Sunday, December 13, 2009

AT THE MAIN SQUEEZE CAFE: It's a Wonderful Life

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1)  AT THE MAIN SQUEEZE CAFE:  It's a Wonderful Life
2)  EARLY BIRD CANDIDATE SURVEY:  Sid Sullivan for Columbia Mayor, Pt. 2
3)  MU WOMEN'S BASKETBALL:  Suspended players fending off assault?
4)  BUSINESS FAVES:  Amazing holiday cards; adorable baby gear
5)  READERS WRITE:  Landlords against crime 
6)  HEAR YE!  HEAR YE!  Operation Beanie Baby Rescue; Columbia Second Chance

AT THE MAIN SQUEEZE CAFE:  It's a Wonderful Life

A year ago this holiday season, Barbie Reid forwarded an email message from fellow Columbia resident Jan Thompson to the Old Southwest and Broadway neighborhood listserv.  "My good friend, Leigh Lockhart, the owner of Main Squeeze Cafe (right), is feeling the crunch of the economic downturn.  This restaurant has been a favorite of mine and a mainstay of downtown Columbia for 10 years.  But her business has been cut in half and she is toying with shutting down."

Calling it "a movement to un-squeeze the Main Squeeze," Reid asked listserv members to "pick up a smoothie or a meal soon."   So continued a series of fortunate events that could be a business school case study in the power of branding, advertising, public relations, faith in a vision -- and angels at the door.

Beat Byte, Eat Bite

For four years and counting, I’ve run the Columbia Heart Beat, a hyper-local, online alternative newsweekly reporting on everything from nefarious public officials to the history of black Columbia.  For the Heart Beat’s newswire cousin—Beat Byte—I wrote a brief take on the email campaign, Tough Economy Squeezes Main Squeeze

To include a website, I Googled "main squeeze," hoping to find Columbia’s version buried in hundreds of thousands of hits on the popular phrase.  But a fortunate event happened in a flash:  Our Main Squeeze Natural Foods Café is number one among 234,000 Google hits.  A map, a menu, and the café's website sit atop songs by Lenny Kravitz and Teena Marie; a New York City-based all-girl accordion band; businesses, Facebooks, Myspaces, book titles, news stories, and love notes by the tens of thousands. 

Talk about the power of a brand.   

You’ve got appeal

Another fortunate event offered clues as to how Leigh Lockhart built her Google-topping business.  Columbia Daily Tribune business editor Justin Willett picked up a story that often has an unfortunate end.  "It seems that each week I note at least one business that has closed—usually a local restaurant," Willett wrote.

But the email appeal "picked up by local blogger Mike Martin and distributed far and wide," took Main Squeeze from the "slowest three-day sales period in its 10-year history" to an outpouring of support and affection that included donations, a $1,000 customer loan, employees offering to bypass a paycheck, and day after busy day.

All of which was "no surprise" to Willett.

"Leigh Lockhart genuinely cares about her customers, employees and the community," he wrote. "I know this because she gave me a chance when I was an unemployed college student.  I felt good about being a part of the experiment, which Leigh explains on the café’s website as 'what happens when a love of food and a passion for sustainability meets a community filled with hungry, loving people.'"
Angels in America?

I’m not much for Christmas cards, but a hand-written note addressed to me at the Columbia Business Times—where I've written the Citizen Journalist column for two years—made my holiday season.  A single Asian word—Korean, or maybe Chinese—adorned its papyrus-textured cover.

"Mike, I hope this note finds you, as it would be a shame if you never learned how your fair pen helped save Main Squeeze," Lockhart wrote.  "It’s a great story of how my accountant sent an email to her friends, asking for their support during these tough times."

A third fortunate event: A caring accountant uses modern technology for an old-fashioned friendship.

"One day later, thanks to your mentioning Main Squeeze, we had our best day in weeks.  Same thing the next day and the next.  Who is this Angel Mike Martin, I ask?"

I'm no angel, but I know them when I see them.  And who doesn't love a Capra-esque tale about hard times and angels—friends, customers, accountants, employees, the owner herself—helping save a favorite enterprise, just in time for the Holidays, no less?

"I’ve garnered enough in community loans to get us thru the winter and the up tick in business you helped create is going to make everything all right," Lockhart wrote me.    

As I closed the holiday card, I noticed a tiny English translation tucked beneath the ornate Asian word on its cover.  It’s so small and non-descript, I had to hold it to the light.  It was one simple word. 


Have it, and when -- not if -- the angels come, you too will discover It’s a Wonderful Life.

-- Mike Martin   


EARLY BIRD CANDIDATE SURVEY:  Sid Sullivan for Columbia Mayor, Pt. 2

Columbia mayoral candidate Sid Sullivan (below) answers the Columbia Heart Beat's Early Bird Candidate Survey from local journalists.   Survey questions went out to early filers for mayor and city council.  Last time, Sullivan answered questions from Mary Daly and Tyree Byndom. 

Our team of questioning journalists includes:

George Kennedy, professor of journalism and columnist, The Columbia Missourian
Tyree Byndom, Host, Kore Issues, KOPN radio
Mary Daly, Managing Editor, The MU Maneater
Jonathan Sessions, columnist/blogger, Columbia Business Times

George Kennedy asks:

1.  What does “smart growth” mean to you?

Sullivan:  It is the development of our urban community in a manner that provides attractive places to live, work and play.  It anticipates the needs and costs of roads, public and commercial facilities and open space.

It provides incentives to develop the community the city wants with financial tools to fairly share the cost. It limits the scope of development to what we can afford while maintaining our current infrastructure.

It is not a Scott Blvd or Ballenger Lane twenty years in the making or flooded basements in older subdivisions created by new subdivisions upstream.  It is not new sewer lines while failing to maintain a crumbling infrastructure in our older city.

2.  What should be the top 3 priorities for the next council?

Sullivan:  Priorities include a) guiding the city through these tough economic times by focusing our resources and exploiting opportunities; b) examining the City Charter to improve the city governance and transparency, and c) developing a community where there is equal justice and safety for all and maybe even a teen center for our local youth.

3.    Should council members be paid?

Sullivan:  Of course!  Many willing and qualified community leaders cannot financially afford to serve on council. So, the City is deprived of their leadership.

This doesn’t affect me because I am retired, but do we really want to limit the mayor’s position to retirees?   The opportunity should be opened to all.  A minimum wage could attract more candidates but, by way of comparison: at 100,000 population, we are the only Missouri city our size that doesn’t pay our council.  

Boone County Commissioners, on the other hand, are paid over $80,000/annually. 

4.  What do you see as the proper relationship between the council and the manager?

Sullivan:   The Council sets policy and the City Manager executes that policy.  Any ambiguities in Council policy should be brought to council for clarification.   It wouldn’t hurt for City Council to review Departmental Policies to ensure compliance with the intent of Council Policy.


Jonathan Sessions asks:

1.   In this voluntary position, what are your expectations of necessary time commitment?  

Sullivan:  There are no constraints on my time as I am retired.   I already contribute by studying city plans, appearing before Council and the Planning and Zoning Commission to offer thoughtful suggestions.  I have published my views in the Columbia Missourian and the Columbia Business Times

2. How do you plan to keep up with a demanding city council?

Sullivan:   I will be a member at large of the City Council.  The mayor chairs the council meeting, but the workload is the same for all.  I am involved in other volunteer organizations in the city, so as Mayor I would just be focusing my activities.

MU WOMEN'S BASKETBALL:  Suspended players fending off assault?

COLUMBIA, 12/13/09 (Beat Byte) -- A poster on the Columbia Daily Tribune's bulletin board has offered a plausible defense of two Mizzou women's basketball team members accused of assaulting a 21-year-old male Mizzou cheerleader.  Mizzou coach Cindy Stein suspended the two young women, Amanda Hanneman and Jessra Johnson -- the team's leading scorers.

"The cheerleader was drunk and...attacked a female student and pushed her to the floor," writes "mizzoudad," whose posting history on the Trib suggests he came forward just for this story.  "The two basketball players came to her defense, finally hitting him to make him take his hands off the victim's throat.  He called the police after the players and the victim had already gone." 

Though the facts remain unconfirmed, the Trib post seems detailed and adamant enough to warrant further inquiry. 

"Those two girls were defending a friend, and they are the ones who got in trouble!" mizzoudad writes.  "Would all of you prefer to have Mizzou athletes stand by while a 6 ft+ guy attacks a 5 ft 4 girl, or have them step in, against great personal cost of team suspension?  Do you think Coach Stein should not have stood by her players in that situation?  

I hope my friends would stand up for me like those two athletes did for their friend."


BUSINESS FAVES:   Amazing holiday cards; adorable baby gear

COLUMBIA, 12/13/09 (Beat Byte) --  At the Missouri Theatre's recent Beaux Arts holiday bazaar, my wife and I visited two Columbia businesses with practical, adorable goods. 

Though she may already be sold out, Christine Sayers displayed some of the most ornately and carefully crafted Christmas and holiday cards we had ever seen.   Sayers -- who has taught Kindergarten at Columbia Independent School -- makes the cards by hand, carefully cutting and shaping 3-D forms, shapes, and designs into an elegant statement of Christmas, Hannukah, or Holiday cheer.  Santa Claus, Christmas trees, holiday hearths, and dozens of other Yuletide reminders literally leap of the covers of her cards. 

As I noted above, I'm not much on Christmas cards.  But we liked the cards so much, my wife and I bought a dozen, including a light blue on dark blue "dreidel" card for our most excellent friends Amir and Shannon (Amir is from Israel).   Dreidels are four-sided spinning tops children play with during the Jewish Hannukah, and Sayers daintily placed two dreidels alongside golden Stars of David on the outside of the card, which comes with an envelope in a plastic wrapper.    The cards average $3-$4. 

Contact Chris Sayers -- who also sells knit hats and sweaters -- at
CMS Cards and Sweaters

Displaying her equally delicate and adorable baby gear next to Sayers on the Missouri Theatre stage, Suzette Waters
introduced us to Bumper Crop Baby, her Columbia-based hand-made baby bedding and gift company.  Though Waters -- the wife of Columbia Daily Tribune city editor Andy Waters -- can customize an entire nursery, she was displaying hand-made bibs, burp cloths, and other baby wear averaging $14-$16.   A testimonial on her website says it well:  "More gorgeous than I could have dreamed! The hours spent are so obvious as they are so perfectly done!"

Visit Bumper Crop Baby at:

READERS WRITE:  Landlords against crime 

Mike:  Thanks for hosting the landlords against crime summit. I think it was a great success.  Please pass around the Crime Free Multi Housing Training dates to the e-mail group if you feel that to be appropriate. 

Info can be found at:

There is also an info sheet on tenant screening, etc.

-- Officer Tim Thomason

Police Department
Office of Neighborhood Services
Crime Free Programs Coordinator

Columbia Missouri

Mike:  I handle some of the issues regarding landlords and tenants at the Sheriff's Department.  There are landlords in this town who simply don't care about what goes on in their buildings so long as the rent check is there at the first of the month.  They couldn't care less if the rent is being paid by drug sales and other illegal activities.

Bad landlords negatively impact good landlords.  A good landlord will lose quality tenants if his building is next to a "slumlord."  A good tenant might like his apartment but doesn't want to live next to a dope house or something resembling a junk yard.

The city has rules and regs regarding rental property.  We're trying to get some going in the county.  The county attracts many slumlords because we have no ordinances governing rental property.
-- Det. Tom O'Sullivan
Boone County Sheriff's Department

Mike:  It was nice to meet you the other evening at the landlords against crime meeting.  I was glad I attended.  I enjoy reading your blog entries as they are well thought out and very informative.  Keep it up.
-- Tim Sullivan, Columbia

HEAR YE!  HEAR YE!   Local Announcements

Operation Beanie Bay Rescue
You know those cute little stuffed animals you collected in the 90's? Or maybe someone gave you one during a hospital stay years ago?  And for whatever reason you've kept the little guys around. Maybe they're in a box in the attic?  They could be in the little hands of a child in Afghanistan or Iraq.   Our soldiers often encounter children while on their missions in both countries.  Your relatively unloved Beanie Babie can help warm the heart of both a soldier and a child as you give them this tool to create a peaceful connection during a scary time.   

Contact:  Jennifer Roberts

Columbia Second Chance!  
2009 Year-End BLOWOUT SALE!
Hurry!  Now until the end of December, check out our selection of slightly used, pre-owned kitties for just $49.99 (regularly $100)  Low Miles!  Lots of Colors!  Older models also available....All cats are spayed/neutered, vaccinated & Microchipped   Visit our Adoption Center at Ash St & Providence (behind Brady's Glass) from noon to 5pm Tuesday through Saturday or online at

Please send announcements in the body of an email only.  We cannot accept attachments of any kind.  Not-for-profit announcements are free of charge.  For-profit announcements require a nominal fee.  Any candidate running for unpaid public service positions, e.g. city council and school board, may run event announcements free of charge. 

Note on announcements from government agencies:  With some exceptions, we only accept announcements from elected officials. 

Mike Martin
Editor in Chief
The Columbia Heart Beat


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