Sunday, July 22, 2012

Mob Mentality

"When the theater gates open, a mob pours inside, and it is the poet's task to turn it into an audience."
---Franz Grillparzer


Atladena's second attempt at a "cash mob" occurred yesterday at WFS, after a build-up of about a week's duration in our local newsblogs.  This mob, actually spread out throughout the day, provided a needed boost to our daily sales.  Saying that I'm grateful is an understatement - I can say that we're unequivocally floored by the kindness shown us yesterday!

The idea of cash mobs came up as a reaction to the news that Altadena will be getting a new Walmart Neighborhood Market on Lincoln and Figueroa and possibly a second one at Lake and Calaveras.  The Save Altadena group wants to support local business.  Some doubt that it will be sustainable, but we've heard the naysayers before, and we're not daunted.  This cash mobbing is a fantastic way for our townspeople to get to know our local businesses, to help support them now and hopefully, in the future.  I can say for certain that it made our day, our week and probably, our month.  It's a great thing to do in summer, when sales are slow and business is welcome.  Remember - 
 I envision this continuing throughout the year and we've committed to attending each and every one!   The next one is scheduled for Spin Off Records on Lincoln - stay tuned to our Facebook page to find out when it will be.

Stay cool this week, friends!  We'll talk next week....

Lori and Scott

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Pleasant Valley Sunday....

I love Sundays.  We close the store earlier on Sundays - at 5:00 in the afternoon, so if there's not a lot of traffic, we can get home and relax a little.  Whether or not we actually do relax is another story.  You know there's always something to do, like wash the car or the clothes.  Scott's out back right now, mowing the little patch of grass in the dark.  I wonder what it'll look like in the daylight, or maybe the ambient light from the house was enough to see.  It'll probably be fine, though, because Scott is funny like that and has an almost uncanny ability to see things other people don't see.

There's a lot to be said about that type of ability, but I imagine sometimes it can be frustrating.  If we put it into the context of what's happening in Altadena today, I can tell you he's verklempt.  He's having a hard time understanding why our town, usually so adamant about not letting in large stores, is seemingly embracing the idea of our newest proposed neighbor, a Walmart Neighborhood Store.  I'm wondering why as well.  We know the history of this corporation, yet some folks are expecting them to be different this time.  Isn't that a quote from Albert Einstein?  The definition of insanity is repeating the same thing and expecting different results.

What Scott sees happening is our independent stores being slowly squeezed out, creating more trouble than there was in the first place, without Walmart, and I agree with him.  This is a familiar argument, one that's been voiced all across the US, so much so that people here seem to tune out.  Maybe it's just a Southern California thing, this ennui.  No big deal, right?  Maybe is isn't and maybe it is, but as one commenter on the most recent story on the situation in our local newsblogs put it, "now's the time for the mom and pops in town to get it together" (paraphrased for brevity).  I agree with that as well!  As much as we can, after slogging through this recession and so-called recovery, I call on all of us small business people to "get it together"!

See what's happening in your town - don't be a turtle, don't lose interest, don't think that it won't affect you.  We all need to become more involved, more supportive and care more about what happens here in Altadena. Let's talk about it - start now and start here at

Have an excellent week ahead, my friends, and we'll talk again next week!

Lori and Scott

Sunday, July 8, 2012

News You Can Use July 2012

Happy July, friends, we hope your Independence Day celebrations were completely fabulous!  Ours was, filled with good friends, family and plenty of fried chicken!  Speaking of chicken, food and togetherness, Fancy Food Truck Friday will be on July 13th, starting at 5:00 pm and ending at 9:00 pm!  There are some new trucks on the roster this month - check it out:

                                 Mandoline Grill - Vietnamese Cuisine
                                 Ta Bom - Brazilian Cuisine
                                Veg It Up - Vegetarian Cuisine
                                After School Special - American Cuisine
                                The Hungry Nomad - Middle Eastern Cuisine
                               Waffles De Liege - Dessert

Hungry diners wait in line at Altadena's Fancy Food Truck Friday

We're very excited to welcome new trucks to the parking lot behind Webster's!  Since it's also our Fifth Anniversary, we'll be making a party out of it and we're inviting everyone to come on by! will be here with some of their interesting and humorous insights on wine that always leaves you with a smile.  Their focus this month will be "A Good Bottle Of Wine For $13.00 And Under - Fact Or Fiction?".  If this piques your interest, come on by and we'll do a blind tasting of their results!

Local artist/poet Aldonia Bailey will be with us this month as well, joined by her friends, who will take their poetry to another level with jazz.  While I can tell you you've never heard anything like it, you'll just have to come find out for yourself!

Aldonia Bailey Reading Poetry February, 2012 WFS
Again, the fun starts at 5:00 pm on Friday the 13th, and all the shops at Webster's will be open until 9:00 pm for your convenience - make sure to drop by and check out our newest artist additions!

In other news this month, Altadena has been rocked by the news of a WalMart Neigborhood Market opening at the corner of Lincoln Ave. and Figueroa Street.  We've just recently heard that the retail behemoth is also in negotiations for the empty lot below the Ralphs Market on Lake Ave. and Calaveras Street.  While we stand with our fellow independent business owners in opposing WalMart's presence in our town, we don't want to sway your opinion one way or another without offering you the chance to educate yourself on the pros and cons.  Our Town Council representatives for that census tract are having a meeting on Thursday, July 12th, 6:00 pm at Jackson Elementary School.  The address is 593 W. Woodbury Rd. in Altadena, and they invite you to come to hear a presentation and ask questions.  There is also a meeting at The Coffee Gallery Backstage on Saturday, July 21 at 11:00 am, at which the film "The High Cost Of Low Prices" will be shown.  The Coffee Gallery Backstage's address is 2029 Lake Ave., and the phone number is (626) 798-6236 - please call to make reservations.  Both of these meetings will give you enough information for you to form your own opinion of what's taking place in Altadena today.  You can also check the website for more information.

That's all the news for this week, friends - Scott and I wish you all the best, and we'll talk to you soon!

Lori and Scott Webster

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Neighborhood Concerns

Protest Against WalMart's Entry Into LA's Chinatown, June 30, 2012

Since the news broke recently that WalMart will be introducing their Neighborhood Store model to the corner of Lincoln and Figueroa in Altadena, there have been debates pro and con raging on the local news blogs and on the street.  I assume you know where we stand in the matter.  Our opinion hasn't wavered since this blog's inception almost 5 years ago and won't waver now - I do not believe the addition of a WalMart store of any size will benefit this town.

WalMart Neighborhood Markets are a smaller-sized "localized grocery market" that inserts themselves into previously zoned, permitted and empty storefronts.  I have seen Steven V. Restivo's, (WalMart's Senior Director of Community Affairs), piece on HufPo, dated June 29, 2012, which defends their decision to move into Los Angeles and its environs.  In it, he starts out by maligning Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy's (LAANE) for their stance against a WalMart Neighborhood Market in Chinatown.  He uses WalMart's tired old adage "after all, protests don't employ people, but new stores do."

Good Jobs, Not WalMart Jobs

I've heard that many people in the West Altadena area are eagerly awaiting this new WalMart.  If that's the case, I haven't heard it from any of the people I know or come across on a daily basis that live in the vicinity.  Quite contrary, in fact - the people I've talked to aren't looking forward to it at all.  Many are worried about will happen to the other markets, like SuperKing and Baja Ranch - and rightly so.  In Mr. Restivo's article, he states, "In these challenging economic times, private sector companies have a responsibility to work with local stakeholders in a given community to ensure residents and business both benefit. We're engaging with communities here to better understand the unique challenges they face and how our stores might play a role in the solution."  Let me show you how a WalMart Neighborhood Market "engages with their communities" and would NOT benefit our ours:

In the study "The Impact of an Urban Wal-Mart Store on Area Businesses: An Evaluation of One Chicago Neighborhood’s Experience" (Research report prepared and published by the Center for Urban Research and Learning, Loyola University Chicago), a key finding is that the probability of going out of business during the study period (2006-2008) was significantly higher for establishments close to the Wal-Mart location.  The basic sample followed 306 enterprises, 82 of which went out of business over the study period.  It also states that "based on the estimated relationship between probability of store closings and proximity to Wal-Mart, the research team estimates that Wal-Mart’s opening has resulted in the loss of about 300 full-time equivalent jobs in its own and nearby zip codes."  The study further states that "they suggest a loss about equal to Wal-Mart’s own addition to employment in the area. These estimates support the contention that large-city Wal-Marts absorb retail sales from other city stores without significantly expanding the market." *

"In addition to the surveys of West Side establishments, the research team obtained sales tax data from the Illinois Department of Revenue. These data from 2000 through 2008 are used to estimate quarterly taxable sales for the Wal-Mart zip code (60639) and neighboring zip codes. A trend analysis is performed for each zip code. In each case, the question is whether trends in sales changed after the Wal-Mart opening. For Wal-Mart’s own zip code, 60639, there is no evidence of an overall upturn in sales. Indeed, if the sample is limited to the six quarters (18 months) before and after Wal-Mart opened there is a significant decline in the trend of zip code sales. For this same period, zip code 60651, the closest neighbor to the Wal-Mart zip code, also shows a significant negative break-in-trend as does zip code 60622."

Friday, June 29th Save Altadena meeting at WS - photo courtesy of Altadenablog

Both of these findings seem to conflict with Mr. Restivo's statement of  "communities always prefer a vibrant storefront over an abandoned building and our stores will generate tax revenue for the city and county while also serving as a magnet for growth and development in each community. From restaurants, salons, banks, and florists to bookstores, specialty grocers and wine & spirits shops, there are dozens of small business categories that typically surround our stores."  Find out what happens when a WalMart does come to town here in the Business News Daily article, and check out this map on anticipated WalMart Neighborhood Market openings across Los Angeles County:

Afraid yet, fellow Altadenans and fellow small business owners?  I sure am.  Join us as we attempt to educate our townspeople on the value of shopping with local, independent businesses - follow us on our Facebook page or email us at for further information.

*WalMart Neighborhood Markets' concept was introduced in Arkansas in 1998 and as of May 2012 there are 199 WNMs across the country.  The studies referenced in this post were conducted in Chicago's Westside.

As always, we appreciate your readership - have a great week ahead, my friends!

Lori and Scott