business news in context, analysis with attitude

We received reaction to our story yesterday about Terry Halversen's Queen Anne Thriftway and Admiral Thriftway stores in Seattle undergoing a name change to Metropolitan Markets, which reflects a desire of management to grow beyond its Thriftway roots. We commented that these particular Thriftway stores "have always been some of the best grocery stores in the country, if not the world. The names may change, but we have every expectation that its excellence will continue."

One MNB user wrote:

"This is actually a good move for Halversen, and I'm confident they will do a bang-up job in making the image changeover while maintaining a high level of quality and service. Ironically, being from Seattle, your comment about them about being some of the best in the country feels a bit overstated to me as there are so many (several others you named) in our area that are doing a remarkable job too.

"But the filter we look through in Seattle is that most privately held stores are like them. It never occurred to me that this wasn't the case in other parts of the country. We have great resources in this geographic area and many great models that daily shopping is rarely drudgery!"

We certainly didn't mean to diminish all the great shopping experiences in Seattle; it has been our experience that even smaller independent grocery stores there tend to operate at a higher level of food-oriented expertise than in some other areas of the country.

But nobody in Seattle should take what they have for granted. It is one of the great cities in this country -- among other things, it has Etta's Seafood, the Mariners, fabulous vineyards, great beer, and a little town on the water called Coupeville (we kid you not).

We reported this week on both Frito and Kroger offering new lines of natural/organic products. MNB user Paul Schlossberg responded:

"We agree that natural and organic foods are coming on strong. But the two examples you cite are uniquely different.

"One is a leading retail chain taking their branding initiative to new and different levels. Building a brand in the produce section (an underdeveloped section for brands) is a good idea. The other is a leading branded product manufacturer expanding their brand franchise into this emerging category.

"Having spent a lot of time in Europe - where the "retailer as the brand" is very important - we see this as the continuing creep of "retailer as brand" here in the US. We are at the beginning of an entirely new era in buyer/seller relationships.

"This has huge implications for product manufacturers (branded and private label) and even more so for decision makers at US supermarkets, convenience stores, mass merchandisers, etc. With 7-Eleven moving to launch its own beer and wine brands, what's next? Maybe that should be "Which categories will be next and in which channels?"

We reported earlier this week on the nice work being done in the e-grocery channel by, an independent operation in the Dallas area. We received the following email from Jon Fielder, one of MelonSeed's owners:

"Thanks for the blurb in your newsletter. I think the dedication that we put into the business, and the genuine care for our customers, is something you will never see from the "Big Boys".. Oh Yeah...I have slept 3 hours in the last 48.....need to find a way to get that down to 1.5 hrs. LOL !!!

"Thanks again for mentioning us, we really appreciate it."

Our pleasure.

Being an entrepreneur, we can understand the sleeplessness thing. And we have our own "big boys" to deal with…and we agree that they'll never invest the kind of passion and dedication that we will as an entrepreneur.

Learning to go without sleep is just a side benefit…

Yesterday, we reported that almost 20 percent of the American consuming public that used to purchase French products now refuses to buy such items because of the French government’s opposition to the US war on Iraq. While we respect people’s right to make buying decisions based on political motivations and other countries’ rights not to always follow American initiatives, we commented that "not all French people and businesses necessarily agreed with the positions being taken by their government…so maybe we’re taking this all out on the wrong people."

This generated some email:

MNB user Timothy C. McCook wrote:

"They need to change their government then."

Another MNB user wrote:

"Sorry, but I don’t agree with you. France is not a dictatorship, so their citizens can speak up to criticize their government & try to change policies. We’ve heard very little that suggests that the French are strongly opposed to their government’s attitude on Iraq, the war, etc.

"Since, in my view, the French position was/is mostly due to their own economic self-interest, there is a wonderful congruity in the economic losses they will now endure. What’s the saying: “Paybacks are a b….!”

MNB user Rebecca Brown wrote:

"And just what can the average person do? Make an appointment to meet with Mr. Chirac to discuss our displeasure? No, what we can do is put pressure on the French government by doing exactly what the smart 20% of our population is doing. Stop doing business with companies that might have an impact on their government. What is wrong with you?

"P.S. I love our column and you are usually right on with your comments. I can forgive this one mistake!"

And MNB user Brian Fox wrote:

"While you make a great point that not all French people supported their government, they certainly weren't very vocal…perhaps hitting them in their pocket book will cause them, the business end of the voting economy, to change France's position (a long standing position, by the way). I am not an isolationist and truly believe in a global economy, but often consumers only real way of speaking and causing change is with their wallets.

"Keep up the great work, I really enjoy this column.


And, in response to our story about New York food retailers hoping to get the law changed so they can sell wine, MNB user Richard Lowe wrote:

"I was at a trade show in Manhattan and wanted to buy a bottle of wine. Must have walked 12 city blocks and asked a dozen people where we could by a bottle of wine. Struck out. Went to a bar."

We admire that kind of resourcefulness...
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