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101 articles

Sizzlin’ Cafe: an aged sign that doesn’t stand the test of time.

Many years ago, on this blog, I postulated that, in vibrant downtown areas with lots of small, family-run businesses, an aging, outdated exterior sign might actually be a selling point.  Even if the paint is a little chipped or the letters a bit rusty—a tiny bit (not too much!)—a visibly old sign is a tacit

The oversized rabbits of Valdez, Alaska: from invasive specie to unofficial mascot.

Verdant and breathtaking as much of Alaska might be, the Last Frontier is no great shakes when it comes to biodiversity.  Such is the nature of boreal forests in general: they typically host few varieties of tree species, although the ones that thrive are as abundant as one might expect in a mostly uninhabited, vast

Road trips on I-70: looking for quirky Americana? Any red dot on the map will do.

As someone who enjoys long road trips (perfectly fine if they’re solitary), I can never get enough of the small, often amusing telltale indicators of the cultural composition that distinguishes a place.  The visual shibboleths, if you will.  Venturing across Interstate 70, one of the oldest, longest, and most heavily traveled segments of the original

Crested Butte main street: a shopper’s oasis amidst the lingering retail drought.

More times than I can count, I’ve explored the country’s mismatch between the supply of retail-oriented real estate and the broader public’s demand.  We just have too many shopping centers.  And it’s always been that way.  Even in the best of times—the peak of the suburban mall during the 1970s and 80s—our historic downtown storefronts

Food trucks as an ethnic pastiche: are they the new emblem of the American dream?

For the last decade or so, it’s been not too difficult to spot a specific type of vehicle parked on the street or driveway in residential neighborhoods.  Here’s an example in a quiet lower-middle class part of Alexandria, Virginia: Yes, it’s the formerly ubiquitous (but hardly obsolete) food truck.  Before its explosion in popularity about

Maryland House: a posh new travel plaza is already running on empty.

By this point, we’ve all encountered the legions of business closures induced by COVID-prompted shutdowns of commerce and travel over the last year.  I’ve tried to avoid too much of the cynical coverage of vacancies, instead focusing on clever strategies that various storefront retailers have deployed to generate sales from a carryout vantage point, when