Published on: January 31, 2008Now available on iTunes…
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Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe, and this is MorningNewsBeat Radio, available on iTunes and brought to you by Webstop, your first stop for retail website design services.
F. Scott Fitzgerald famously said that there are no second acts in American lives. But Fitzgerald lived a long time ago, and I’m not sure he’d make that statement today.
There was a piece on MSNBC this week about how the oldest baby boomers are turning 62 this year and how this puts them in a place where they have to start worrying about Social Security and retirement benefits.
Now, this probably is good information to have, because there probably are plenty of people out there who don't know what they rights and obligations are as they get older. So in that sense, good work by MSNBC.
On the other hand, it seems to me that every year we are treated to stories that use the phrase “aging baby boomers” as a theme. Two years ago, it as that the oldest baby boomers were turning 60. In 2001, they were turning 55. In 2011, they’ll be turning 65. And on and on and on.
Now, I’m a 53-year-old baby boomer, and I have to say that I’m really getting tired of the discussions about how old we all are getting. I’d much rather read or see stories about how people in their fifties, sixties and even seventies are reinventing themselves, refusing to accept the limitations of age, starting new careers and challenging themselves in new ways. I love it when George H.W. Bush keeps jumping out of airplanes…it speaks volumes about vitality of spirit.
Or, they continue to be productive in their old careers. Two of my favorite authors are Robert B. Parker and Elmore Leonard. Leonard is 82, and he continues to turn out about a novel a year. Parker is 75, and he publishes an astounding three or four novels a year, and even is trying new forms with westerns and young adult novels. I admire that…because they are doing what they do, and they have no plans to stop.
I’m forever writing about being responsive and relevant to the younger generation of shoppers and shoppers-to-be, but that doesn’t mean ignoring the evolving needs of those of us who are getting a little older. Because the key word here is “evolving” – many of us are ignoring the whole idea of age limitation…we’re traveling to places we’ve never been to, trying to use technologies somewhat foreign to us, tasting new foods that are available to us, and trying to continue to evolve and grow as people. Smart retailers, at least those who have these kinds of people as customers, will figure out new and interesting ways to cater to and challenge them. And the benefits will be mutual.
Speaking of “second acts,” I would like to draw your attention to a piece that was in the Boston Globe a few days ago about an organization called the Literary Ventures Fund, a nonprofit foundation that was created to publish books from unknown authors that are deemed promising.
According to the story, “What LVF does is work with publishers to push a book it finds worthy. It draws up a marketing plan that includes promotion strategy for new and old ones alike. It may hire a publicist, it targets book clubs, interested groups and social networks like MySpace and Facebook.”
In the past three years LVF has helped publish or repackage 11 books of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. And they’ve all made at least some money.
Now, LVF is run by a guy that the Globe describes as “a small-bore philanthropist with the DNA of a venture capitalist. He provides seed money to a bunch of things he cares about, including the Addiction Recovery Management Service at the Massachusetts General Hospital.”
And this guy is named Jim Bildner.
Now, some of you may recall that name, because about 20 years ago, he began a small chain of gourmet food stores called J. Bildner & Sons that was celebrated in places like Newsweek as the ultimate yuppie destination, loaded with fresh and prepared meals and big on customer service in mostly urban locations. For a while, J. Bildner & Sons was white hot, but then it flamed out almost as quickly, a victim of eighties-style over-expansion and probably more ambition than the infrastructure could support.
I think of Jim Bildner a lot when I visit stores around the country, because in many ways what he did – even though it failed as a business – presaged areas now common in many supermarkets. And, quite frankly, not everybody does it as well as he did. And I remember him because I was just starting to write about the industry then, and he was uncommonly kind to me, especially considering that I didn’t really know what I was writing about.
The Globe story makes clear that it hasn’t been a life devoid of tragedy; the failure of the company no doubt pales next to the fact that one of his sons died of a heroin overdose, an event that I’m sure informs his work with the Addiction Recovery Management Service.
But it is a life, a life of different acts, and obviously one that continues to be creative and energetic.
In the end, a life is only what we make of it. No matter how old we are.
For MorningNewsBeat Radio, I’m Kevin Coupe.
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