Friday, April 28, 2006

Celebrate an Anniversary with Hartstone Pottery

I have written before on this blog about Hartstone Pottery (Zanesville, OH), and it’s a great comeback story! A pottery closed, then reopened. Workers laid off, then rehired. Working hard to preserve an Ohio tradition of hand-painted pottery. Battling low-cost imported pottery for a place in the American market.

After being closed by its corporate parent, Hartstone Pottery reopened last year thanks to six earnest investors who believed in the product and the workers. A growing number of their wonderful designs are once again available on plates, bowls, mugs, and bakeware. If you haven’t checked out their on-line store, this is a great time to visit.

In honor of their One-Year Anniversary back in business, Hartstone Pottery is offering a 40 Percent Discount on all web orders! (Enter code FRIENDS2006, good until May 11). So, if you need a special gift for a special Mom (HINT, HINT), or just want to refresh your dinner table, take advantage of this discount and show your support for the workers and owners of Hartstone Pottery.

Hartstone Busy Bees Bowl
Hartstone Pansy Tea Set
Hartstone Texas Pride

[Disclosure Note: I am not affiliated with Hartstone Pottery.]

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Kinder, Gentler Wal-Mart?!

Wal-Mart has announced a new plan for entering the urban market, which has in the past been unreceptive to the retailer. The company plans to build Wal-Mart stores in inner-city areas that historically have been served by smaller “mom and pop” stores with a smaller range of goods. To help cushion the potential impact on existing businesses, Wal-Mart says it will hold workshops with area stores to offer business strategies and with local suppliers to offer advice on doing business with WalMart.

The debate continues on whether the benefits of having a Wal-Mart (e.g., those low, low prices! and service jobs) are offset by the disadvantages (e.g., those low, low wages, anti-union corporate mentality, and Goliath-type competition for smaller businesses).

Wal-Mart is the nation’s largest employer, with 1.8 million employees and $11.2 billion in profits in 2005. Wal-Mart knows it has a public relations problem, and the new urban strategy seems partly a response to that. The company has become such a lightening rod for criticism, however, that it seems unlikely that any single move will transform its image. Still, maybe this heightened awareness can lead to positive changes?

Your Turn: vote in the blogpoll to the right. What do you think about Wal-Mart's new leaf?

Stephanie, Webmaster

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Marketing to Moms

Selling happiness. Marketers never sleep, as evidenced by the mailer today from Safeway. “Joyful people are more compassionate toward others, which in turn makes the world a better place.” Attached to the flier—a packet of Pepcid AC. “ENJOY! Life. Food. Fun. Just One Tablet.” How many tablets for world peace??

Sport Utility Vacuum. Hoover recently started marketing their new high-end vacuum, designed to compete with Dyson. The Hoover SUV will be made in USA, so I took a look. Because of its high price, the marketers decided that “the man of the house” would have to be in on the purchase. The result is a flash ad that makes the SUV sound like a monster truck. My reaction to this is that the “man of the house” may get involved in the purchase, but I bet the “woman of the house” will be the one pushing the thing around!

Mothers’ Revenge. Here’s a marketing idea I am developing for SPAM. For all the cooks who have suffered the pained moans and groans of kids who do NOT like anything with onions, anything with olives, anything with capers, anything with freshly picked rosemary (I’m giving you my secret recipe for Italian Country Chicken…), I have devised the following reality slap.

Mothers' Revenge

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Search for E-Quality

No surprise that the Internet is littered with junk sites. The worst are the automatically generated lists of links, based on a few keywords. The resulting pages are usually just an excuse to run Google ad boxes, with no original content or even meaningful groups of links.

As an example, here’s a few of today’s new “sites” linking to

Even worse than these link fields are the sites that “scrape” entire pages from my site and post them, surrounded by Google ads. These make me so mad I’m not going to post the URL.

Why does this bug me? Because I spend a lot of time building content for my website, and in most cases I do NOT use Google ad boxes because the ads served would not be for American-made products. Why in the heck should someone else get financial benefits from my work? Grr… Also, although these junk sites are fairly apparent, they clog up the search engine results so that true sites are harder to find. So, is the Internet democratic or anarchic? (And, is “anarchic” a word?!)

Monday, April 03, 2006

Back on the Job

Cancel the APB, the missing blogger has been found!

I took a sabbatical of sorts, and was hanging around machinists. I felt a bit like Alice in Wonderland when I googled into the Practical Machinist bulletin board. Lots of talk of tapers, lathes, tig welding, turrets, and tailstock. Although I can argue global warming with the best of them, I confess I had no idea what most of the discussions were about. All was not a loss, however, because I discovered that some machinists like to buy American-made, and some have a sense of humor. To whit, the following example of board banter:

Machinist 1: I was watching James Bond, The Man with the Golden Gun. James visited the shop of Mr. Lazare, who has a custom weapons design shop on the show, and I saw a small lathe in the right hand side of the room. Can anyone identify it?

Machinist 2: Naked women in every scene and the machinists go: "Hey, didja see that scene where they had a palm tree growing up through a 4 jaw chuck? Was it a Cushman about 1933?" No wonder machinists are dying out. They're too dumb to breed.

On the manufacturing front, it looks like Hedstrom Corp. (Ashland, OH), makers of spring horses, teeter-totters, and other fun kids toys, is out of that business. The only remnant of the company I could find is Hedstrom--Ball, Bounce, and Sports Inc., makers of sports balls, and Hedstrom Plastics, specializing in rotational molding for custom applications. I also discovered that Dura-Craft, the Oregon-based maker of wonderful dollhouse kits, has gone out of business after 30 years.

Each company that I take off my site feels like another knick. I know these are businesses that were people’s lives and livelihood. As a consumer, I have lost the opportunity to buy their products. The truly discouraging thing is that I am surrounded by well-off folks who don’t care at all where products are made, or under what conditions.

So, forgive me for losing my sense of purpose. The good news is I’m back on the job and it could have been worse!

Stephanie, Webmaster