thoughts on a new coffee bar and venue in downtown roseburg, oregon

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Restaurants increasingly preferred over retail in town centers

The signs are there:
- In a CoolTown retail study, 44% of the downtown businesses in five of the most progressive college towns are restaurants.
- According to the article,
Restaurants popular as a draw for shopping centers, 20 years ago restaurants made up 10 to 15% of the tenancy in Dallas commercial centers, but today that number is closer to 25 to 50%, with restaurants now often serving as the anchor.
- The first two of four phases for neighborhood revitalization today starts with restaurants, as stated by retail expert Steven Gartner. The four phases are outlined here.
- The National Restaurant Association has projected U.S. restaurant sales to increase 4.4% this year from 2007, even as much of the retail sector contracts. The association also reports on the following two areas:

Hot trends:
- Small is in. Bite-size desserts and small plates/tapas/mezze;
- ‘Alternative-source ingredients’. Locally grown produce, organics, sustainable seafood, grass-fed and free-range items, and alternative red meats (ie buffalo);
- Ethnic cuisines and flavors;
- Specialty alcohol;
- Unique experiences + food rather than just food.

Noteworthy stats:
- Americans currently buy a meal or a snack from a restaurant 5.8 times/week;
- Annual spending on food away from home is $1078/person;
- Consumers now spending 48 percent of their food budget in restaurants.

In other words, if your downtown is struggling, there probably aren’t too many successful restaurants in existence, if any at all.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

This is a great restaurant!

San Diego's triple-bottom-line third place redefines 'restaurant'

If you're looking for a benchmark restaurant that represents most everything that a restaurant should be (as far as omnivores go), The Linkery in San Diego is a necessary destination. It starts with a founder like Jay Porter, "It would be a place that would, as a business, provide a community space that would bring people together. And it would celebrate really good quality food and drink and beer in a simple way... hopefully it could be a place that could become a center for something that adds meaning and richness to life in this area."

From its description to its blog to its primer for newbies, you'll soon realize the craftsmanship and soul that's poured into this place day in and day out. Some principles:

- All meat served comes from independent farmers and co-ops with integrity.
- Farm-to-table locally-based produce.
- No factory-made ingredients (outside of condiments like mustard).
- Hand-crafted beer and sausages.
- Daily-changing menu based on what's fresh and seasonal, half of which is vegetarian despite the restaurant name.
- Affordability is a key goal.
- No tipping. They have an entire section on it here.

Like Jamie Wallace of Abay Ethiopian Restaurant, Jay started his restaurant with only a tech background. All of Jay's quotes in this entry are excerpted from an excellent interview with Jed Sundwall.

Did you have any restaurant experience before?
No. I was totally making shit up.

Really! Did you have a partner with experience?
No. They say don't do things that you don't have experience in because you'll do every stupid thing possible, which I did. But by the time we opened, we'd attracted people who wanted to be a part of it. There are people with skills and knowledge who came in and said "Oh, you're building a restaurant! What's your plans for this?" and I'd say "I don't know!" And they'd say "Well I need to come in here and help!" "Great!" You know?

As regulars to this website know, the impact of this third place isn't limited to inside the walls, "Over the course of 6 months this little corner went from being basically totally unused at night to rocking."

Thanks to Chris Radcliff for the reference.

Image source: Bonzo McGrue.

Now playing: 'Skinny Love' here:
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

from Cool Town Studios - importance of local businesses

Entrepreneurs, newer companies leading economic growth

What's leading economic growth in our cities?

Robert Litan, VP of Research and Policy at the Kaufmann Foundation* and director of Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution**, concludes that more of our growth today is generated by entrepreneurial or newer companies. He answers the following question in this interview from Smart City Radio:

Smart City Radio: "If you were advising a local urban leader on how he or she could encourage the start up of businesses that would have a good chance of expansion, what would you tell them to do."

Robert: "I'm going to give them advice that a lot of them may not want to hear, but through a lot of research here at Kaufmann, we think the most effective use of local dollars to encourage the growth of local business, is to do the basics right. If you can get crime down, if you can solve your local infrastructure problems, if you can have decent schools, nice parks and amenities, what that'll do is either attract or retain the 24-34 year old age group that are college-educated. That is the cohort that is most likely to lead to your future success. That's the cohort that's most likely to lead your future businesses. If you can attract and retain those people, that is the best indicator of whether or not you'll be entrepreneurially successful."

*The vision of the Kauffman Foundation is to foster a society of economically independent individuals who are engaged citizens, contributing to the improvement of their communities, thus focusing on two areas: advancing entrepreneurship and improving the education of children and youth. **Brookings is a leading research institution influencing urban policy.

Image source: Rob Millenaar.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The 'creative treehouse'

If you're looking for an affordable, creative place to work or hang out, you're in luck if you live in Pittsburgh, or more precisely, Bellevue, Pennsylvania, 4.5 miles from downtown Pittsburgh. That's where you'll find the Creative Treehouse; a 7500 s.f. arts-oriented coworking space. The key ingredients? An inexpensive lease in a developing neighborhood.

The membership-structured (starting at a mere $25/month) space features:
- A creative service center that will allow businesses to network with member artists (the coffeehouse/coworking scene, as pictured);
- Multi-purpose facility for public art displays, gatherings and even live music (essentially a large open room);
- Photography studio with darkroom;

Also, members are allowed to:
- Organize events;
- Host and attend workshops and classes;
- Be included in group showings,
- Update their online profile accessible to businesses and other members.

Events include 24-Hour Creative Marathons (e.g. publish a comic book), NY-style dance parties, and collaborative world happenings like the May 10, 2008 Pangea Day where 24 user-created films are shown simultaneously around the globe.

Open since June 30, 2007, the Creative TreeHouse has plans to expand to other cities (undetermined) in the future, which is expected since it fits the MySpace-oriented viral loop model of customer-motivated replication. As owner Jesse Hambley puts it, who founded the Treehouse as a 23 year-old independent photographer, designer and video editor, "It's like MySpace in a building."

Thanks to Christian MacAuley of Fab Apps for the reference!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Crowd-sourcing a music festival

This is another one of those 'it was just a matter of time' things...

We've gone over how to crowdsource places and scenes, but not events. Well, here's a real world example in Scotland...

The Tennent's Mutual is a music festival with a quarter of a million $ budget (this can obviously be scaled smaller or larger depending on your market)... that its founders will allow music lovers to "shape, create and dictate gig provision - from selecting artists and debating locations to calling the shots on ticket prices."
Sponsored by Tennent's Lager, the 'crowdmanaging' opportunity is free, and its advisors include the likes of the Rolling Stones' Andrew Loog Oldham, so there goes the myth that this is only for college students.

Another one of the advisors, Stewart Henderson from Chemikal Underground, comments on the rengen-like impact, "This is a total watershed time that we're living in at the moment. It will change things completely--irreversibly. What Tennent's has done is they've effectively set themselves up as patrons. It's a positive thing as it allows things to happen that may not have otherwise."

Profits from this event will fund the next one. One can just see a viral loop network forming soon...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Attract more creatives with 'anchored coworking'

Creatives, free agents, entrepreneurs and mobile knowledge workers may be driving the economy, but they aren't going to be driving to work. They prefer avoiding isolation at home, but there are only so many coffeehouses, and even fewer coworking sites.

One growing source of spontaneous workplaces are anchored coworking sites - coworking sites provided by established companies who not only have extra space, but enjoy reserving it for untethered creatives. PSFK: Trends and Inspiration profiles several such examples in their recent article, A Deeper Look at Coworking.

What're the benefits of anchored coworking sites?
- For once, it doesn't take much additional investment or planning because the anchoring firm has already done so for itself (ie general lease, network printer, internet, phones, etc.)
- Second, the anchor company is often open to collaborating with its itinerant tenants, and thus will choose those with like-minded interests - a win-win proposition.
- Third, it's a heckuva lot faster, easier and much less risky with a more ubiquitous supply when you're talking about companies with extra desks vs starting completely from scratch.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

coffee house as office

Third place coffeehouses as economic development

I first profiled Tryst back in 2003 as a popular coffeehouse third place in Adams Morgan, Washington DC. But five years later, ten years after it first opened, it's not only become a neighborhood institution, but it really should be seen as a contemporary model for job creation.

Here's the big picture:

1. A majority of big businesses come from small businesses, and small businesses are started by entrepreneurs... from their homes.
2. Many (not all) entrepreneurs who tried working exclusively from home will tell you one thing - it sucks. No human interaction, no place for meetings, no escape from spending most of your life stuck at home.
3. Coworking sites are ideal, but are often too pricey for the budding entrepreneur.
4. Thus, enter coffeehouses with free wifi and staff trained not to bug you too often if you've decided to park there for most of the workday. The good news is they're packed with entrepreneurs all day. The bad news is that they're not very profitable until they leave.

In the meantime cities are investing tons of capital in contrived business incubators that often fail. Why not redirect that capital into economic development tax breaks for coffeehouses that provide evidence of effectively acting as free workplaces for entrepreneurs?

On the one hand, Tryst makes no money before 6 pm. On the other hand one can't get a seat during the day. It seems to be an economic travesty not to have enough workplaces for the neighborhood entrepreneurs. Proactive cities will overcome this, but it obviously hasn't happened in Adams Morgan yet.