retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Last year, coming off my first summer of team-teaching a marketing course at Portland State University's School of Business, I wrote the following:

At my age, life-changing experiences don't come around all that often. When they do, they often involve a blonde, a motorcycle, a tattoo, body piercings, alcohol, sex, drugs and/or divorce. Or, the prostate.

I got lucky. I had a life-changing experience, and none of that was involved.

Well, I hate to repeat myself. But...

I've just returned from Connecticut after spending my second straight summer in the Pacific Northwest, with much of my focus on teaching a marketing class and working with PSU's Center for Retail Leadership, run by Tom Gillpatrick. The joke in my house was that when Mrs. Content Guy went to pick me up at the airport here, she'd instantly recognize me, because I would be the one weeping.

Well, I've been holding it together so far, but the honest truth is that when you get to spend a month the way I've spent the last two Julys, it does change you. For the better, I think.

The top picture at right is this year's class. I'm immensely impressed with them - they range in age from the early twenties to the mid-thirties, and they have a variety of life experiences. (Three of them are veterans, having served in Iraq and Afghanistan.) Most of them have jobs, but they're also in school, taking classes, learning, trying to achieve something more with their lives. During some of the recent discussion here on MNB about how much gumption young people have, I actually would get upset that anyone would question the motivations of this generation. These people are special - thoughtful, committed, and smart.

Once again, this year, I had a chance to share with them some of my perceptions on where consumers, technology and the food retail/manufacturing industry are going, and get them to think and speculate about the same thing, and how they'd like to fit into the picture. We were lucky enough to have some highly accomplished top executives from a number of companies (not all of them from Portland - we had some folks fly in from across the country) come to class to engage in a colloquium with them ... a real give and take that was designed to be provocative and enlightening on a number of levels. (Thanks to those execs, by the way. I don't go public with their names, because we promise them that everything said in class is off the record. That way, they don't worry about stuff showing up in MNB. But they know who they are, and their contributions were invaluable.) And I couldn't do any of it without Tom Gillpatrick, with whom I teach the class, and who provides such a strong environment for learning.

By the time class is over, I feel like I've learned as much as the students. Maybe more.

Which is why if you get a similar opportunity, even if just to spend an hour or two in a teaching environment, you should do so. (Let me know if you do. I can probably help arrange something.)

Of course, the whole trip was a learning experience.

Starting the trip in Vancouver and going up Whistler ... hiking around Mount St. Helens, which gives one enormous respect for the power of nature ... going on numerous hikes in oregon, whether out at the beach or on some of the many hiking trails, like the beautiful one that leads to Opal Creek ... visiting wineries, especially Willamette Valley Vineyard, where the awesome Wende Bennette and Daniel Shepherd, the assistant winemaker, gave us an afternoon to remember and wines to savor ... and having some extraordinary meals along the way. I got to share much of it with Mrs. Content Guy, some of it with two of my kids, and a lot of it with you, via the Facebook postings of the past month.

Another thing. The Portland Farmers Markets ... best ever! I was totally overwhelmed by them, especially by the one on Saturday mornings at PSU. They were so extensive and varied that I walked away believing that if I had access to such a market on a regular basis, it would change my eating habits forever.

Oddly enough, one of the fun highlights came one afternoon after our daughter came to town. We thought we'd treat her to something fun and unexpected, and we'd spied in the Pearl District something called the Foot bar, which offers "therapeutic foot massage and reflexology." It looked like something she'd enjoy, so we made appointments for her and Mrs. Content Guy ... and then I got persuaded to join them. I was a little leery about this, being a guy and all, but after a 45 minute session involving a hot and cold foot bath, massage and the use of hot stones, I can tell you this: my feet haven't felt that good since birth.

And it was fun to do something totally unexpected.

Enjoy these pictures, just as I enjoy the memories.

Of course, it isn't over yet. I have exams to grade. I hope I'll continue to hear from some of my students. And with any luck, the PSU Center for Retail leadership will have me back again next year.

Because doing this each July is one of the best things I've ever done. And I'm only hungry for more.

That's it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.

Fins Up!

KC's View: