Category Archives: Business

Why Scarecrow Video needs to be preserved

(Photo: dailygrindhouse.com)
(Photo: dailygrindhouse.com)

Sometime yesterday or early this morning, Scarecrow Video achieved their $100,000 goal on Kickstarter, with four weeks to go in the campaign. It only took about a week to get there. The project is for Scarecrow to transition from a video store into a nonprofit.  (Full disclosure, I was one of the earliest backers of the project).

While it’s very clear that there is a demand for Scarecrow, and I don’t feel the need to help further a crowd-funding campaign that has already exceeded its goal, I think there are some misconceptions about Scarecrow Video that should be addressed. Last night, I learned from SunBreak music editor Tony Kay that there was an article from KIRO about why Scarecrow shouldn’t even bother and just admit defeat and close shop. I found the article: it was adapted from a story on the “Jason Rantz Show.” I was actually quite impressed with the level of how short-sided this rant was. It’s also entry-level trolling, but hey, generate those clicks at all cost. It was also sadly predictable. There is always some devotee to the “free market” who seems to think that because video stores are closing, it also means video stores suck and therefore all video stores should close. But I think it also reveals an attitude that relies on misinformation and should be addressed. The article says:

This is a sad story but not because this company doesn’t have the support from the clientele to justify its existence as a for-profit business. It’s sad because these folks don’t realize this is a dead industry.

No one wants to rent DVDs and Blu-rays from brick-and-mortar stores anymore. Certainly not enough to keep a business open. That this place, Scarecrow Video specifically, is going out of business, it’s not any more tragic than a Blockbuster going out of business. Blockbuster went out of business and you don’t see people screaming about how bad that is.

Scarecrow Video is not some shrine of movie cinema that is keeping movies from being lost forever. They want you to think that, but that’s not the case. These films will always exist if people want to watch them. The films will always be accessible, just in a different format, in a digital format. Digital is cheaper and better for pretty much everybody involved. In fact, one could argue it’s more noble to encourage more digital preservation of films on the web.

In a lot of ways, Scarecrow has given up on their business model. It is why they are shifting away from being a video store into a nonprofit. But this rests on the idea that Scarecrow is “just a video store” with a lot of titles and that Netflix can fill the void. Saying “these films will always exist if people want to watch them” is horribly myopic. That’s the problem, because films are important not just as passive entertainment, but to also provide a portrait of their time. They are incredibly important to researchers, for example. Scarecrow Video’s location near the University of Washington reinforces that point.

The people who need, or want, to view films beyond the cultural zeitgeist also need a place where those films are accessible. Relying on the Internet to fill that gap is a recipe for disaster. Netflix hosts a lot of films, many, many thousands of them, in fact. But their catalog is limited (so is Scarecrow’s, obviously) and they only offer what they’re able to license. That’s fine for someone who wants to find something entertaining to watch for an evening, and can choose a “Plan B,” but that doesn’t work for someone looking for a specific title that time that is just outside of our collective memory. Moreover, the access to those items could be limited if access was controlled only by online gatekeepers. That isn’t a concern when there’s a physical copy available (or at least in existence).

Another example. Every year, I’ve covered the Seattle International Film Festival and have conducted dozens of interviews with filmmakers. One question that seems to genuinely puzzle directors is when I ask how I can view their previous films. A common scenario is that a distributor buys the rights to a film, it gets a limited theatrical release, has a small life on VOD and Netflix, and then Netflix declines to license the film after a year to save their bandwidth for something that would attract more viewers. Where does it go from there? Scarecrow, while carrying literally every title available is impossible, is passionate about preserving films that would otherwise be forgotten by time. I’ve constantly been amazed at how I’ve been able to find films in their deep catalog that I haven’t been able to find elsewhere, no matter how creative I can be with Google searches.

Another scenario that would be more than unfortunate is what would happen to the video library that has been compiled and, yes, curated? I’m reminded of a story in the Village Voice from two years ago about the fate of the video library for Mondo Kim’s in New York City when the chain of video stores was forced to close. TL;DR version: It had a collection of somewhere around 55,000 titles. Rather than donating to a local educational institute (NYU and another art school declined to take the collection as a whole, a nonnegotiable point), it was sent to a small town in Italy, where it languished for several years in a storage locker, unknown to most people in the town.

I suppose, though, that this is all moot. That Scarecrow Video has exceeded its fundraising goals in a much shorter time than could be expected. It let the market speak, and the market said it should be preserved (though more as a library than a video store, as we’ve come to know them). But there are some people who don’t think libraries should exist, either. That’s fine, because there are enough people who think they should.

A look inside Chin Music Press, Seattle’s newest bookstore

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Chin Music Press owner/publisher Bruce Rutledge.

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On Saturday afternoon, I stopped by Chin Music Press, the new bookstore in Pike Place Market to take a look around. It is a storefront for the local, small press that has made a name for itself by producing gorgeous books that you not only want to read but to put on your shelf and savor. Like Paul Constant of the Stranger noted:

Every single book produced by local publisher Chin Music Press is a work of art. There’s no house style: The books always feature unique design elements, embracing typography and color and use of images in a way that makes traditional publishers look, well, traditional. These are books as art objects, books that look good and that feel good in the hand, the perfect response to the argument of e-books. (And how are they between those beautiful covers? They’re quality works that span a whole range of topics.

When I stopped in, they were hosting a book signing for D. Michael Ramirez, who translated “the recently released bilingual poetry collection Lizard Telepathy, Fox Telepathy by Osaka poet and award-winning photographer Yoshinori Henguchi.” Funny story: I as told that Saturday was meant to be a small affair for friends and family and curious strangers who wandered through the market until the Stranger posted that it was an “open house,” so they scrambled to have some snacks available.

Owner and publisher Bruce Rutledge told me that they plan on hosting book readings and signings for local authors (not just ones published by Chin Music) in the fall, as they get accustomed to having the storefront and as the store attracts more attention.

Here are a few things of note about Chin Music Press:

  • Bruce Rutledge and Yuko Enomoto started the press twelve years ago, while living in Tokyo. It originally focused on contemporary Japanese culture, but has since broadened to other interests. Rutledge pointed to a series of books about post-Katrina New Orleans for example, as well as Kate Lebo’s 2013 book A Commonplace Book of Pie. 
  • The Pike Place Market storefront is not just a bookstore, but the office for the press. While they aren’t open on Mondays (or Sundays), you can probably find people working on the publishing end if you walk by on a Monday.
  • Rutledge pointed to a small table with newsletters and calendars from other Seattle-area bookstores. He said that he wants the store to be a part of the Seattle literary scene.

{Chin Music Press is open Tuesday-Saturday from 11am-5pm in Pike Place Market (#329).}

See Sherman Alexie take on Amazon on “the Colbert Report”

Author, man about town, and all-around good person Sherman Alexie was on “The Colbert Report” last night to discuss his (and Colbert’s) publisher Hachette’s dispute with Amazon. It’s well worth your time, so I’ve embedded the video below, with the first video to provide some context from Colbert.

Alexie’s main point was that Amazon and Hachette are two giant corporations fighting with each other, but authors are caught in the middle and are the ones who are ultimately hurt the most.

Colbert encouraged viewers to pre-order an upcoming Hachette book, California by Edan Lepucky (endorsed by Alexie) through his website and via Portland indie bookstore Powell’s, instead of through Amazon (which is not allowing pre-order of Hachette books.

5 Tips For Maintaining Your Sanity at Zara

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On February 13th, the 8,200 square-feet flagship store officially opened on the prime real estate of Pine Street.

Tucked into Westlake Center, the eco-efficient space is simple and unadorned. Straight lines run through the ceiling to guide customers along and each “cube” captures a specific trend.

Free shipping on Zara’s fairly recent e-commerce store has allowed us Seattleites to wear the affordable threads. However, the turnover rate in-store is much, much higher. You won’t find everything online as you will in store, and vice versa. But it is good to remember in case a certain item you foolishly decided to wait on (sorry – there’s no such thing as indecisiveness here) sold out.

As a seasoned shopper and a former Spain resident, I consider myself a valid source on all things Zara. There are almost 2,000 in Spain and I’ve probably been to at least a third of them – no joke.

While it’s not as overwhelming as say, Forever 21 and H&M, there’s still a lot of ground to cover. Plan accordingly and you can survive the masses.

1. IF YOU WANT SOMETHING, BUY IT.

Zara will never repeat the same garment. Most of us fashion folks remember that white wrap mini skort that was all over the blogosphere. While you won’t find it in it’s original color/fabric, you can find it in two-tone faux leather – perfect for spring.

The lesson here is: if you want those Margiela look-alike mules, you better buy those Margiela look-alike mules. However, if you want to ponder your options while continuing to browse hands-free– see tip #2.

2. IF YOU WANT SOMETHING, HIDE IT.

I’m totally going against girl shopping code here, but sometimes a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. I’ve had a 13-year-old grab the last size of a knockoff Chloe blazer from (literally) right under my nose. Find an area without much traffic and conceal appropriately.

3. SIZE UP.

You can curse those damn Europeans while you do it, but I promise you won’t regret it when you size up on jeans and other form-fitting clothing before entering the dressing room.

4. USE THE KIDS DRESSING ROOM.

There are two women’s dressing rooms (one for each floor) at the Seattle location. Then one for kids and one for men. Unless it’s the weekend (i.e., moms with children in tow from Bellevue braving the abyss also known as Downtown) – you’ll cut off at least 20 minutes of wait time if you beeline for the Kids department. Trust.

5. QUALITY OVER QUANTITY.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed at Zara. I always ask myself two questions: 1) “Does this look like it’s from Zara?” and 2) “Will I want to wear this three months from now?” If the answer is yes to either (or both), then pass. If you’ve spent $300+ there, you’re doing something wrong.

What Zara does well is make affordability look chic. Head-to-toe of anything is a no-no in my book, but mix and match with a sleight of hand and you can have a killer outfit within your reach – and your budget.

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Looking for an iPhone 5S? Hope you like Space Gray.

U Village Apple Store
Will you find your next beloved phone here?

Apple had a very big weekend, selling 9 million shiny metallic and glossy plastic next-generation iPhones and cleaning out plenty of store shelves. If you decided to spend last Friday doing something other than camping out in front of a store, you probably also spent the weekend empty handed. At this point, if you’re too anxious to get a new gadget in your hand to wait for one to ship, your best local bet could be an Apple Store.

Perhaps in a move to save their employees from fielding desperate phone calls inquiring about availability, Apple added an online availability indicator to their webstore, and hid it just a bit out of the way under “Personal Pickup.” Fill in your desired configuration and click the link to search for options in nearby stores.

As of midnight on Monday, there appeared to be a rainbow of colors and configurations available for the 5C; but the 5S seems to be a much rarer commodity. When I checked the various permutations, the University Village Apple Store still had a handful of models in “Space Gray” for AT&T (Alderwood had only the 32GB). For Verizon, only 64 GB gray phones were available at the University Village, Alderwood, and Southcenter stores; Alderwood also had a 64 GB configured for Sprint. Silver and Gold look even more constrained, with the lone Seattle-area option being a 32 GB silver Verizon iPhone in Southcenter.

Availability seems to update during the day — I lucked out and found my dream phone via the online store’s  and enlisted the personal pickup option to breeze past the crowd at Southcenter to complete the adoption process on Monday evening — so eager shoppers should keep an eye on the site to see if any ideal candidates appear. Or, save yourself some anxiety and gain the patience to wait for your order to arrive in the mail, particularly if you’re heart’s set on the elusive golden phone.

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University Village: Have a Molly Moon Cone with Your Scotch & Soda

Rendering of the new building on the south side of University Village along NE 45th Street
Rendering of the new building on the south side of University Village along NE 45th Street

This fall, the University Village shopping center welcomes no fewer than 12 new retail and dining establishments, including the grownup hipster-wear of Amsterdam’s Scotch & Soda, resort-wear from Calypso St. Barth, mom-wear (“Hello, waist!” — their quote, not ours) from Hot Mama, and eyewear from Sunglass Hut. In the active wear aisle, there’s both Nike Running and American Eagle Outfitters.

If you get hungry, there’ll be Din Tai Fung dumplings (about which Jay has the other kind of reservations), the “premium casual dining” (e.g., pizza, sliders, sandwiches, sushi) of Joey Kitchen, and an “upscale homestyle” menu at Liam’s, from Curt “Call me Beecher’s” Dammeier. For dessert, Molly Moon’s ice cream.

Most of these options are paint-by-numbers fill-ins: the U Village has long been a hotbed of well-to-do moms doing daylight shopping, and there’s already a Tommy Bahama for Calypso St. Barth to go on playdates with, along with active wear from everyone from North Face to Lululemon. Ditto the dining options leaning toward pricier family fare.

But Scotch & Soda at least represents a symbolic crack in the U Village’s infamously inaccessible façade — if you don’t have the time to drive there and, buzzard-like, circle the parking lot, you’ve been not their kind of shopper: bus service just isn’t, and it’s difficult even to walk there. (Yes, in fairness, there will be a new, 700-stall in a parking garage there on the south side.)

Whereas the Amsterdam fashions of Scotch & Soda match well with Dutch bikes. (For their “Bike Project” promotion in New York, they sent two renovated Dutch bikes to Chelsea Leyland and Josh Madden — and quickly found that a Scotch & Soda-branded Dutch bike would be a pretty good seller.) Not everyone may know that you can dip into the U Village from off the Burke-Gilman Trail; a road leads down to the Village campus right by Counterbalance Bicycles. No navigating of the busy, multi-lane boulevards surrounding U Village required.