Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Lonely Night in Luxara

It was a lonely night in Luxara, Arkansas.  Luxara is a small town on the Mississippi River.  There was the levee--the river side flooded now and then, but the river side was where the gambling was.

I was a Vista volunteer, me in my 20’s on the cotton side.  They had found me a place, $5 a week, and I remember one night crawling under the bed as shots were fired in the adjoining area known as “The Alley.”  At the time I was on the phone with my mother.  She will always remember that conversation somewhere in heaven.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Alligators of Alligator Alley

My mother was attacked by a rooster near Alligator Alley. I of course remember that – she was in her 60’s, I was in my 40’s and my daughter Ana was a kid.

We were walking “the loop” – a 30-mile excursion into the Everglades off Hwy 41. At the time this two-lane highway was the only way to drive from Miami to Florida’s west coast.

We walked up to a little farmhouse to say hello, when from nowhere a rooster – claws first – attacked. Mom survived another 20 years.

So, Steve (A&C’s General Manager) and I recently drove down this memory lane. The alligators are fine; they don’t look endangered to me. We had just signed a lease on our newest store (#18) in Miami’s Little Havana. 

To celebrate the signing, I ordered alligator tail. It still tastes like chicken.

-Larry Adlerstein

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Larry Adlerstein, Professional Artist

Yes, I sold a painting for $50—back when that was worth 70 or 80 dollars.

She was a neighbor from upstairs who sat with her red-stockinged legs on my kitchen table. I had just learned foreshortening at the Portland School of Art, and the answer is, “No.”

Also, I was reviewed by Edgar Allen Bean, art critic for the Maine Times. It was a group show at the Portland art building, a slightly converted scrap metal warehouse.

The former “Louis Mack Scrap Metal Warehouse” also housed my real day job, Portland Pottery Supply. Both businesses were housed in a 25,000 square foot brick building heated by one coal stove. Pretty perfumed Brenda almost single-handedly kept the clay from freezing in the Maine winter. Almost.

Edgar spent about 15 words on yours truly but the word that has stuck in my memory 20 or 30 years later is his description of my oil painting as “thick.”

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Mid West, Mid August

The media is telling me employment is in crisis, so are the banks and housing construction. But at O’Hare Airport, Budget wanted $200 a day for a compact.  Hertz, Thrifty, and Enterprise were sold out. I felt lucky to find a Dollar car for 145 of them there dollars. On the way back to the airport, the shuttle driver said it’s been this way for months.

On to Jet Blue back to Portland. Today’s fare is 30% more than a month ago. I can’t afford to fly the direct United Airways Portland/Chicago flight so I’ll dine at the Jet Blue terminal on my way home.

We’ve just opened Store #16 in Saugus (North Boston) Mass and #17 in the South loop of Chicago.   This fall will see A&C enlargements of our stores in Madison, Wisconsin and Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Costs are up but so is business.  No Doom & Gloom here.
We’re on a roll and this old man is having fun.       

-Larry Adlerstein    

Friday, July 02, 2010

I’ve never before signed 2 leases in one day.

Today was the exception. We’re opening in Saugus, Mass, just north of Boston and the south loop of Chicago.

We hope to open both mid August, just in time for Back to School. So look for us when you’re cruising South Wabash or Rt 1 heading south to Bean Town.

More info coming.

- Larry Adlerstein

Friday, May 28, 2010

I’ve never seen such affection before...

I’ve never seen such affection before in my 67 years. There they were, I assume a male and a female, on the rail of my porch & he (or she) was nuzzling she (or he). If my eyes were better I might have seen the squirrel tongue (or who was her or he), but the affection was obvious.
And they scampered among my porch pots – even contributing a rolled up ball to one of my herbs, until in their teenage enthusiasm they knocked over one of my fledging tomato plant pots (I actually was happy because one of these tomato seed packs could supply an Italian restaurant for a year). But don’t tell them.
Another melodrama from the porch in South Freeport, Maine…
- Larry Adlerstein

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

From the front porch in S. Freeport, Maine…

Honking going north. The summer people have the lights on on the island across the Harraseeket River and the hum of the interstate… No the honking is geese. I love their Honking.

I have a funny story about I-295. Many years ago I dated an artist from the Boubry in New York City. Her studio/apartment was a 4 story walk up and over the clutter/piss of Little Italy/China Town. Well, 2 children later we were together in Maine and I had purchased “the perfect” 40 acres in the woods for our forever family home.

And she was right. After our 20 minute walk to my dream home – a truck on I-295 was engine breaking. Shattering everything.

Honk going north, honk going south & also quack.

From the porch in South Freeport, Maine…

- Larry Adlerstein

Monday, April 19, 2010

Grit in Baltimore

One of the old warehouses in old Baltimore is our new home & we feel pretty good about our renewal solution.

Most of the exterior walls were 16” x 22” glass windows housed in rusty iron frames. Repairing or replacing the hundreds of windows was beyond our budget & if we were able to so replace we’d be left with a leaky single pane exterior wall with the energy efficiency of the 1920’s.

So, we asked Rob, our Philly manager to “Mondrian” the place. We bought about 100 plexi panels & the crew replaced the old glass with painted plexi.

Behind that went a 1.5” layer of plastic foam insulation covered by fire code sheet rock. The plexi/foam/sheetrock has been held in place by long 2x4”s bolted into the masonry walls.

So A&C has an energy efficient Baltimore home, within budget.
- Larry Adlerstein

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Taking Inventory

Now that’s a yawn of a title. I’m getting tireder and tireder.

I’ve really put it off for 27 years. Oh, Artist & Craftsman has an inventory. Actually we have 4 of them.
Our point of sale software (what is retrieved, vouched in & then sold through our computer cash register), that’s one inventory.

A&C’s accounting software, i.e. the checks we write and the deposits we make. That’s a 2nd inventory.
No relation to inventory #1. (I can see your eyes droop)

Then we have a swarm of people with little computers and they swarm the stores. This inventory #3 is always higher than 1 & 2. We think people steal in at midnight and give us art supplies.

#4 is best. Steve and I visit a store and I say – “Looks like 175k, what do you think?”
“No Lar, there’s at least 200 thousand.”
“All right I’ll meet you at 185.”

Ultimately, we’re putting an end to all of this inventory fun.

We hired Shafiq, a programmer, and he has invented a program that lets A&C’s computer talk to our vendor’s computers so that when they ship to us it’s easy to add the shipment to our inventory.

Which inventory? Inventory #5. We started to count all over again.

- Larry Adlerstein

I want you to have children or at least a child.

Oh yes, they’re a pain in the neck and from the age of 2 til 45, they can drive you crazy, but have one anyway because I have 4.

The Yiddish word is “Nachos.” The ch is guttural like you’re about to throw up. Nachos is the joy that can only come from children, a parental pride, like maybe it was worth it after all.

I see less and less long term investments and more & more short term gains. There is no longer term investment than a kid. Try it, I recommend it and I’m an expert at trying.

- Larry Adlerstein

Monday, April 05, 2010

A Tale of Three Cities

I’m flying home from Miami, the third city I have looked at in about a month. By coincidence, my travels have taken me from depressed, to more depressed to most depressed. You might say my trip has been depressing.

The reason for my journey is to open more Artist & Craftsman Supply stores. I started in Los Angeles and even though the city is on the verge of bankruptcy and Los Angeles says it’s depressed, I didn’t see it, especially after visiting Chicago and Miami.

Chicago’s decline is focused in the loop and downtown and that is where a lot of art students buy & use supplies. Downtown Chicago has already lost a major art supply & to my eye another is in trouble. An easy walk from the Symphony & the Art Institute are dozens of “For Lease” signs.

Miami’s problem is a result of their building bubble. Whereas Chicago is an old city renovated & Los Angeles is appears to have balance of old & new, Miami appears all new, heavily leveraged & vacant.

The Florida broker I was working with told me that recently, the commercial realtors¬ had started doing financial background checks of both potential landlords and tenants, especially if the building was a condo. First time he had seen that in his 35 year professional career, i.e. checking the financial health of landlords.

Well, I am almost back down to Portland Maine & Maine is always depressed. And that’s not depressing at all.
- Larry Adlerstein

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Art Material Trade Today

These are “interesting” times. Pearl Paint, the former dominant player in the distribution of art supplies is on the rocks. They are closing 11 of their 16 stores. From this man’s perspective, here’s the story.

A few years ago a parcel ripped open in a UPS conveyor belt and out spilled hundred dollar bills. So Robert Pearlmuter , a man in his late 70’s went to jail for a couple of years. He’s been depressed ever since (4-6 years of depression). His crime: tax evasion.

I have had almost no contact with the Pearlmuters or their partner Shalish Shaw, but what I know about them I don’t like. Aside from this stealing money that they don’t need, they have a history of arrogance and they do not treat their employees nicely.

Pearl will attempt to reorganize and prosper with the remaining stores. At this point I don’t believe they will survive.

Their management skills have proved inadequate and if my recent experience in Los Angeles is an indicator of the future, I see no hope of improvement.

Here’s the Los Angeles Story:

I was at a trade show in Anaheim, California a few weeks ago. Everyone was talking about Pearl’s announced 50% off everything sale in 6 stores (it later went to 12 of the 16 stores).

Steve and I consulted (Steve Kenney is my General Manager of 17 years) and we decided to look at the cities that were losing Pearl Art Supplies. Los Angeles was a 40 minute drive, so I drove north and Steve flew back east to general manage.

My first stop was Pearl. I asked to see the manager. Lamine and his assistant Doug joined me for coffee and I was very careful to be clear in my intent. I wanted to notify them both that if Pearl Los Angeles closed they could apply for a job with Artist & Craftsman. At that date Pearl Los Angeles was selling everything at 50% off and regardless of Pearl closing or not I was committed to open in Los Angeles.

So, a week ago I returned to Los Angeles to sign a lease. The 50% off sale had gone to 75% then 90%. The morning I arrived there was an 8 ½ x 11 inch sign in the Pearl window announcing that the 90% sale was over and Pearl intended to reopen with fresh inventory in a few weeks.

Lamine, a 12 year veteran with Pearl joined us for lunch. He said he had just minutes ago quit Pearl. A group of bosses from headquarters had come to Los Angeles and they were very critical of Lamine’s performance. Lamine countered that he had no inventory left to sell. I can attest to Lamine’s version. Anyway, at lunch Lamine asked for a job and he’s my new manager at Artist & Craftsman Los Angeles.

Vendors are telling me that Pearl is sending purchase orders for 5 stores (including Los Angeles) with the promise of prepayment before shipment but with no commitment to pay past overdue debt.

We are also actively pursuing two markets. We believe a store on Route 1 North of Boston would be good so as to replace out of business Charette of Woburn and Tech office in Portsmouth.

Also on the short list is Chicago. Without Pearl that sophisticated art market has one independent and corporate like suppliers Utrecht & Dick Blick. Chicago needs A&C and we need Chicago.