Thursday, October 29, 2009

Where do you get your music?

One of our little categories/offerings at the shop is music. Old-school, plastic-wrapped cds that come with cover art and sometimes lyrics inside. The ones you can hold in your hands and study. The ones that have irritating sticky strips that take five minutes to remove.

It's kind of a dying vehicle, those factory-fresh cds. There are so many online, downloadable options now, not to mention the totally illegal practice of burning cds for friends. We love music (love!), and will continue to search it out and offer what we think is noteworthy. And we thank that loyal group of customers who like what we like and buy much of their music from us.

But here's the thing: the time spent sourcing/vetting new music is a wee bit excessive (but I'm a night owl and don't get paid by the hour, so who cares?), and the wholesale prices we pay are high. Very high. On top of that, some of the more esoteric and interesting artists are not readily available from the distributors. Like everyone else trying to stay alive today, distribution houses are focusing on mainstream offerings -- the stuff that sells.

I guess I'm in a bit of a funk about it. It started a few days ago with the release of the new Pink Martini album. Big fans, we are (although we don't love everything they do). I had the release date on the calendar, to be sure to have the cds in stock. Then I listened to it, or snippets anyway. Eh. Some really, really good songs interspersed with a couple of clunkers (four clunkers, to be exact). Perhaps we're too critical, but when you play the album in a store, you don't want to listen to anything that's too weird or bad or frantic or irritating. Or off pitch. It puts shoppers in the wrong frame of mind. We only play cds that we have for sale; that way, you get to walk around listening to it before you buy it. So it has to be good all the way through.

I also noted on the calendar that a new Jack Johnson cd was being released on the same day. Yay! Oh. It's a live album of everything you've heard before, only with clapping and woo-hooing.

The same day, we saw Sting on The Today Show performing a piece from his new winter/christmas album, If on a Winter's Night. Okay, that's good... like it. It only got 1.5 stars on the general review-o-meter, maybe because some were hoping for the "old" Sting of Roxanne style. This is way more contemplative and soft. English madrigals and ancient folk songs. I thought I detected a whiff of Fairport Convention in there. It's a christmas album, and I'd rather listen to that than most of the hokey christmas fare out there. If you really want to torture me (and possibly inflict permanent damage), put me in a locked room with that god awful new Bob Dylan christmas album, Christmas in the Heart. Oi! I think he should be forced to do about 1,000 Hail Marys for that one... and go apologize to the Wailing Wall.

Back to Sting. The new album is interesting enough that I went to my wholesale ordering site to check it out. Wholesale price is $11.99, with a suggested retail of $16.98. Let me tell you that that's not a very good margin, given that we usually try to lower the suggested retail. And that we have to pay 50¢ to $1 per cd for shipping, depending on how many we buy. And that we have to buy a play copy if we hope to sell any of them. I did the math: we buy five copies at $11.99 + $5 shipping + one play copy @ $11.99. Total: $76.94. We sell five copies at $15.95 for a total of $79.75. That leetle margin is a sneeze towards covering all the expenses a retail store has, not to mention two people working full speed ahead, and those voraciously hungry birds that can go through a bag of seed in a few days...

But here's the real kicker, math and margins aside. You can buy this particular album at a certain big box for $9.99. Yes, less than we pay wholesale. So what do I do? Nix a good album just because big retailers are willing to lose money on it and pay you to come buy it from them (in the hopes that you'll buy something else that actually has a profit margin)? Years ago I was a rep for a distribution company that sold to chain drug stores. The stores would buy Clorox bleach from us for maybe 89¢ per unit and sell it for 92¢. That was a loss leader. The teeny margin didn't add to the store's health, but it got people in the door. This new strategy from the big boxes, buying books for $20 and selling them for $10, why that's just genius!

Now don't go thinking of me as all bitter and grumpy. We're going to keep looking for and bringing in music. A house without music is like a house without books -- unthinkable! We'll do the best we can to find interesting albums we think you'll like. You'll always be able to come in and listen and get recommendations. For the rest of it, for stuff we can't get (or imports that are truly, ridiculously expensive), I'll occasionally post some links for laudable offerings from iTunes. I think it's a great resource, even though I'd rather be selling some of this stuff from our store.

Back to our subject line: where do you get your music? How do you choose what you want and where do you find it? When do you listen to it? What kinds of music do you like?

Okay: here's a little prize for getting to the bottom of this rant. Here are a few of my obscure favorites you can find on iTunes.

Gretchen Parlato: get her self-titled album. We can order her second album (In a Dream) but don't like it nearly as much as the first! Great Brazilian tunes, and a few in English. Sort of a soft, bossa nova/jazz theme all the way through, but not boring. You could play it during any dinner party, and everybody would be happy.

Francoise Hardy, Clair Obscur. Hardy is a famous French pop icon from the 60s and 70s and I find a lot of her stuff to be kind of fizzy and well, pop. But I love this album, and we used to sell it in the store, but because it is one of those dang imports, it retailed for about $22 (and we paid $19.95 for it!). You can get it for $9.99 on iTunes. Speaking of pop, one of my favorite songs on the album (this one belongs at the end of a romantic movie!!) is I'll Be Seeing You, a kind of funky rendition sung with -- don't gag now -- Iggy Pop. Uh, not normally my favorite guy. Iggy Pop, like rum & coke, only remind me of some really bad dates in my youth. Icky.

Last (not least... have to save some for another post), check out this guy named Vinx. Who is he? A revelation (to me; maybe he's well-known?). He's classified under R&B/Soul, but he really defies classification. Love his album, The Mood I'm In. There's this rolling, sweet beat all the way through. Little reminders of Bobby McFerrin, sometimes. An afro/caribbean/brazil percussion section. And a great voice. If nothing else, buy the song You Are My Sunshine. It's got to be the best version ever, with its West African beat, or wait, is that a slow-burning samba section?

Let us know how you like these!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Weird stuff (previously) for sale

Once in a while we'll find an oddity to bring into the store. It's usually just for laughs, but sometimes someone buys our oddballs. We always like to have at least one "what the heck is that?" kind of item in the shop. Thought I'd share a few here (even though they're long gone).

They may not look strange, but the metal words "Bend" and "Fun" above have an interesting origin. Years ago, we bought some old signs that had come from the Bend Funeral Home. Clever husband that he is, Robert got out the hacksaw and turned these into several smaller vintage signs that said: "Bend," "Fun," and "Home." We threw out the "eral" part (although we could have made "era" out of it. Dang.).

They sold within a day, although I managed to snag these two for us. From slightly creepy to cool!

On an antiquing road trip a while back, we came across a set of walking canes, the tops of which were outfitted with a salt and pepper shaker. Now go figure! It made us laugh, so we bought them, thinking they might be in the shop forever. But they sold, too. We had a lot of fun speculating on how they came to be. Somebody's hare-brained idea ("We can sell a million of these at the county fair!")? An eighth-grade shop experiment? A Swiss walking/picnic stick? Just think, if you were picnicking, you could reach across several people to sprinkle some pepper on the deviled eggs. How convenient.

I had a personal collection of tiny porcelain doll parts: heads, arms, legs, headless torsos. I'm not much into dolls (was I the only little girl on the block who didn't have a Barbie, and not care?), but these bits and pieces were so charming in their strange way. Alas, I can't keep everything, so we put them in the shop as a kind of oddity. They were all gone within the week. But here's my most excellent idea for the person who got all the parts (or for those of you who hunt for odd things like that): for Halloween, make simple cupcakes and stick a vertical doll leg or arm in the frosted top of each one. Chic creepy, non?

What kind of weird things (we're talking inanimate objects here) do you have in your house?

Monday, October 26, 2009

What's in a (store) name?

A few weeks ago, a news article caught my attention: Donald Fisher, founder of The Gap stores, had died. Long ago, I worked for The Gap for a briefish stint, trying to save up enough to finish my last year of college (I learned a lot at The Gap, too; definitely part of my education). So I knew the origin of the company's name, and certainly knew the company ad jingle, a catchy bit that still sometimes replays itself in my head, ad nauseum (if you're more than, oh, about 30 years old, you know "Fall in-to-the-Gap..."). I had even shopped at the original store as a teenager. It was odd (in that "I knew them when!" way) to see this one, simple idea grow into a mega-chain.

Interesting to note that Mr. Fisher originally planned to call the store "Pants and Discs" with a subtitle of "Levis, Records & Tapes." [Ahhh, 1969. How quaint.] His wife, Doris, came up with the far better name "The Gap." Do you think the store would have become the powerhouse it is with a name like Pants and Discs? No possible way. Forty years later, The Gap has stood the test of time, and is ingrained in our brand consciousness. Whether or not you shop there, you know exactly what it is.

On the other hand, we get used to every oddball name that thrives or goes mainstream. Kinko's was named for the wild, kinky hair of its founder. I bet he did it as a lark, never imagining that it would grow into a national chain. Never imagining that some of us would call it Stinko's.

One of my favorite stores (other than my own, oh yeah) is called Tail of the Yak (Berkeley, CA). There's just so much wrong with that name, starting with "yak." But mention the name to anyone who's ever shopped there, and it doesn't matter. Your heart still skips a beat and you get this warm fuzzy feeling about the Yak. Or how about Bell'Occhio (in SF), another fabulous, inspiring, beautiful shop? Unless you're Italian, you probably can't say it or spell it (and good luck finding it, too). But, it doesn't matter. They went with a name they loved (it means "good eye" in Italian), and bucked all odds to become one of the most luscious (and loved) little boutiques anywhere. You mustn't miss it if you go to San Francisco, but you better do a google map search first, because I'm not kidding: you'll never find it otherwise.

Then there's our own little Pomegranate. When we took over the location nearly twelve years ago, it was called Ice House Trading Post. Well, I'm just not a trading post kind of girl, so that had to go, and even though "Ice House" has a connection to the property (Bend's oldest ice house is one of our three buildings... but no ice anymore), it had its own issues. Although we relied on our small but growing group of sweet, dear and wonderful customers to know what we were all about, the words "Trading Post" and "Ice House" led some people to think we had pemmican and stuffed squirrels and cheap beer. The phone rang all day with such inquiries. Not exactly what I had in mind.

So the search was on for a new name. We had pages and pages and pages of names we had brainstormed. It had to be just right. Not a name someone else already had (I love "Nest" in San Francisco, but it's really bad form and bad business to copy a name, even from a different state). It has to be memorable, spellable, and most of all, fit your image. It has to sound good (or at least, not sound weird) when you answer the phone with it. If you call for Directory Assistance (or google a name search), can you at least get the first four letters right? [That's one small reason why I hate names like Kountry Kollections – oh, don't get me started!] And, does it work graphically when you start thinking about logos or labeling?

As we were in the throes of picking our new name, we ended up taking a long road trip, entertaining each other with stupid name ideas, and pretending we were answering the shop phone ("HellOOoo, Poopsie's!" – that was Robert's idea, shouted out in a high falsetto). My mother was with us for part of the way. She came up with Pomegranate, and it fit. She has wild pomegranate trees on her property, and we were always filling the car with them for decoration at the shop and at home. At the time, pomegranates were still an unusual and exotic fruit. Way before the time when they became part of our diet and vernacular. Before they became part of our cocktails. Pomegranates connect us to the Mediterranean, which we love. And they are ripe (pardon the pun) with spiritual, mythical, and religious iconography, which we learned about later.

Not that Pomegranate is the perfect name. It has its problems. Spelling, for one. We get mail addressed to Pompgranite, Pomogranit, Pamagrante, and every other possible variation. It's also a long name; the whole logo process is challenging (like right now, I'm finally putting a Facebook page together, and if you want to use your logo as your one image, it better fit into a small square, otherwise you're outta luck). For a vertical outdoor sign, I had to use a different font, condensed and squished to fit across. And now, there's the whole issue of popularity: unrelated Pomegranates are popping up all over the place, including another one in Oregon, which should be illegal, but isn't (it's just morally illegal). It just adds to the confusion and brand dilution, and means that sometimes shipments get mixed up and vendors make mistakes. Vexation occurs.

But it's okay. We're just doing our little thing in our small corner of Oregon. Micro mini business, compared to some. We're not going national anytime soon (okay, not ever). Heck, even having two stores was more stress than I could have imagined. Which brings me back to The Gap. To grow like that, to be successful at retail (3,100 stores!), takes money, focus, determination, passion, and really, really good systems. Oh, did I mention money? We definitely have focus, determination, and passion. So there you be.

When phish can't schpell

This little gem ended up in my junk mail box this morning. It's not the spelling so much, but the command of the English language that needs help. The last bit really cracked me up: "Sign, Mrs. Anita Bryan." Is that all you could come up with, you imbeciles of (faux) industry? Mmm. I have a sudden, unexplained urge for some Florida Orange Juice. With a grilled spam sandwich.

BendBroadband wishes to inform you that there is a
congestion in your Chesapeake.Net e-mail account.
This is due to the spam activities going on in the
Internet. You have been contacted personally so that
you can confirm your account to avoid losing it to
Internet spam. Fill the help form below and send it
back to enable us carryout an urgent maintenance in
your e-mail account.

* Username:__________________
* Password:__________________
* Phone:_____________________

BendBroadband Technical Support Unit is opened for
Technology, Help, Information, Support, resources. etc.
Thank you for your understanding. We apologize for any
inconveniences this may have cause you!


Mrs. Anita Brian
Technical Support Officer
(C)2009 BendBroadband. All Rights Reserved

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Fan us, please

Now I know how my dad must have felt when he used to call me all the time with computer questions. It usually went like this: "Honey, I'm so frustrated. I just plugged that thingie in with the cord you told me about, and I went to start the program, and it's GONE. Also, I created a page with a headline, and now the headline is missing. What button do I push to get it back?" He was writing a music reading book, and trying to compose music for it on a keyboard attached to the Mac.

I just put a Facebook page together, and had some of the same questions. Where did that button go? Why did I just see what I needed, and now I don't see it? Which rabbit hole did I go down this time, and can I find my way back? Did I just kill my website trying to install a link? Did my computer skills stop evolving in 1996?

Anyway, it's up and running, and I think you may be able to click over to it from this blog, using the fan link on the side. If not, you can search for us on Facebook by just typing in Pomegranate Home and Garden. There's only one fan so far (moi), and I'd love to have more and see how this whole thing works. Mom? Mom? Are you reading this? Have you figured out how to get on the internet yet? [silence]

The art (and frustration) of signage

I've been on a signage rampage in our shop. When we first opened years ago, I hand-wrote every tag and every little sign. We even designed and hand-painted our outdoor shop signs. Uh huh, that was fun. I designed them and printed a small copy to stick under a projector: from there we penciled in the outlines onto big pieces of plywood. For evenings on end we worked on those signs, hand painting every little bit -- including some pomegranates -- which we later had to paint over because they weren't allowed under ODOT regulations. Sigh. That's what you get sometimes when everything is DIY.

That was a long time ago. They were in dire need of a make-over, so we designed new shop signage and had them professionally made this time. That was number one priority when we closed up our downtown shop and redirected all our attention to our "off the beaten path" location. Hopefully, they're more visible now. I'm happy with them.

For little signs inside the shop, I've been experimenting with all kinds of sizes and looks, and have decided that this is an art unto itself. There's a lot of learning to do. What looks good on the computer screen isn't necessarily legible or eye-catching propped up as a little note on a table. It's been a kind of Goldilocks experiment lately after I make a little slew of small signs: "too boring, too fussy, too pale, too dark, too small, too big..." Once in a while it's just right.

I think it's human nature to ignore signs, instruction, labeling, so it takes extra effort to make it attractive and make it work. The other night my dear husband briefly warmed up some bread I bought for our dinner. I took one bite of the doughy, raw stuff and knew that he hadn't seen the big red letters on the package that said: "take home and bake." It's okay. I bought a combo package of what I thought was shampoo/conditioner (one of those big, honkin' ones from Costco), used it for two days and couldn't figure out why my hair was all flat and limp and weird. I finally looked at the package and realized that I had bought a big container of conditioner, packaged with a little container of conditioner. Whoopsie!

For some really great, cutting edge, inspiring, and professional examples of packaging and graphics, check out this website:

Friday, October 23, 2009

50% off on Halloween Goodies!

Starting today, all our fabulous Halloween treats are 50% off (this year we've got such fun stuff!). You've got a week left to fluff up the house with some scary bits. It doesn't take much: just adding a few elements to your front entrance can get you in the Halloween spirit. Here's an easy trick we did at the store (and at our house): we cut some bare branches off an overgrown bush, sprayed them black with a can of paint (it turned out more matte black or even gray, which was just right), stuck them into an existing pot (or you could attach to the wall with one nail and a little wire), and added some of the clip-on crows (or are they ravens?) seen above. It's very effective. And easy. We also like our hanging bats on springs for a surprise in the entry way or front porch. When the wind comes up, they start dancing.

So get ready. The vultures, I mean needy urchins, I mean trick or treaters are coming soon!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

... and the house is truly haunted

Last Saturday we held our first Halloween party at Pomegranate. Don't know why we've never done it before, because the place is soooo perfect for it. It's even haunted, according to legend. The previous owner used to walk in every morning and yell, "Good morning, Grandma!" (just in case). And we have had a few customers start to go up the stairs and stop in their tracks because they sensed something (without any prompting from us). Don't let that bit of info prevent you from going upstairs because a) there's some really cute stuff up there, and b) if grandma's ghost exists, it's a friendly one.

Anyway, isn't Halloween so much fun? It's the one time of year we adults can act and dress completely silly and goofy, and hardly anyone will judge us for it (yeah, your kids might be embarrassed). We had a blast decorating the shop, and next year we'll add even more. We found black umbrellas at the Dollar Store, slashed them up, and hung them in the trees. Robert made headstones out of funky old wood pieces and printed funny epitaphs we found (here's a site with some good ones: And I had a blast mixing Halloween music and creepy sounds from iTunes.

Here was the best part: Robert cooked up some special potions for our guests. Aside from our delicious Savory Sweet Spicy Nuts (recipe available on our website at, we poured True Blood, kind of a take-off of a Bloody Mary, and Brain of Newt, served in a bitty lab shot glass. That was the hit of the evening: one of those drinks that makes you kind of shudder as you down it... because it's so ugly. Let's see: cranberry vodka, lime juice and baileys (the last administered into the shot glass with a syringe)... it all coagulates and you get this disgusting looking drink. But it tastes good! Must have -- he served about 50 of them. Yep, next year we'll really do it up, and encourage everyone to come by as it gets dark (the later the better for spooky effect and the amazing way our little lights twinkled about the house).

The doorprize, a fabulous gift certificate for a custom stamp from Three Designing Women ($48 value) went to Kris H. Congratulations! How do you find out about these things? You have to sign up for our enewsletters and watch for announcements that just go out to our client list. Go to our website (link above) and sign up on the home page.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Halloween sale, party, attack of the birds

Tippi Hedren would be very afraid. Our sparkly bottle brush Halloween birds (and bats) clip on to anything, even chandeliers. Today at Pomegranate, they're all on sale (everything Halloween is 20% off). And, we're having a party at our haunted old homestead (come say hello to Grandma: she's usually upstairs). Open all day with treats, door prize sign ups, giveaways and spooky music; special Halloween soirée from 5-7:30. 541-383-3713. 120 NE River Mall Avenue, just off 3rd.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Halloween Haunting at Pomegranate: Saturday, Oct. 17

They're creepy and they're kooky, mysterious and spooky...

We're working on the finishing touches for our Halloween open house and soirée this Saturday (Oct. 17) at our little historic homestead. It's the perfect place for a halloween party, and the first time in years we've had time to deck it out and throw a little shindig for halloween. I especially love the bats on springs that we've got hanging on the front porch. All it takes is a tiny gust of wind to swing/spring them right into your face. So here's your invitation: tomorrow, open all day with treats (no tricks as far as I know) and discounts and goodies, from 10:30 to 7:30. Soirée starts at 5pm. Kids welcome; costumes welcome (if you wish). We're concocting some spooky, ooky treats... and oh, by the way, all our halloween décor will be on sale.

So get a witch's shawl on,
A broomstick you can crawl on

We're gonna pay a call on
The Pomegranate folks!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Babies love Bach

They do! Especially when it's as soft and soothing as this lullaby album (just in at Pomegranate). New mom and Portland pianist Lori Henriques realized that her quiet piano practice would lull her baby to sleep, so she recorded this lovely album of classical pieces that she specifically chose for their soothing qualities. It's beautifully modulated – no jarring crescendos or sudden crashes. I like it so much better than the traditional lullabies; a cd you can put on every night as baby gets ready for sleep (and you'll all like it). Might be just the perfect thing for a relaxing massage, too. Wake me up later, please.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Lollia -- happy happy happy

Ahhhh, it's back in stock at Pomegranate: Lollia hand creams, perfumes, bubble bath, candles (I was doing my little happy dance yesterday when it all arrived). Their newest collection -- Imagine -- is absolutely lovely, in scent and packaging. And we brought back "Wish," a perennial favorite. It's just luscious. Come in and we'll give you a little sample!