Archive for April, 2009



Timeline and Mapping Tools

I think several of you might be interested in creating timelines or maps related to your final reports. Here are two tools that seem pretty easy to use if you are interested:

http://www.simile-widgets.org/timeline/

http://www.communitywalk.com/

Work Journal 4/20

4/22

I’ve become more and more interested in the idea of social status or community involvement as a means not by which to advertise the quality of a store’s food but through which a grocery can make itself known as a brand; by creating a public image entirely separated from the food that it sells.

I was searching through the Swem catalog for books that might shed some more light on grocery store advertising and what I perceive as a shift toward the public appearance of a grocery store’s identity. What makes a grocery attractive to a customer besides the quality of the food, the architecture of the store, or customer service? What makes a person drive in one direction rather than another when they are most likely getting products that are interchangeable with products from another grocery store? In one sense the standardization of food has been a boon for variety and accessibility but it has also created a grocery store culture increasingly dependent on creating an image that has little to do with the quality or nature of the food being sold. I found an Economic Research Report put out by the United States Department of Agriculture entitled “The U.S. Food Marketing System: Recent Developments, 1997-2006.” claiming that rising competition from non-traditional sectors of the market like supercenters (Wal-mart) and drugstores (CVS, Rite-Aid) has created a need for grocery stores to redefine their images. However we could just as easily insert the farmer’s market or convenience stores as competitors who are forcing traditional grocery stores to advertise themselves as socially responsible.

 

“ In such a competitive domestic food market, food companies are attempting to differentiate themselves from the competition by reporting voluntary activities that demonstrate social responsibility and by more-tailored advertising campaigns and product offerings.”

 

The report goes on to detail phenomena like big grocery store mergers (The Delhaize Group, Belgian owner of Food Lion/Bloom comes to mind) and the corporate social responsibility movement which is present on the websites of almost all of Williamsburg’s grocery stores owned by larger companies.

 

Which brings us to the question of what grocery stores, the farmer’s market, and convenience stores are trying to sell us? It’s food of course but can we still tell a difference in the food that comes from one store over another? Isn’t quality the bottom line or are we putting something else higher up on the ladder? Customer service, social responsibility platforms, architecture, atmosphere; why do we go to one grocery store over another? From the older residents I’ve talked to I get the sense that customer service has always been the number one priority and I heard the same idea reiterated when I interviewed the store manager of Bloom. People want to feel comfortable when the buy their food and they want to do it in a place where the people are friendly, familiar, and eager to help them. In our age of increasing standardization and universalization of food it is less about the food itself and more about us, how we feel and whether we enjoy the act of buying the food? Would we travel miles and miles to buy the best quality food from someone we didn’t like or who was outwardly antagonistic? I’m not sure I’m ready to say we don’t care about the quality of what we eat anymore but it is becoming more and more apparent to me that people have more important things on their minds when they step inside a grocery store.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                   

 

4/24

Wow! I’ve stumbled across what may be my most interesting piece of research yet. The Trader Joe’s Adventure: turning a unique approach to business into a retail and cultural phenomenon. An entire book filled with the self-edited narrative of Trader Joe’s. Essentially a book long piece of propaganda advocating the superiority of the Trader Joe’s approach which boils down to targeted vertical integration the book is an interesting cultural artifact in itself. There is an enormous amount of very interesting material that I think will serve me well in light of the fact that they grant no interviews. But I could not believe some of the things that were written in this book and all done in a relaxed, humorous tone that sounded like a pandering brochure. Take the tone of a sentence like “you’ll come to understand how this underdog David is on its way to becoming a Goliath of the retailing world” (xi) with sections admitting that Trader Joe’s is owned by a secretive foreign company Albi which was forced by new regulations in Germany since 2000 to open up the books a little bit and that one of the Albrecht brothers (owners of the chain) was kidnapped in a bizarre and secretive stand-off that lasted almost 17 days. This all comes in the didactic chapter entitled “Operate Under the Radar”.

But I found one of the most interesting sections to be a short paragraph on the typical Trader Joe’s customer: “Customers of Trader Joe’s are as unique as the chain itself. They are not shoppers who value convience, low prices, cigarettes, and six packs. Instead Trader Joe’s has been called the supermarket for both out-of-work PhD’s and those who are overeducated and underpaid.” (viiii) I was surprised by these overt class distinctions and the store’s desire to distance itself from the lower classes who smoke and drink alcohol. Instead Trader Joe’s is “A dream grocer for yuppie epicures in search of Tasmanian feta cheese and carrot ginger dressing” (viii). Contrary to the impulses of other stores Trader Joe’s seems perfectly content with labeling itself an upper crust store and they are willing to ignore the business of the underprivileged. You can see this reflected in the location of the store, alone away from residential areas and in the demographics of the store when you visit.  

 

4/27

In his surprisingly interesting book, The American Grocery Store: The Business Evolution of an Architectural Space,  James Mayo analyzes the evolution of the form of the modern store tracing it back to the first institutions meant for food dissemination in America, public markets. He traces the transition of their ownership from public to private and then the rise of the middleman, the grocery merchant, who by virtue of his ability to spend time creating an attractive stand forced the farmer out of the market. The book analyzes the specific architectural elements that helped further the evolution of markets like iron and steel framed structures and the strategic placement and regulation of markets by public and private commissions. Numerous connections can be made to Williamsburg today with its farmer’s market model as a return to that aesthetic of a bustling public market in which vendors sell their own foods, without the evolutionary capitalist developments traced in the book. In my research, the first city directory is dated 1898 states “Williamsburg had perhaps more general stores than any other town of its size in the State: There are two wholesale houses and more than twenty retail grocery and general merchandise stores, and two drugstores. The capital invested ranges from $300 to $20,000.” P. 17 of 1898 directory. It seems at the turn of 20th century Williamsburg was already well established in what Mayo calls the transformation of general store into grocery store. He points to railroads as the main facilitator of this ability to keep a sustainable stock of food and to reduce prohibitive transport costs. It took relatively little capital to open and sustain a grocery store near a major railroad. This certainly seems to have had an impact in the case of Williamsburg, but at the beginning of the 20th century there are already wholesale food distributors in the area and the birth of the chain store (Mayo’s next chapter) is the primary transition I am interested in.

                The main development that created the rise in the grocery store business model was bulk buying, dealing with food manufacturers, and cheap transportation costs. The chain store had the same types of advantages over the independently owned country store that the food merchant had over the farmer. Chain store owners could pool resources from different stores (transportation, machinery), that had unified planning systems, and they could design an overall company image. Mayo points out that one of the main advantages was the psychological advantage chain stores had over independents in that “The consistent image was a sign of security to people who moved, and newspaper advertising using the company’s logo helped to reinforce people’s confidence” (Mayo, 80). “The independent grocers did not have such a psychological edge, and they had to attract people either by the store’s location or by local reputation. Every store added to the chain helped to further the company image by increasing the probability that people would see more that one of the company’s store. With systematic repetition of a chain store’s image in its building designs, delivery wagons, and advertising, chain store owners began to capture the public’s attention, which eventually resulted in their increased willingness to shop in the chain stores.” (Mayo, 80) I’m going to stop now because I am essentially just writing my paper on the blog.

This week I need to transcribe my interview with Dan Williams, organize/scan my photos (contact Mary Ann about the url that I neglected to open and have now lost containing the scanned pictures from the CW archive), and maybe do some follow up talking with Frances Baker and Dan Williams, especially on the issue of store layout and image creation.

Research Journal

This week I’m concentrating on the current Greek-owned restaurants and the sort of food they serve. I have done just about all the history-gathering of Greeks in Williamsburg that I can, and it’s time to focus on what Greek food is available today. I will go to each restaurant with these goals: Find out the owner’s name. Get a menu. Ask the hostess which Greek dishes they serve, if any. Tell them about my project and ask their suggestions for who I should further talk to, etc. I am interested in what Greek dishes they serve, why they choose to serve them, and whether the dishes are popular.

There are about 18 Greek-owned restaurants in Williamsburg — and I’ve successfully visited 4 so far. I have driven to all 18 — but often I found out that they weren’t open at the time. I need to go back either in the breakfast hours or in the early evening. Each morning this week I am going to visit one or two Greek-owned breakfast places to knock those out, and I will also try to visit the seafood/steak places after 5 pm on Tuesday as well.

These are those that I’ve visited and the Greek dishes they serve:

1. Library Tavern:

Greek salad, the “Afrodity” white sauce pizza, and Homer’s Hero, a gyro meat sandwich

2. IHOP: no Greek dishes offered

3. The Jefferson Restaurant:

Greek salad, Grecian style broiled boneless pork chops, and broiled lamb chops with mint jelly

4. Scala Pizzeria & Taverna — offered an entire “Greek Specialties” section on their menu!

Appetizers: Tiropitakia, Spanakopita, Dolmades

Greek salad

Greek pizza (olive oil, kalamata olives, feta cheese and oregano) 

Greek Specialties –

Pastitio (Greek lasagna baked in bachemel sauce)

Mousaka

Roasted Half Greek Chicken

Chicken Souvlaki Pita (in pita bread)

Beef Souvlaki Pita (in pita bread)

Gyro Sandwich (gyro meat served with tsatsiki sauce)

Marinated Tenderloin Pork Kabob (in pita bread)

Beeftekia (Greek hamburger steak with onions and spices) 

Desserts: Baklava, Rice Pudding, Cannoli

Pancake Restaurants I need to visit:

Astronomical Pancakes – Richmond Road

Mama Steve’s  – Richmond Road

Sammy & Nick’s Pancake and Waffle House  – York Street

Colonial Restaurant  – Page Street

Sunrise Pancakes – Pocahontas Trail

The Gazebo 

Steak/Seafood/Pizza/Other Dinner Restaurants I need to visit:

Seafare Restaurant – Richmond Road

NY Deli – Richmond Road out near Toano

Fireside – Richmond Road

Milano’s  – Richmond Road

Sal’s  – Richmond Road

Work Journal

Work Journal

Unfortunately, the WDP kind of took a backseat to Thesis writing/other final Papers this week. However, the work I was able to put in was productive and helpful to my project.

April 20th

WDP Map Project paper. 1 hour.

 April 22nd

Swem Library

Archival research

1 hour

I found the yearbooks to be incredibly helpful as they really convey the college student perspective towards the Leafe and deli culture in general. The Flat Hat articles are useful as well, however, I would like more archives from the Williamsburg community.

Mr. and Mrs. Gormely have yet to reply to previous weeks e-mail regarding newspaper clippings/materials.
 

April 24th

Contacted Amanda Rosenberg, a College of William & Mary student who previously worked at the New Green Leafe in New Town. An interview has been set up for Monday, April 27th 2009. She should be able to provide interesting perspective on working at the New Green Leafe opposed to the Downtown location. Hopefully will be able to compensate for the loss of Chris Lettich’s recorded interview.
 

April 25th

Began writing final paper. Found it very difficult to start and am still not positive regarding the direction of the paper. Really need to revisit research and brainstorm regarding what I want to say in the paper.

1 hour
 

April 26th

-Contacted Jake to receive the Gormely interview file. Transcription took a little over 2 hours. Transcribing helped me to brainstorm more regarding the final paper contents.

April 27, 2009

Williamsburg Community Library

1 hour

Archival research

No luck trying to find Williamsburg local articles regarding the Green Leafe.

 

Interview with Amanda Rosenberg scheduled for 8pm.

Week of April 20th

There is very little to report this week. I knew that I was not going to be able to devote a lot of time to the project this week because my senior recital for my music major was on Saturday, April 25th. On top of this my computer developed major problems midweek. I am still working on getting these problems fixed, but the good news is that my WDP documents and sound files are now backed up in multiple places. Between the recital and the computer problems my work output for the week has been much more modest than I would have liked:

Finished and revised the transcript of the George Marston interview (2.5 hours)

Indexed an interview with Professor MacCubbin (retired) for Andrew Jungclaus (1.5 hours)

Hand-wrote an outline for my final paper. I think I have found a good way to organize the paper and I have now have something resembling a thesis. This week I will be able to start writing the paper, which I am looking forward to. (1 hour)

04/20-04-26 journal

I spent this week working on my indexes/transcribing my interview with Libbey Oliver. I realize that I need to get a deed of gift from Mrs. Oliver, so I will have to go by her office this week and see if she is in town. I also would like to pick up a copy of my interviews with Mr. Bradshaw and Mr. Scolthorpe. I need to talk with Will, but if does not plan to transcribe that interview, I will probably do that this week.

I now feel like have completed most of my primary research and am now compiling all of my work into one concise document. Right now, I have a lot of scattered information and random notes I would like to include in my project, but do not know how I will organize it all. My project for this week is to begin condensing my interviews, pamphlets, websites, and other information into one recognizable document. I have a lot of work to complete over the next two weeks, so I need to start working on my final paper sooner rather than later.

Work Journal

At this point, I’ve finished all of the primary and secondary research that I think I’ll need for the project. So this entry will be even more of a digest than others in the past have been. I did have one new interview this week on Monday, 20 April with Robert MacCubbin—a former faculty member. Mr. MacCubbin had memories of a roadhouse out in Norge, a bar he used to frequent in Yorktown with other faculty members, and a defunct still that sat on the lot next to the first house he rented in Williamsburg. There’s another interview with Mr. MacCubbin that the project did, along with mine, and he joined the faculty in the early sixties. Ash—I don’t know the scope of your project, but Mr. MacCubbin did mention a venue for drinking/socializing before the Green Leafe came into existence. Jake—does your project have anything to do with “JT Randalls?” I feel like I remember you mentioning that and Mr. MacCubbin mentioned it briefly—he used to live near it. Maybe this will help.

My main objective for the week has been to get the interviews for which I don’t have transcripts into some sort of shape that I can use in the paper. The best technique I’ve developed for this has been to listen to them over, at least one more time, this time taking copious notes. What I have after that is a type of thorough index with no time cues. I think it’s working well to help me become even more familiar with the information my subjects have presented, but does anybody else have other suggestions?

I’ve also started typing up the quotes/notes I’ve taken from different books and magazine articles so that I can use them more easily in the final paper. All in all this week, it’s been that type of tedium, but I’m hoping that it makes it easier to fit the project together in these last days.

Research Journal #5

April 20
Jennifer finally got in touch with Tes, the first manager of the Meridian, and I wrote her immediately hoping to get an interview this week. I have an interview with Ned tonight too which should be extremely helpful. Hoping to wrap up my interviews and get some primary research done this week.

Spent about an hour in Special Collections at Swem looking at all of Zarathustra’s and the Meridian’s flyers Fall 1992- Spring 2008. Took some notes and noticed the transition from broad art/poetry based events to weekly music events. There is a mysterious gap from 2002-2004 that I don’t quite understand.

Indexed Robert Bell’s interview. All my interviews so far have been roughly indexed now.

Interviewed Ned. He had a lot of interesting things to say, but due to his very peripheral involvement in the Meridian had only an observers knowledge of the changes over time, though his perspective on change as someone who has been involved about 12 years was very useful.

April 21
Professor Knight gave us an extension of a few days and my life is so much less stressful now.

Scheduled an interview with Tes for Thursday at 2PM

April 22-26
At this point I stopped doing daily journals because my life became very hectic. I did have an hour long interview with Tes S. who was present for the Zarathustra’s -> Meridian transition and then indexed that interview. Also since Tes could not remember a lot about the social aspects of the Meridian I scheduled an interview for Tuesday with someone she thought would remember better, Oliver. Also, Oliver started at the Meridian his freshman year so he will understand how the Meridian evolved in it’s first few years hopefully.

Today I sat down and tried to figure out how I will deal with this paper and a 15-page research paper and two exams that are all around the same time, and in order to finish everything in time I will have to begin writing this paper on Wednesday which freaks me out because I have not really come to a thesis and there is still so so so much work I want to do. I just barely touched my digital archival, I did not schedule an interview with anyone at the Daily Grind or with Mark Constantine or with the Aromas people, I have done hardly any secondary research, and I still have so many contacts I have not been able to fully utilize. I haven’t even begun to compile what I have into a comprehensive idea. I’m very nervous that in the crunch of exam and paper time I will not be able to put all my hard work into a final product that will be as good as I wanted it to be. A good argument for a continuation of this project I suppose.

Sasinowski Research Journal: 4/20-4/27

April 20-27, 2009

Once again, it seems easier to summarize my week rather than break it down into days.

Other than the usual secondary source reading, the most eventful part of this week for my WDP project was my friday interview.  I had emailed the owner of Five Forks Cafe a week or so ago, I got an email back from her around Tuesday of this past week.  I called and set up an interview for that Friday.  She suggested 2:30 pm since that would be the time when the lunch rush was winding down.  I had to be somewhere by 4 pm, but I didn’t think the interview would take very long so it wasn’t a problem.  Thankfully, Jake responded to my indexer request.  I spent most of my WDP time between Tuesday and Friday crafting questions for the owner.  I wanted them to be as similar to the questions I asked the owner of the Chickahominy House so that I could compare answers.  I did, of course, also do some research on Five Forks and cater the questions to the restaurant itself.  I think the interview went well.  It provided a nice bookend/comparison to my Chickahominy House interview in numerous ways.

I also spent time this week toying with the idea of creating a cookbook for the final project.  I looked at some examples of the type of cookbook I am thinking about in order to get some ideas.

Other thoughts….I have been playing phone tag with the owner of Pierce’s Pitt Bar-B-Q, but I am beginning to think that the Five Forks interview/Chickahominy House interview provides a nice two-fold contrast that may make the Pierce’s interview unnecessary.

This up-coming week is my big WDP push week.  I want to get as much done/if not all done before finals, so I intend to wrap things up in the next few days (especially after my last paper before finals is turned tomorrow).

Work in Progress Part IV

This week was a very successful week for our Pan-Asian cuisine project.  After dropping by Chez Trinh last week and making contact with the manager there, I got in touch with him again on Monday and scheduled an interview for Thursday.  The manager seemed excited to talk with us about the history of Chez Trinh and his own personal experience there, so we were really looking forward to the interview.

During the week, Chris and I met to go over our interview questions and general strategy, and adapted some of our previous interview material for specific questions about Chez Trinh.  In addition to this, we went over our website plan and what kinds of material would be included in our final project.  I have been working on finding old adds and other material in local newspapers, as well as compiling information and articles from the different restaurants’ websites to develop a timeline of pan-Asian cuisine in the area.

Our interview with the manager of Chez Trinh was definitely the most interesting part of the week.  James was very knowledgeable about the history of the restaurant and was quite the foodie.  He grew up in Williamsburg and had worked at Chez Trinh for about two years and was thus able to give us a good illustration of the restaurant’s evolution over time along with the history of pan-Asian cuisine in the area.  He also told us something we have not yet heard or read about: that there is a significant Korean population in Williamsburg, yet there are no Korean restaurants.  The current owners of Chez Trinh are Korean, but the restaurant is primarily Vietnamese with a few adapted Thai and Korean dishes.  James’ thoughts on the adaptations of different types of cuisine in his own restaurant hightlight a recurrant theme in pan-Asian cuisine in Williamsburg: variety.  Nawab is not a strictly a Northern Indian restaurant, but incorporates dishes from throughout India.  Peking-Mongolian has recently introduced a new Thai menu and has always served a wide variety of Chinese, Japanese, and American-themed cuisine.   It seems like, for all of these restaurants, variety is key and it is what will keep customers returning.  This contemporary variety harkens back to the mysterious “Russo’s Chinese and Italian Buffet,” which neither Chris nor I have been able to find any trace of but remains the epitome of a pan-ethnic cuisine restaurant.  In summary, this week has cemeted the fact that Williamsburg is a unique place for pan-Asian cuisine and, because this is a relatively small area and there significantly fewer restaurants in general, successful restaurants must learn adapt their cuisine to the palates of a multi-faceted clientele.

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About

The Williamsburg Documentary Project (WDP) strives to collect and preserve the rich past of Williamsburg, Virginia. By conducting oral history interviews, building physical and digital archives, and creating online exhibits, the WDP interprets Williamsburg’s recent past. The WDP works towards developing a better understanding of Williamsburg by bringing together individuals, local groups, Colonial Williamsburg, and the College of William & Mary.

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