Archive for the ‘Business and Money’ Category

Shoe repair economics


A few months ago, in an empty lot that used to be a used car dealership here in Clarendon, some enterprising soul opened a shoe repair business. I was passing by today and I took a moment to reflect on what the repairman’s financial situation must be like. I’m sure he pays only a minimal rent, but I couldn’t imagine that he did much business. I mean, in this age of disposable consumer goods, how many people actually get their shoes repaired? It can’t possibly be cheaper to get a repair than to just buy a new pair of shoes. I thought about how lonely it must be for that guy, sitting alone in his little shack day after day waiting for people to come with shoes and money, but probably going home without even repairing one sole. “Maybe it’s a front for the mob,” I thought to myself. “Maybe I’ll plug his store on Metroblog, just because I feel bad for the guy.”

But then, miraculously, in the five minutes that I stood their pondering this guy’s fortunes, not one, but two cars pulled up and customers with armloads of shoes ran into the store. Shows what I know about entrepreneurship.

The Dirtiest Jobs in DC?

mike-rowe.jpgI’m addicted to Mike Rowe and his Discovery Channel show, Dirty Jobs. They’ve supposedly “searched this great land of ours” for people performing “jobs that make civilized society possible”. He’s hit Baltimore (Glen Burnie – McShane Bell Foundry) for a bell maker and groundskeeper for the Bowie Baysox, but no love for DC?

What do you think is the dirtiest job in DC? Cleaning up the sidewalk in front of Rumors after an overextended night of drinking? Maybe one of the Big Bite munching construction workers and landscape artisans at the local 7-11? How about being a lobbyist to congress for one of the “sin stocks” (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms)? Maybe even filling potholes in DC for the DOT? I could think of a few jobs uniquely “Dirty in DC”, what’s your favorite disgusting, grungy, smelly dirty job in DC?

Dude, not Candey Hardware, too…

Right there on 18th Street, just half a block off Connecticut sits Candey’s Hardware. It’s one of those almost impossibly cool places in the District, much like its neighbor, the 18th St. Lounge. A little tiny hardware story in the middle of the big city. The Post has a long elegy to Candey Hardware (with some really great photos) in its pages today. Candey’s has been in business since 1891, and has passed down through five generations of Candey’s, but now it will be no more. The building will be sold, the business packed up and finished.

Like many before me, including some of DC’s finest, that was where I went for my duplicate keys, ever since my friend Dan Glover showed me the door to Candey’s back in 2000. But no more. Much as David Candey says, “As you go through life, you’re born, you have real days when you’re thriving and productive, and then you come to an older time when it’s time to look ahead.”

Such is the way. Businesses spring up and flourish, surviving bad times and doing well in the lush times, but then there comes a point when they must be closed for good.

Goodbye Candey’s Hardware. I’ll miss you.

Does Ross & Marshall’s @ DC USA = Low-Rent Columbia Heights?

DC USA Construction

Over on the Columbia Heights listserv there is a flame-tastic email exchange going on over the revelation that the DC USA retail center might be leasing space to Ross Dress for Less now that Whole Foods has pulled out.

That somehow the addition of Ross to a retail mix that includes Target and Marshall’s, both discount retail chains, will bring down the mall and the neighbourhood.

Or in RJ Mauch’s words:

I think most people would prefer NOT to see Ross and Marshals. We need that like we need another damn CVS in this city. Enough unless you’re interested in experiencing a Silver Spring City Place disaster, because that is where this headed with all this dumping of low-end retail junk.

The fine citizen of Columbia Heights want DC USA, the multi-million dollar retail extravaganza in the center of their community to be uplifting and diverse as it was in the past. Or as Adam Aaronson says:

The issue is that we are getting retail that isn’t best suited for the neighborhood, and that much of it is redundant – all the banks, all the drycleaners, etc etc. Marshalls and Ross are the same store. I’m sure if Safeway or Harris Teeter opened up across the street from the Giant, the uproar would be the same.

But would it? Could this really be an issue of class? Of the socio-economic desires of a “transitional” neighbourhood to have a Logan Circle effect with DC USA? A transformation of image (and residents) from working class to high class through retail establishments? I think I have to agree with batboy8686’s conclusion:

The debate about Ross Dress for Less in Columbia Heights REALLY comes down to peeps thinking they could make 10% annually on a real estate investment.

You have a Starbucks. You have some condos that have presumably sold. The anti-Ross campaign really comes down to people thinking they were going to move to Logan Circle – no more, no “less”.


No Pity for Exurb Mailbox Experiences

On Saturday, as I sat on the front porch of my Nairobi house numbered home, I greeted my neighbourhood mailman.

With a smile and a stack of bills, he climbed the stairs to my stoop and we had a moment of laughter around mail mis-sent to my place instead of forwarded to the previous owners. This little moment is one of the many reasons I love me some Petworth.

And the convenience of home mail delivery is yet another reason why I wonder about the mental capacity of folks who move way out to random suburbia. Take this weekend’s WashPost article “You’ve Got Mail . . . a Block Away” with the choice quote:

“This house is our dream. It’s got everything — all the bells and whistles,” Hamilton said. But, he added, “you deserve to have a nice mailbox in front of your house. I don’t think that those cluster boxes are pleasing to the eye.”

Sitting on her front porch, staring ruefully at her freshly planted garden of shrubs and flowers, Hall said she did not find out that the subdivision would have only communal mail delivery until after she moved into her $525,000 home.

And I can’t take a moment to mourn either people. They are the ones who moved out to the edge of existence, trading sensible population density for exurb sprawl. They are the ones who think new subdivisions sprouting up in farmland, serviced by long drives in SUV’s, are a good thing.

To the city-dwelling rest of us, this photograph from the article perfectly captures our feelings on the matter: let them walk!

shock jocks acting… shocking

It’s not surprising to me that shock jocks behave badly. This is a capitalist society, and as long as we (collectively) create a market for shock jocks, people like Opie and Anthony will continue to push the envelope, just like car companies will continue to build SUVs as long as there are suburban yuppies who want to buy them. To a certain extent, we have no one but ourselves to blame for the Imuses and Opie & Anthonies of the world.

It’s a little surprising that DC-based XM, which is not subject to FCC regulations, suspended Opie and Anthony. But hey, if I owned a broadcasting company and my on-air talent made jokes about how fun it would be to watch the look of “horror” on a woman’s face as she’s being raped, I’d fire their asses. Like, before the end of the show. Without apology. Not because they don’t have a First Amendment right to say it, but because their rights do not require me to provide salaries or studio space for them while they do. And because their rights do not require their employer to lose ad money or subscriber revenue in the name of “Creative Freedom.”

So I think Jim Treacher is full of shit when he calls it “censorship”. It’s not censorship; it’s capitalism. (Comedy Central has an agreement with Trey Parker and Matt Stone, creators of “South Park” that’s at least honest about it. They can do whatever they want, but Comedy Central will show episodes in advance to advertisers. If the advertisers stay in, the show airs. If they want to pull their ads, the show doesn’t.)

It’s worth noting that the terrestrial radio version of the Opie & Anthony show has lost advertising from none other than Trojan condoms over this incident. How tasteless do you have to be when the company who gave us the “Trojan Man” commercials decides you’re bad for its image?

USPS Address Change “Convenience Fee”

Are you, like me, moving across town this spring? Did you want to submit a change of address form to the Post Office, online?

Yes, I too want to avoid the hassle of a post office visit to forward my mail, but guess what happens if you aim for convenience for both the post office and you: USPS charges you $1.00 for the time-save of a website transaction.

usps moving fee

Don’t believe the “need to verify” bulls**t, plenty of companies verify without charging, or charge $0.03. This is just a way for the USPS, a cash-crunched company, to charge me to save them time and money. I find that more than a little egregious. Kinda like an ATM “convenience fee”.

I just hope this is the last move I make in a long while. That buck smarts and I already refuse to send those paper letter things anymore.

Poor financial choices

If I was going to spend the kind of coin it took to get a commercial onto prime time during “24” I think I’d run it past the proofreader. Maybe that’s just me.

So, what’s in a drink?

old Dominion Brewing
While inebriating ourselves during the DC Metblogs happy hour (more details to be released soon, if not already), we got to recapping some current news regarding our venue of choice, the newly opened Old Dominion Brewhouse at the DC Convention Center. Much fun was to be had and many beverages were consumed (as well as many plot conceived). I was also, with a heavy heart disclosed (as covered recently in the Washington post as well as the DC Beer List) that Old Dominion, one of the original “new brewers” of the D.C. beer Renaissance was sold to Anheuser-Bush and Fordham Brewing in a 49/51 split. What was more unconscionable in the discussion was the news disclosed that the old guard brewers were dismissed (as were many other staff) without as much as severance pay, let alone being kept on to familiarize the new owners with “how things worked” at Old Dominion. Do we want to drink beer (or root beer)`, now, from a company that behaves in such a fashion?

While this may be old news in the brewing community, the acts purported to have happened due the the relatively haphazard take-over of a local institution of brewing in the DC Metro area raises some alarm. Are we to loose such a unique fixture as Old Dominion to the faceless macro brewery conglomerate, known unaffectionably as A-B? Will the known Old Dominion Ale and other local favorites as Tupper’s Hop Pocket Ale go the way of the Do-Do (or at least the way of Foggy Bottom Brewing)? Voice your opinion here, on the possible overthrow of the evil overlords that may possibly erase a tradition in DC that has just celebrated it’s 15th Anniversary of life. Will D.C.’s brewing history start to fade away as many other traditions that are uniquely D.C. as globalization and big-business eat up countless local flavors?

Found: One Used ATM on K Street

Look what I found on the street the other day: an automated teller machine.

No, it wasn’t the slowest ATM in the world, nor was it multi-lingual. From what I could tell, it was just a random Bank of America ATM.

No word yet on what is replacing it either. I really hope its another robo-ATM where customers can refinance Bolivian debt while they check their bank account balance.

Others may disagree – I hear ATMs that supersize withdrawals are quite popular. But I wouldn’t know, I always use tellers.

Yeah, tellers, that antiquated process where you talk to a human to get your money. Maybe that makes me old-school, but not once am I charged a “convenience fee” for the privilege.

And I might just be saving a teller from ending up like this ATM – out of a job.

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