The signs, sounds and flavahs of summah.

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Like the other three seasons, summer impels us to gravitate toward certain foods. To some extent, growing seasons and the availability of certain types of produce influence our choices. But in the globalized era, when pineapple is available twelve months a year, the “harvest” (what a quaint word!) has less and less to do with …Read more…

Drive-by wifi?

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If we’re seriously looking—and you know I am—rarely a day goes by where we can’t spot some new sign of desperation in the retail sector. We can visit the stores themselves, and witness not just the deep sales (“By one dress shirt! Get another for a Penney!”). In the most incorrigibly floundering businesses, the thin …Read more…

Steak ‘n Shake: nostalgia comes around full circle.

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The average Midwesterner will probably recognize the icon visible through this smudgy windshield. But he or she might not be so familiar with the aesthetic.As the white-and-black sign indicates, it’s a Steak ‘n Shake—a leading candidate for the most Midwestern restaurant out there…right up there along with Bob Evans. The chain, which survived numerous ups …Read more…

Setting bounds for the bail bonds.

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Imagine if you can that you’re in Frederick—Maryland’s second largest city (a distant second, after Baltimore). You’ve just passed through the resurgent downtown, where a variety of restaurants and specialty shops line Patrick Street, the primary east-west corridor. Now, as you make your way past the bustle, you encounter a few businesses that suggest a …Read more…

Lifestyle centers: with Saucon Valley, neither lively nor stylish.

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Now that the holiday season is long behind us, we can only hope to rebound from the latest wave of contractions among our perpetually ailing retail sector. You know what I’m talking about. After dismal holiday performances, chains like Sears, Kmart, and Macy’s announced a slew of nationwide closures.  Meanwhile, smaller, specialty retailers The Limited and …Read more…

When a business hits the big time, it goes small.

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Hot on the heels of my article on a mac ‘n cheese food truck that made it to the major leagues—that is, as a standalone restaurant–I have stumbled across a sign for an eatery that seems to be adopting a similar approach: Yes, macaroni and cheese is incredibly en vogue at the moment, so it should …Read more…

As ambition grows, the menus shrink.

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The destiny of generally unregulated markets is one of intensifying competition. In an ideal world, these markets spawn a trajectory that impels producers or service providers to innovate so they can achieve that competitive edge. As a result, the consumer reaps the benefit of products and services that continuously improve in quality and efficiency. One …Read more…