The Week: What Caught Our Eye

July 11, 2020

Photo of a lake from the shoreline, with a large tree and twisted rootsWhat’s better than relaxing by the water on a summer day with a beautiful view, like this one from The Point in Willsboro, along Lake Champlain. (Tina Suhocki)

Good morning, Colleagues and Friends, and Happy Summer Saturday!

Are you, as we are, numbed by the numbers?

Just as our our capacity for shock had seemingly vanished, the U.S. last week reached nearly 60,000 new coronavirus cases in a single day. Six single-day records were set in 10 days. The current surge is now larger than the one that hit the Northeast in the spring. New York and the Northeast are now in far better shape, but the south and west are in trouble. “Several months ago, I warned of a potential tsunami if we did not take this more seriously,” Richard F. Cortez, the county judge in Hidalgo, Texas, said on Thursday. “The tsunami is here.” 

We do not make light of this unfolding tragedy. Yet we yearn for signs of life, of human progress, of hope and of optimism — green shoots, if you will. And each week we find a few more.


RISING TO THE CHALLENGE: When the pandemic sent people home for months, we sought comfort around our hearths and began to bake. And bake. And bake. That’s when the hotline at King Arthur Flour blew up with a 50% increase in calls from baffled first-time bakers. The demand for its high-quality, unbleached, additive-free flour rose faster than a sourdough. Suddenly, flour was selling like hotcakes — up 600% — and King Arthur was buying wheat and shipping flour at an unprecedented clip. We should have known that a beloved, 230-year-old, family-owned company in Norwich, Vt., was the one bringing the supremely healing aroma of freshly baked bread into the homes of front-line caregivers. King Arthur runs like the mom-and-pop it isn’t. It’s first nationally for retail sales of unbleached, all-purpose flour, and second only to General Mills’ Gold Medal in overall flour sales.

ALVINS EVERYWHERE: It’s not your imagination. There are more chipmunks scampering about the Northeast this summer. That’s because there were more beechnuts and acorns for them to squirrel away last summer. And more Simons and Theodores may be arriving.

MAKE YOUR OWN MILLIONS: How about a dish of Bankroll Butterscotch? A scoop of Retirement Raspberry? At Stewart’s Shops, the mint isn’t just in the ice cream. It’s in the retirement accounts of employees. Ninety Stewart’s partners now have ESOP balances exceeding $1 million.

GETTING SHELLED: There are too many lobsters in Maine this summer — and too few tourists to eat them. The lobstermen of Maine, who have never had an easy go of it, are reeling.

BOULUD IN THE BERKSHIRES: The quintessential New York restauranteur and chef Daniel Boulud, he of Daniel, the Michelin-starred New York flagship and 17 other restaurants worldwide, is bringing his Cafe Boulud concept to the Berkshires this summer. His team will be serving classic Boulud fare at Blantyre, the old-world resort near Lenox. Branzino Cha-Ca over vermicelli noodles with peanut fish sauce vinaigrette. Bring it on!

STARS ALIGN IN HUDSON: The City of Hudson has undergone a remarkable transformation in recent years, emerging, fittingly, as an urbanite’s escape to farms, fields and vegetable stands and an enclave of preserved architecture, sophisticated dining, shopping and the arts. Today Show Hosts Al Roker and Savannah Guthrie spent much of the spring broadcasting from their respective Hudson Valley homes and recently reunited on the air in Hudson where Al took viewers on a tour of the reborn neighborhood.

THE SKINNY ON LAKE HOMES: How about a beautiful escape on Skaneateles Lake this summer? Don’t settle for the cozy ordinary cottage or even the comfortable rambling old family home. Try a shiny, stainless steel railroad car.

THE CLASS LIVES ON: The end came in 2013 for St. Agnes Catholic High School in New York. But the historic beaux arts beauty, a block off Broadway and a short stroll from Central Park on the Upper West Side, has found a new life as the crown jewel of a stunning condominium development.

BIOMEDICAL ADVANCES: Keep your eye on the Capital Region’s biomedical sector. Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, with manufacturing operations in Rensselaer County, has landed a $450 million federal contract to produce a potential COVID-19 treatment. If the clinical trials succeed and the Food and Drug Administration approves the treatment or authorizes its emergency use, the antibody cocktail could be made immediately available to COVID-19 patients in the United States. And a Mexican pharmaceutical giant that operates 13 factories making medical products and devices is establishing a new subsidiary in Guilderland. Hometa makes intravenous infusion and monitoring products and is a subsidiary of Grupo PiSA Farmaceutica, a 75-year-old, family-owned company that employs 18,000 people who make 1,500 medications and devices.

Photo of a pond with a sprinkler in front of a pillared gazebo in a parkBeing socially distant isn’t hard, with wide open parks including Congress Park in Saratoga Springs (Skip Dickstein)

FIRST IN WAR, FIRST IN PEACE, FIRST IN HIS FIELD: By the time George Washington died in 1799, he had turned his back on the simple plough of Virginia agrarianism. As grain crops eclipsed tobacco, Washington expanded Mount Vernon to 8,000 acres, adopted Britain’s new scientific agricultural practices, and became the most progressive, integrated large-scale farmer in America. He not only raised quantities of grain but ground it into flour in his own state-of-the-art automated grist mill; packaged it in sacks marked with his “G. Washington” brand; and marketed it throughout North America, the Caribbean and Britain. Much of the flour left Mount Vernon’s wharf aboard his own oceangoing transports. America’s first president was also among its earliest entrepreneurs.

THEIR NEXT LIFE IS NOW: For centuries, women in the Himalayas who sought to practice spirituality equally with men have risked being ostracized. They were forbidden from leading prayers, singing or being fully ordained. Their role, they were told, was to cook and clean. If they behaved, they were told, they might come back as monks in the next life. Turns out, the next life is coming sooner than they thought at the Amitabha Drukpa Nunnery in Kathmandu.

QUIET PLEASE. IT’S A THRILL RIDE: They are reopening the amusement parks in Japan, including the roller coasters. But something is missing: the screams. Masks on, mouths shut.

NUDE SHUFFLEBOARD? That’s still allowed. And the patriotic nude parade was held, as usual. But in this year of COVID-19, nudist colonies, like everybody else, have had to make some concessions. For example, nude skeet shooting is out. And masks? Well, yes, it turns out that one piece of clothing is not optional.

WUNDERKNICK: The New York Knicks (remember them?) have not won a championship since 1973, but they may now have found their secret weapon: A well-liked, “cool, nerdy, little geeky guy” whose scouting chops belie his 26 years, who’s founded a scouting website, made the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, and runs charity fundraising events in honor of his mom.

BUT HOW DO YOUR CUSTOMERS FEEL: How do your customers experience your brand? How do your donors feel when they’ve written the check? It’s all about the warm glow. Some organizations are dispensing with the conventional distinctions – sales, marketing, customer service – and focusing instead on ensuring customers have an extraordinary experience. Meet the new CXOs.


FINAL LOVE LETTER: Milton Glaser was famous for designing the "I Love NY" logo in 1977 when New York City badly needed some love and a lift. He died recently on his 91st birthday while working on a new design to bring the city he loved together once more.

FAREWELL TO A FIDDLER: The son of a homemaker and fiddle-playin’ lumberjack, Charles Edward Daniels first made his mark as a session musician in the late 1960s and early ’70s, playing for Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr and Leonard Cohen. He produced albums for the Youngbloods, including the group’s 1969 folk-rock touchstone, “Elephant Mountain.’’ But his greatest acclaim came as the leader of the Charlie Daniels Band.

CATALYST FOR CLEANER AIR: Your tailpipe no longer streams ribbons of noxious blue and gray, and the air quality almost everywhere is better, thanks to John J. Mooney, inventor of the catalytic converter, who met his wife and sounding board in Lake Placid, NY.


“Why (don’t) you bunch of pitiful, hypocritical, idiotic, spoiled mugwumps get your head out of the sand? … You people need to get out of Hollywood once in a while and get out into the real world. You’d be surprised at the hostility you would find out here. Stop in at a truck stop and tell an overworked, long-distance truck driver that you don’t think Saddam Hussein is doing anything wrong."
Charlie Daniels’ Soapbox, 2003


Are you waiting for sweet corn and tomatoes, peppers and beans? They’re just running a little late.

PLEASE SHARE: Feel free to pass this along to your friends and colleagues.

THANK YOU to our contributors: Bill Callen, Bill Richmond, John Brodt, Lisa Fenwick, Tina Suhocki, Matt Behan, Audrey McCarthy, Tara Hutchins, and Claire P. Tuttle.

FACING OUT is what we do. We help companies, organizations and individuals work effectively with their most important external audiences – their customers, their shareholders, their communities, the government and the news media.

Facing Out features news and other nuggets that caught our eye, and that we thought might be of value or interest to you, our friends and business associates. Some items are good news about our clients and friends, others are stories that we hope will leave you a bit more informed or entertained than you were five minutes ago. As always, we welcome your ideas and feedback. 

Let’s make it a conversation:

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