Monday, September 10, 2007

Monday Morning Java

Above is the cover of the "Napa Uncovered" calendar showing members of the Napa County Farm Bureau posing in a Clos Du Val Winery vineyard.

News, Facts, Fun and Vital Information to Start Your Week Off With a Jolt

Napa Growers Take it (Almost) All Off for Land Preservation

Wine grape growers, ranchers, farmers and others in California's famed Napa Valley are posing (nearly) nude to raise money to protect the valley's rich agricultural resources.

The men, all members of the Napa County Farm Bureau, decided to take off (almost) all of their clothes and pose for the 2008 "Napa Uncovered" calendar produced by the Napa Country Farm Bureau. The calendar shows the men barely covered posing in a variety of agricultural-related settings. You could say the models are "outstanding in their field" so to speak.

The proceeds from the sales of the "Napa Uncovered" calendar will be used by the Napa County Farm Bureau to support efforts to protect and preserve Napa County's agricultural land and resources.

The calendar is the brainchild of Al Wagner, vineyard manager for Napa's Clos Du Val winery. Asked what gave him the inspiration for the calendar Wagner says "Maybe it was the sunlight on the Carneros Vineyards (one of the winery's well-known holdings) that inspired the idea." Wagner poses as Mr. July in the calendar wearing a cowboy hat, boots and an apron--and nothing else.

The other models are pictured in similar partially clad poses in various settings which highlight the diversity of Napa County's agricultural resources. These resources are under constant pressure in the region from development. "A couple of the guys had a few little misgivings," Wagner says. "But after it (the calendar) was all done they kind of sat back and laughed about it."

You can order the "Napa Uncovered" full-color wall calendar here . All proceeds from the sale go to protect and preserve agricultural land in Napa County, California.

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee: How Starbucks Saved One Man's Life

Michael Gates Gill is a self-described child of privilege. His father was the famed New Yorker magazine writer and book author Brendon Gill. Michael Gates Gill was raised surrounded by the goods things in life: fine foods, high society parties, members of the New York literary establishment and celebrities from various walks of life always around the family's house, and other perks of wealth and standing.

Nothing was impossible in the Gill family. For example, his father once had bought a huge grand piano which he was unable to get into the house in a conventional manner. Sparing no expense he hired an industrial crane and a crew and had them lift the piano and get it into the house through a large second-floor set of french doors.

Gill didn't even have to look for a job after graduating college. Just before he was to graduate from Yale University he received a call from a family friend, Yale alumnus and member of the school's Skull & Bones secret society which counts President George W. Bush among its members. The caller told Gill he had set him up with a job at the J. Walter Thompson Advertising Agency, the most prestigious Madison Avenue agency at that time.

Gill gladly took the job and spent the next 30-plus years moving up the corporate ladder in the Ad business, eventually becoming an executive vice president.

That all ended one afternoon though when a woman Gill had hired and trained at the agency called him and invited him to lunch. At lunch she fired Gill but gave him a "decent" severance package and told him he should set up his own consulting firm. If he did she would give him referrals she assured him Gill was in his mid-fifties at the time and got the message: He was getting booted do to age he thought, and the consulting firm was a "nice" suggestion for a man of his age since the Ad agency business is built on youthfulness. After all, the female executive who fired Gill was twenty years his junior but his superior at the agency.

For the next 10 years Gill operated his own one-man consulting firm. He made a living but barely. Then at age 65 it all came tumbling down for this child of privilege The consulting firm folded and to lick his wounds Gill had an affair with a younger woman. She got pregnant and had their child. Gill's wife divorced him and the woman he had the child with told him she no longer wanted to see him...ever.

One day Gill was thinking about his life in a Starbucks cafe not too far from his apartment in New York City. He had spent lots of time in various NYC Starbucks over the last few years as he, like many others, used the cafes as a home office away from the home office for his consulting business.

This day though he wasn't really doing any consulting work. Rather he was wondering what he could do with his life. About that time a young African American woman named Crystal, who was sitting at the table next to Gill, asked him if he was "here" for the Job Fair and said "Do you want a job?" (Gill hadn't noticed but he was sitting in an area sectioned off with rope and a sign which read "Store Job Fair.") Gill looked Crystal in the eyes, thought for a minute and said..."yes, I would like a job."

Crystal gave Gill a formal interview and hired him to work in the store. He started as a cleaner, moved into being a coffee sampler and then a Barista--with much difficulty and many trials and tribulations along the way. But Gates learned to love working at Starbucks. He loved Crystal, the crew, the customers. He went from a depressed older man to a happy person he says for the first time in his life.

Gill proudly says Starbucks "literally saved my life." After working at the store for a little over a year Gill received a promotion to another Starbucks store just down the street from his apartment. On his last day the store team gave him a party. At the party Michael Gates Gill's eyes filled with tears while his heart felt joy. He looked at the fellow members of his Starbucks' store team--all more than half his age--and told them..."You have saved my Life." "And they did," Gill says. "Through them I had regained my confidence, my sense of value, and became determined to move more humanly in the world--to be a better person than I had been."

Today Gill still works as a Barista in the Starbucks near his NYC apartment. And he says he is a much better, more humane man thanks to Starbucks, Crystal and the job. Gill has written a book called "How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Child of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else. The book is published by Gotham Books. It's available at and elsewhere. You can read Gill's full essay on how Starbucks saved his life in the book. Tom Hanks has bought an option from Gill to make a film out of the book as well.

Gill's story is a poignant tale about ones man's life. But it's also an important tale for all of us and for corporate America. Issues like redemption, aging, acceptance and tolerance all are explored in Gill's Starbucks experience and essay.

Natural-Specialty Briefs

Supervalu to spend $1.2 billion, Use latest Research to build, Remodel Stores

Supervalu, the second largest supermarket retailer in the U.S., is plans to spend $1.2 billion this year to renovate existing locations and open new stores. Supervalu operates multiple retail banners including Albertson's, upscale specialty foods Bristol Farms, natural and organic retail format Sunflower Market and a number of other retail banners.

Supervalu isn't just spending this money on simple remodelings. Rather the chain is using all of the latest research on consumer behavior it can get its hands on to remake these stores into the ultimate shopping experience for its existing and potential customers. Natural, organic specialty and fresh foods departments (and product selections) will play a big part for Supervalu in these store makeovers and in the new stores. The September 9, 2007 edition of the Minneapolis Star tribune has a feature article about Supervalu's plans. The article also discusses some of the latest consumer research on supermarket shopping behavior and how Supervalu plans to use it. You can read the full article here.

Wegeman's Entering Midstate Pennsylvania Market With huge, Upscale Store

Wegeman's Supermarkets, a major player in specialty and natural/organic foods retailing, is entering the midstate Pennsylvania market with a new 132,000 square-foot supermarket in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The huge new store will feature large natural and specialty/international grocery departments. It will also offer a wide-variety of natural, organic and specialty perishable products and organic fresh produce and meats. The store also will have an in-store restaurant, lots of upscale fresh prepared foods, a cafe and more.

The midstate market is controlled by Giant Foods LLC which recently lowered the prices on thousands of grocery items in preparation for the opening of the Wegeman's superstore and entry into the market. The Pennsylvania Patriot-News has a feature article (September 8, 2007) on the new Wegeman's store and what it means for the retail food market in the region. You can read the full story here.

The same issue of the Patriot-News also has a profile on Danny Wegeman, CEO of the family-owned chain, and his daughter Colleen, who also works in the family business. The Wegeman's are among the best (if not the best) entrepreneurs in the supermarket business. They have been innovators in the specialty and natural/organic categories in their stores along with environmental initiatives and marketing, fresh foods developments and many other firsts in the supermarket industry. You can read the profile here.

Upscale Lunardi's Market Pulls Out of Urban San Jose, California Development

Bay Area supermarket retailer Lunardi's Markets has decided to close a five year old upscale store in what was touted when built as San Jose's up and coming retail shopping development of the future. When The Lunardi's store opened in the center five years ago it was welcomed by the city and residents. The upscale store featured a full mainstream grocery selection but also a huge selection of specialty and international foods, natural/organic products, fresh prepared foods, baked goods and many other specialty features all located in a smart, attractive retail format. A spokesperson for the seven-store family-owned Lunardi's says the center just never lived up to its billing or expectations so the retailer decided to pull out even though it has 15 years remaining on it lease. You can read more about the decision here in this article from the September 6, 2007 San Jose Mercury News.

Large cities like San Jose and many others throughout the U.S. are having a hard time getting supermarkets to locate in the urban core. The Lunardi's that is closing on San Jose was in the city's urban core. This fact makes NSFM wonder why "shopping local" hasn't become a movement in the U.S. like "buy locally grown?" It seems a natural extension of that model since shopping local most often means doing business with locally-based independent grocers, especially when it comes to urban areas. We will be writing about "shopping locally" more extensively as we think it warrants further analysis and discussion.

Quaker Oats Says its Always Has Been a 'Natural Food Company'

The Quaker Oats Company is launching a new line of Oat Cereal products under the brand "Quaker Simple Harvest." The line is an instant, multi-grain hot cereal made from whole grain rolled oats. whole grain rolled wheat, rolled barley and whole grain rolled rye. The oat company is positioning the brand as "all natural" and will spend an estimated $25 million on the brand launch marketing campaign. A major part of that campaign is the creation of a message that reminds consumers that Quaker has "always been a natural food company." Today's New York Times has an article which describes what's behind Quaker's "all natural" message. Hint: it has much to do with the growing natural and organic foods categories. You can read the full story here.

Last Cup of Java: Remember Ore-Ida's "Funky Fries"? How about "Pepsi AM?" And we can't forget the 1970's flop "I Hate Peas," the brainchild of American Kitchen Foods, Inc. The company figured that since kids hated peas but loved french fries they would create a food product that disguised peas in a french fry-shaped form. Its ok if you don't remember the product, it wasn't in stores for too long.'s Mental Floss Column has a piece today that talks about these food and beverage products that flopped in addition to a number of others. Its not only fun reading but educational as well. Read about it here.

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