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This article was prepared for the February 6, 2002 edition of U.S.
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New Streetscapes Seek `Princeton Look’
Suburban sprawl and endless traffic are sending people
back into town and city centers. Seeking pedestrian access to work,
shopping, and entertainment, yuppies, young college grads, and empty
nesters are moving into downtown areas of mixed-use development. This
new trend brings new opportunities and challenges to developers and
retailers both in small towns like Princeton and in big cities like
Philadelphia, where the downtown residential population has grown
by 20 percent since 1960.
Encouraged by the demographic trend, developers are creating new
for street front retailing. The Promenade at Sagemore, in Marlton,
is an example of a "lifestyle center" that features
open air, and an upscale tenant mix. The Washingtonian Center in
Maryland, a Washington, D.C., suburb, created a "main street"
that includes a lake, a public square, dining, two large retailers,
many smaller ones, and parking garages.
Midge McCauley of Downtown Works (a division of Kravco in King
of Prussia, Pennsylvania) has been working on retail and street front
leasing for 20 years. Admitting that when she was young, she was
to shop," she adds that she has always been interested in
and fashion. McCauley believes that her broad liberal arts background
— a B.A. from Penn State and an M.A. from Temple University —
prepared her well for her mission: improving the quality of retail
on the streets.
A former teacher of language arts at the elementary school level,
McCauley happened on the perfect job many years ago: "I was in
the right place at the right time," she says, "when the Rouse
Company in Columbia, Maryland, needed someone to look for quality
McCauley speaks on "Streetfront Retailing — A Trend That
Industry" on Thursday, February 7, at 11:30 a.m. at a meeting
of the Princeton Chamber at the Doral Forrestal. Also speaking is
James Paresi of the Paresi Design Studio. Cost: $35. Call
McCauley has lots of hands-on experience in developing retail areas.
Her firm is redeveloping two city blocks in Newark, including the
Hahne’s Department Store that has been sitting empty for 25 years.
Her firm is also developing the ground level of a major apartment
building, formerly a GE missile factory, for the University of
and it is co-developing the an African-American owned strip center,
Progress Plaza, near Temple University. She offers a number of
on the process for creating these old and new mixed-use models of
lucky having a single developer build Palmer Square. "It makes
life easier if one developer has control over a great deal of
she says. With a single organization controlling the merchandise mix
of stores, the merchandise quality is generally higher than with
buildings where every landlord has an individual agenda. Another
is a partnership like the 34th Street Partnership in New York, which
has dramatically changed the quality of retail and the look of 34th
Street over the last 10 years.
have to come with a plan for what you want the area to be," says
McCauley. Will it have universal appeal, or will it be dominated by
students or older people? The next step is to create a merchandise
mix that works for the expected demographic composition.
says McCauley, "but over time it can make a difference." She
cautions that everyone will not cooperate at the beginning. "But
if you can get together enough people to get started," she says,
"it has a snowball effect." People whose buildings are
eventually get embarrassed, and the supporters of the new project
gain the majority.
revitalization eventually resolves the financing issue by increasing
real estate value and bringing in higher taxes and higher rents.
in city centers experiencing residential growth, developers are
it particularly cost-effective to do historical rehabs, says McCauley.
"Philadelphia has wonderful old buildings," says McCauley,
"but during the fifties and the sixties, dreadful facades were
put on them, disparate from the original architecture."
15 years have seen the growth of business improvement districts,
entities developed to address quality-of-life issues in downtown
Funded by a special tax on all building owners within a district,
these organizations pay attention to cleanliness, security,
and issues of homelessness. They may also market the area and try
to improve quality of the retail.
parking garages are being built," says McCauley,
are requiring that developers create retail shops on the street
In these structures, parking begins on the second floor, and "the
bottom level continues the street." Citing unsightly parking
in Philadelphia in which razor wire is visible from the street, she
says that local governments are now asking developers of parking
to hide the cars and create something that is visually interesting.
of time trying to educate building owners about the types of tenants
they should be seeking. "Building owners must seek good retailers
and convince them they should be in the area," she says. They
must change current leasing procedure, in which owners typically just
"sit around and wait for the phone to ring"
and emphasizes the importance of a 24/7 residential presence in a
retail area. The result is light, activity, and security. Citing
active, vibrant downtown, she observes, "towns around the country
are modeling themselves around Princeton."
— Michele Alperin
Where do you go — instantly, without any thought
at all — when you want directions to a new furniture store,
weather forecast, a great deal on a used DVD, info on how your latest
stock purchase is faring, a last-minute birthday card for your niece,
or a quick look at what’s in the news? The Internet of course. What
in heck did we do without it? At home and at work, the ‘Net has become
indispensable. (Take my refrigerator, my washing machine, my phone
even, but no way will I part with my Internet connection.)
The Internet is a dream come true for anyone who needs information
about anything. But it has been a nightmare for many who have poured
money into the medium in much the same way that children pour water
into the moats around their sand castles. So far, it has proved
to keep all that money from running out, leaving little in the way
of profits to show it had ever been poured in.
On Thursday, February 7, at 3 p.m. the Trenton Forum on Interactive
Publishing looks at content on the Internet in its second seminar,
"Interactive Publishing: A Look Back and a Look Forward."
Among the speakers is Thomas Baker, media consultant, a creator
of the Wall Street Journal Online, and former senior vice president
of Work.com In a written statement he says, "The fact that a
number of successful business models for online publishers were
during the 1980s and 1990s is often forgotten. There’s no question
that the Internet has proven itself a powerful information medium.
The challenge for many of us remains finding the most cost-effective,
if not profitable, ways to harness its power. We’re going to look
hard at the industry’s successes to find the lessons we can apply
to our work today."
Also looking to their experience and giving advice on how to profit
from an Internet presence are Baker’s fellow panelists: Craig
CEO of Newtown, Pennsylvania-based Internet Publishing Group;
Brady, president of myESP.com, an Internet community-services
and Anne Holland, publisher and managing editor of industry
The Trenton Forum on Interactive Publishing is organized by Tramp
Steamer Media (www.trampsteamer.com), an interactive publishing
company headed by Mark Feffer, and by Thomas Edison State
It’s a classic fairy tale: New mom with small bank
creates a product to meet her baby’s needs — and cleans up. The
mom is Julie Clark, a former English teacher and the mother of two
little girls, who wanted them to experience music, art, and poetry
right from the start. She came up with the idea of video tapes geared
to infants that would do just that.
This thinking, and the initial product development, took place in
a basement in Bedminister. Initial working capital was $5,000. Clark’s
husband, Bill Clark, an entrepreneur who founded Optical Data
in 1981 and sold it to Cox Communication in 1996, provided the
The couple produced the first videos themselves in their home, using
a Mac. They borrowed no money, and took in no venture capital. In
its first year, 1996, Baby Einstein had sales of $100,000. Despite
the fact that the Clarks put little time into the company (a few hours
a month), had no staff, and did virtually no advertising, sales
tenfold the next year, and up to $4.5 million the year after that.
More than half of that $4.5 million was profit, Bill Clark says. In
2001, sales totaled $17 million, and on November 2 of that year,
bought the company for an amount the Wall Street Journal put at $25
million. (Clark says he is not allowed to comment on the sale price.)
The couple have exchanged a New Jersey basement for a home in Lone
Tree, Colorado, but Bill Clark returns to the Garden State on Tuesday,
February 12, for an 11:30 a.m. meeting of the Venture Association
of New Jersey at the Westin Hotel in Morristown. His topic: "The
Saga of a Serial Entrepreneur: From Optical Data to Baby Einstein"
Cost $45. Call 973-631-5680.
Listening to Clark, fresh from a business trip to L.A. and sounding
relaxed and happy in his Colorado home, the story of Baby Einstein
sounds too good to be true. But the company’s success, in at least
some part, is the result of hard lessons Clark learned from his first
"Optical Data was a venture-backed company that was troubled for
15 years," he says. He founded the multimedia publishing company
in 1981 while he was working on his second college degree, a
in physics from Drew (Class of 1991), which it took him 10 years to
complete because he started his company when he was still six credits
shy of graduation. His earned his first degree, in journalism, from
San Diego State, in 1974.
Optical Data was a New Jersey corporation that was headquartered in
Warren before Cox acquired it and moved it to Atlanta, where Clark
stayed on for a short time before accepting a post as president of
the Entrepreneurial Education Foundation in Denver. Among Optical
Data’s problems, he says, is that it was always undercapitalized.
The corporation was a groundbreaker, he says, the first to sell
non-textbook, basic curriculum materials to school districts.
"We were forward positioned," says Clark. "We
how willing the world was to change." In addition, the cost of
training educators to use the new materials was high, and the response
of standard textbook companies was swift. "We thought we would
dominate the next generation of publishing," Clark says of the
company’s dreams. This grandiose thinking is common among start-ups,
he says, and is often fatal.
"It was a mistake," he says. "We should have stared at
our balance sheets rather than at our press clippings."
This hard-won experience stood Clark in good stead when, after a year
as its president, he left the Entrepreneurial Education Foundation
to join his wife in building Baby Einstein. Here are some of the
he gives for the phenomenal success of that enterprise, with which
he and his wife remain associated.
is that little humans who can not yet walk or talk — let alone
beg for the latest Rug Rats movie on DVD — are capable of
and learning from, videos. But only if the video is created for the
world in which they live. Backgrounds need to be simple, preferably
black and white, and pictures need to fill the entire screen because,
Clark explains, babies do not have well-developed peripheral vision.
Material must be kept simple, and short. For the mega-hit Baby Mozart,
for example, the Clarks did not use a full orchestra, but rather a
sound designer and "a couple of classically trained
And the first movement was trimmed from six minutes to one to fit
a baby’s attention span.
In understanding what babies like, the Clarks created a buzz from
an audience that, for the most part, is not yet able to say much more
than "dada," if that. The pint-sized critics gave the Baby
videos rave reviews by saying nothing. Adults who have observed tykes
watching the videos report that they do not squirm or fuss. They sit,
or lie, transfixed.
This reaction, of course, is a striving parent’s dream. Even parents
who recoil from the tube under nearly every circumstance are delighted
to have their babies get a leg up on the rest of the pre-nursery
set by absorbing classical music and art via video.
their videos by mail, stuffing them into mailers and licking stamps.
In the first year, they did $100,000 worth of business this way. In
the second year, they signed a one-year, exclusive contract with
specialty toy retailer Right Start. "It was the right move,"
says Clark. In the store’s well-heeled, education-conscious
clientele, Baby Einstein found its perfect customer base.
When other retail outlets were added, they were of the same caliber.
Zany Brainy, for instance, sells the videos. Presumably, casting the
enrichment tools before the masses at supermarket checkout lines and
in discounters’ bins would lessen their appeal among their target
Julie Clark’s idea. Bill Clark says his reaction was "you’re
Now he gives credit to his wife’s insight. "She’s the English
major. I’m the physicist," Clark says to explain his wife’
insight into the power the name conveys. Who was more brilliant than
Einstein? And what do conscientious upper middle class parents seek
for their children more than brilliance?
protecting every scrap of intellectual property. Clark says his
began using the Baby Einstein name without obtaining permission, but
soon heard from Hebrew University in Jerusalem, to whom the great
man bequeathed rights to his name. There is now a body of post-mortem
law governing the use of the names of even long-deceased persons.
Clark doesn’t think his company broke any of them, but nevertheless
struck a licensing deal with Einstein’s estate.
From that point on, Baby Einstein used expert legal representation
to trademark every one of its titles. So diligent was the company
that, says Clark, the U.S. Trademark office will not give any other
company rights to any name that combines the word "Baby" with
that of a famous person. Other companies have tried, but have been
rebuffed. This lock on the names was a big reason that Disney wanted
to buy the company, says Clark.
seem like a slow rate of growth, but Clark says he and his wife were
careful to keep cash flow ahead of growth, and to resist the urge
to release too many videos. It is unusual for a start-up to fuel
entirely from product sales, but that was a prime goal. The company
built its profits steadily, but without moving so fast that it had
to incur debt.
hadn’t gotten out of Optical Data Corporation long before he did,
and was not going to make the same mistake with Baby Einstein. "A
year in," he says, "I sat down with Julie and said `if this
continues to grow, it will require added investment, more staff.’"
The couple asked themselves whether they wanted the life that would
go along with that commitment. With two small children, who Clark
says are their number one priority by a wide margin, they had no
arriving at a quick answer.
The plan would be to build a strong balance sheet, lock up
property rights, and find a buyer.
of either of the Clarks’ time, leaving them free to focus on their
two children. Aspen is now seven, and her sister, Sierra, is four.
write books and videos for company, and Bill Clark will help with
the business transition. In addition, he looks forward to putting
his multimedia background to use on some online projects for Disney.
showing would-be entrepreneurs how to duplicate their success —
and their family-centric Colorado lifestyl
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