business news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB reader Brian Blank had some ideas about Kroger's decision to test the sale of produce that actually is grown in its stores:

Growing produce and fresh herbs on-site is a pretty cool sounding proposition.  And now that I have the sincerity out of the way…gotta say, my mind pretty quickly leapt to the idea that maybe Kroger’s King Soopers division could employ that technology to grow a different crop…one that is legal in Colorado, if you get my drift…  From Private Selection to Private Stash.

I commented in part:

Many, many years ago, I remember covering the installation of an enormous hydroponics facility in a Texas supermarket - I'm pretty sure it was a Fiesta Mart. And while that didn't work because it wasn't economically sustainable, it was, I think, a foreshadowing of where the world eventually would go.

Prompting MNB reader Dave McKelvey to write:

Yes, your memory is intact.

Fiesta built a store in Clear Lake, a Houston suburb that had a hydroponic garden.

The store wasn’t popular, as Fiesta was known for catering to Hispanics, and at the time Clear Lake ( where NASA is located) was primarily a upper middle class area.

They tried to cut the footprint in half to keep it open, but eventually closed.

What I remember best about the store was the single lane ingress from NASA Rd 1. In my opinion, that had a impact as much as any in the lack of volume.

Last I checked, it is a Burlington coat factory.

Would you like a jacket to go with your parsley?

Responding to Kate McMahon';s column about the continued growth of cauliflower, MNB reader Mark A. Boyer wrote:

I enjoyed Kate’s take on the rise in cauliflower, but my key takeaway is less about cauliflower and more about “kale being a fad.” Apparently my wife hasn’t heard the news that kale is a fad.

MNB took note yesterday of an Eater report that "climate-conscious states like California are taking aim at gas stoves, with 13 cities and one county adopting building codes that ban gas or encourage all-electric new construction."

MNB reader Andy Casey wrote:

Pretty funny coming from a state which is routinely turning off electricity to hundreds of thousands of customers during fire season.

From another reader:

Ahh Berkeley, the pinnacle of reason! Unsure of the science, but here are 3 practical thoughts from someone who has had both: 1) gas is instant on/off so feel certain overall energy use is less; 2) try a gas stove in California when PGE cuts off your power!!; 3) You can get a plumber to run a gas line to your kitchen for less than $1,000 so no need to move. Bon appetit!

But I want to move. Thirty-five years in the same house is too long.

Yesterday we wrote about how neatness expert and minimalist guru Marie Kondo, having convinced the world to get rid of stuff that doesn't bring joy, now wants people to acquire stuff to replace the stuff they got rid of. Her stuff. Kondo has come out with a line of 125 home and self-care products that 'spark joy.'

I commented:

Pretty convenient that she has figured out a way to help people fill the space they created through decluttering, and make a buck along the way.

I must admit that I'm sort intrigued by the idea that she could identify 125 items that bring her joy … in part because there is as assumption that what brings her joy will bring other people joy, and in part because 125 is a big freakin' number.

I tried to identify the "things" in my life that bring me joy - as opposed to the people, like family and friends(and dogs), whom I assuming she doesn't think of as being disposable. There's the laptop on which I am writing this. The Mustang convertible. A few watches - all gifts, including one that my wife gave me in 1980 and another that she gave me two weeks ago for my birthday (I'm a watch guy). But then I started thinking about the difference between "joy" and "pleasure," and wondering where one ends and the other begins, and if it matters, because my iPhone and iPad and my hundreds of books give me pleasure ("joy" would be overstating it) and I'm not giving them up no matter what Marie Kondo says. And then I started getting a headache, because maybe it is just possible that this is just a great marketing gimmick and too many people are taking way too seriously?

For example, does a tuning fork sold on her site that, when used, allows people to "clarify their energy" really fall into the joy category? For how many people? Or is Marie Kondo just selling this year's version of snake oil that, when applied, is supposed to make our lives perfect but really just makes her life richer?

Too cynical?

One MNB reader responded:

Too cynical?

Not at all.

MNB reader Howard Schneider wrote:

Too cynical? Nope, Kevin, I think you’re right on. Wonder when KonMari will merge with goop?

Let's not lump Marie Kondo in with Gwyneth Paltrow, for whom I kind of have a thing that goes back to Shakespeare in Love.

And from another reader:

Snake oil, the world does not need more tuning forks and I am sure Himalayan Salt Lamps all over. If she had credibility it is gone like trust! Not being true to her own brand.


I made a comment the other day about how Starbucks' rest rooms are nicer than McDonald's, and was challenged by someone who asked if I actually went to enough McDonald's to make that distinction.

My response:

Absolutely. I am a man of a certain age, which means that I use restrooms wherever and whenever I can find them. I don't usually eat at McDonald's, but when I'm on the road - which is often - I'm happy to take advantage of their facilities.

One MNB reader chimed in:

Being 5-6 years your senior, I also find myself not passing up the opportunity to use a restroom wherever and whenever I have the chance. On a recent trip to the United Kingdom, we utilized McDonald’s and Starbucks facilities regularly, finding them both relatively clean and more importantly convenient. Additionally, we were able to access their free WiFi, saving us from using the data from our cell phone international plan.

Finally, I continue to get email about MNB's 18th birthday.

MNB reader Tom Kroupa wrote:

I've been with you since your pre-carnation. I am one of the fortunate ones to have met you in person, at a trade show around the year 2000, when you were writing the business newsletter prior to this one. Ideabeat is what I remember it was called. Am I right?

Don't stop doing what you are doing, okay

Yes, it was called Ideabeat, though to be honest, it is a site better off dead and buried.

And I have no plans of stopping doing MNB anytime soon.

From MNB reader Mark Taylor:

Congrats on 18 years!  Roughly 16 years ago my boss at the time turned me onto  And ever since then I’ve paid it forward.  Over the years I’ve told countless new Key Account Managers and young broker managers about your daily site.  I always tell them this…  “it’s the best way in 20 minutes every day to get a pulse on the grocery industry, with some other interesting sidebar nuggets thrown in for good measure along the way.”  It’s educational, but with a perspective I find both refreshing and honest.  My favorite saying of yours I refer to all the time is what you say about choosing a path and staying on it.  That trying to do everything puts you in the middle and that’s where you find roadkill.  Growing up on a farm that saying always resonated with me.   Your daily read is delightful.  Keep it up!

And from MNB reader John R. Hurguy:

I’d like to belatedly congratulate you as you start your 19th year. Around 2003-2004, I found myself in Seattle on business and had the chance to meet you at Etta’s one afternoon. Good time with good wine and great conversation. Just like 15 or so years ago, I still start my day reading MNB even though I’ve been retired for almost 5 years. Keep up the great work!
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