Archive for March, 2009

I just took the survey at Xcel Energy's SmartGrid site on the Web, where the Colorado utility is looking for 10,000 volunteers to help gather information on its efforts to make Boulder one of the first "energy smart" cities in the country.

One of the key questions on the survey is whether I would be willing to change out my present thermostat with a thermostat designed for the SmartGridCity  Home Energy Manager pilot study. I said yes.

The survey also asked if I would be willing to test new "in-home equipment" that gives more real-time information on my energy usuage. Yes again.

This past fall, we installed much more energy-efficient, double-paned windows in our home, and already we've seen lower utility bills from that. We also recently purchased new Energy Star-rated refrigerator and dish washer. 

I'm not sure if I'll be selected to participate in this SmartGrid volunteer program, but I hope I will. The program is being watched closely around the country, where other utilities are looking at incorporating similar programs.
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Mar
26

Spring blizzard hitting Boulder

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Big Mess Downtown Boulder
Originally uploaded by Jerry W. Lewis

If you don’t have to go out today in Boulder, stay at home.

I actually scooted, or should I say, slid downtown earlier this morning, and the snow is falling heavy, streets certainly getting worse.

Here’s a look at 9th and Pearl. Of course, all the downtown locals were packed into the Trident. No blizzard stopping them from their morning coffee chats.

I just heard that U.S. 36 coming into Boulder is closed now. And the few people I know who did go to work are trying their best to get out early and get home.

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Three of Boulder's leading arts organizations have joined together to find business sponsors in a program they're calling SmART sponsorship.

The Colorado Shakespeare Festival, Colorado Music Festival and the Aerial Dance Festival say the idea can help businesses get recognition from customers of all three festivals, as well deals on tickets and networking opportunities.

As both arts and other nonprofit groups look for ways to keep sponsorship dollars coming in during the current economic crunch, the "buy one, get three" idea is an interesting test at a relatively low entry fee.

The SmART Sponsorship costs $500, and gives sponsors four performance tickets to each festival, business logo in programs, Web sites and e-mail newsletters and an invite for two to sponsor recognition receptions this summer.

In a PR release, CMF Executive Director Catherine Underhill called the program "an interesting idea in an interesting time."

Businesses interested in the program can call any of the three organizations or specifically, CMF Development Director Jenny Meyer at 303-449-1397.
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Smarthome

Renovation Nation, the national TV show featuring the green home building movement, is coming to Boulder to film the new SmartHome project being built by Imagine!

The filming is scheduled  for March 25-26 at the Bob & July Charles SmartHome, which is being built at 1806 Iris St. An older residence for Imagine! consumers was razed at the site to make way for the first of two energy-efficient SmartHomes planned by Imagine! The other SmartHome will be built in Longmont. 

Imagine!, which serves people with cognitive disabilities, believes the SmartHome projects could set an example of a sustainable and tech-friendly group home for other organizations working with the disabled around the country.

The Boulder home will feature geothermal heat pumps for heating and cooling, low-water plumbing fixtures, Xeric landscaping, natural lighting and solar tubes, solar hot water panels and solar photovoltaic panels, Energy Star-rated appliances and low VOC paints among numerous green building ideas.

Steve Thomas, the former host of This Old House, will be working on several of the green building features during the filming. 

The SmartHome also is being wired to accommodate numerous technologies to assist the home's residents.  Kitchen countertops will adjust to wheelchair heights, sensors will provide alerts to caregivers and new Web-enable systems will let residents communicate with friends and family on the Internet, as well as operate TV, music and video conferencing.

Much more information on the SmartHome project is available online at Imagine!'s Web site.

Fund-raising is continuing for the projects, led by the Imagine! Foundation, on which I am a board member. Donations can be made online at their site. And you can see that I've set up a simple TipJoy donation box on my blog, where all donations will go to the SmartHome projects. TipJoy is a way for Web users to easily make "micro-payments," and although not too common right now, I believe this is a way more nonprofits will be able to reach donors.

Bob Charles, who helped start the Imagine! Foundation, and his wife Judy have been generous donors to the organization and recently made a large pledge at Imagine!'s annual Celebration dinner and auction in January.


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Being a regular coffee drinker and perusing the Web from numerous local coffee shops does have its occupational hazards, one of which, of course, is that you start to convince yourself that you're actually getting some real work done.

Now, however, comes exposure to advertising messages right in your hand as you lift your cup up in front of your eyes. 

Coffeead

This weekend I stopped in for a coffee to go on my way to the grocery, and there on the coffee sleeve was an ad from Denver-based Xcel Energy for its Responsiblebynature.com site.

Responsiblebynature.com links you to Xcel's new online information for energy solutions and audits for both residential and business. In fact, that's your first choice, clicking on either a female guide for residential or a male guide for business. Download a weather station widget? Watch videos on energy-saving tips from Xcelevision? It's all there.

But energy savings is not my point. This was the first real local advertising I had seen on a coffee cup sleeve. Digging around the Web a bit, I found several sites now offering custom advertising messages for your "Java Jacket" cup sleeves, like this one at customcupsleeves.com or this one for ad directly on your coffee cup from coffeecupads.com. The Xcel advertising was done by BriteVision Media. A quick glance at BriteVision's page will show you several examples of ads on their "ad sleeve" program.

Since I much prefer to drink my coffee in a real cup and sit a spell at the coffee shop, I've probably been missing this "to go" cup advertising thing for awhile. 

So, as we all know, nothing is sacred in finding new ways to put an ad message in front of consumer's eyes. Xcel has developed a pretty extensive online campaign, and I suspect there are statistics out there showing that coffee drinkers, especially those spending $3 daily for a cappuccino or vanilla latte, also fit the demographic of people who want to save on their energy bills … or something like that.

Categories : Business
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These would be good to have in auction
Originally uploaded by Jerry W. Lewis

Literally everything except the ceiling fan was auctioned off Saturday at the Raven Moon Trading Post in north Boulder. Candy, the former owner who recently died, had a thing for all things Western, and there were Indian rugs, cowboy hats and boots, turquoise jewelry and so much more packed in her small antique shop.

Currently, Candy’s, the vintage clothing and costume store in the same small shopping center, is still operating but the family is looking for a buyer, hoping to keep the business going.

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Well, Whole Foods has announced they're putting up several stores for sale, and one of them is the former Wild Oats store on Baseline that we've shopped at for years.

To be honest, I'm not all that sad. In fact, ever since Whole Foods bought Wild Oats, I don't think they've done a very good job at this particular store in the Basemar Shopping Center. Early on, it was identified by Whole Foods as one where they would try the "express" store design, meaning they were going to offer more "to go" meals.

A few days ago, I stopped in the store looking for some fresh fish, something I often buy at that store. Walking up to the meat counter, I looked around and asked "Where did the fish go?" Although half of the refrigerated section was shut down and not being used, the employee pointed me to a single case where all of the fish was now packaged up for sale.

No thanks. When I shop for fresh fish, something that Whole Foods truly excels in, I want to see it sitting on ice, smelling good and as fresh as possible. I simply don't eat previously frozen or farm-raised fish — just not worth the money. 

Right after Whole Foods bought Wild Oats, I stopped in to buy a dessert. That evening I had a yearning for pie. I looked around in the pastry section, but no pie. So I asked. Sorry, the employee told me, we're not carrying pies anymore. Huh? A grocery with no pie. This was not good.

So I'm hoping that Sunflower Markets, a great and friendly new grocery chain started by former Wild Oats founder Mike Gilliland, might just buy this Boulder Baseline operation. And, more competition is on the way, with Sprouts recently announcing it was taking over the large retail location in Boulder that formerly was a Pulse fitness center. That's pretty close to me in South Boulder, too. So bring on the competition I say!

In my opinion, and apparently in stockholders' opinions, Whole Foods has stumbled in its attempts to make people believe their prices are actually competitive and not that expensive. Sorry, they just can't knock the "Whole Paycheck" image. 

Whole Foods does a lot of things right, and when it comes to fresh fish, excellent and all-natural beef and pork products, and a really delicious bakery, they've done an excellent job. Here in Boulder, the Whole Foods store is one of the best-performing in the country, and they are expanding the store to meet the demand. 

Unfortunately, while booming at their main store, they just never really got some of the smaller Wild Oats locations going very well, especially the Baseline store. Too many times the meat selection just didn't look that good at all. 

Also going on the block, as part of Whole Foods agreement with the FTC, is the original Alfalfa's store on Broadway. That store has a lot of sentimental value for Boulderites, since it's near the Hill and the University of Colorado. The transition to Whole Foods seemed to go much better there, although it's not really a store I shop at much. 

Well, as Leftover Salmon sings, "When I grow up, I wanna work at Alfalfa's Where the cheese is dairy free …" 
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Mar
06

Jane Jenkins leaves Downtown Boulder post

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Jane Jenkins leaves Downtown Boulder post
Originally uploaded by Jerry W. Lewis

Downtown Boulder business leaders turned out for a going-away party for Jane Jenkins, who was director of Downtown Boulder's Business Improvement district for nine years.

Jane announced in January that she had accepted the position of president of Downtown OKC Inc., which promotes Oklahoma City's downtown. Jane said her husband, who is nearing retirement with his job here in Colorado, is staying here so she'll be back quite a bit to visit.

It's hard to add up how many different events Jane and I attended over the years while I was publisher of the Boulder County Business Report, but we both agreed, we didn't really want to try and add them up.

Sean Maher, who was very active in downtown when he ran the Ben & Jerry's store there, has been named to take over the job. Maher also directed Boulder's Economic Council, and most recently, started a retail store in Taos.

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Store Window Tribute
Originally uploaded by Jerry W. Lewis

Another North Boulder store, Raven Moon Trading Post, is closing, with many of the antiques to be auctioned off this Saturday, March 7.

The store was owned by Candy, who also operated the nearby Candy's vintage clothing and costume shop, a North Boulder icon for many years. Candy died Jan. 22, and today there's a store window tribute to Candy and her love of vintage Western outfits in the store window.

I had been wondering what would happen to the shops, and stopped for a brunch at NBC, North Boulder Cafe, which is in the same small strip retail center. I thought I would drop into the Raven Moon, but was greeted by a closed sign and people inside getting things ready for this weekend's auction.

The word from one of the business owners there is that the family is now trying to sell the original Candy's. Candy, who is survived by two daughters, lived in Ward where she raised her family on Shiny Rock Ranch.

Let's hope the auction brings in some cash to the family, and let's hope someone steps up to save the original Candy's shop, packed wall to wall with vintage clothing,, costume jewelry and other items.

The auction is being run by the Niwot Auction Co., starting at 10 a.m. Saturday.

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