Archives For California

Restoration Hardware has repositioned itself to be a luxury lifestyle brand. It has a great story.  The brand was founded by Stephen Gordon in 1980 in Eureka, California. The idea for the company came while Gordon was restoring his Queen Anne style house. He had great difficulty finding period hardware. He recognized a need in the marketplace. The brand was initially about addressing the need for authentic period hardware. The initial store was founded in Gordon’s house in Eureka. Over time, Restoration Hardware expanded product offerings to include 1920s-themed lighting, bathware, curtains and furniture. Fifty percent of the business was novelty type items. The company expanded rapidly and went public in 1998. By 2001 Restoration Hardware was close to bankruptcy. Its stock had gone from $37 a share to $.50. It problems could be blamed on the lack of a focused merchandise assortment. In 2001, Restoration Hardware did not have a clear point of view.

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Gary Friedman, former President of Williams Sonoma, stepped in and over time saved the company. He spent six years remaking the business, slowly and methodically getting rid of the novelty items and bringing in furniture, linens and lighting. He made Restoration Hardware relevant. Restoration Hardware repositioned itself as a retailer of luxury home furnishings. Restoration Hardware’s sofas, chairs, tables, bureaus and other products are largely modern updates of classical designs. Its target market: households with incomes above $200,000 or “aspirational” customers trading up from department stores and other retailers.

The company struggled when the housing bubble burst in 2008. The company was forced to restructure, close stores and went private in 2008. The company lost money from 2008 to 2011. The company went public again in 2012.

This year it announced plans to transform itself from a high-end brand in home furnishings to a luxury lifestyle brand. The brand has evolved to become RH, which is positioned to curate a lifestyle beyond the four walls of home.

Not only is the company branching into “curated” collections of contemporary art, antiques and kitchen ware, it also plans to launch RH Atelier, a luxury brand of apparel, accessories, footwear and jewelry. Key to Restoration Hardware’s ongoing transformation will be the opening of much larger stores called Design Galleries to better showcase all of its products.

Five full-line Design Galleries have opened since 2011 in Los Angeles, Houston, Scottsdale, Ariz., and most recently Boston and Indianapolis. With an average of 21,600 square feet of selling space, they are about three times the size of the company’s legacy stores, not to mention more productive.

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The Boston outlet is the largest at 40,000 square feet. Besides displaying new product categories such as tabletop goods and “objects of curiosity,” the four-story historic building features a wine bar, beer pub, billiard lounge, library, club rooms and conservatory.

One strong point is the brand’s positioning. It’s above mass-market players such as Crate & Barrel, Williams Sonoma and Pottery Barn, but below top-end designer showrooms used by decorators.

The jury is still out whether the company can make a go of all of its ambitious undertakings. However recent results have been very positive. In the last quarter same store sales increased 26% and earnings jumped 48%. Its stock price has more than doubled since its IPO last year.

Have you shopped at a Restoration Hardware Store?

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One of my favorites brands and products in the world is Sierra Nevada Beer.  For years, I have enjoyed drinking Sierra Nevada Pale Ale with family and friends. I was introduced to Sierra Nevada Pale Ale when I lived in San Francisco in the mid 1990’s. It has been my favorite beer ever since.

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Sierra Nevada Brewing Co from Chico California is one of the original producers of craft beers. In 2010, they celebrated their 30th anniversary. Today Sierra Nevada is the number two craft selling beer in the United States behind only Sam Adams. They are also the sixth largest brewing company in the country.

Sierra Nevada helped start a movement. In 1980, there were only 48 brewing companies in this country. Today there are over 2,700 craft breweries in the United States. Craft beer sales represent about 5% of total beer sales. However craft beer sales are growing 15% per year. More and more consumers are bypassing mass-produced beers for high quality local beers.

Sierra Nevada is a great example of a brand that started from a simple purpose. The founders of Sierra Nevada set out with the idea to brew the beers they wanted to drink. In the process they helped change the beer world forever by providing us with a great product. They were inspired by the nearby Sierra Nevada Mountains and a philosophy that anything is possible.

Sierra Nevada also believes in doing things the right way. In 2010 they won the US Environmental Protection Agency’s “Green Business of the Year Award. The brewery is powered by solar energy, having 10,000 solar arrays covering its rooftops and parking lot. It has also built a charging station for electric vehicles on its premises.

What is favorite your favorite craft beer?

It is 21 degrees in Upstate New York today and I am thinking about our trip to Southern California last summer. I miss the warmth of Southern California and I am craving an In-N-Out Burger.

No trip to California is complete without lunch at In-N-Out Burger. In-N-Out Burger was founded on the West Coast in 1948 in Baldwin Park, California. It  was the first drive through hamburger stand in California. In-N-Out Burger has developed a cult following around the country. In-N-Out Burger was founded on a simple purpose that still drives it today.

“Give customers the freshest, high quality foods you can buy and provide them with friendly service in a sparkling clean environment.”

Last summer we visited Southern California on vacation. In-N-Out Burger was high on our list of “must do” things this summer. After a morning and early afternoon touring Point Loma, we visited an In-N-Out Burger in San Diego. As usual, the parking lot was full and there was a line out the door. Our lunch was prepared quickly and as usual was delicious. The menu at In-Out-Burger is simple; burgers, fries, shakes and soft drinks. Unlike most fast food giants, no meal is prepared until the customer orders it. In-Out-Burger also has a not so secret menu where your burger is customized to your tastes.

In-N-Out is a privately owned company that has resisted expanding through franchises for fear of sacrificing quality for profits. In-N-Out places quality,customers and employees at the center of its business. This approach has helped In-N-Out become a cultural institution with a very loyal following.

Have you eaten at an In-N-Out Burger? Please share your experience.