Thursday, March 27, 2008

Two Buck Chuck in a plastic cup

Just like any other transplant to Bend who came from some other civilization of any significant size, I too love Trader Joe's, and am happy they're finally here. But wow, people, with all the buzz surrounding tomorrow's opening of the new Bend store, you'd think it was the second coming or something. I think we'll avoid the stampede tomorrow and wait until things have settled down. Just think, no longer will we have to make a TJ's pilgrimage while in Eugene, or Portland, or San Rafael.

We won't be buying Two Buck Chuck, though. Last time we tasted it, we thought it was swillish. So don't get too excited if you've never had it. If you want some cheapo house plonk, try the Crane Lake petite sirah sold at Ray's. It's not something you'd bring to a dinner party, but it's not bad at all for a mere $3.99. The other Crane Lake offerings are only so-so in my humble opinion, but that sirah/syrah is not half bad if you're feeling a bit budgetized.

At Pomegranate Downtown, we are always open for First Friday artwalks, and usually serve something fun to drink. Our latest concoction is a Pomegranate Sangria, which I have to say Robert (mixmeister) has perfected by now, even though he keeps tinkering with the ingredients. Last time he made it, he threw in a splash of tequila. Ugh, said I, until I tasted it.

Gearing up for First Fridays downtown is a rather expensive proposition, so it comes as no surprise that everybody eventually has to figure out ways to cut down on the cost. So there's a lot of Two Buck for these gatherings. Nothing wrong with that -- it's a great way to serve lots of people who are wandering and having fun. What is interesting are the some of the patrons, most of whom we know and love, but there's always that fringe group, armed with every free plastic cup of red wine served at these gatherings. By 9 o'clock, you can already see the imminent hangovers forming for some. That's when it's time to dim the lights, turn off the music, go home and collapse while we have our traditional First Friday 10pm supper: scrambled eggs with herbes de provence, toast, and a glass of cold milk. Ahhhh.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Painted Pony (and the easter bunny) ride into the sunset

Was it really Easter yesterday? It all came and went so fast. I didn't even buy any chocolate rabbits (although did make some easter cupcakes). On Saturday, working at our downtown shop, I kept looking across the street at Chocolat et Gateau to see if there was a moment I could dash across and buy some chocolates, but it was one busy little spot with all the chocolate lovers lined up to buy easter treats. For a visual chocolate trip, log on to for some great photos of Parisian easter windows. Scroll down to photos of fabulous chocolate eggs that only the French (or Belgians) can do. Quel excès!

Last week downtown the big gossipy news was about the newly stripped space where the Painted Pony had been, with a "We are Closed" sign slapped on the front door. Whoa. Apparently this was an overnight, pack it all in the U-Haul and drive away maneuver, but can't verify any details in a journalistically responsible manner. It's always sad and shocking to see a neighbor go out of business; especially shocking when they go out in the dark of night. I know the business had been for sale for awhile, and I think this was a newish owner who tried to make a go of it, but there had to be an extreme, last-ditch reason for disappearing. All this stuff is endlessly fascinating, at least to those of us who are always studying and pondering the weird and wonderful world of retail.

Why wouldn't they have staged a big sale and tried to recoup some of their investment? Why pack all the inventory, fixtures and systems into rental vans (must have been a huge effort) and drive to who knows where? Hmmm. With gas over $3 a gallon, and those U-Haul monsters getting about 6 mpg, it would cost them plenty to haul that stuff anywhere. Clothing racks are really heavy. Ditto display cases and shelving. Why would you schlep those off somewhere? Unless a whole lot of money was owed to previous owners/landlord/vendors... There could be another story here, one we'll never hear. I've no doubt that a new renter can be found for the space -- it's in a prime location (Wall St. is still the cat's meow, as those of us on side streets will tell you), and even though retail right now is umm, sluggish, someone will still see the opportunity and snap it up. So if it were me, I wouldn't have worried too much about being stuck with the lease. Maybe a little worry.

Of course, my first thought was, wow, wouldn't that make a great Pomegranate space? Or a third location where we could do a whole different offering? So many ideas. Such a glutton for punishment. It's not going to happen.

Speaking of stores going out, we're sad to see Tiger Lily closing shop. I know Mindy has some new ventures she wants to pursue, and a shop tends to consume your life. She added a nice twist to downtown shopping with Tiger Lily; unique, tasteful and lovely. I believe she's still there for a few days, clearing out the last bits.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Letterpress Love

Just got finished with a two-day class on letterpress printing, and I feel like a schoolkid proudly rushing through the door with a clay turtle that looks more like an aardvark. Wheeee! Some time ago (four years? five years?) Robert bought for me an itty bitty table top press with all the little fonts and spacers and engravings and doodads (a whole new vocabulary; that word not part of it), and it's been sitting in a closet because we never got around to learning how to use it. It's been one of my little dreams to be able to print letterpress cards for our shops. I just love paper, love the look and feel of hand-printed cards and love love love typography.

Through the Art Station, I found out about the beginning letterpress class offered at Atelier 6000 here in Bend (very cool new space if you haven't discovered it yet), and couldn't be happier. Of course, I am still at the beginning level, where one only gets a glimpse of how very much more there is to learn, but did manage to print out my first project, a business card for our V.P. of PR, Mollie. It's very simple and doesn't look like much, but I am quite pleased with myself nevertheless. Tonight, I am the princess of printing. Yeah, right. We still have a lot to figure out (including finding a few missing parts for our press) and a whole lot to learn, but hope to be doing some tiny projects at some point in the near future.

I have a whole new respect for the letterpress process: it's unbelievably labor-intensive and detail-driven. It requires huge cabinets and rows and rows of drawers/cases filled with heavy lead type. The presses (mine not quite included because it's so dinky) are heavy and cumbersome. And, you have to have good eyesight (augmented by a magnifier) and good small motor skills. Oh yes, you also have to be able to read backwards and upside down. Yet, when the press makes that first satisfying click into position, and you pull out your freshly inked print, there's joy and happiness at seeing your little creation. I highly recommend it if you are interested in the art of printing: there are more classes and workshops available at Atelier 6000.

And if you're lucky, Mollie will give you one of her new cards when you visit Pomegranate at our River Mall Avenue location.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Kohl's: soon to be our new neighbor

Husband Roberto and I wondered why Kohl's consistently advertises on our Bend TV station (I'm pretty sure these are local buys and not national), when there is no Kohl's for miles around. Now we know. According to the business section in the paper the other day, they plan to build (drumroll) a new location on the pad behind Macy's (the department store formerly known as Bon Marché). In other words, they'll be a new neighbor at our little Pomegranate Home & Garden. This is exciting and a little scary at the same time. It's been nearly ten years we've been toiling away at our little tucked-under-the-pines, slightly off the beaten path location, and it's been a happy ten years. [By the way, watch for announcements of our grand 10-year celebration happening this summer.] I've never been in a Kohl's, but know that they've positioned themselves as being affordable and stylish. That's good. It is curious that competing stores like to build close to one another, à la Lowe's and Home Depot, or Staples, Office Max, and Office Depot (which I get all mixed up), but their marketing/real estate wizards must know something we don't.

So this is nice for us because it means increased traffic on River Mall Avenue. It's kind of the only way to get to the back of Macy's, aside from the little cut-through the mall developers call a Promenade (sorry, haven't seen anyone promenading there; doesn't exactly lend itself to strolling and window shopping). Maybe they'll figure out easier access from the 97 bypass (not too bad if you're coming from the north; a goofy loop-de-loop if you're driving in from the south). It'll make the whole area more prominent and active, and that's good. It also means increased traffic, literally. Will it just be a parade of cars coming and going all day, backed up from the traffic light at 3rd Street? We've had the luxury all this time of using the front curb of the property for parking, and being able to spill over into the Macy's lot when needed. During our flea markets and summer events, the street in front is kind of a madhouse, with everybody parking up and down it. Uh oh.

It's been interesting to watch all the changes over the last ten years, as seen from the front porch of our old homestead (it's not really ours; just the business). There was the tree debacle, back in the "Bon" days, when they cut down a gorgeous, old-growth tree to carve out more spaces in the parking lot (altogether now: "they paved paradise..."). There was the big build-out of Macy's, when they expanded the footprint north and south. There was the extreme makeover of the rear 'pad' area behind Macy's one summer. They had guys back there working at a breakneck pace, overtime, weekends, all the time, blasting and clearing and blasting some more (our poor little Pome shuddered and shook like a leaf every time). We didn't know why there was such urgency to get it done, but figured that some big potential tenant demanded it, then pulled out. There was a lot of talk that it was to be an Olive Garden. Ugh. Then there was the 97 bypass. Suddenly it was done, it filled up with traffic, and it's been a constant low roar ever since. We witnessed the interesting transformation of the mall, when new owners cut it in two and painted it baby-poop brown. Behind us was kind of a mini wilderness where deer still roamed, until they built the rest of the Shopko mall. Next to go, sadly, is the canal that runs peacefully alongside the homestead property and helps keep our lovely, large pine trees alive. We expect to come to work one day and see our little parking lot filled with big cement trucks ready to go to work piping the canal and covering it. Meanwhile, when there's water in it, there are usually fish to be found, and it's a great place to teach a kid how to fish.

We've been kind of quietly doing our thing all these years, somewhat under the radar (the downfall and the beauty of being in a 'secret' location). The homestead, once the only structure for miles around, is now an anomaly, a sweet little curiosity hidden behind all the big boxes and strip malls. It has its maddening faults and is a cranky, creaky old thing at 102 years old, but also has its charms and plenty of character.

This will bring more change, and we hope it's all good.

Monday, March 10, 2008

In the market for a new angel?

I wrote earlier about wanting to take some surreptitious photos of some of the ugly objects we encounter at the markets we go to for our Pomegranate shops. Yet, I'm not very clever with the cell phone camera and can't exactly ask permission from some of the vendors. It would go like this: "Hi, do you mind if, for fun, I take a picture of your lamp shaped like a frog with scary bulging eyes, who's holding onto a plastic hot-air balloon suspended above a murky pond?" That lamp, friends, exists on this planet. Luckily I got a catalog in the mail the other day with some great examples of the worst. This is some dreck I can share with you, all four of my readers. We love (and hate) this stuff. Hate it because it's such a waste of energy and money and resources and is so useless. Love it because when we go back to our hotel at night after a long day of market, it makes us laugh sometimes to the point of tears running down our faces (it's not that funny, but we're usually blithering idiots after the fifth day of ten-hour days at market).

So there's mommy angel above left, harmless enough. She's resin, multi-colored in every pastel there is, made in China, and impossible to dust. Let's hope that your Aunt Gertie doesn't buy her for you (suggested retail $40) when you have your first child. Then there's "Gooooaaaaaaal!" above right. Even Hummel doesn't have this one. Then we have the little fireman, the little golfer and Opie in his little scooter car. Notice something odd here? Something slightly disturbing? The mom angels are all demurely dressed, the picture of sweetness. The dad angels, on the other hand, are shirtless, all ripped abs and glorious in their blondness. Not to mention the fabulous gold bracelets and romanesque cinch belts. Oh my.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Magazine deaths; still no dearth

Today is the day I promised my poor husband that I would go through the piles of magazines I've been hoarding, and clean them out, once and for all. But of course, I can't. Too many good articles, too much inspiration... and a few titles that no longer exist. I was so sad to learn that House & Garden was leaving the scene. I don't know. Maybe I was one of the few who thought it was a fabulous magazine. According to the Condé Nast (parent company) website, its ad pages were down .3 percent this last year. That seems negligible, but what do I know? It must be a daunting task to produce a magazine every month, and keep it in the black. I do know that I loved the pieces by editor Dominique Browning, a masterful writer. [How many editor's notes do you actually look forward to reading? It's usually just a fluffy puff about how great the issue is.] And, I loved the Testy Tastemaker column on the back page, always a hilarious and snarky commentary on design and life. House & Garden wasn't the kind of magazine where you'd find practical, affordable (!) DIY tips, but it wasn't afraid to profile some extraordinary (sometimes outlandish) designers, homes and architectural projects. December's issue (the last of its kind) had a piece on the late Hollywood designer Tony Duquette. What a madman!

I guess the newish Blueprint magazine also went out of business. It was good. Didn't last long. And you probably all know that Victoria magazine is back in print, and looks just like its old self. Some of it is still a bit ethereal and foufy, but I'm glad to see it back. We were lucky enough to have our Pomegranate business card showcased in the magazine back in what -- 2003? -- just before it went out. It was our little claim to fame. In the current March/April issue, there's a lovely article about hotel silver and a collector/dealer extraordinaire. Her collection makes me drool with envy. Hotel silver is one of my little passions in life, and we do have some nice pieces (and are always on the hunt for it to bring into the shops), but this collection is particularly fine and rare. If you're interested in hotel silver, I recommend this article just for the eye candy. Check with us at the shops, because we always love to talk about it, and sometimes have some wonderful pieces in stock. It comes and goes, depending on where and when we can find it. It's getting harder and harder to find good pieces, but I always have my radar on everywhere we go (and are lucky enough to have a few people out there looking for it for us).

Now it's back to my magazine purging project. It kind of goes like this: pick up an old issue of Smithsonian (such a great magazine!), scan a couple of articles, put it in the 'save' pile. Back issues of Domino: so fabulous! Put them in the 'save' pile. House & Garden: can't get it anymore, so better put them in the 'save' pile. Can't throw Martha Stewart and Living out either. National Geographic: lots of great stuff dog-eared, but not yet read. Cottage Living had some great photo shoots and things I may have missed, so they go in the 'save' pile too. Elle Décor, much to be saved and savored. Am I making progress yet? Is there a cure for this?