retail news in context, analysis with attitude

One of the trade-offs I've made as I've gotten older has been a decision to stay away from doughnuts. I love doughnuts and will continue to indulge from time to time, but I realize that they're not good for me, that the older I get the more jogging I have to do to work them off, and that a general policy of doughnut abstinence probably is best for my long-term health.

That sort of becomes more of a problem while staying in Portland, because people here really like their doughnuts ... and there are so, so many places from which to choose. In fact, we went to a July 4th party where the dessert was doughnuts, all of them brought in from a bakery called Blue Star. (Let me tell you something. The Blueberry Bourbon Basil was like nothing I've ever tasted before. This could be a problem.)

Yesterday, an MNB reader named Doug Morales suggested that I find my way to a small place I'd never heard of before, called Pip's Original. Not only were the doughnuts fantastic, I got a business lesson.

In Portland, the doughnuts shop that everybody talks about is Voodoo Doughnuts, which has combined a lot of savvy marketing, large pink boxes, and an enormous selection of doughnuts often with off-color names into a kind of iconic business. And good for them. The result is lines that often wrap around the block, no matter what the weather or time of day.

But where Voodoo has an enormous selection of generally oversized doughnuts, Pip's has just six varieties - like cinnamon sugar, sea salt and honey, and another with a drizzle of Nutella - and they're maybe three or four inches across. More to the point ... they're fried to order, which means that everybody has a hot, light, fluffy, delicious and fresh doughnut experience. Who could ask for anything more?

It occurred to me as I ate my doughnuts, washing them down with excellent black coffee and thinking that Spenser would be proud of me, that this is the best way to compete, especially with an icon. You find each of the competition's strengths, and then do the opposite ... and in doing so, create your own differential strengths.

Very smart. My compliments to the folks at Pip's. They taught me a valuable business lesson, and they make a helluva doughnut.

Now, about movie hell ... I cannot tell you how disappointed I was in Terminator Genisys, the rebooting of the venerable action franchise that was launched by writer/director James Cameron, with Arnold Schwarzenegger as a killer cyborg from the future, in 1984. I have find memories of the original, and the immediate sequel, Terminator 2: Judgment Day - they were clever, original, fast-paced, and even thoughtful as they posited a future in which machines have taken over the earth.

The new version attempts to rewrite the history and the future that were created by the original films, pulling pieces from each of them and reshaping them, in many ways following the model created by the Star Trek reboot. But Terminator Genisys is simultaneously both too self-aware and not self-aware enough ... it creates a confusing patchwork of scenes that plays like a "best of" montage, throws a couple of curves without any real payoffs, and gives us Arnold Schwarzenegger - again - with too little explanation for his reason for being there. (Except that we all know he's there for box office appeal. And he's pretty good.)

I just thought that Terminator Genisys was generally lacking in any sort of originality. It was there to generate box office, not thought ... and as I said, one of the pleasures of the original films was that they actually were thoughtful.

Too bad.

Among the wonderful wines we've had during the past few weeks have been two that were recommended by Morgan at Etta's Seafood in Seattle - the 2013 Cedargreen Chenin Blanc, and the 2012 Cotes de Provence Miradou rose, both of which were excellent hot weather wines that are wonderful when served cold (especially when served with the amazing tuna sashimi and green onion pancakes they make at Etta's).

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

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