“Best of the North Coast”? Yeah, right.

The Times-Standard published its “Readers’ Choice Awards” this morning. We’ve had a lot of fun with these lists in the past and they will never be credible until the T-S starts publishing their tabulations (and a system to prevent duplicate voting).  Still,  they’re a basis for discussion. And some of them are actually well-deserved. 

I was pleased to see that Bob’s Footlong retained its rightful place on the top of the hot dog pyramid. I don’t know what it is about Bob’s that makes their dogs taste so good but I rarely go to Fortuna without stopping by.  It is gratifying to see Eureka’s AA Bar & Grill retain its rightful place at the head of the “steak” list and CC Market is definitely a great caterer. But I have a quibble with listing Hole-in-the-Wall as BOTH “Best Delicatessen” and “Best Sandwich Shop”.  It is a great sandwich shop but if you’ve ever been to Cantor’s or David’s or Katz’s,  you know that Hole-in-the-Wall is a sandwich shop, not a deli.  We are long overdue for a REAL kosher deli up here. I don’t know if I’ll live to see it.

I was really surprised  to see Ferndale’s Ivanhoe listed as the “Best Restaurant, (Overall)”. Really? Anyone been there? What do you think?

Finally,  I was pleased to see Redwood Acres recycling receive some recognition. This is one of my favorite businesses in  Humboldt County.  Great people, and they make the recycling experience almost fun. 

So what do you think of the “Best of the North Coast”?  Did they get it right?  Did they leave out your favorite? Let us know what you think!

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Happy Easter? Bah, Humbug!

Easter is my least-favorite holiday.  At Christmas you get good chocolate and lots of presents.  At Easter you get Peeps. No comparison.

As a kid growing up in Eureka, I was subjected to all kinds of barbaric treatment by well-meaning family members. I HAD to have a new coat, made from scratch by a lady on “A” Street, Audrey Hansen and her mother. Anyone remember them? Every coat involved two or three fittings all of which involved repeatedly being stuck with pins. These days we’d call it child abuse. The ladies were still in business when I was in sixth grade and had to have a Tiger Lily costume for the Christmas Pageant. More pins.

My normal hair wouldn’t do for Easter, either. My grandmother would march me down to Daly’s to have my hair permed. Remember that salon on the mezzanine level?  The sulphurous fumes from the frying hair filled the whole store.  Ah, the good old days.

Like it or not, Easter is a big holiday for retail spending. The National Retail Federation tells us each of us will spend $140 on Easter this year.  I’m not even close. I bought some Reese’s and a Paas egg coloring kit.  Don’t ask.  Our Easter Dinner will be a pork roast rescued from the freezer. I like to slow-cook them so that the house smells good for hours.  

That NRF article includes some fascinating data on how people plan to spend the holiday. almost half of you will be in church.  Which is good.  I don’t go myself, but I definitely  approve of church. Almost a third of you will be surfing the web on Easter, maybe doing some online buying. I asked the friendly staff at Partrick’s the other day about their holiday sales and they reported that while their big days are Christmas and Valentine’s,  Easter comes in a close third,  representing maybe 15% of yearly revenues. That’s pretty much the same as on the national level.  

So Happy Easter, everyone.  Support your local candy store and don’t make your kids get their hair fried. And go to the Zoo. It’ll make you feel good.

END

Radio Shack Closing

…at Bayshore Mall.  The other stores in the County (Arcata, Fortuna, Myrtle Avenue) will remain open for the time being while radio Shack closes thousands of its locations. The staff at the Mall was very helpful when I asked why Fortuna and Myrtle weren’t answering their phones. It’s because they help live customers over phone calls- don’t you wish everyone did that?-and the stores don’t have answering machines. Yup, that’s right.  They sell them, but don’t have one . The liquidation of the Mall location is well along and is the only store closing I’ve ever heard of that’s being advertised on Craig’s List. Entrepreneurs, check it out. They may have something you can use. 

Happy Retirement, Wally Cunningham

I took my car into Old Town Brake and Auto at 4th and D as I have for the past 15 years and Wally told me he’s retiring at the end of the month, turning the shop over to his son Brian (whose own shop, Eureka Brake & Automotive, on Second Street, will remain open.) Wally has achieved the American dream- a successful business to pass on to his kids and as far as I can figure he did it the old -fashioned way-through hard work. Keeps the same employees around for years too. Stop by and say goodbye to Wally and Sharon, who are remaining in the area. We’ll miss ya, Wally. 

And I’ll be offline for a few days while St. Joseph’s installs my new knee. Or should that be, my knew knee?  Blessings of the season to all of you.

The Eagerly Awaited Humboldt Soup Company

..is holding its official opening tomorrow. Here’s a link to the menu as posted on Facebook (they don’t have their website operational yet) so you can check it out before lunch tomorrow ’cause it sounds like there’s going to be a stampede. You have to scroll down aways to see the whole menu. The beet salad sounds incredible. Good luck to them!

October Economic Index Is In

This month’s Index reflects an economy in the doldrums.  Although the Composite Index increased 1.2 points this month, it is down 2.2 points from this time last year. Retail and Employment are up, Home Sales, Hospitality  and Lumber showed declines. Again our thanks to Dr. Eschker and his hardworking team.

September Humboldt Economic Index

Dr. Eschker and his dedicated group have published their Economic Index for September.    They found that in September Hospitality, Lumber, Employment , and manufacturing orders  were up, while Home Sales, Retail, unemployment claims, building permits and “help wanted” advertising were down.

Dinner with Dogs??

Do you love dogs?  Sure.

Do you love OPD (Other Peoples’ Dogs)?  Uh, not so much.  

Well, as of January 1, California restaurants with patio spaces will be allowed to serve dogs right along with their owners, assuming the owners are human. This “change” will probably affect Humboldt less than more urban regions  because plenty of local eateries are already allowing dogs. The rules are that the patios must have separate entrances so that the doggies don’t enter the restaurant itself and they continue to be banned from food preparation areas. The new rule does NOT mandate that dogs must be allowed on patios; that’s up to the proprietors.  Nor does it change any of the rules on bona fide service animals. 

I’m a dog owner who does not envision taking my dog to a restaurant in this lifetime. For one thing, she’d eat everything in sight.  For another, she’d never be able to share space with one of those cute fuzzy little dogs that look and sound exactly like her squeak-toys. The other question is, do I want to share a table with someone else’s dog?  When MY dog drools  on the table, it’s cute. When YOUR dog does it, it’s disgusting.

I’m all in favor of consumer choice, so when I pass by a patio cafe where chows are chowing down in favor of a human-only environment, that’s a valid choice. I wonder how the majority of Humboldt diners will react to their new dining companions.

July 2014 Economic Index Shows Most Sectors Declining

The Humboldt Economic Index.  produced by Dr. Erick Eschker and his team at the Economics Department of HSU, does not show a pretty picture this month.  The leading indicators are, shall we say, mixed.

Lumber is up, but Hospitality, Retail and Home Sales were down in July, as were building permits and help-wanted advertising.  On the positive side, manufacturing orders are up  slightly and UI claims are down. The national jobless rate declined to 6.1 percent in June while the unemployment rate was 7.2, virtually the same as the State as a whole.

Here’s what you’ve been waiting for: gas prices. “Both California and the Northern California region have seen 8% decreases in their average gas prices this month, while Eureka’s average price stayed at $4.25 in June.”  Enjoy the report, and our continued thanks to the HSU team.

Alibaba’s Mega IPO; The Analects of Jack

PART ONE: Imagine there were a company that offered on-line shopping, business-to-business sales, online payments, wholesale trade and cloud computing- in other words a combination of eBay and Amazon that is actually bigger than eBay and Amazon combined.  Welcome to Alibaba.

Started by a schoolteacher named Jack Ma on his kitchen table in Hangzhou in 1999,  the company, now based in Hong Kong,  is about to launch what may be the biggest initial public offering in history, one which could easily surpass Facebook’s fumbled IPO of $16B in 2012. Why will be the biggest  beneficiary? Yahoo, which owns 24% of Alibaba and will probably use the infusion of cash from the IPO to continue its buying spree of smaller tech companies. To give you an idea of the scale,  Alibaba processes  $248B in retail sales yearly.  Here’s a description from the Mercury News:

‘”Nearly 8% of all Chinese online shopping goes through Alibaba sites; on Singles Day last year, a popular holiday in China for online shopping, the site processed $5.8B in in purchases. By comparison, eBay’s total sales on its online marketplace for all of 2013 were $6.8B.”

Alibaba is also moving into mobile commerce in a big way, investing in American companies like  Mountain View -based Tango Me and in Lyft, the San Francisco -based ride sharing  app,  while attempting to consolidate its position amidst its nearest rivals, Baidu and TenCant, which is already rolling out its own IPO. (Google and eBay have departed the China market).  Alibaba’s  IPO was scheduled for August 8 (eighth day, eighth month- the Chinese like “8”s) but may be delayed due to last-minute glitches involving SEC approval of some of their subs which are based in the Cayman Islands.  Ma, who is worth over $8B, has stepped down as CEO but remains as Chair of the 21.000 employee firm and is devoting his time to a charitable trust. 

It’s a global economy for sure, and becoming more so every day.  Wonder how long it will be before we start seeing Singles’ Day promotions? That ‘s too good an idea to skip.

PART TWO: The Analects of Jack. The early history of Alibaba is set forth in a documentary and a book (Alibaba, by Liu and Avery, 2009) which describes how at one time in the early days, Ma was  literally kidnapped and held hostage in a Malibu mansion at gunpoint until he talked his captor into going into business with him).  Ma only got into college on his third entrance exam but his English major has definitely been put to good use in the following phrases which were compiled by American City Business Journals from various interviews and an appearance on Charley Rose that I’m sorry I missed. Here’s a sampling.

Why he likes small businesses and tries to help them through Alibaba: “I’ve seen people make a fortune by catching shrimps, but I’ve never seen anyone make a fortune by catching sharks and whales. It’s like Forrest Gump.”

On putting customers first:  “It’s customers No, 1, employees, two, and shareholders, three.  It’s the customer who pay us the money, it’s the employees who drive the vision,  and it’s the shareholders who when the financial crisis comes, these people ran away. My customers and my people stayed.”

On technology:  “I know nothing about technology.  I use the computer to browse the Internet and receive email. That’s it.”

On developing a business:  “If you want to be a great company, think about what social problem you could solve.”

 On money and Alibaba’s large cash reserves:  “When you try to solve problems with money, that is when your real problems start. A company’s assets are like a country’s armed forces.You cannot use it lightly, but if you ever need to mobilize it, you must win.”

END