February 14th, 2013
In business most everything IS about money, and today the financial rewards in embracing, and moving forward with updating a commercial space are many. Fresh color on the walls, flattering lighting, new carpet all send the right message: internally to employees and externally, to new and potential clients and employees, as well as agents and buyers in the case of real estate interests.
These projects pays triple-plus the dividends a private project does, and decisions are made with not unfamiliar parameters. SO-if we assume the location and size/suitability of space works just fine, and it’s not about spending a reasonable amount of money, why do so many deciders NOT decide?
TRH believes that most people will choose well, when pointed in the right direction. Helping clients untangle their thinking and prioritize is my specialty, and clients with commercial spaces are no exception.
A simple, but critical thinking error derails most projects. It usually happens early on, before the client finds me. Simply-they’ve lumped the question of what it should look like, with the issue of who will be involved, and how decisions will be made. Entirely different issues, so in attempting to be efficient, they pretty much guarantee getting stuck in the hamster wheel mode of thinking.
Deciding who will be providing input, and how it will be presented to the rest of the staff perplexes many owners/managers, but it’s what should be established first, way before breaking out the paint chips or swatches, even before conversations about the money. Taking it on by default-or assigning it to an employee based on (sorry) their gender, or level of interest can be just as counter-productive as unfettered open discussions among staff, and there’s no guarantee of success-only that time and money will be spent.
Just as in residential projects-the chemistry is different with each client, knowing it and working with it comes first. My projects have included funeral homes, law offices, and a church. I’ve met with and guided the sole proprietor-with, or without their spouse/SO, as well as partners; a designated assistant; co-op Board Presidents-solo, and with other Boardmembers, a rectory full of priests, and yes, even moderating a group meeting for smaller, more intimate offices where everyone’s input was wanted, early on.
Updating a commerical space might seem like an intimidating project, but it doesn’t have to be. A few hours with an intuitive and resourceful professional will free up your time and untangle your thinking, help you establish process and priorities, as well as the vision.
January 2nd, 2013
If you’re reading this, I want to thank you for your interest, and support in 2012.
It was five years ago this past weekend-December 31, 2007-that I became a small business owner, and registered The Refreshed Home with Westchester County. Yes. December. 2007.
Not sure if anyone really had any sense back then of how badly the economy was damaged, or how long the aftershocks would continue. Even if they did, it just didn’t fit into my timetable. Having given myself permission months earlier to make my escape from mediocrity at the end of that year, it’s doubtful even the Four Horsemen could have deterred me.
After the economy, the other thing I had under-estimated was all that’d be entailed in establishing my brand. Naively, I thought the aura of my past positions with pedigreed employers would linger-perhaps manifesting as a soft glow, accompanied by the gentle tinkling of windchimes?-automatically drawing clients to me, like children to an ice cream truck in July (sigh).
A major shout out to Rick Whelan, design and branding zen master, and founder of Ditto!Design! is in order. I came to him with the name of the company, a color scheme, a bag of trinkets and magazine photos that represented what I wanted others to know and sense about the business; and the rest is history. You’re the best Rick, thanks for getting me on the map, in such an appealing way!
2012 saw brisk demand for some specialty services: Accompanied Shopping, Accessory Rental and Remote Consults. A series of workshops led to some nice local press, and one of my stage properties was featured in the NYT over the summer. It was a strong year for The Refreshed Home in many ways that don’t end up on a ledger sheet-but here are some that did:
2012 saw 22 TRH properties close, with a combined selling price of $14,906,134.00
- $850K of that were two remotely staged properties
- Three were 7-figure properties, and one was just over $200K.
- Several had multiple offers, two went over list.
- Two needed to rent furniture, everyone else used what they had
- The average was $677,552.00; the median price slightly less, $655,000.00
Additionally, three more properties, with a combined selling price of just under $1.35M are in contract, scheduled to close early 2013.
Not too shabby! So again I say-if you are reading this, I thank you for 2012…2011…2010…2009…and 2008!
October 10th, 2012
Channeling Mark Twain here, and NO, not talking about me, but rather a store.
The rumors started this spring, when a tractor-trailer backed into the front of Stickley Audi on Tarrytown Road in White Plains.
The sign came down, boards went up, and the whispers started.
Then there was the Clearance Sale. SIGH. Where herds of professional store-closeout
bullies salespeople did little to dispel the rumors.
But alas, the truth came out…a long-needed facelift had been in the works, the tractor-trailer just got it on the fast-track.
The store has remained open during the renovations, and they still have a while to go, but the early reviews-OK, my early review-is that it’s great.
A very welcome change is evident the moment you step into the lobby: Look up (fabulous bubble chandelier), look down (sleek leather upholstery), then look all around (a serene oil over the sofa in muted tones, and a truly wonderful, very fashion-forward color on the walls).
Wander through the rooms and although many are still in the throes of being rejuvenated, you will like what you do see. Three of my favorite things:
A really neat drafting table/desk (with a big cogwheel to adjust the angle!)-under $600.00!
A spacious, professional Design Center.
And this sofa!! My goodness!
As I had written about earlier in the year, the big messages at this springs’ Architectural Digest Show was Sexy! Metallic! Organic! and this sofa is IT.
The lighting wasn’t in place yet, but even from this snippet of a rear view, I think you can see where this is going…
The curvilinear frame, in a shimmering pewter velvet, complete with shiny nail head trim and YES those are genuine mirrors attached directly above the skirt.
You can tell by even just this small amount of detail that this console table is something special…a sophisticated burnished finish, and a mirrored top.
It’s not certain when the work will be completed, but hopefully it will be soon. But if you are in the neighborhood, stop by and take a walk through-you will be delighted, and like me, be impatient for the rest of this beautiful package to be complete.
April 24th, 2012
One in five people will move this year, and 45% of these moves will happen between Memorial Day and Labor Day. If you plan to be one of the 8 to 10 million households that are expected to move this summer, here are some tips that could save you drama, heartache, even some bucks.
A little pre-planning goes a long way. Joe Barone, owner of JB Moving and Storage has been moving Westchester and Fairfield county families since 1985, here are his top tips to help smooth the process:
First-leave yourself enough time: Interview movers as early as possible. Ask about their experience, their range of services, their specialties. What was the most unusual move they ever handled? How do they find and hire workers, and how long have workers typically been with the company? How do they keep a consistent level of quality during this peak time? Ask for, and follow up on the company’s client references.
Make as many decisions about your stuff that you can, before you get quotes. This makes getting accurate, apple-to-apple comparisons easier.
Keep last minute decisions to a minimum. Deciding to leave, give away, store or have delivered to a third party will change your price. Day-of decision leaves you little recourse other than to pay them what they tell you to. Follow up your decisions with deadlines, have a back-up plan, and stick to it. If your sister doesn’t pick up the sofa by X date, it goes to recipient #2.
Get detailed quotes in writing, after a site visit. This will the ‘what, there are stairs?’ or ‘you want us to pack that?’ on-site issues with the crew.
Assume nothing. Especially that you will get ‘a deal’. NYS-DOT does not let these vendors ‘throw in’ anything. In fact, they have to register their fee schedule with the state on an annual basis. Get costs of all packing materials, agreement of what will be put together, installed, etc.
Only hire a licensed and insured mover. Depending on your move, your consumer rights are protected either by a local (staying within your state) or federal (crossing state lines) agency. These agencies license and regulate the carriers. As a consumer, you are on your own if you choose to do business with an unlicensed, uninsured business. Check to see they are members in good standing with both the Better Business Bureau , and the Department of Transportation.
Last-this is my suggestion: Inspired by-some might even say spoiled by!-JB’s own facility and operation-Ask to visit the warehouse. See the operation, check out their trucks. Is it clean, and orderly? Are the movers wearing some type of uniform? In my experience, appearances and condition of equipment are indicative of the operation as a whole, as well as how you and your possessions will be treated.
The Refreshed Home~Because Experience Matters, and Kindness Counts
March 27th, 2012
Experience Matters, and Kindess Counts: Meet the Staff of Bond Animal Hospital, WHite Plains NY 10606
A few weeks ago I was doing some long-overdue updates of online profiles in my various media outlets. Time to take it a step further, and more succinctly put what I, and my business stand for, black and white. One statement I came up with was Experience Matters, and Kindness Counts.
My business is much more about people than it is about stuff. Often, people who are in pain of some sort. A change or loss, there is confusion, stress and sadness. I consider alleviating distress to be a big part of my solutions. It’s not how all Stagers or Decorators work, but it’s what I do. So while it was accurate, it sounded…well, I wasn’t sure the tone was quite right-maybe too ponderous? too prissy? too indulgent? I wondered if anyone ( besides me) really cares about this kind of stuff, but went with it anyway.
Then suddenly this past week the tables turned, I became a confused, scared and sad client in need of experienced care, and kindness. Regular readers will know our dog Bella Blue is near and quite dear to my husband and myself. She had become very ill very quickly, Doug and I were beside ourselves, heartsick and sleep deprived. The happy ending is that she is fine.
As every pet-owner knows, good regular pet care is vital, yet even under the best of circumstances things can happen. And THIS is why you want to know about Bond Animal Hospital. Because experience does matter, and kindness does count.
I’m definitely a love my dog, love me kind of gal, and have been a client for over 20 years. First with Maggie Mae, a lab mix; also a shelter rescue, she was my friend for 9 years.
Many of the faces at Bond have stayed the same over the years. Partners Dr. Douglas Aspros and Dr. Geoffrey McKenzie have built a professional staff who know what they are doing, and love your pet like you do, because as pet owners themselves, they get what you go through. The doctors are all highly accredited, and my experiences have proven them all to be thorough and skillful diagnosticians, as well as compassionate advisors.
If you are new to the area, a new pet owner, have an exotic pet, or just feeling your current veterinary experience is lacking, you want to know the people at Bond Animal Hospital. Their practice includes the care of avians, reptiles, and small mammals.
Very conveniently located at the very northern end of Central Avenue in White Plains, they are moments off the Bronx River Parkway, as well as I-287. GO! STAY! You and your pet will be really glad you did.
February 2nd, 2012
This series started as a way to shine a brighter light on local merchants and businesses who offer unusual and thoughtful options for holiday gift-giving.
Three things became quickly apparent: First-we give gifts year-round, for different occasions. Two-sometimes we are the most deserving gift candidates we know. Third (channeling Sally Field now) you really, really liked it!
So now, going forward, this is a year-round, on-going series. Valentines Day is coming…so are birthdays, anniversaries, baby and bridal showers, etc. Please make this a favorite, and consider coming here first for you gift-giving inspiration.
For a number of years, I have been drawn to what I THOUGHT yoga was about, but got intimidated by all there was to KNOW: Intense yoga, hot yoga, gentle yoga? And oh yes, all the media images of slender flexible lovelies in spandex….the only constant was that I would read stories about real-life devotees in their 60s, 70s and beyond who were calm and happy, healthy and flexible. And the older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve wanted THAT to be MY future.
This is not to educate anyone on the specifics of yoga…it’s about how that even early on, it’s come to work in the real life of an unathletic, non-graceful, kind of fearful and and semi-lumpy person (me), and that why a gift certificate for some introductory lessons could be the best gift you’d ever give
Through a business organization I came to know Michele Weiss professionally. Travel is her business, but yoga is her passion. A casual conversation some months earlier led to an email about classes she was teaching, which then found me in a cozy studio in Stamford on a Saturday morning about 6 weeks ago.
Yoga Space Stamford is nestled in the 2nd floor of the LAA (Loft Artists Association) Building on Canal Street, just down from Fairway, off exit 8 of 95. Love the creative feeling of the building, and the clean, simple feeling of the studio.
Owner Silvana Stein opened Yoga Space Stamford in 2008. First a practicioner for nearly 30 years, then a certified instructor, she has taught in lower Fairfield county since 1993, she is one of those afore-mentioned devotees with an amazing story of healing.
There is a very old saying (proverb?) ‘when the student is ready, the teacher will appear’. That has proven to be the case in other profound times in my life, and I am seeing that here, too. As I contemplate writing this, it occurs to me how un-intellectual this is. Thinking, talking, reading about it will not help you understand…for me, so far, it’s been about just showing up, listening and doing…just following instructions
lynegar yoga is what Silvana, and Michele, and the other instructors practice, this link can tell you more about it. Six weeks in, I can tell you first I am sore the day after…but it’s a good sore. I never was concious before of how many different body parts there were that I had such control over. But I am also thinking better, and carrying myself gently, straighter. I am taller and calmer, and deep, settling breaths just come, involuntarily. It’s wild.
Yoga Space Stamford has a full schedule of classes for those of all abilities, and some very attractive deals if you wanted to try a few without any monster commitment. If you are ready, and lucky enough to live in the Stamford area( it’s 20 minutes for me, coming from White Plains), check out the site and call Silvana for any questions. If you are out of the area, research it a bit, and look for your own local haven. Treat yourself, you’ll be glad you did.
December 31st, 2011
Welcome back to Word Of The Week: where I explain why a certain word has caught my attention this week. Today the word is MANAGE.
When I first started my work life, I thought being a manager was a good aspiration…it seemed easy enough, you just tell people what you want them to do…did I mention I started work when I was very young??
There are two types of takes on the word manage. One is an idiom for coping, or getting by…‘whatever happens, I’ll manage’…pretty passive.
The other is an all-encompassing Snugglie of a job description (not exactly sure what it does encompass, and very fluid boundries) that is much more pro-active.
Earliest roots come from the Italian ‘maneggiare’-to handle, especially as in horses, or French ‘manege’ -horsemanship. The Latin, of course is ‘manus’-hand, as in manual, manacle.
The parallels of directing the path of a large and powerful creature and overseeing all aspects of a project are intriguing; bringing both to their safe, complete and intended destination-even more so.
And NOW I might have a clue as to why John Maggiotto-the camera artist and photographer extroidinaire who took my professional head shots, and kindly allowed me the use of his artwork here-often uses horses as subject matter, and a wild stallion as his avatar on his business cards and stationary. But I digress….
The image of hands, used in several financial and insurance institutions, are meant to convey and assure personal safety and security, but it’s a reminder too of the very basic ways that things get done.
Managing is an absolute hands-on, up close and yes, sometimes personal endevor. Successful managers know there is give and take. There is a need to both listen, and the ability to take charge.
Sometimes you need a light touch, other times… not so much. It requires simultaneously living in the circumstances of the moment and looking/thinking ahead…often far ahead, and in all sorts of directions. There is responsibility, and should be mutual respect.
Lots of talk this week of what the future ‘holds’, and- for me, anyway-reflection of this past year. In times of economic uncertainty, there is reluctance to acknowledge or seek the value of the intangible; so many perceive value to lie solely in the lowest dollar figure, or the finished-visual-product.
Ours is a world where little is simple…sometimes by evolution, sometimes by design. Relying on someone else who is very smart about something is not a bad thing. I will continue to make how I manage projects, and the process for clients my highest priority. And I will continue to also learn how to do it better.
I thank the readers, and clients of the refreshed home for a challenging, and rewarding 2011. I appreciate your faith and trust this year, have enjoyed sharing your excitment as your projects have unfolded, and look forward to the opportunities the New Year will bring us all.
2012 is going to be great…pass it on!
December 29th, 2011
Welcome back to my post-holiday series Give Yourself A Gift For 2012: where good ideas and smart people can help you have your best year ever.
At a recent WCBS Business Breakfast, Barbara Corcoran famed NYC Real Estate agent was the featured speaker. I did not attend, but caught an insight I found fascinating. She spoke about how she saw two types of people in the current market, in pretty much a 50-50 split: those sitting tight, and those making big moves.
Historically, recessions have proven to be fertile times for many business of all sizes and types to start, make a move, grow and expand…Hyatt, Sports Illustrated, FedEx, Trader Joes and media giants CNN and MTV are a few of the more well-known biggies that got their start in the midst of economic down cycles.
Will 2012 be your year to make some changes, to make something happen?
You don’t have to have plans for world-wide domination of your industry, but if you have bigger plans, or even are in a space, or a lease that is not meeting your needs, a really good first step would be to talk to a professional who can give you information and feedback to start the process, and I recommend you have that conversation with Trevor Tunell.
Trevor is the Vice-President of family-owned T-Square Properties. T-Square Properties specialize in all aspects of commercial real estate.
They represent Tenants to Landlords (including lease negotiation); represent Landlords to attract new Tenants, and maximize the value of their assets; and manage properties for owners. T Square Properties will also represent your interests if you are looking to buy, sell, or lease a new property.
And it costs nothing to have that conversation.
Besides that Trevor is a nice guy and a smart guy, he and the T-Square team “know” Westchester. They have been Westchester-based since they first opened their doors in 1983.
We all know real estate is hyper-local. Is there any reason to think a conglammorate with sattelite offices would really know the neighborhood better, understand market nuances better-or who’d be in a better position to serve their clients than a company with deep local roots?
As the population ages, the demand for easily accessible, state of the art specialized medical and dental services can only grow; but right now is also an especially good time for anyone in the Personal Services field-or even mid to large-sized corporations to make a move into larger, existing spaces.
Does your business depend on good foot traffic? Today’s economic climate has convinced some successful long-time shop ownersand restauranteurs to retire, making some very attractive storefronts in desirable locations available.
Commercial Real Estate is a highly specialized field. The right or wrong terms or location can make the difference between a dream realized, or a dream deferred. Don’t be afraid, just don’t go it alone.
December 26th, 2011
WHEW. Busy couple of weeks, and 2012 is looming large. Ideas for new beginnings and fresh starts abound this week, but what will be meaningful and feasible for you? Many not only share this thought, but in my experience, share the very same sticking points as well.
Really looking at the stuff that holds you back, takes up way too much space in your brain or keeps you up at night is hard, but resist the urge to pull a Scarlett O’Hara (I’ll think about it tomorrow), or make grand vows for sweeping, 180-degree changes. Neither are good paths to real solutions.
the refreshed homehas always been about getting past the stuff that gets in your way: ID-ing issues, providing specific solutions, and connections to people who can help get resolution . SO-welcome to the first in a series of posts that will get you, your space and your stuff in it’s best place ever.
This first post was a no brainer, it is the #1 issue I see in almost every home I am in. Look and your space and ask yourself:
- Is the most attention-grabbing feature in your family room a wall of components, a bookcase full of DVDs, or a pile of remotes on the coffee table?
- Do cables and wiring snake around your room, following the baseboard, up the walls and around door frames like those vines in “Jumanji“?
- Is your new HDTV (blu-ray player/smart phone/tablet/etc) still in the box, while you’re on hold, or reading manuals trying to figure out how to set it up, or get it to work with your other things?
- Have you just adapted to your home office setup, putting stuff where there is room-or a plug?
Love them, hate them-electronics are as much a part of our day as brushing out teeth. Everything from our music and games, computers and smart phones-we are rarely far away from these modern day ‘necessities’. They connect us, and make us viable in school and business, and dis-organization here can cost you. That’s why giving yourself the gift of e-organization could be the most satisfying and productive thing you could do for 2012.
Folks in the big-box stores could be semi-qualified to talk about the stuff they sell, but can’t possibly have the best answers for your overall digital, electronic situation.
Khattar Hashim is the owner of Digital Media Integration of NY. Beyond smart, he’s an electronics artist. Ask him to tell you about the kosher refrigerator, or speakers-as-car-fenders he created for two clients. He gets that electronics are solutions to a problem, and should enhance one’s space and life-not create their own problems.
Khattar has been a self-professed digital-geek since 1997, and if you live in the lower Hudson Valley, he is the guy to call to get yor stuff positioned, hooked up, working properly, and to it’s intended capacity. He is also an authorized dealer, and installer for some of the worlds’ best products: Bose, Samsung and Crestron, to name a few.
Re-claim your living space with an installation that hides wires, or can bury the components, out of sight, in a closet. Program your lights and thermostats to work off your smart phone or tablet, get that man-cave set up for the Super Bowl soiree!
Get the little green men on your TV back to their normal color, convert all your music and movies onto a media server, and imagine-get it all to work on one remote!
Update and synch your stuff, get those speakers in exactly the right place and calibrate it all…then enjoy, and get on with your life!
NEXT: The Paper Chase
December 1st, 2011
Welcome back to this years’ chapter of Giving The Gift, where the spotlight shines on thoughtful, meaningful gift ideas that smart, creative local business people or organizations offer.
Do you have a challenging person to shop for this season? Is your house already overrun with superhero action figures, DVDs, electronic debris, or gaming stuff?
Maybe you’ve run out of ideas for a spouse or significant other? A cranky teenager (hey, they don’t read my blogs anyway, LOL) who likes nothing, or a boss who has everything?
Tell them to go climb a rock. Literally.
Passion about, and commitment to excellence of their product or service factors greatly into my thought process, just as much as a big WOW does. And from the moment I first walked into The Cliffs at Valhalla, an indoor rock-climbing and fitness center I was WOWWED. Mike and I spoke, and the rest of it kicked in.
Opened in September 2005, The Cliffs at Valhalla is the culmination of Mike Wolfert’s 20+ years of travels and experiences, and YOUR most excellent solution to the afore-mentioned troublesome giftees.
Located about 15 seconds off the Commerce Street exit on the Bronx River Parkway, simply, it is this huge space, with many engineered walls replicating all different angles of rock. There are at least 50 rope-climbing walls, and a whole big section of -I guess you’d call them freestyle?-bouldering formations. All are set with climbing ‘holds’ in creative climbing paths designed to accommodate ten different climbing levels-from absolute beginners/kids to seasoned climbers-each level designated by a different color tag.
Very clean, very friendly, and very, very safe-here are some things that surprised me:
- Women tend to be better climbers than men, at least early on (their natural stregnth is their core-abdomen/legs/butt-better for climbing)
- Climbing is a workout, not just a journey. You can climb as a way of getting fit, or working out those extra ya-yas.
- Creative thinking skills factor in just as much as physical ones do.
- Climbing is about setting a strategy and achieving goals-very transferrable skills in the rest of your life
- When rope-climbing, you are supported by the rigging at all times, and not at the mercy of someone else holding the other end of the rope
Here is why you should consider giving a gift certificate to The Cliffs at Valhalla: Mike and his 40+ employees love climbing, and want you to love it too. Lots of classes/packages, but best deal by far is their special Learn to Climb package. $99.00 gets you a inital 3 hour lesson on climbing safety and strategy…PLUS a months’ unlimited climbing….PLUS a follow-up 3 hour lesson, after that month to explore techniques and other skills.
It’d be an unexpected and fun break from the winter yuks, and if your giftee is smitten, there are all sorts of other packages and memberships they can take advantage of, plus an on-site gear shop with guides, apparel, and professional-grade equpiment suitable for both indoor and outdoor climbing.
There’s lots to like about The Cliffs at Valhalla. They host loads of special events (click here to see pics) and lots of specialty classes: afterschool, Scouts working on merit badges, even at-risk and kids on the spectrum.
But they are also good community partners: now thru December 14th they are sponsoring a Winter Coat Drive with 1071. FM The Peak-the refreshed home’s own radio station of choice.
These are the people, and the places you want to support. SO-go climb a rock, and tell them the refreshed home sent you!
Check out links to past Giving the GIft posts: Enrichment, Delight, Membership, In Honor Of (then Check, Before You Send A Check), Original Art, and Entertainment. Some of the specifics may have changed, but still snappy ideas!
November 21st, 2011
As much as I would love this post to have a calm and moderate tone, sorry, it’s just not happening.
Just starting to come off the worst economic downfall most of us have ever been through, we find ourselves on the cusp of the start of the holiday shopping season.
Plan this morning was to write about promoting 2nd Annual Shop Small Saturday. This coming Saturday, November 26, the focus is on shopping at your local merchant, and supporting small business, which will, in turn support us all.
Watched the morning news first, was absolutely horrified to see wall-to-wall ads for big-box stores open all night, one gleefully adding the tag”…so you don’t have to wait outside.”
Folks-take a look at your downtown. See the empty storefronts?
Think about your own circle. Know anyone who is out of work, or had their hours cut back?
Money spent in the community puts dollars in the pockets of your neighbors, and strengthens us all. It is really that simple.
You don’t even need to be in a ‘big gift’ frame of mind. Have the last few years taught us nothing at all??
Last year I started a series called Giving the Gift, where ideas for unique, thoughtful and local gifts were highlighted, in the areas of Delight, In Honor Of, Entertainment, Enrichment, Membership, and Original Art. And yes, I have a bunch more of new ideas lined up for the days to come!
Will Hamm, a Realtor pal in Denver who works smart, and with his heart, shared a story written by a NEW Realtor friend, Toni Weidman from ReMAX of New Port Richey FL. Called Let’s Help Keep Our Local Businesses Open, Toni stresses the importance of not just buying local, but buying AMERICAN, and buying SMART. Click here to read her very simple, common-sense suggestions.
Look, I’ve been in retail 25 years. Trust me when I say big-box store management likens the American buying public to a gang of rats in a maze, looking for the cheese (in this case, cheap consumer electronics). With a few cheap TVs they manufacture drama, and attempt to re-train the consumer to think of shopping as a competiton sport. I say THEY need to be re-trained.
There is nothing wrong with big TVs, are we just that hard-up for them??
I understand these stores pay local taxes, and employ local people too, but a bad Black Friday will NOT cause anyone to lose their jobs in these stores. But even small actions of many COULD send all the right messages, on everything from quality of life, reminding them consumers hold the cards, and NO, we’re not stupid, and we’re going to be whores for a stupid TV…which will probably be just as cheap next week. SERIOUSLY.
SO-on Friday-sleep in. Make turkey and cranberry pancakes. Call some old friends and catch up. And make your shopping list for Saturday.
There is no single day where the consumer has more attention paid to them than the day after Thanksgiving. Please, choose to use your power for good. And thank you.
September 11th, 2011
Am finishing up a few big projects now, two of which required me to replace appliances to get the houses ready for sale.
Although I always prefer to go to smaller, local stores I need a lot of things for these jobs, so thinking well, OK< maybe the NAMELESS BIG BOX STORE will save me some time.
Here is the condensed version of my experience that actually took place over 3 days.
ME: What-an appliance sale? 10% off , and YOU’RE KIDDING-another 10% off for opening and using your store’s charge card??
NAMELESS BIG BOX STORE: YES!!
ME: (Thinking now)-HMMMM-that could be a lot of money on a bunch of appliances. Clients hire me to help make decisions that are in their best interest. Putting my personal views aside, if I can save them some dollars on a known entity, I will.
ME: (Talking) Sign me up!!
NAMELESS BIG BOX STORE: OK!
ME: (Afterwards, looking at the bill, finding 10% only off on appliances over a certain dollar volume, and other 10% off is only on the first item on my purchase) Please cancel this order.
Then- (sound of dialing on new smart phone)- “Hello, Bergers?”
Berger’s Appliances has been in the same location, on Commerce Street in Hawthorne since the early 60′s. Opened by Ernie Berger Sr., his sons Ernie Jr. and Bob went on to run the place, and Ernie still puts time in there.
The showroom is not fancy, it pretty much looks the same way I remember it did in the 60′s when my parents were buying a new fridge. Showing an uncanny awareness of good value, even at that tender age, I remembered urging them to purchase this one model that-CAN YOU BELIEVE IT-came with a free butter dish!!
They represent the entire spectrum of brand-name appliances-nothing odd, old, or questionable; and their specialty is, simply knowing what they are talking about. They do not BS the customers.
Their sales staff has been there for years, and many travel from quite a distance. My salesman-Jim K. -there are two Jims- is younger than I am, travels from Red Hook, and has been there almost 30 years!! When I walked into the showroom unannounced, 6 years after Doug and I bought our new kitchen appliances, he not only recognized me, he remembered where I was working at the time!
Everything is always free delivery, and free haul-away. Every. Thing. Every. Day.
They will price and give you print-outs of the product, and these print-outs are tied into a data base, which will advise you of any rebates for the product. And they let you walk out of the store to think about it.
ORANGE YOU GLAD I TOLD YOU ABOUT BERGERS??
July 3rd, 2011
Jacob Burns Film Center, Pleasantville New York 10570
Kudos to Jacob Burns Film Center, last month they celebrated their 10 year anniversary!
Have written about them in the past…essentially, they make it very easy, and very reasonable to see wonderful, thoughtful movies you might have had to otherwise trek into Manhattan to see…
Assuming you also had the time and skill to first wade thru all the offerings and pick the winners on your own.
So much of what is at the Megs-Mega Plex is like bad fast food…perhaps briefly satisfying but ultimately unsubstantial, and probably not any good for you, either.
BUT-every time we see something there, I always leave feeling wiser, and more evolved as a person.
Tonight Doug and I went to see Buck. It was the real-life story of Buck Brannerman, who-per Robert Redford- is the Horse Whisperer. Of course it’s about horses, but so much more. Trailer is currently on Burns’ home page, click here to check it out.
If you are not familiar with Jacob Burns Theater, here 3 reasons you owe it to yourself to check out:
Shows. Terrific individual movies, but their series are stellar.
We’ve seen several in the past. Last month: Italian Classics; starting Tuesday Sounds of Summer -music documentaries featuring the Van Cliburn Piano competition and Kinshasa-the Congos’s only symphony-to the more familiar Dylan, Beatles, Kinks and Harry Nilsson.
Immediately after, to help squeeze that very last bit of fun out of your summer- Great Party Movies. The Marx Brothers (Animal Crackers) and John Belushi (Animal House) share the screen with the likes of Audrey Hepburn (Breakfast At TIffany’s), Carole Lombard and William Powell (My Man Godfrey).
Location Pleasantville is, well, very pleasant. Easy to get to, easy to park (usually free in local lots at night and on weekends), steps away from Metro North Station, as well as a number of great eating spots (try the Ying Yang prawns at Magic Wok).
Originally the Rome Theater, it was re-worked into several more intimate theaters, each seating about 100-125. Comfy seats, fully accessible, great AC, and you won’t need a home equity line of credit to buy popcorn.
Community Exposure to the arts makes us better and smarter, and builds better community. (Yes, I know that is such a subjective statement, but this is my blog, and I can say these things!!).
Jacob Burns is a good neighbor, and has done much to elevate the community. Great movies and programs for kids of all ages, and an on-going calendar of truly special events.
And their membership is quite a deal…largely deductible, but $5.00 off movie tickets, and other perks, depending on level.
So-make plans for your own Date Night: see something wonderful on big screen, and you’ll see what I mean.
June 4th, 2011
GRAND RE-OPENING: Manna Foods, 171 Mamaroneck Avenue, White Plains NY 10601
Like success stories? The kind where hard work, solid core values, sustained focus and commitment to a goal are how it happens? Well, me too- and you will LOVE this one!!
Running a small business has never been ‘easy’, but the last few years have presented even greater challenges. Some have been squeezed out, others hang on.
Last week, Manna Foods became twice the store it had been.
Operating in the same 1000 sf storefront since 1977, this health food store took down a wall, and expanded into the adjacent vacant store, doubling their space.
Niels Svendsen, Manna’s founder and owner, gives a lot of credit to the building’s owner, Paul Dillani, for his vision, sense of community and support.
Paul also owns the adjacent restaurants, The Porter House and Hudson Grill; sharing the outside dining space is one example of his wiser, big-picture philosophy.
As our economy is starting to regenerate, it’s a great story on its own, but it’s got an even better back story.
Their customers travel from all over Westchester, but to anyone who lives in lower Westchester, has ever shopped on Mamaroneck Avenue, or worked in White Plains-Manna Foods hardly needs any introduction.
For nearly 34 years, Manna Foods has been an anchor in the continually shifting face of retail in downtown White Plains . Simply: providing area residents good choices about healthy food is pretty much Niels’ mission in life.
The list of what to like about Manna Foods is substantial:
They carry a well-chosen assortment of certified organic, natural and minimally processed foods, beverages and produce, AND a full line of vitamins and supplements their own private label, plus several brand name lines all nicely discounted.
The Food Bar, where every weekday fresh vegetarian loaves and soups, stews, chilis, salads, wraps and burritos, along with fresh-squeezed juices are made for the lunchtime crowd.
(Doug gave the Macho Stew 2 thumbs up-tasty and satisfying; and after reading their NYT review- am now watching the daily menu for the next appearance of the curried brown rice.)
You can shop online, and healthier choices are both easier and more convenient with their website: there are recipes, resources and health news, as well as an exhaustive reference library, where all you might ever need to know about conditions, wellness, drugs, herbs and supplements is literally A-Z, under Treatment Options.
The interior is bright and airy, and ohyes, lunch in the back courtyard is a lovely, relaxing mid-day repast.
But IMO, what makes Manna Foods such a great find are the people, their passions and principles.
They have not just been a presence in downtown White Plains all these years, they have been a personality.
I have been an occasional customer for at least 15 years, and without exception, every person I’ve ever spoken to there knew what they were talking about, and genuinely wanted to help me-not ‘sell’ me.
Besides Niels, there are 7 other employees at Manna. In retail where turnover is HUGE, Mannas’ staff STAYS. Gregory (r), pictured here with Niels- goes back 32 years with Manna-first few years as a customer, but an employee all the rest.
Bottom line, Manna Foods is a gem. Stop in, see their ‘new’ space, have a California Burger in the back courtyard, and get to know these great neighbors.
May 6th, 2011
SAGE CLEANERS, White Plains NY
It’s an accepted moire that even under reasonable conditions, many small businesses do not make it.
The reasons, even the statistics themselves can vary, but the last few years have presented even greater challenges to the small business owner.
Local small businesses give our local economies a pulse, reason alone to support them.
When they persevere, and become part of the community they add heart.
When they perform a quality service, offer real value and are nice people to boot, well, you tell your friends.
Let me introduce Albina and Sungil Kim, owners of Sage Cleaners in White Plains. Their address is One Hall Place, and even if you lived nearby, you probably won’t recognize that street name.
A few years back, a legnthy construction project started to widen and strengthen the 287 overpass on Lake Street, and created this nub of a road,off Lake Street, just east of the Kensico Avenue intersection.
They are the only building on this street, between the Getty Station, and I-287.
It was during the latter stage of this project that Albina and Sungil first opened their doors, just about a year ago.
They had closed the first family-owned dry cleaning business they started in Boston 15 years ago, and moved back to NY to be closer to family. The name, “Sage” came from an honors program that their son Noel was in.
We were just looking for a convienently located place that had reasonable prices for Doug’s dress shirts, that didn’t need $___ of additional cleaning.
Albina knew my name the third time I was there, which I found to be very impressive.
Since then, they have rescued a forgotten credit card from an inside pocket in Doug’s blazer, returned a shirt, not cleaned, when they knew there was no hope for it, and most notably-Albina protects her clients from the parking enforcement nazi who lurks nearby.
Sage Cleaners is a full-service company, they do tailoring (hems/etc) and alterations; clean leather and suade, as well as drapes and bedspreads; and offer box storage.
Please stop by and check them out, you won’t be disappointed. Just watch out for the parking nazi!
December 20th, 2010
Of all the posts I planned for this series, this has been the hardest one to write. Have you ever had so many thoughts that all want to be heard at the same time, where there’s gridlock in the brain?
Have written about my fondness for whimsy before, and the simple truth is, I am crazy about this place. Don’t want to have this read as blather; but just can’t imagine a more aptly-named gift store than Whimsies Incognito.
Whether you are scrambling for a last-minute hostess gift, or just haven’t found that something special for that someone special, there is something wonderful here for everyone.
After outgrowing 2 different storefronts on Main Street, they are now located around the corner at 35 South Broadway in Tarrytown, their biggest location since first opening in downtown Tarrytown almost thirty years ago.
Jacqueleen Golabek, the owner explains, it just evolved as she was trying to figure out what she wanted to do ‘when she grew up’.
My pictures don’t do the store any justice, but it’s a sensory feast. There is vibrant color and textures everywhere you look, and thoughtful, creative displays that beckon, and draw you in.
Unusual, finely hand-crafted gifts are their specialty. Whimsies represents about 500 vendors; some local, but most in the US, the others through Fair Trade. Recycled, and creatively re-purposed materials are prominent.
From the upper right: a hand-painted wood fish clock with lovely pewter details ($105.00), wooden cheese tray and slicer sets with laser-cut details at either end ($28.-38.00) and quite an array of multi-colored hand-blown glass hummingbird feeders ($65.00).
Look closely at left and you’ll see hand-strung bottle-cap garlands on the tree ($22.00 for 3 feet). At right, figures of all nationalities holding hands encircle a round mirror, laser cut, then hand-detailed Hatian oil drum art ($100.00 )
Colorful weathered turquoise shutters have been re-purposed to display the handmade pewter and ceramic switch plates (starting at $20.00 for single switch/ceramic), and depression-glass plates are set into stained glass and framed ($98.00).
The printed word is also very important here. A 2011 quote-a-month calendar starts the New Year boldly proclaiming ” HAVE FAITH IN YOURSELF, AND IN THE FUTURE”. ($13.00…I bought 6-how could I not??).
Ceramic squares with simple images that proclaim ‘peacable’ ( 3″ x 3″, $30.00 each), a metal switch plate cover that states, in all different fonts-”Home is where you are happy” ($28.00).
Books with titles like “Today is Super”, and local son Benjamin Cheever’s … umm…whimsical “The First Dog”, the story of Adam and Eve’s dog.
Handmade jewelry, crewel belts from Guatemala, the list goes on.
I have shopped at stores that have tried this model before, but none ever came close to succeeding like this.
Walking through, the store is a balm to the jangled-out soul. The care that has gone into selecting and displaying the merchandise is palatable, but never overdone or cliched.
Go-even make an afternoon of it-there are so many great places nearby to relax and have a bite to eat. Your gift worries will be over, and your heart will be happy.
December 20th, 2010
Ghandi once said “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
There is nothing wrong with malls, we all need a new scarf/tie/pair of gloves/etc. every so often…but if you are looking for something with greater meaning, how about supporting a change you, or a loved one would like to see in the world?
Wherever you or your loved one is, there are non-profit (501c3) organizations that would welcome donations of both time and money, at any time of year. Kids or teens pledging volunteer time as a gift to a parent/grandparent could pay great dividends to all concerned.
There is no shortage of good causes. The typically most at-risk seniors and women with young children are now joined by all the other segments of the population, all in need of the most basic support-food and shelter. Here are some local organizations, and links to their websites to get you started/inspired.
Meals on Wheels is both a local and a national program, started originally to serve the elderly and otherwise home bound. They operate year round, bringing prepared meals, as well as companionship to those they serve.
Food Bank of Westchester The statistics are sobering; almost 200K Westchester residents are hungry, or at risk of being hungry; and 83% of them are either seniors, or under the age of 18.
Formerly known as FoodPATCH, Food Bank for Westchester collects, warehouse and distribute 6 million pounds of food a year, supplying 95% of all the food for approx 200 front-line food providers county-wide: soup kitchens, food pantries, shelters, day care centers and other hunger-relief centers in Westchester.
The Bridge Fund Founded here in Westchester in 1991, and since has been the model for organizations in NYC, CT and MA; The Bridge Fund aids working poor families/individuals who are in imminent danger of losing their housing. Last year they handled almost 2800 requests for help, and ultimately prevented 312 evictions and foreclosures.
All of what they do, and the individualized way they do it doesn’t fit this 5-8 sentence format, so I would urge you to click the link above, and find out more about them.
Furniture Sharehouse Near and dear to my heart, Furniture Sharehouse collects and re-distributes clean and serviceable furniture free, to clients of about 3 dozen local agencies.
Started in April 2007, they crossed their 1000th Westchester family served in September.
Pets Alive is the new name of the Elmsford Animal Shelter. Still the only no-kill shelter in the area, they merged with Pets Alive rehabilitation sanctuary in Middletown NY earlier this year.
They support animals, and the people that want to adopt them. Again, their programs and needs are varied, please click link above to find out more.
December 14th, 2010
Being in NYC’s backyard, we in Westchester are doubly-blessed. Close to the big blow-out events, closer to that same range of talent, in a more intimate setting, with a lot less hassle.
Be it comedy, drama, music or dance-the gift of entertainment is unexpected, both open-ended and specific, and always the right size. PLUS-because outdoor activities are limited in the winter, theater schedules are usually the fullest, so lots to choose from.
Gift certificates can be purchased in any amount at the box offices, or online; check with theaters for any subscription offers they may have. Wrap a great idea creatively, to surprise that special someone, how about tucking it inside a big box of Good and Plenty, or Jujubes?
Here are a few good local places to start your search…with Christmas 8 days away, don’t delay!
The Emlin Theater in Mamaroneck is in it’s 39th year of providing quality entertainmentof all varieties. One third of their programs are children/family-friendlyl their Family Subscription discounts 20% for 5 or more of the many, many upcoming kids shows.
Jacob Burns Film Center Located in the heart of Pleasantville, I have written about this gem before. Very thoughtfully chosen mix of films, but of special note are their festivals-a chosen topic or star is featured in various works over say two weeks. Also-’An Evening With’ series, where actors/directors view a film with the audience and then Q&A.
Paramount Center for the Arts Debuting in June of 1930, the Paramount has been fully, beautifully and lovingly restored this past decade-just walking in and sitting down is a pleasure.
Great selection of music, theater, dance, and courtesy of Franzoso Contracting, Free Movie Nights, and looking into the future, I have 2 words: Englebert Humperdink. (4/27/11, REALLY).
Tarrytown Music Hall Opened in 1885, this is another historic treasure. Work to historically renovate and green update is on-going, and the craftsmanship is something to behold.
They typically draw 80,000 visitors annually, almost half of them children. Over the years we have seen Dave Brubeck, Dave Bromberg, several classic movies. They are ringing in the New Year big-time with Greg Allman, and have a heck of a schedule in the months to come.
Performing Arts Center at SUNY Purchase If I had to define a difference, PAC shows are uncommonly good.
Ballet, opera, chamber music and symphonies, make up the bulk of their programming, often hosting artists from around the world. But I also saw the late comedian George Carlin there 2002. And Pilobolus is coming!!
December 12th, 2010
“Astonished” is a good word to describe most people’s reaction when the first super bookstore opened here. BOOKS?? And they want you to sit down, drink coffee and read, even if you don’t buy??
Conventional wisdom had them there not too long. Well, WHO KNEW, these would come to be such hopping places, full of people seeking both knowledge and camaraderie at 10 PM on Saturday nights?
While recent years have not been kind to places like this, our passion for ongoing learning has not abated.
A holiday gift that embraces, enhances and encourages another’s gifts and curiosities could be a most welcome surprise, so here are a few local ones you may not have thought of:
The New York Botanical Gardens -They offer year-round programs/classes for kids and teens; Gardening, Horticulture, Photography, Floral, and Landscape Design are some of the adult ed classes coming up. There is also a dandy of a Winter Lecture Series starting in January.
Gift certificates are available for classes or lectures, they can also be separately purchased for the gift shop; additionally gift memberships are $75.00. How cool would it be to find one of those folded up inside a new pair of garden gloves, or in an emptied seed envelope, in the toe of your stocking?
Know someone who’s had the interest, but perhaps not the time for music lessons? No time like the present (!!) to start.
The Westchester School of Guitar works one on one with any age or experience level, on every facet from traditional lessons for the beginner, to composing and techniques for the more advanced students.
Owner and founder Jeff Brown (left) has s been teaching guitar for 30 years, and feels it is the intuition he has developed on how each different student can be best taught that has accounted for the success and growth of the business.
Very conveniently located in Briarcliff, they offer a complimentary intro lesson, and a 4-lesson ‘try-out package’, as well as 12 week tri-mester.
Any drummer wanna-bes in your life? Simply, John Arrucci is the one you want to know.
As a percussionist, John has composed, performed, taught, recorded and traveled extensively for nearly 3 decades. He works with percussion instruments from many different cultures, all around the world, and offers private classes in composition, drumsets, percussion and piano.
Westchester Skating Academy in Elmsford, and theIce Casino at Playland both offer ice-skating classes for all ages and levels, both figure skating and hockey instruction.
Don’t overlook WCC! A SUNY school, their Spring schedule (starting mid-January) is chock-full of things include lessons in 9 different languages; plus courses in Writing, Dance, Film, Art History, Cooking, Politics, Wine Appreciation, Tai Chi, Area Rug Making, Boxing and …well, you get the picture.
It’s close, and quite affordable: while costs vary, but many 5 or 6 session courses are in the $60.00-100.00 range. While the student would have to register themselves, you can still surprise them with an appropriate small gift-like a book, or accessopry on the topic, with the course description tucked away inside…
Like the idea, but none of these exactly right? Or maybe you’re not so local? Just look around, chances are the perfect gift is right there, in your own backyard.
December 9th, 2010
Gifts are an expression of affection, and meant to bring enjoyment. Gifts that also help support and grow that source of enjoyment are among the most delightful to receive.
The gift of a membership to an organization is also a heck of a good value. Besides keeping the fan posted on upcoming events, there are perks like discounted, or even free event admission, upgrades, members-only events, product giveaways, and reduced pricing at affiliated shops or sponsors. For families with young children-you just cannot go wrong.
Here are some local favorites that do a great job of elevating us all.
Teatown Lake Reservation is an 800+ acres of nature preserve and education center, centrally located in Ossining, minutes off the Taconic Parkway, Route 134 exit. They offer a non-stop calendar of events; hands-on and family friendly-to specialty hikes and workshops, many free of charge.
Advocates of nature-friendly living, and steward to the land, Teatown is a treasure-you have to go to their website to believe all they offer.
A big favorite is their their annual EagleFest: an annual celebration of American Bald Eagles, as they return to the Hudson Valley; it’s for Sat 2/5.
Individual memberships are $35.00 (Students/Seniors) to $50.00, and $75.00 for Family.
WFUV 90.7FM is a listener-supported public radio, licensed to Fordham University for-wow-almost 60 years. They feature contemporary/alternative music of every stripe, lots of original programing, NPR news and and have some of the most engaging hosts on the New York airways-names we have grown up with-Dennis Elsas, Darren DeVivo, Pete Fornatale, and Vin Scelsa’s Idiots’ Delight-running now 35 years.
My husband Doug never met a style of music he didn’t like, this station is a favorite. Membership was a great anniversary gift for him a few years back, this program has especially generous member perks and programs.
Basic membership is $60.00 and has several different levels, with thank-you gifts that escalate in value as the membership level rises.
Have written about museums before; very little can shake a funk, or inspire me like a stolen few hours learning about a time, idea, style or artist.
Hudson River Museum is one of my favorites for several reasons: it’s in a contemporary structure, joined to a great old house, right on the Hudson River. Maybe 15 minutes away, lots of free parking, they have a quality regular programs, a genuinely interesting schedule of shows and events, great gift shop and OHYES, there’s the planetarium. Seeing the seasonal night skies is such a change of pace fun adventure.
Unlimited free admission, then there is FWMA…Fairfield-Westchester Museum Alliance. Short story is that membership to one gets you free admission to the other seven. For a whole year. REALLY. $25.00-35.00 for Seniors, $50.00 for dual adults, $60.00 for a family.