesses who have left.


Seems like high turnover, to me, but I have no historical record to compare it with, which is one of the reasons I started keeping this list.

I do have a strong impulse to go into all these new businesses and ask a simple question.

"By the way, have you heard? Business is kind of slow right now?"

I doubt they'd appreciate it...

Feels like Creative Destruction, to me. Ironically, we could end up with more new businesses than leaving, just because so much new retail space has opened downtown. The parking garage and the spaces below Oxford Hotel.


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, November 14, 2009

Misc. Things.

Finished Imperium by Robert Harris, which ends at the high point of Cicero's life, when he is elected Consul. He foils Crassus and Pompey, and Caesar is indeed the man behind the curtain. Went to Wiki, and checked the 'rest of the story.'

Cicero met a bad end.

He was 'Proscribed.' His head lopped off and displayed on the gates of Rome.

So much for the 'Republic' of Rome.


I was told that when you got older that you 'needed' less sleep. I don't know about needing less sleep, but I certainly get less sleep. I can't seem to sleep past 7 hours....


Watching less T.V. this year, partly because they've put all the shows I want to watch on two nights; Mondays, House and Castle. Thursdays, C.S.I Las Vegas and the Mentalist.

Oh, and Dexter. My favorite.

Castle is pretty weak, but has it's moments. The Halloween episode had Nathan Fallon dress up with six shooters and a long brown coat; "What are you supposed to be?" his daughter asks. "A Space Cowboy, of course." "There is no such thing as Space Cowboys!"

The Mentalist is pretty formulaic, but still enjoyable.

Everything else I used to watch has either been canceled or finished (Life, Dollhouse, Battlestar, etc.,) or isn't currently shown (Lost, True Blood, Law and Order; Criminal Intent).

Shows everyone else seems to enjoy just seem really mediocre to me; NCIS, Bones, C.S.I. New York, Criminal Minds, and most Law and Orders.

C.S.I. Miami is excreta.

I seem to be missing the gene that enjoys either situation comedies or 'reality' shows or evening soap opera's (under which I include E.R. and all it's spawn: Traumatic Limb Removal, Falling Helocopters, Nurses Falling Apart, Doctors Screwing in Operating Rooms, and Desperate Anything.

Fringe is not X-Files. The promo's always look so promising, the shows are always so bad.

V -- Is NOT science fiction. I'm a snob about my science fiction.

If I go for the Big Screen T.V., it will be time for Netflix.


The word "Won" keeps popping up in connection to Tami Sawyer.

I think Avoiding Jail is a pretty strange definition of "winning."

Tami has Won -- she's still breathing? She's Won -- she's still walking around?

Pretty low bar, if you'll pardon the expression.


A forty acre soccer park at the north end of Juniper Ridge?

Have these soccer buffs really taken a good look?

Man, that's really in the Out in the Tulies....

It would be funny if it wasn't so sad that all Bend's mighty efforts have so far managed to attract three businesses that were already in Central Oregon, and acres and acres of soccer fields.

The Elephant had a long and difficult pregnancy, and finally produced...a little mouse.


Friday, November 13, 2009

New clothes, new car, new me.

Greenie is now mine. Linda bought her car, another Toyota, and since it will be the car that we take on trips, it won't be long before it has more miles than Greenie. My car is a 1999, and yet only has 23,000 miles on it. Like the last decade didn't even happen -- you know, like the stock market.

I feel guilty about abandoning the Black Dragon to the heartless car dealership; but I keep telling myself I'm being silly. It's a car, stupid.

Last night, we went to Fred Meyer and pretty much bought an entire wardrobe for me.
I was down to my last pair of jeans, which had holes in the knees, and down to my last pair Dockers, which because I've expanded an inch in the waist had shrunk an inch in length. My Rockports shoes(5 years old?) had sprung leaks. My underwear and socks were very saintly (you know, very holy.) My nice leather coat I got for Christmas 4 years ago had a broken zipper, both of my belts were broken, and so and so on.

I shop so seldom, I tend to buy absolutely everything at the same time.

I'm going to go through my closet and be ruthless and throw away or donate just about everything I have in there.

The cars I'm justifying because they have airbags, and in the case of Linda's car, side-airbags as well. All we had were seatbelts in the old cars. I suppose a new car every 20 years of so isn't going overboard.

I'm even -- gasp, thinking of buying a big-screen T.V. I'm going to get the biggest and best out there -- that isn't custom -- and that will be it.

I'm turning into an actual consumer. I won't be able to be holier than thou, anymore. It turns out, I'm weak in the face of temptation....

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Extrapolations. I was going to title this, "Simple Math", but I like the word extrapolations...

So the housing inventory "plummets" in Bend? (Bulletin, 11/12/09)

Pardon me if I doubt it.

It seems to me a little simple math could have been applied to this assertion. How many houses were coming on the market for sale before this sudden decline, and how many after?

Is it likely with the high unemployment in Bend that fewer people are needing to put their house for sale?

So what do we get? Several quotes from real estate agents, which I consider all but useless as news.

And this from a California economist, Bill Watkins -- "That's absolutely good news. A decline in housing inventory is a precondition for a recovery."


So have we really had a decline in housing inventory? Or is there shadow inventory waiting to come onto the market?

How many houses were taken off the market without selling?

Later on in the story, Mr. Watkins has part of the answer: "He believes banks have generally been slow to list foreclosure properties, and that may account for some of Bend's decline in inventory."

"There's some evidence banks are slowing down their foreclosure process to keep the market more orderly..."

Nice phrasing: "More orderly..."

If you don't mind, I'll apply this reasoning to my own store.

My customers often look at my selection and say, "Wow! That title must have sold really well since you only have one left!"

Or "Wow! That title must have sold really poorly since you have a dozen left!"

Not really. In the former case, the title is such a dog I only ordered 2, and I have 1 left. In the latter case, the title is such a good seller I ordered 75, and I have 12 left.

What I've learned to do is leave between 1 and 5 copies out for sale, no more. If I have more, I keep them behind the counter and refill as needed.

Because you can't beat human psychology.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

For me, shopping is newsworthy.

Linda and I took a little walkabout yesterday. We didn't get very far; we checked out Minnesota Street. You'd think, having a store on the block, I would've been well acquainted with all the stores, but I'm working, working, working.

I've started giving myself all of Tuesday and half of Thursday off.

We thought we'd go buy some me some jeans and then go to a movie.

Instead, we spent most of the day negotiating for a car. Linda wanted to show me a car she wanted to buy. As we pulled in, I realized that it was dealer who I had had a dispute with years ago.

I've only purchased one used car in my life from a dealer.

When we took it in for it's first tune-up, the car died the next day. Opening the hood, I saw that someone had done a real number on the battery -- using a screwdriver on the top of the battery when it required a special tool, leaving bits of plastic everywhere and pretty much man-handling it.

We went in the next morning, and their response was "How do you know that it was us?"

I went and bought a battery from somewhere else, but the more I thought about it, the more wrong it seemed, so I went to see the owner of the lot, the man who's name is on all the signs.

"I sorry that you didn't take it to me," he said. "But now that you've bought a battery, there is nothing I can do."

Anyway, I swore I'd never go back, and here we are standing in the lot.

Linda wanted a trade-in appraisal on my 1990 Toyota. The guy was pressuring us to take a ride in the "new" car, but I put him off. "It isn't how I planned to spend my day," I said. "Besides...I'm hungry."

So we went off, had lunch at Quizno's, and then I wanted to show Linda the new Haven Home store downtown. We went in and chatted with them, looked at a nice couch, and then decided we needed to greet Joyce of the Curiosity Shop, which we did, dropped by Karen Bandy's and then visited the Home Hardware and Diane's Kitchen Complements, and Lari's Clutch, and that took up the rest of the afternoon.

We went back for the Toyota, and I consented for a test drive of the new car.

Out of curiosity, I had them check our credit scores -- and was amazed to find out how high they were; mine was 25% higher than just a few years ago, and actually about as high as it could be. Linda's was also high.

Since we had a good downpayment, I felt the car dealership would be willing to deal.

Unfortunately, I think Linda had let them know how much she wanted the car.

Anyway, to make a long story short, I felt they were jerking us around, weren't really willing to come down on price.

We ended up walking away over a 500.00 difference in price. I was a little surprised they let us walk away....

....but they probably knew Linda would be in the next morning wanting the car.

I feel a little better about the deal, because I checked up online, and decided what they offered wasn't TOO bad.

Still, if it was me, I would've walked away. Plenty of cars on the lot, you know?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Personal vs. Local vs. National

When I first started this blog, I really didn't expect anyone would read it. Me and maybe an occasional accidental hit and maybe Linda when she felt like it. Perhaps a few of my customers, who would quickly lose interest because I really don't talk about books and comics and games all that much.

But the Bulletin kind of gave me a boost early on, by doing a couple of stories. And I found I really like writing this blog, so my ambitions became a little bigger.

When I finally checked how many hits I was getting, I was slightly disappointed. And at the same time, it really way beyond what I expected at the start. I also noticed that I would tailor my posts based on popularity.

So I stopped checking. I haven't looked at my hits for a long time now.

When Linda started blogging, she immediately connected with some national type bloggers, and they reciprocated. I realized there was readership to be had by making the effort to interact with other bloggers. I realized there was readership to be had by making more amusing and entertaining graphics. There was readership to be had by being A.) More controversial. or B.) The opposite, just kind of gently amusing or gently informative.

I'm neither.

The most popular blog in Bend is HackBend, who tells us who has the best chili in town. Well, that's O.K. But not where I'm headed. Another popular blog, based on comments, is BB2, which is amusingly outrageous. Again, not where I'm headed.

What I realized after awhile was that I wasn't interested in national readership. That would be too much of a burden, too much of a distraction. I would be too self-conscious. Besides, some of the national type blogs can be rather savage. My writing and my thinking would have to be considerably more rigorous.

For instance, above I say "Me" would be the only one reading my blog. I think it would be more correct to say "I", but that sounds too awkward, and I really don't want to get hung up on it. I'm too lazy for that -- but not only that, I think casual is the tone I'm shooting for, and casual doesn't work except for those who go along with it and then it's O.K., you know, sloppy run-on sentences and all?

This blog seems to have settled into more of a local readership, or people who are interested in Central Oregon. That makes sense, since that is the subject of most of my posts.

Or since I haven't checked my hits in a long time, maybe everyone has given up reading this blog.

Doesn't matter. I was comfortable with personal blogging, and I appreciated the local blogging and I don't care about the national blogging.

I don't have any rules about it, it just seems to have settled into that range.

I kind of like it.

Don't Mean A Thing. It Means Everything.

You know all those statements that the recession is over?

Don't mean a thing.

Kindle and Nook?

Don't mean a thing.

Mass market dinosaurs arriving or leaving town?

Don't mean a thing.

Look, I'm into long term planning more than most. I'm always trying to see down the road, trying to diversify my stock. But once you get more than a year or two down the road, it -- Don't Mean A Thing.

Because, as a small business, you can't really go a year or two waiting for something to happen. You have to pay this months rent and next and the next. You have to sell something today, and tomorrow, and the next day.

Commercial real estate falling?

Don't mean a thing.

Oh, sure. There are occasional immediate intersections -- if you are negotiating a lease at this moment, the CRE thing is important in this moment. But the vast majority of businesses are already locked into a lease, and so falling rents --

Don't mean a thing.

By the time it does mean a thing, a couple of years from now, everything will have changed, and you'll be trying to guess what will happen a couple further years down the road, and it --

Don't mean a thing.

Small business can't hold it's breath waiting to see if Kindle takes off, if the economy recovers. Trying to guess what the customer is going to want in a few years?

Don't mean a thing.

I've been waiting for the Oxford Hotel to open, wondering if it will help my neighborhood. But while I've been waiting --

It Don't Mean A Thing.

What means a thing is budgeting over the next couple of months, ordering over the next couple of months, managing my cash flow over the next couple of months. Designing the store the way I like it, trying to guess what will sell, looking for ways to display it all.

Holiday sale predictions?

Don't mean a thing.

Oh, I still try to guess. I still try to plan. But, more than a year down the road? You're just flipping a coin.

So you have to design your business to survive with either a head or a tails result.

You don't try to build a house by guessing the weather. You build a house to withstand heat or cold, wet or dry, wind or fog. You live in it day to day.

I create scenarios and imagine what I will do if certain conditions prevail -- but that's all it is. Most of the time, it won't happen. Sometimes, fortuitously, it does.

As a store you bring in so many options, that you can turn on a dime and pursue what is working, you can experiment with new products, let other products go, and constantly shift with the prevailing winds.

Because trying to guess the long term future?

It don't mean a thing.


Nice little essay. You know, the recurring theme. The "Who Knows What Evil Lurks in the Heart of Men" theme. Wuwhoooohhaaaaahhaha......

I believe every bit of it.

And yet, I believe the opposite. Every bit of information means something, every article I read, every expert's prediction. I'm wallowing in it on a day to day basis. Locally, nationally, and within my own industry.

I'm making choices based on that information.

If I'm right, I'll survive and thrive.

If I'm wrong, I'm a goner.

It's amazing to me how many businesses DON'T think about these things, how many of them don't plan for the longrun. They are of the mind that they can't predict, so why try?

On a day to day basis, that's prudent. Why agonize?

What's happened to me is that I've come to hold both themes in mind at the same time, flipping them and turning them and giving them less or more importance.

Ultimately, both are right. I take that information, and I try to intuit the future, and try at the same time to run my business on a day to day basis without disrupting it with my guesses.

This is a really sloppy essay, but it feels right to me. Because running a business is messy, you know?

Monday, November 9, 2009

CRE creeping.

I've been trying to understand the mechanisms of Commercial Real Estate for a couple of years now, because I've been concerned that Bend is completely overbuilt. The Nov. 6th entry of Financial Armageddon is a primer for the mechanics of CRE, gathering together 6 different articles on CRE. It's worth a read....

Here are my thoughts after reading them:

If it's true that downtown Bend real estate increased in value from 1997 to 2007 by 1600%, it's almost inevitable that developers over-invested in old buildings, new buildings, and renovated buildings. Especially the latter two.

Picture one of the new downtown buildings, which as little as a couple of years ago were asking 2.00 to 3.00 a foot for retail rent. Assuming that they got their loan with those figures in mind, how much of that loan was predicated on full occupancy?

The problem is this. They might be able to get 2.50 a foot for 50% occupancy, or 1.50 a foot for 90% occupancy, but in today's market what are the odds they can 2.50 a foot for 90% occupancy?

I recently checked on a prime piece of downtown retail that was asking 1.25 a foot.

Business Weeks quotes:

"...billionaire investor Wilbur Ross: "Commercial real estate has gone from being highly liquid at sky-high prices to being extremely illiquid at distressed prices."

Anyway, I kept hearing the term "coming due" on CRE, and didn't understand how that worked. Obviously, it isn't like a fixed residential loan. I was guessing that there was some form of low payments while the building was being built and rented, and then a balloon payment as the rents started rolling in. (Or the condo sales...)

Looks like that was a pretty good assumption. From the Atlantic Business Channel, quoted in the Financial Armageddon site:

"It should be a really, really worrying statistic that 9% of all CRE loans are delinquent -- because it isn't that hard for most of these loans to make monthly payments. Commercial mortgages are generally structured differently from fixed-rate residential mortgages. Many require relatively low monthly payments for the term of the loan, with a larger balloon payment due upon the loans' maturity. So if a large portion of commercial borrowers can't even make those relatively easier monthly payments, then we'll see some far more serious problems once those balloons come due."

You have to figure that many of these commercial loans are going to come due in the next couple of years in Bend. That's why we should be worried about local banking institutions, as well, because they are most heavily invested commercial real estate:

"...this year, smaller lenders and community banks are going bust at an alarming rate because of their exposure to souring commercial real estate loans." New Jersey Business News, 11/9/09

If local banks and resorts are ALREADY having trouble, it's probably only going to get worse.

Yes, downtown Bend is filling up. But with lower rents. Which will probably make it that much harder for the New buildings to pay off.

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

"No quick recovery is in store," the report said. "2010 looks like an unavoidable bloodbath for a multitude of 'zombie' borrowers, investors and lenders," it said. "The shake-out period may extend several years as even some conservative owners with well-underwritten loans from the early 2000s see their equity destroyed."

The local banks CRE exposure is so bad, the Fed's have relaxed some of the rules, allowing for a Pretend and Extend strategy. But from what I'm reading, this will only delay the inevitable.

My earlier researches into CRE mostly talked about how most of the bigger lending institutions were effectively frozen a couple of years ago, putting an end to most new commercial developments.

Only now are the consequences of the earlier over-building becoming as equally clear to me.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Mansion on the Hill.

"Hey, Don! I noticed you aren't living on the Mansion on the Hill anymore."

"Too much upkeep, Poindexter. I didn't want to be tethered to it any more. Besides, it kept getting hit by golf balls, and I kept having to see people in plaid shirts and white shoes walking by. It was hard on the eyes."

"But I thought you owned the golf course."

"I never wanted to actually OWN a golf course. Tell you a secret. They don't make build them so you can sell houses."

"So you're selling houses?"

"Well, not really. But I got rid of the golf course..."

"You built the thing that doesn't make money first?"

"Of course! How else am I to make money?"

"Ummmmm.....where are you living now?"

"Glad you asked, Poindexter. At first, I was going to build on one of the lots. But then my partners wanted them, so I gave them up. Just as well. I mean it really hurt at first, but then I started liking it. I wasn't happy, but then I was happy...."

"Maybe you can stay in the overnight lodgings, Don. Be the caretaker."

"Oh, we gave those up. We didn't really want to build them anyway, and then the county decided that since our guarantee wasn't worth anything, they would lower the guaranteed money."

"The money you deposited to cover the possibility of failure was lowered because you were failing?"

"Well, I wouldn't quite put it that way, Poindexter. Besides, I can get an extension every 5 years ago, and the deposit drops in half.

"Doesn't matter anyway, I sold that hotel thingy to my new partners. Lovely folk. They specialized in taking over things I don't want anymore."

"So where are you living?"

"I found a cave in the middle of the, I mean, my property. I mean...their property...but I quite like it. Some of the weeds around the mouth of the cave are quite pretty. No upkeep, the payments are reasonable, and except for the occasion golf balls falling on my head, it's nice and cosy."

"Well, I'm happy for you, Don. Keep up the good work."

Fish eat fish world.

Usually Walmart hunts down, destroys and devours one industry at a time. They did a pretty good job on the toy market a few years ago, putting Toysrus in intensive care, and killing off FAO Scwartz and KB Toys.

This year they seem to be taking a scattershot approach, blasting everything in sight, and you'd better try to stay out of their crosshairs. So far, the potential victims are games, toys, DVD's and books, among others.

Big Bully.

Ironically, the damage to the specialty market has been so widespread and deep, that any Mom and Pops still surviving has probably figured out how to avoid being eaten. Like the big dinosaurs stomping around the Jurassic, little critters can hide in the rocks.

You know the old cartoon on one fish eating a smaller fish eating a smaller fish eating a smaller fish know? Retail has probably always been like that.

The big danger to specialty stores a decade ago or two were the 'category' killers.

Toysrus; Best Buy; Bed, Bath and Beyond, Barnes and Nobles; etc. etc.

Now they are being cobbled up by the huge megachains -- Walmart and Target, but especially Walmart. Already the second and third largest stores in each of the category killers have been laid out for the vultures; Circuit City: Bed, Bath and Beyond; Office Depot; Borders (and Waldenbooks); and the aforementioned KB Toys.

We're all going to end up working for Walmart.

But only for awhile.

Because while Walmart is busy swallowing up it's weaker brethren, behind it looms the biggest fish of all -- the internet.

Us minnows are watching all this with big, Disyneyesqe eyes from the coral reefs.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

We're all in someone else's box.

I've started reading a historical novel by Robert Harris, Imperium. The main protagonist is a young Cicero.

Historicals are always tricky for me, because my image of major historical characters is so outsized. Cicero is young and callow, so I'm O.K. so far, but I'll be interested to see how he handles Caesar and Pompey and Crassus.

One of the things I loved about Talbot Mundy's Tros series is that he makes Caesar as crafty and cunning and tough and mean as I always imagined him. He also makes him brave and principled, but that's just a novelist's conceit.

On the other hand, I could never get into the Riverworld series by Philip Jose Farmer, because characters like Mark Twain were just paper mache compared to my own vision of them.

I read a recent book by William Dietrich, Napoleon's Pyramids, that has Napoleon as a major character. Even though most of the words out of his mouth are historical, the characterization was still a little thin for me.

I've always thought the best Napoleon was the character Mule in the Asimov S.F. series, Foundation, conflicted and contradictory and unexpected and just flat out smarter than everyone else.

Gore Vidal's historicals bring down the historical characters to a human level -- I think that's their intent. Lincoln was flawed, Burr wasn't the villain and so on. Even there, they didn't quite flesh out as much as I hoped.

Doctorow does a pretty good job with historical events; but he keeps the major historical characters at a distance.

Caleb Carr is pretty good with a young Teddy Roosevelt; I'm thinking it must be easier to do the younger characters...

Of course, to me, the best book ever for conveying the magnitude of events was Killer Angels by Michael Sharra. Amazing book. (Did not care for any of the followups by his son -- again, paper characters....)

While Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty may not be real historical characters, I've never liked any other writer's interpretation of them. Meyer's Nine Percent Solution did a nice job with Freud and Holmes, but I've hated the books that have Holmes married, for instance. That's just wrong.

The best Moriarty I've ever read or seen was the one in Star Trek. Hands down my favorite Star Trek episodes.

"In fact, Picard has both of them encapsulated in a small computerized cube. And in the greater scheme of things, he muses to his staff, who's to say that they aren't caught in someone else's fantasy right now." Star Trek, the Episode Guide.

Too cool.

Our little Peyton Place.

So Tami Sawyer is the "Jane Doe" who "filed a malpractice lawsuit against the man whose lawsuit against her company nearly landed her in jail for contempt of court." Bend Bulletin, 11/7/09.

The lawsuit alleges that he had "consensual sexual relationship with her..."


And to think this was all going on in Bend during the bubble years. Here I was innocently going to work everyday, and I had no idea of how decadent little old Bend was becoming.

Oh, I saw the McMansions and the big SUV's and the shiny clothes and all. But I didn't realize what was going on behind closed doors. People weren't just being screwed financially....

I also thought it amazing that Tami would exclaim, "I won!" and cry and 'Thank God' that she didn't have to go to jail.

You know, like every time I file for an extension on my taxes, I do the same thing.

I do a little jig over the fact that the IRS won't get my money. "Hey, Baby. I won!"

Then I quietly pay off on the next due date, but we don't need to talk about that.

Very revealing that Tami Sawyer "expressed surprise and said she had no knowledge of the ...lawsuit."

Damn lawyers. Filing lawsuits without her knowing.....

Boom and Bust.

Back about three years ago, when some of us were suspecting we were in the midst of a bubble that was about to burst, we were trying to imagine what would happen to downtown Bend.

There were some of us that remembered the early 80's and were fearful of a repeat.

I didn't think it would get that bad, though I thought it would take longer to replace the businesses, and that we would see some sort of progression like: 3 leave, 2 come in; 4 leave; 3 come in; 3 leave, 4 come in; 5 leave, 3 come in, something like that.

It hasn't quite happened. (I should say 'yet.')

38 businesses have left downtown, 37 businesses have arrived. Downtown seems to be holding it's own.

That's the danger in prematurely predicting shuttered doors and homeless on every corner. You kind of lose credibility when it doesn't happen.

That said, I think I'm starting to see more signs of distress. I actually AM seeing more homeless lately, and outside of downtown, the vacancies are becoming more noticeable.

I think that during the first winter of this Great Recession, there was some shock and fear, but mostly the consequences hadn't quite hit. Second Winter was worse, but people could still live off their savings, hope that things would turn around. I saw customers going from residential, to commercial building projects, then to sidejobs, then to working for friends and neighbors, and now just picking up any kind of building work they can get, over or under the table.

The string is playing out....

It's going to be a long, cold winter.

Commercial loans are going to be coming due over the next couple of years, but it looks to me like the banks will continue a 'pretend and extend' policy for as long as possible.

Muddling through.

Janet Stevens of the Bulletin has a nice little editorial about the boom and bust cycle of Bend. I like that it identifies what I think is the major Achilles Heel in Bend -- it's isolation -- as it's biggest boon and bane.

But such an editorial would have been much more useful 2 and 1/2 years into the boom, instead of 2 and 1/2 years into the bust.

In fact, she should just file it, and rerun it the next time we have a boom -- you know, in 5 or 6 years from now.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Hey, Wife! Leave my routine alone!

Every morning, I stumble out of bed, pour myself a huge mug (we bought in Joseph, Ore) of coffee, and go down to my office.

I turn up the heat, wrap myself in a cosy blanket, and lean back in my chair, and turn on the computer.

I check the headlines, then some local blogs, then my business oriented blogs, and then the economic blogs (not the same as business), and so on.

Every morning, my cat or my Linda barge into my office at least once each, meow at me or kiss me on the forehead. (Yes, the wife will meow if Panga is in the room, and Panga more like licks the end of my nose -- but same thing. I know, I know, ewww...I swore I'd never treat my cat like kid, but...there it is...)

Thing is, they really Barge into the room, throwing open the door.

Then they leave the room, leaving the door wide open, which kicks the heater into high gear.

Every morning.

They are doing it on purpose.

Anyway, the point of this, is that I love my routines. I don't like change. I was at my sister Tina's the other night, and she was talking about how she likes change, revels in change, change doesn't bother her a bit.

Well, not me.

At home, at least, I'd rather nothing ever changes. And Linda insists on making changes -- she calls them 'improvements'.... Like getting new headboards for our beds a few days ago. I've been banging my head against them ever since, stubbing my toe against the foot of the bed every since.

Hey, I was perfectly content with the old simple bed.

Meanwhile, Linda also goes on these cost savings benders -- buying house brands from the grocery stores. Some things should never be bought as a house brand; mayonnaise, Parmesan, and coffee.

Oh, quite definitely coffee.

Once a quarter, Linda will buy some slop. I mean, it's black like coffee, it has caffeine in it, but other than that...

After a day or two, I'll turn to her and say, "Did you change the coffee?" Or even more ironically, she'll turn to me and say, "This coffee really tastes bad."

Costco is a great company. But I never like the Kirkland brand. The last block of Kirkland cheese was completely tasteless, and we never finished it. (Cheese doesn't last in our house, either....) My stomach has a violent reaction to MSG, but it hasn't been a problem for the last 10 years or so, except some fish sticks from Kirkland. I mean, who still put MSG in foods?

So this last batch of coffee is Kirkland, and it sucks....

Random fodder.

It's nice that R.Crumb's Book of Genesis has become a bestseller. It would be even nicer If I Could Get Some Copies to Sell!!


Up on the retailer Bulletin boards are requests for copies of Doom Patrol #4, with or without the rings.

I've yet to sell a copy.

Bend really isn't a city, though it thinks it is. A city has -- I don't know -- circulation and flow and cross fertilization of interacting communities. Bend sometimes is a lump of -- "Well, what do you know?" "Did you know that?" "What's happening?" "How about that?"

Hard to explain to newcomers how isolated we are, and weird demographics...


Quote of the week, (Bulletin, 11/6/09) from "a longtime Bend real estate appraiser"...Kevin Halligan...who is "fighting three investigations...."

He is trying to "quietly and subtly slip into another profession."

You know, like, Nevermind.

I wonder if Tami Sawyer has tried that line. "I'm trying to quietly and subtly slip into Cobo San Lucas....."


Another "Blink" reaction. The census worker with "Fed" scrawled on his chest. Probably committed suicide, which was my immediate reaction.

The Fort Hood shootings? Looked like the lone gunman. Sounds like they arrested everyone in the vicinity who looks suspicious, but it was pretty clear he was a lone nut.

Hard to stop mad lone gunmen, as long as there are loners, madmen, and guns. Which will be always. (No, I'm not anti-gun -- a women in Redmond probably saved herself a beating -- or worse.)


So a homeless guy is assaulted in Pioneer Park and his cell phone is broken and is PS2 game system is stolen?


Kind of reminds me of how hard it's been to give away my big T.V. It's not a flat screen and No One Wants It. Even the poorest of the poor don't want it.

Poverty apparently now includes cell phones, game systems, flat screened T.V.s, microwaves, and probably Nike's....


Was watching Black Coffee, a documentary, and realized I've never bought from Star Bucks. Now I never will, along with never having bought from Walmart and Target. I'm not about to break my virginity now. (Also have never bought a bottle of water, or have a cell phone, or joined Face Book.

And I think YOU people are weird....)


A reporter for the Bulletin was at the polling drop off, and he raised his eyebrows when I said I voted for the COCC bond. "I thought a curmudgeon like you would be against everything!"

Hmmm...I appear to have given the wrong impression. First of all, the jobs at COCC may be one of the few things we got going for us over the next couple of years....

Secondly, I'm a liberal, and I vote for most if not all measures. I'd even vote for the bus system, probably, if they made a decent case.

At the same time, I still don't care for boondoogles and governments and individuals living it up beyond their means.


Played Ticket to Ride at friends Aaron and Char last night, and it was a blast. It's really fun to set at a table with compatible friends and play a board game.

Found it about as easy (or hard) to play as Settlers of Catan. I was building railroads all over the board, but couldn't complete my L.A. to Miami line, which cost me 20 points.

Came home last night, feeling refreshed.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Downtown comings and goings, update updated...

I know I did one of these updates just a couple of days ago, but I just found an ad in this week's Source announcing the reopening of The Curiosity Shoppe on Nov. 6th.

"The new and revitalized Curiosity Shoppe prevails. We look forward to meeting new friends and nurturing our past friends."

How about that? Back on Minnesota Street after all these years!

By the way, just one more Coming entry will equal the Goings list.


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, November 4, 2009

Lap Dancing at the (Mt.) Bachelor (Academy) Party

Am I the first one to notice this?

On the front page of the Huffington Post, there is an article entitled: REALLY SPECIAL EDUCATION.

"Are lap dances an effective therapy for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder or drug addiction? It doesn't seem like a question that should require a serious answer -- but a state investigation of Oregon's Mount Bachelor Academy (MBA) has substantiated allegations made by students and staff that such "therapy" was part of the school's "emotional growth" curriculum and forced an emergency shutdown of the campus."

Holy Cow. Right up there with the deer fragger, the pregnant man, and the balloon lawn chair guy.

You know, I've had my doubts about these types of schools going all the way back the "Tough Love" movement. I think Tough Love probably works at about two moments in an addict's life -- at every other moment it's a disaster. If you trust the guy to know that moment, which I absolutely don't.

And I can't help but wonder about all the home schooling going on, too. Most of it's probably just fine, but still. Public schools have to pass a whole lot of scrutiny, and maybe there's a reason for that.

A bank to reckon with...

Cascade Bancorp just seems to be in the wind these days.

I've never paid attention to a single stock before, but I doubt most stocks experience the gyrations that I've observed with CACB over the last month or two. It appears to me that there has been a real effort to prop up the stock everytime it falls below a certain level -- or perhaps it's just people picking up what they think is a bargain.

I've already commented on the Heads I Win, Tails You Lose bet that the big investors seem to be making.

Anyway, Linda and I were renting a storage unit recently, and out of the blue the owner mentioned that he and a friend were planning to "invest in Bank of the Cascades."

"Really?" I exclaimed. We talked about it for awhile, and shrugged it off as a relatively cheap risk.

That's example 1.)

Example 2.)

I've had a bit of a bet with a friend for a couple of months or so; I told him that I thought a couple of the local institutions would be taken over by the FDIC before the end of the year. If both happen, he owes me a CD. If neither happens, I owe him a CD. If only one happens, we break even.

Yes, CACB is one of them. I know, I know. I'm an SOB for betting against a local bank. Sorry.

Anyway, he came in the store the other day laughing.

"What are you doing? Are you talking down Bank of the Cascades on your Blog?"

"Well, I talk about it occasionally," I admitted. "Why?"

"Because it's in the news all the time!"

(P.S. With the FDIC giving the bank another 60 day warning, I think I'm going to lose the bet -- technically.)

Example #3.)

Finally, Linda and I went to see our financial adviser yesterday, and he was explaining his strategy for investing, and he said, "Say you wanted to invest in Cascade Bancorp...."

Linda just looked at me, and we both started laughing.

"O.K. O.K.," he joins us. "That may be the wrong example...."

Anyway, all these events were more or less spontaneous, unprompted by me.

So it's in the wind....for what it's worth.

Downtown comings and goings, updated.

The new store across the street with a doggie theme is called Dog Patch.

I need to sell them a Li'll Abner graphic novel...

A business opening on Brooks called Wabi Sabi, which is a Japanese equivelent term to fung shui, I guess. This may or may not be the new anime/manga store I've been hearing rumors about.

The space next to Home Hardware looks like it might be another home decor type place, by the owner of the building. Periwinkle Part Four? Still a bit of a rumor.

Finally, from the Downtowners newsletter: "The Frugal Boutique is tucked inside the Bend Trade Center which is also home to Bond Street Barber Shop and Glenroe Antiques. The Frugal Boutique & Consignment offers an eclectic selection of quality, new and gently used clothing and accessories economically priced."

Another others?


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

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Stuff and stuff.

The NWX gaming lounge profiled in the Bulletin today is actually the 3rd gaming lounge in Bend. Along with Cat6 there is a new lounge in the east of Bend called Dark Horse Games.

I have no idea how viable one of these places are, much less three.


About mid-summer, we got a visit from a couple of bookstore owners from back east, who were taking a booktour of the west. They were blogging it on their website,, The Book Traveler.

So I read all their entries as they wandered the west, until they got to Portland and Powell's books. Next up.....Bend! Since they took a picture of my store (we're not sure if they got to Linda's store, or not...) I kept checking....and checking....and checking.

Been a month and a half, now, since their last entry. Since they were running more than a month behind already, it's now been about 3 months since they visited.

As Linda said, "They got eaten by bears."


Also got a visit from a guy who does lots of sportscards over in the valley. He's like the antithesis of my store, opening case after case of cards chasing the autograph and memorabilia cards. He obviously has a lot of fun doing it.*

He said he could afford it -- it's what he does. He was thinking about opening a store, and I advised him to think about it long and hard.

His site is fascinating in how many good cards he seems to get. He just does it in massive volume -- searching for the cheapest prices he can get on the web, and then opening entire cases. Amazing.

He also took a picture of me, and I kept checking his site to see if he mentions me. Even though we have different approaches, we did seem to agree on an awful lot of what's going on.

Anyway, last week I decided that maybe I could venture back into singles. Buy some cheaper boxes, or open some overstock, and see what happens.

It didn't turn out well. I opened one box of baseball, one box of basketball, and one box of football. By adding up the 'special' cards and the superstars, neither the baseball or the football really paid for themselves. The basketball box did, technically, if I actually had activity.

So -- the way I see it: I need two things to make this work.

1.) An active singles customer base.
2.) Brands that produce enough salable cards.

It's a bit of a Catch-22. I won't get the singles customer base without lots of singles, and I can't afford lots of singles without a customer base.

It would've been easier, though, if the boxes had actually produced something.

I suspect that it only works when you do plenty of volume, cases rather than boxes, but then the whole thing ramps up another level and so on. Either I would need to go online or have a much bigger customer base to draw on. (Either a larger town or a larger percentage of available customers....)

Like I said, it's a Catch-22.


A 100k square feet of retail on the corner of Columbia and Simpson?

I'm trying to imagine what Bend would be going through if all the retail that had been planned was actually built. The Mercato? Holy crap.

Sometimes a economic 'correction' really is a correction.


I want you all to notice I actually linked my references this time. Liz is paying off...

October results.

Sales were down exactly 1% from last October, and since the store did that number in four less days of the month, and because last October was a real outlier -- less than half the declines of the surrounding four months -- I have to consider this October a real success.

The real measure of progress is the per day average, and we were 12% over last year.

We had quite a dropoff in the second half of the month, which ordinarily might worry me, but I've already cut spending for November, so it shouldn't hurt us too much.

This is the first two month consecutive increase since August of 2007. I've mentioned before, I think the whole "Great Recession" started in September 2007, no matter that most experts don't officially count the beginning until a few months later.

Last November was pretty poor; a full 22% of what our current average is, so we should be able to exceed that, which would make a full three months increases in a row. Which is how I base my planning; a ongoing three month average.

I know this phrase is getting kind of old, but it's still true. This three month average is basically beating up the 90 pound weakling that was last fall.

Individual categories.

1.) Comics. Roughly equal to last year, which I think is a pretty good result. Down 4%.

2.) DVD's. 3x last year, which actually wasn't hard to do when we're selling anime for basically half off...

3.) Sports Cards. Down about a third, but with the industry the way it is, I'll take it.

4.) Card Games. Almost double. I've been talking about how the new wave of Magic was hotter than usual, and this total is a reflection of that. I probably overordered a bit, but those profits should show up over the next few months.

5.) Games. Not a big total, but bigger than last year. Still seeing improvements.

6.) Books. Down about 25%, which is disappointing since I've gotten used to ever increasing sales. But still far above anything I expected.

7.) Toys. These seem to be the real problem child for the Great Recession. It hurts that McFarlane toys hasn't produced anything anyone wants, except Halo toys, which I can't seem to get my hands on.

8.) Graphic Novels. About equal to last year, maybe a bit more. Which is great, considering.

So overall, an improvement over last October, though not as spectacular improvement as September was. However, Sept. was beating up one of the worst months ever, and October was actually competing with an 'outlier' good month.

Did we hit bottom in August?

I'd still like to see what the 'off' season of January and February do, before I decide that.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Oh, hell, a political post....

It's funny, or it would be funny if it wasn't so sad, that the right wingnuts have Obama as some radical character.

I think he's fundamentally an establishment guy.

Why wouldn't he be?

It worked for him!!

I think his instinct is to listen to the experts -- with skepticism, cause he's a smart guy, but still... His appointments seem to bear that out.

He may come at it from a progressive slant, but he'll moderate and moderate and moderate to get a slice of what he needs.

Whether this is a good strategy or not, remains to be seen. I'm still hoping this little sliver of public option will turn into a Trojan Horse, but who knows? With Obama, a lot seems to be going on behind the scenes, and we don't see what he's preparing until he's ready. So much of the most important stuff still has to be revealed.

But...I recognize the signs of someone who, at his core, still think this system works, and just needs to be fixed. That's my natural instinct, too, and it is only as I've gotten older that I've become more and more cynical.

I think I'm a very liberal guy on social issues, but kind of conservative on monetary issues. Lots of conflict to be had there.

Obama seems content to let that conflict play out in Congress, and Congress is going to have to produce or be forever tarnished (more than now, if that's possible.)

I'm afraid that Obama may turn into Clinton, settling for the small things, making Congress the roadblock, instead of succeeding in getting that recalcitrant body to actually DO something.

Just don't do it.

This will be a forlorn little wimpet of a post, cause I know that I'm the only retailer out there who thinks this way and talks about it.

Booksellers! Don't Buy the 9.00 books from Amazon, Walmart and Target!

Every book you buy simply reinforces the trend!

There I said it. Everyone who hears this message will ignore it. They'll say something like, "I can't afford not to save money."


Cut your own throat. No, better. Hand the medieval surgeon a knife and pay him to drain you of blood.

Been there, done that. Actually, been there, seen that, because I decided early on that I wouldn't hand my money over the competition. Seemed just a tad shortsighted.

Back in the early '90's, most sports card were being sold by small independent sportscard shops. Then they started showing up in massive quantities in the chainstores at cheap prices.

Guess who bought out the stock in the early years?

Yep, sportscard retailers.


So Topps and Donrusss and Fleer and Upper Deck looked at the stats and saw how many boxes were selling in the chainstores, and came to the obvious conclusion.

Let's say, just for a chuckle, that sports card shops and mass market were at 50/50 sometime early on. If the indy's start buying 10% of their material from the chainstores, that tips the trend to, what 45/55? (Math isn't my strong suit.) Thus giving impetus to the manufacturers to give the chainstores a bigger slice, thus forcing indy's to buy even more of their material from the chainstores, and on and on...

Karma is a black-hearted bitch, and most of these shops are gone now, and the displays at Shopko are pretty pathetic. Now, retailers bleed themselves by buying from online discounters instead.

Thus reinforcing the trend.

Slowly bleeding to death.