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…

Have fun. Violators will be prosecuted.

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It’s a serene setting: a community park in the verdant, affluent borough of Glen Gardner, New Jersey, population 1,700.The park is almost as obscure as the borough itself, which consists primarily of a main street that runs parallel to the lightly traveled Route 31, with a creek and a thick wall of trees separating the …Read more…

Fending off audits with smoothies.

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While it’s not every day that we encounter a business that whimsically combines two seemingly unrelated services, now and then you’ll stumble across that laundromat/nightclub or pet groomer/internet café (probably a bit more common before smart phones became ubiquitous). More often than not, these hybrid businesses recognize the opportunity to commodify multi-tasking. After all, why …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…

Who needs Vegas for quirky chapels? The rest of the country is holding its own.

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I’d wager that the American religious landscape is currently undergoing a cataclysmic shift, but that would be disingenuous, since it suggests that the shift, with all these denominations, is something recent. It isn’t. Religious expression—or the demonstration of it among its adherents—has never really been static in this country. Throughout the twentieth century, the number …Read more…