The Maryland flag: anything but a flop.

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Sure, each one of our nation’s fifty states gets two senators to represent its constituents federally through the legislature, and each state claims an individual vote on amendments to the Constitution. But on matters of the House of Representatives, votes for the Electoral College, budget allocations and just about every other consideration, not all states …Read more…

The Great Recession and its undead discontents.

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In the immediate years following the housing market’s catastrophic implosion, it was common to find half-finished suburban developments, where a handful of homes splayed out across a tangle of curvilinear streets. In most of these zombie subdivisions, the developer had already installed water/sewer, at least some of the paved roads, streetlights, road signs, maybe even …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…

Coffee klatsch, from your doorway to mine.

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Across the country, retail is teetering on the edge of a precipice. It’s caught in a tailspin. It’s on the brink of complete disaster. I’m sure I could think of even better journalistic catchphrases, but I’m just not that inspired. And I’ve said it all before. Besides, business analysts are covering it nationally and locally. …Read more…

A power center turns over a new leaf, only to find more grubs.

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About a year ago I explored one of the few retail typologies that seems to be growing in prevalence during this turbulent era: the power center. It’s essentially the only physical construction that suburban retail developers are building these days. And they usually look like little more than a strip mall on steroids—which, apparently, is …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…