retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Responding to yesterday's story about malls being converted to senior citizen housing - I argued that they would be more successful by converting them to multiple uses, such as also including health care facilities and community colleges - MNB reader John Rand wrote:

Totally agree. I have an adverse reaction to the stereotypical notion of a slice of demography (in this case, based on age) being turned into a community that excludes variety.

I am fully qualified to enroll in the “get off my lawn” age group should I want to. At the same time I cannot imagine living in a place where there was no younger people to listen to or talk to, to exchange perspectives. I cannot imagine needing permission or “passes” for children (or grandchildren, actually) to be there.

Many years ago when I was a grade schooler, I sat on a bench in a tiny park with a veteran of the Spanish American War. He was impossibly old, to me, and he had been a child, literally an under-age drummer boy or something, but he served in the freaking Spanish American War which made him a contemporary of sorts to Teddy Roosevelt, and I was round-eyed talking to this guy, an actual living human fossil, preserved by apparent magic for my personal amusement! (I was maybe 10 years old, so don’t @ me. )

Age-defined housing feels sterile to me compared to that, in both directions – the residents lose touch, and the non-residents lose even more.  No thanks.

I'm with you.  Totally.  For me, over-55 housing sounds like a special corner of hell.

When I was writing about this story yesterday, I also suggested the following:

It wouldn't even be a bad thing to provide some young person housing, for people just out of college with loan debt that they need to pay off … maybe they could figure out a rent formula based on income and monthly loan payment size.

This is an opportunity to find unique ways to create community as well as communities.  And that means being heterogeneous, not homogeneous.

Which prompted one MNB reader to write: 

Low rent housing inside a mall?  Great!  Let’s bring the projects to the suburbs!  Brrrrilliant!

I sense sarcasm.  And I am mystified.

First of all, low-rent housing isn't necessarily the same as "the projects," which has a really negative connotation.  But providing low-rent housing to people who have jobs but don't make a lot of money isn't the worst idea in the world.

But, for the record, I was talking about young people just out of college but loaded down with loan debt and who need a place where they can live at low cost while paying off those loans.  Paying off those loans allows them to more quickly transition to the place where they can buy cars and homes and become people who contribute to the tax base.

When did it become fashionable or acceptable to denigrate such people?


Regarding another story, which apparently struck a nerve, MNB reader Jon Berg wrote:

Thanks for covering the Jerry Jeff Walker passing.  He has always been a favorite of mine.  As a guitar player and “want to be” songwriter, I always looked to Jerry Jeff for inspiration and emotion in songwriting.  After hearing the news this weekend, I listened to “Live from Greune Hall” and “Navajo Rug” just because the files were handy on the play list.  But if you listen to “I Feel Like Hank Williams Tonight”, I think you’ll know everything you need to know about JJW.  Having seen him in concert numerous times, he was definitely true to his craft.

I’m a big Jimmy Buffett fan too, so its interesting to know about the history those two had together.  "Railroad Lady" was their biggest co-writing effort I believe.

Just wanted to say thanks for including that.  I was really happy to see that coverage and acknowledgement.

MNB reader Mike Gantt chimed in:

And.... a popular request at every concert was “Redneck Mother” but my personal favorite was “Desperado.” His iconic voice will be missed.

MNB reader Chad Petty offered some harmony:

Thank you for recognizing Jerry Jeff in your newsletter today.  Although not as famous as Willie and Waylon, he was my favorite of the Texas Country music scene. 

I grew up in Texas, and like most in the CPG industry, my life was uprooted as I’ve bounced around the country working for different companies on different retailer facing accounts.  I hadn’t put on a Jerry Jeff song in a while but with news of his passing I’m now running a loop of his songs. Music has the power to take you to different places and different times in your life.  His music plants me back in the middle of Texas with my Dad and brother hanging out on a hot Texas summer day.

Thanks again for bringing Jerry Jeff to a broader audience and me back to my roots.  RIP JJW

I noted yesterday that my favorite Jerry Jeff Walker song was "LA Freeway," which was written by Guy Clark, prompting one MNB reader to write:

Thanks for your shout out to Guy Clark. He and his wife Susanna never get the recognition they deserve as major influencers in the careers of so many of our finest songwriters, including Townes, Kris, and Emmylou.

His lyrics to Delores Keane’s “Emigrant Eyes” are really special to anyone whose grandparents came through Ellis Island.

I didn't know that song.  Just played it.  Wonderful.

My grandfather's days are numbered

But I won't let his memory die

He gave me the gift of this country

And the look in his emigrant eyes


Sometimes when I look in my grandfather's emigrant eyes

I see that day reflected and I can't hold my feelings inside

I see starting with nothing and working hard all of his life

So don't take it for granted, say grandfather's emigrant eyes