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    Published on: July 18, 2016

    This commentary is available as both text and video; enjoy both or either ... they are similar, but not exactly the same. To see past FaceTime commentaries, go to the MNB Channel on YouTube.

    Hi, Kevin Coupe here, and this is a special Monday morning FaceTime with the Content Guy ... I'm glad to be back from vacation, and I'm happy to be reporting it from last week's extraordinarily robust and successful Organic Produce Summit in Monterey, California - the first of what I expect will be a continuing series of annual events focusing on this important and growing category.

    The basic facts of the organic produce category are impressive - Laura Batcha, CEO of the Organic Trade Association (OTA) noted that organic produce represents close to a third of all organic sales, which were up $11 billion last year to more than $43 billion. More than half of all American households purchased organic produce last year, and 13 percent of all produce sold is organic - signaling a kind of mainstreaming of the category.

    Mark Bittman, the cookbook author and former food columnist with the New York Times, did one of the keynote addresses, suggesting that while organic food is an important category, it seems to him that the bigger story - and, in a way, a simpler story to tell - is that "real food" is better than hyper-processed food. If it can be organic, he said, so much the better. If it can be local, even better. But he suggested the most important thing thing that retailers and suppliers can do is facilitate a national shift toward real, unprocessed food that will lead to a healthier consumer and nation. That's a story the industry needs to tell.

    Now, I'm not sure that anyone would disagree with that essential premise. I know I wouldn't.

    But Bittman also noted that one of the things about real food is that it can be more expensive ... and that runs contrary to Americans' priorities. He did a quick poll of the audience, and quickly ascertained that nobody in the room believed that food was either too costly or priced just right - pretty much everyone believed that food is too cheap, and Bittman agreed, noting that especially as labor costs increase, the cost of food is going to get higher, not lower.

    This is, of course, a tough argument to make when many American consumers find it hard to resist the siren call of a cheap fast food hamburger that is certainly cheap and usually fast ... even if it has very little to do with being food.

    The dichotomy is striking, and illustrates why the industry needs to create a compelling narrative about why real food is really important.

    A luncheon conversation with Bittman, ironically, illustrated the degree to which this story can be effective. He talked about his career as a writer, saying that he couldn't get any sort of traction or sell many pieces at all until he started writing about food - and then, everything clicked.

    It also can click for the food industry, if it is willing to make the effort.

    The importance of narrative also was highlighted earlier in the day during a panel discussion that I moderated on the subject of organic produce and e-commerce, featuring Tony Stallone, vice president of merchandising for Peapod; Mike Burrington, director of fulfillment services with IdeoClick and one of the original staffers during AmazonFresh's early days; and Thaddeus Barsotti, chief farmer and co-CEO with Farm Fresh To You, which offers online subscription produce services for consumers. During the session, it became very clear that one of the things that e-commerce allows marketers to do better is to understand the shopper's story - using data and algorithms to analyze and respond to consumer needs and wants.

    It is very simple, they agreed - the best and most effective marketers in this segment of the business will be the ones that turn data into a story.

    I couldn't agree more.

    That's what is on my mind this Monday morning. I'm glad to be back, and as always, I want to hear what is on your mind.

    KC's View:

    Published on: July 18, 2016

    The US House of Representatives last Thursday followed the exampled of the US Senate and voted to require that foods containing genetically modified (GM) ingredients be labeled, bringing to a close a battle over GMO labeling that has cost millions of dollars in lobbying fees and advocacy advertisements, forced a number of states to consider their own requirements, and heightened a still-to-be resolved debate about the long term safety of such ingredients.

    It is expected that the bill will be signed into law shortly by President Obama.

    The New York Times story about the issue noted that while the legislative part of the debate has concluded, the issue hardly has been put to rest, and that "wrangling over how the language of the law will be interpreted and put into practice will probably go on for years." The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) don't even agree about which products are covered under the law, and the Times writes that "many say the definition of what requires labeling and what does not will ultimately end up in court."

    And then, there is also the argument of the labels themselves.

    The Times reports that "the bill allows companies several choices for labeling. They can add text to a label stating that it contains genetically engineered ingredients; put a symbol (yet to be determined) on packaging to denote such ingredients; or use a 'digital link' like a quick response, or Q.R., code that consumers can scan with their smartphones.

    "Many proponents of G.M.O. labeling contend that anything short of text will allow food companies to obscure the genetically engineered ingredients in their packaging. They object in particular to Q.R. codes, which they consider discriminatory because many consumers do not have access to the tools needed to read them."

    The Times also notes that the federal law supersedes a Vermont law that essentially created a federal standard, since companies looking to sell products containing GMOs there were using the same labels elsewhere in the country. At the same time, Whole Foods said it was going to require such labeling, and a number of suppliers - most recently, Dannon - said they would include such language on their packaging.
    KC's View:
    I have to say that I find it funny that all sorts of industry types are coming out of the woodwork to say they think this is a terrific law, when a number of them were arguing (and funding major advertising campaigns) not that long ago that a federal, voluntary labeling was a better approach. Well, they got half of what they wanted - a federal, mandatory standard.

    Not to toot my own horn, but I've been arguing for mandatory labeling for a long time. Not because I am anti-GMO, but because I am pro-transparency.

    I think that they see the labeling options as a kind of win, since, in their minds, manufacturers will be able to obscure some of the information behind QR codes or other technical barriers. I think they're deluding themselves.

    The fact is that a number of manufacturers are going to be up front about what is in their products, because they believe that this is what consumers ultimately want and they recognize that transparency is the best policy in the long run. Plus, Whole Foods is going to require it ... and I suspect that other retailers may do the same thing; after all, these retailers can position themselves legitimately as being agents for the consumer, and demand this level of transparency from the suppliers with which they do business.

    Plus, the vast majority of people have smartphones, and thus will have the technology to cut through the barriers and find the information they want and need.

    HL Mencken is often quoted as saying that "no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.” (This apparently isn't a precisely accurate quote, but rather a distillation of a longer passage.) I think there are plenty of examples today of how this remains true, but I also think that a highly vocal minority can create waves via social media that force businesses to do the right thing.

    In this case, I think GMO labeling is the right thing. The implementation, of course, will be bumpy, and there will remain plenty of issues about which special interests on both sides can fulminate. But in the end, the move is toward greater transparency, and that is both appropriate and reflective of where the world is going.

    Published on: July 18, 2016

    Ahold and Delhaize, more than a year after they announced their intention to merge operations (in a deal that seems a lot more like an acquisition of Delhaize by Ahold), announced that in order to gain Federal Trade Commission (FTC) approval of the deal, they will divest a total of 86 stores.

    The two companies now hope they can finalize their merger/acquisition by the end of the month.

    Albertsons will buy a single Giant Food store in Maryland, while Big Y will buy eight Hannaford stores in eastern Massachusetts. Publix will buy 10 Martin's units in Richmond, Virginia; Supervalu will buy 22 Food Lion stores in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia; and Tops Markets will acquire one Stop & Shop store in Massachusetts as well as 3 Stop & Shop stores and 2 Hannaford stores in New York; Weis Markets will buy 38 Food Lion stores in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. Finally, Saubel’s Markets will buy a single Food Lion store in Pennsylvania.

    Supervalu said that its 22 new stores will be converted to its Shop ‘N Save format and "at least initially be operated by Supervalu," which is in discussions with certain wholesale customers about how they might "have an interest in these stores going forward."

    Ahold and Delhaize said that "all of the purchase agreements are subject to FTC approval. The agreements are also subject to FTC clearance and formal completion of the Ahold and Delhaize Group merger."

    The divested stores represent about four percent of their combined fleets, and about 3.2 percent of their combined annual sales.
    KC's View:
    This is an enormous opportunity for some of these companies,which ow can expand into markets where they might've had designs but not an obvious entry point.

    The market that looks most interesting in terms of the competitive battle it sets up is Richmond, where Publix now will go head-to-head with Wegmans, which has one store there and another being built. That market also has Kroger, Aldi, Trader Joe's, and at some point, Lidl - and Publix will have to deal with all of them ... and the question will be whether its offering is differentiated enough to succeed.

    The real battle, of course, will be Wegmans vs. Publix ... and that's a tough match to call. I tend to think that Wegmans has the advantage, but there's going to be blood on both sides, I suspect.

    For me, the biggest question is how Ahold/Delhaize comes out of this. I cannot shake the feeling that this is just a financial and defensive play, and I am not yet persuaded that management has a vision for the kind of innovation and differentiation I think they need to achieve in order to survive in an increasingly competitive arena. I'm sure they'll find ways to be more efficient ... but will they find ways to be more effective?

    That's the questions that remains to be answered.

    Published on: July 18, 2016

    Bloomberg reports that Amazon is saying that "its second annual Prime Day promotion was the company’s biggest sales day ever," with US orders up more than 50 percent and worldwide orders up more than 60 percent over last year.

    The story notes that "Amazon created Prime Day to entice people to sign up for its $99-a-year membership, which offers free two-day shipping as well as free video and music streaming. How many signed up this time isn’t known, but the company sold a record number of its own gadgets. Deals for tablets, Kindles and the voice-activated Echo speaker were plastered all over the home page. The video-streaming Fire TV stick was the best-selling Amazon gadget and helped the company triple last year’s Prime Day sales of in-house devices."
    KC's View:
    While reports say that there were some technical glitches, as well as some complaints about product availability, it seems that Prime Day is likely to be a regular part of the Amazon ecosystem for the foreseeable future. (I've always found the availability questions to be a little amusing, since that can happen to every kind of retailer during any sort of clearance sale. But expectations are higher for Amazon, and so it must suffer a few slings and arrows.

    The fact is that Prime is an extraordinary engine for Amazon's growth. Its members tend to spend $1200 annually on Amazon, as opposed to the $500 spent by non-Prime members, and the retailer reportedly added as many as 19 million new Prime members over the past year, and now has over 63 million.

    Amazon is expert at creating an ecosystem that makes it the first, best option for almost everything ... and in so many ways, the Prime members (and the Subscribe and Save members) have become the connective tissue bringing it all together.

    Published on: July 18, 2016

    The Seattle Times reports that Starbucks "is investing in high-end Italian bakery Princi, with plans to open Princi stores and to carry Princi foods in its Roastery showcases ... Princi, which now has four locations in Milan and one in London, offers 24-hour service, from light breakfast to dinners."

    The goal is "to open the first Princi store under this new licensing agreement next year in Seattle," the story says, quoting CEO Howard Schultz as saying that he was "blown away" when he visited a Princi "by the quality of the food and presentation." Schultz called Princi a “visually intoxicating environment.”

    The story notes that the Princi products also will be carried in a new chain of Roastery stores that Starbucks plans to launch next year that will "serve only Reserve coffees and offer customers a choice in how they want their coffee brewed, including French press and pour over. The Reserve-only stores may also serve beer and wine."

    Starbucks has not said precisely how many stand-alone Roastery and Princi stores it plans to open.

    The announcements followed by several days Starbucks saying that it was raising prices on select items, increasing the average transaction by about one percent; the company also is increasing wages five percent for US store employees.
    KC's View:
    I'm a big fan of the Starbucks Roastery concept in Seattle, and I think that the company has been smart to judiciously try to improve the quality of its food offerings. So from that perspective, I guess these moves make sense.

    But I have to wonder if they will make as much sense at some point if the economy goes to hell. Starbucks has gotten into trouble when people stop being willing to spend four bucks on a latte because they have less disposable income, and so it seems to me that they'll have to be very careful about how they roll out concepts that require even more disposable income and higher end shoppers to be successful.

    Again, I'm not saying that these moves won't work. But my mom used to caution me that I should be careful that my eyes were not bigger than my stomach, and I would offer that same caution to Starbucks.

    Published on: July 18, 2016

    BrandChannel reports that Whole Foods has "filed a federal service mark application with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)," looking to call itself the "World's Healthiest Grocery Store."

    The filing was "on an intent-to-use basis, which means that Whole Foods has not used the mark yet, but plans to use it pending approval from the USPTO."

    Now, filing such a request is said to be far different than getting it approved. The story says that "the quest to claim the top spot amongst competing brands through a trademark or service mark registration is often a fruitless one. Words that merely describe a product or a service, or even one of the characteristics of that product or service, are usually too weak to gain the requisite distinctiveness for a successful federal registration application. Included within this category of problematic words are laudatory terms, which attribute quality or excellence to goods or services."

    For example, Dunkin' Donuts in 2012 was denied the right to use the phrase, "the best coffee in America." The USPTO said that the claim "constituted 'mere puffery' that was incapable of functioning as a trademark."
    KC's View:
    This strikes me as hubris, pure and simple. If it were granted the right to use this tag line, it would set up Whole Foods to be criticized for all the stuff it carries that isn't healthy. (Even John Mackey concedes that a lot of the stuff they sell isn't that good for you.) They'd get smacked down, and they'd deserve it.

    Published on: July 18, 2016

    There's a really good piece by Bloomberg about the challenges of bringing manufacturing jobs back to the US, something that has been a high priority for Walmart and also is a centerpiece of Donald Trump's presidential campaign.

    An excerpt:

    "As the world’s biggest buyer of thousands of factory items, from hunting rifles to bicycles, (Walmart is) in as good a position as any company to influence U.S. manufacturing - for better or worse: the retailer is widely blamed for sending hundreds of thousands of jobs overseas since the 1990s.

    "So when Wal-Mart announced in 2013 it would spend an extra $250 billion over 10 years on domestically produced goods, it also estimated that the shift would create 250,000 manufacturing jobs. The return so far is a fraction of that -- a cautionary tale for Donald Trump, the presidential candidate who’s made even bigger and bolder pledges to bring factory employment back to the US."

    The problem is that when companies decide to start manufacturing products in the US, the costs inevitably are higher - and so they have to do things like mechanize processes that used to be done by people. The functions return to the US, but not the jobs.

    The story is worth reading here.
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 18, 2016

    • Instacart announced that it has added Publix to the roster of retailers for which it makes deliveries in the Miami, Florida, marketplace, supplementing a list that already includes Whole Foods, Winn-Dixie, Total Wine, Petco and Costco.

    Publix reportedly has said that the effort is a pilot. It also has been using a rival service, Shipt, in other markets where it operates.


    • The Seattle Times reports that Amazon has begun offering guiding tours of its rapidly expanding South Lake Union headquarters and campus, which the story says is "the latest sign that the tech juggernaut, which is changing the urban dynamic of Seattle, aims to be better understood by its neighbors."

    The response has been positive, to say the least - the tours are booked through October.

    The Times writes that it is "part of a recent trend of Amazon decisions, such as letting a nonprofit run a homeless shelter out of a company-owned building, that have heightened its visibility as a corporate citizen in a region that’s being transformed to the core by the company’s breakneck growth."


    • And finally, Amazon founder/CEO Jeff Bezos has taken yet another step in confirming his status as one of the coolest CEOs ever ... he has a cameo role - as an alien - in the new movie, Star Trek Beyond.

    The Hollywood Reporter confirms that Bezos has a brief appearance in the third film in the rebooted Star trek series, which opens this Friday. The story notes that "Bezos has spoken in interviews of his passion for Star Trek and said his childhood dreams of space led him to found his private space travel company, named Blue Origin."
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 18, 2016

    • Walmart-owned Sam's Club announced that its new store in Columbia, South Carolina, will be "one of the first Sam’s Clubs in the country to offer the convenience of Scan & Go shopping," which "makes members’ checkout process faster and more convenient by being able to scan UPC codes on items as they load them into their cart. When they are done shopping and ready to check out, they can pay directly on their phone from anywhere in the club and bypass the checkout line.

    "The Columbia club will also offer Club Pickup, which enables members to order household or business items at SamsClub.com and will be ready for pickup in less than 24 hours."
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 18, 2016

    ...with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    Bloomberg reports that Citigroup CEO Mike Corbat said in an analyst conference call last week that the bank "has deployed 'a lot of resources' to ease the deluge of inquiries and complaints from Costco Wholesale Corp. customers after taking over as the retailer’s exclusive credit-card issuer last month."

    "Questions around card activation, questions around statements, questions around where to send payments, and so we’re working through that," he said. "We’re gaining on it. We’re very focused on it ... It’s something we think we can fix in short order.”

    Better get to it, then. Costco generally gets very high rankings in terms of customer service, and it took the calculated risk of jumping into bed - metaphorically - with a financial institution that generally gets crappy ratings from consumers. I cannot imagine that they're very happy about this up in Issaquah...but then again, they didn't just jump into bed with Citi. They also made the bed, and now they have to lie in it.


    • Multiple press reports say that both Starbucks and McDonald's are installing filters that will prevent patrons using their free wifi from accessing pornography, a move that seems to be a result of consistent and persistent criticism of anti-porn activists.

    Starbucks and McDonald's together account for some 21,000 US locations, and the vast majority of them offer free internet access.

    I thought some people had that glazed look in their eyes because they liked the lattes or the french fries. Little did I know ... it honestly never would have occurred to me that people would access this stuff from public places. Yuck.


    • The New York Times reports that a new study, originally published in Pediatrics, indicates that "the same marketing techniques used to convince children to eat junk food are highly effective in promoting fruits and vegetables."

    Really? This was a surprise? This strikes me as just common sense ... plus, the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) clearly has this all figured out when it developed an alliance a couple of years ago with the folks at Sesame Street to promote fresh produce to kids.


    MarketWatch reports on a new Mintel study saying that as people eat more "avocados, kale, and quinoa," they're also more likely to serve healthier products to their pets. Which means spending more money in the pet store, as they invest in expensive items that feature ingredients such as “fresh free-run poultry,” “whole nest-laid eggs,” and “whole wild-caught fish.” And the irony is that household income doesn't seem to have an enormous connection to this trend - people are spending more money on their pets even if they don;t necessarily have a lot more money to spend.

    Sounds like the basis of a new web series to me. We'll call it"Petlandia."
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 18, 2016

    • DemandJump announced that it has hired Julie Lyle, the former chief marketing officer at both Walmart and hhgregg, to be its new CMO and chief revenue officer.

    The company describes itself on its website as offering an Artificial Intelligence Marketing (AIM) platform that "makes sense of digital data so marketers can discover the largest opportunities specific to their brand(s), see a single version of truth, eliminate data silos and blind spots, optimize budget allocation and drive revenue growth across all digital marketing channels (and soon, online and offline channels) to grow share of voice, mind and wallet."
    KC's View:
    I am an enormous fan of Julie Lyle ... and I wanted to take note of this move because I think she brings an enormous amount of marketing savvy to any enterprise in which she's involved.

    Published on: July 18, 2016

    A brief look at some of the stories that broke while I was on vacation, with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary...

    • Kroger announced that Bob Mariano, CEO of Roundy's, which it acquired last year, will retire on September 1, and then serve as a strategic advisor to the company for two years. Mariano joined Roundy's in 2002, and during his time there launched the Mariano's chain of upscale, fresh food-oriented stores in the Chicago market.

    Bob Mariano has had an enormously influential career ... and in the end, it is possible that the chain of stores that bear his name may be the innovation that has the greatest long-term influence on the industry. (Even if someday they end up being called something else...)


    • The Dallas Morning News reported that "Minyard, one of the oldest grocery names in Dallas, will soon be history. Houston-based Fiesta Mart is expanding in North Texas with the purchase of the nine remaining Minyard Food Stores and two Sun Fresh Market stores.  The transition of the stores to the Fiesta brand will happen over the next two months, Fiesta said."

    Progress is progress. But sometimes, when an old name bites the dust, it is just a little sad ... and now Minyard's joins a list that includes Ukrop's, Larry's, and Genuardi's. Then again, maybe it isn't really sad. Maybe I'm just getting old.


    Business Insider reported that "U.S. consumers are starting to shop for groceries more frequently online, and this option is even starting to replace in-store shopping for some, according to a new Harris Poll survey.

    "Overall, 31% of U.S. shoppers had bought groceries online 'in the past six months.' The survey was conducted in late Jun 2016. Furthermore, 10% of those who bought groceries online said this habit had replaced some or all of their trips to traditional stores ... This process is most common in urban areas, where 38% of shoppers buy online. This compares to 30% in suburban areas and 25% in rural areas. This likely reflects the availability of these online grocery services primarily in urban areas with dense populations and sophisticated navigation technologies."

    However, the story also notes that, according to a Brick Meets Click report, "almost 60% of U.S. consumers who have never shopped for groceries online refuse to do so because they like to select their own fruits and vegetables in person."

    Only a fool would argue that all food shopping is going to move to the Internet. Of course some people will never shop for groceries online, just as some people will split their shopping between stores and websites. But five percent of all grocery spending moving online would be an enormous change, and a huge win for the companies that capture any part of it. And it could be a huge hit for those who ignore the trend, or think it'll never affect them.


    • The New York Times reported that Amazon has stopped posting the list price in addition to the purchase price for many items on its site.

    "There is just one price," the Times wrote. "Take it or leave it.

    "The new approach comes as discounts both online and offline have become the subject of dozens of consumer lawsuits for being much less than they seem. It is also occurring while Amazon is in the middle of an ambitious multiyear shift from a store selling one product at a time to a full-fledged ecosystem. Amazon wants to be so deeply embedded in a customer’s life that buying happens as naturally as breathing, and nearly as often."

    It'll be interesting to see if they get any blowback on this. I'm not crazy about the decision, but then again, I think that it actually is more important to compare the Amazon price to what other e-tailers are charging, if you're looking for benchmarks. But, this seems sort of anti-transparency ... and so I think it could be a mistake.


    • The New York Post reported that Amazon "is planning to open a brick-and-mortar bookstore and cafe in Manhattan," in the Hudson Yards retail/commercial/residential development projected to open in late 2018 or early 2019.

    Amazon did not comment on the report.


    eMarketer reported that "we have passed the tipping point at which it is more normal than otherwise for US teens to have a smartphone; about three-quarters of 12- to 17-year-olds will have one this year ... eMarketer estimates that 88.3% of 12- to 17-year-olds will have mobile phones this year. And among those with mobile phones, 84.0% will have smartphones.

    "Thus, for this whole age bracket, smartphone penetration will be 74.2%. That is up sharply from 2013, when just under half of this age cohort had smartphones. Still, it falls short of the figure for adult millennials, among whom upwards of nine in 10 have smartphones."


    Fortune reported that Kroger "is making a big commitment to going green.
    The retailer has published an outline detailing how it plans to become more sustainable by 2020. That involves increasing responsible sourcing in its supply chain as well as becoming more conscientious in its use and protection of the natural environment."

    Goals include ensuring that "90% of all of its seafood comes from fisheries certified by the Marine Stewardship Council or other programs recognized by the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative," that it meets the EPA’s “zero waste” threshold of 90% diversion from landfills," and that it reduces "water consumption by 5%, reducing refrigerant leaks by 9%, improving transportation efficiency by 20%, and ultimately reducing its cumulative energy consumption by 40%."


    Consumerist reports that Bryer's recently made ingredient changes to some of their ice cream products that were significant enough that they no longer can be called ice cream. Now, they have to be called "frozen dairy dessert products."

    According to the Breyer's website, "Frozen Dairy Dessert products are made with many of the same high-quality ingredients that are commonly found in Ice Cream – like fresh milk, cream and sugar – and offer a great taste and even smoother texture. These products do not fall within the current FDA definition of standardized Ice Cream, so we call them Frozen Dairy Dessert ... In a national side-by-side taste test, our fans tell us they like the new recipe just as much as the original. We’re confident these new products deliver the great taste Ice Cream fans expect but with any product change it’s always possible that you may notice a difference."

    Call me crazy, but I like my ice cream to actually be ice cream. Give me Graeter's, or Salt & Straw ... but when I indulge, I actually want to indulge.


    • The Washington Post reported that new research out of Italy (naturally) suggested that rather than being the vehicle by which people consume needless and harmful carbs, pasta may not be so bad after all.

    "In fact," the Post wrote, "the new research published this week in the journal Nutrition and Diabetes suggests eating pasta in controlled amounts is associated with a healthy lifestyle. The Neuromed Institute of Pozzilli found that eating pasta in moderation is associated with a lower body-mass index, waist and hip circumference, and waist-to-hip ratio. The study recommended deriving 10 percent of your daily calories from pasta.

    Yippee.
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 18, 2016

    ...will return.
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 18, 2016

    Once again, I've been getting emails from MNB readers living in the Portland, Oregon, area, asking for one of those casual get-togethers that we've done here the past few years. I'm game if you are ... so let's do one next week...

    Let's meet at 5 pm on Thursday, July 28 at Nel Centro, located at 1408 SW 6th Ave, in Portland. I'll plan on being there for a couple of hours - if the weather holds, on the outside patio - and I hope that any MNB readers who'd like to stop by will do so.
    KC's View: