Real estate sectors visible recovering in 2014 in Sacramento

downtownplazatower2-304xx1304-1954-223-0Source: ~ Author: Ben van der Meer

It has been an encouraging year for real estate. With retail centers getting new owners, industrial developers building on spec and multifamily properties being snapped up, sectors are visibly recovering.

Consider the following examples:

Downtown Sacramento— It’s a big “if,” but if every new proposal for downtown Sacramento gets built, the skyline will be notably different in another five years.Downtown Plaza Tower would be the focus of a new entertainment district. And of course the new arena across the plaza will draw attention for years to come. To the south, Sacramento Commons would boost downtown residential development, while across J Street from the arena and tower,Vanir Tower would be the shiniest office space on the block. Add in new talk about the Metropolitan coming back to life, redevelopment immediately around the arena and big names like Kaiser Permanente and Buzz Oates Group of Cos. making downtown plays, and there’s suddenly a lot happening.
Speculative construction: Vanir Tower is an example of this on the office side, but it’s still years away. Other spec projects, though, are getting active now, including the Stone Point office complex in Roseville and Ridge Capital’s industrial project in West Sacramento. Any kind of building on spec is a bet on the future, and after the Great Recession and the numerous busted commercial projects it caused, building on spec is seen as riskier than it was a decade ago. But if it pencils out, investors are starting to dive back in.
Housing finds its place: Compared to 2013, housing had a tougher year. Single-family home sales fluctuated between encouraging and disappointing. But new-home sales began to show strength later in the year. Homes near the urban core of Sacramento sold without difficulty. And multifamily, whether measured by occupancy rates or sales price, was on fire everywhere from midtown to Roseville. All this suggests housing that’s scratching the right itch in the market isn’t going to have any problems, and more builders can get a piece of the action as the economic recovery continues.

The positive news is that nearly every forecast for next year suggests progress. And when there’s good news in a number of different areas and sectors over the course of a whole year, it suggests underlying and lasting strength in the years ahead.

After Christmas Sales 2014: Get Ready for the Year’s Best Deals on Apparel


Source: ~ Author: Louis Ramirez

The days leading up to Christmas are among the busiest shopping days of the year. However, not all December sales end with the holidays. If you can wait, post-Christmas sales are just as popular and many times provide deeper discounts than pre-Christmas sales.

This year we expect after-Christmas sales to start earlier than ever, and if you thought Black Friday sales were particularly good, after-Christmas sales are looking to break a few records of their own.

Counter-intuitively, After-Christmas Sales Start Before Christmas Eve

Just as Black Friday deals have taken over Thanksgiving Day, so too have so-called after-Christmas sales creeped earlier, beginning before Christmas even. (It’s the stores themselves still referring to these sales as “after-Christmas,” not us!) It’s a trend we’ve noticed for several years. In 2012, for instance, sales branded as “after-Christmas” started on December 24, whereas last year after-Christmas sales started on December 23.

Leading the charge last year was Amazon, which debuted its post-Christmas sale on December 23. We predict Amazon will kick things off again this year, especially since the Seattle retailer has areputation for dominating holiday sales in general.

But unlike the hype that surrounds Black Friday, after-Christmas sales traditionally don’t have any lead up. Excluding Micro Center, which last year released a massive Black Friday-like ad highlighting its best after-Christmas deals, most major retailers won’t bother with ad leaks or hype. In other words, you’re not going to see shoppers camping outside any stores on December 23.

Apparel Dominates After-Christmas Deals

Simply put, no item will see as many discounts as apparel. Last year, 45% of after-Christmas sales we posted were clothing related. We saw heavily-discounted items from Gap (including Piperlimeand Banana Republic), 6pm, Express, Macy’s, and New York & Co. These sales were not only the best discounts of the year, but many also included stackable coupons that further reduced pricing.

Banana Republic, for instance, took an extra 50% off apparel that was already discounted by up to 50% off. (That was the best percent-off discount we had seen from the retailer all year.) Likewise,Nike took an extra 25% off clearance items that were already marked down by up to 60% and The Children’s Place slashed an extra 30% off children’s clothes that were already marked down by up to 71%. For big percent-off discounts and stackable coupons, few holidays sales, if any, come close to the kind of deals you’ll see after Christmas.

If you prefer luxury retailers or designer-brand clothes, these too will be on sale post-Christmas.Tory Burch, Brooks Brothers, Cole Haan, Saks, Calvin Klein, and Betsey Johnson were just a few of the luxury brands we saw on sale last December. Unlike mainstream retailers like Gap and 6pm, designer brands traditionally don’t offer stackable coupons. Instead these sales generally consisted of a respectable sitewide discount bundled with free shipping. For instance, Betsey Johnson offered 30% off sitewide, whereas Calvin Klein slashed 25% off sitewide. Meanwhile, Saks took 70% off select designer brands, and Brooks Brothers offered an extra 15% off items that were already discounted by 50% off, the latter being one of the few luxury retailers to offer a stackable discount.

November’s Best Gadget Deals May Resurface

After apparel, consumer electronics see the most discounts post-Christmas, accounting for 12% of all after-Christmas sales. However, these sales are more modest and generally don’t top any of November’s best sales. Nevertheless, 2014 might be different. Last month’s gadget sales were so unprecedented, that there’s a chance we may see a second showing of November’s best deals. For example, the first week of December saw many great HDTV and laptop prices, with a small handful of deals that were cheaper than Black Friday. So if there were any gadgets you missed buying in November, you’ll want to keep a close eye on December sales. Otherwise, some of last year’s best after-Christmas tech deals included 20% off select items at Staples and $25 off orders of $100 or more at TigerDirect.

It’s also worth nothing that the Consumer Electronics Show occurs the second week in January. That’s when tech manufacturers unveil their 2015 lineup, which in turn means retailers will be clearing their shelves of 2014 models in January and February to make way for 2015’s newest gadgets. So there’s a chance you’ll see better gadget prices then.

New Year, New Look

Surprisingly, many beauty products also go on sale post-Christmas. Bath & Body Works takes 20% off items already discounted by 75%, whereas Sephora takes an extra 20% off clearance items marked 40% off. For both merchants, these sales were their best sales of 2013. Likewise, Crabtree & Evelyn saves its best sale of the year for after Christmas taking up to 50% off several of its items.

Lastly, you can expect to see a small number of sales on intimates. Maidenform, Victoria’s Secret, and Fresh Pair traditionally take between 25% to 70% off clearance items.

Just because the holiday rush has ended doesn’t mean the sales have too. The post-Christmas season is proving to be just as good a time for deal hunting as November and early December. Just remember that clothing will deliver the biggest discounts, whereas tech will see more modest sales.


The Weekly Glean: Starbucks Ups Its Game

starbucksSource: ~ Author: Dan Nosowitz

So here’s what’s happening. Starbucks, a pioneering coffee roaster and retailer, has remained wildly popular among all but a small community of vocal coffee snobs.

These snobs have followed the trends of coffee as it moves from the ultra-dark, bitter roasts, often heavily flavored and blended, of the ‘90s, which Starbucks pioneered, into what they would not want me to call the Third Wave of coffee, which favors thinner, lighter, unflavored coffee sourced from a single location. Last week, the company made a play for the holdouts, announcing it will be opening up a shop in Seattle called the Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room, which will focus on rare beans grown in the “remote highlands in Africa, Latin America and Asia” and can sell for up to $45 per pound.

Starbucks will be taking the Third Wave coffee trends to an extreme; they’ll have the highest of high-end equipment, but more to our interests, they’ll be taking the “single origin” idea even farther. Their beans will regularly come from what are called “microlots” — tiny farms, often independently run, that will provide coffee not to be mixed with any other bean. The theory goes that you can more precisely taste the beans’ terroir when all the coffee comes from one small place. That also often leads to more money for the farmers, which can theoretically provide more ethical worker conditions. That’s good, at least.

The Awl’s Matt Buchanan, a dear friend and the most irritating coffee snob I know, calls Starbucks Reserve “something out of a Stumptown fiend’s wettest dreams.” But really, the Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room, which I will only ever refer to by its full and legal name, is only the latest in a long line of attempts by Starbucks to find more customers when it sort of seems like they’ve gotten them all. See, for example, the Stealth Starbucks, which are Starbucks stores that are disguised to make them seem as if they were independent local shops. Starbucks has said that these are merely spaces for experimentation, but the truth is that Starbucks is approaching market saturation, so they have to go after the coffee drinkers who refuse to go to Starbucks, and damn the fact that Starbucks has to be the un-Starbucks in order to snag them.

Google grows with $1.6 billion in Silicon Valley property deals

Source: ~ Hui-yong Yu and Brian Womack

google logoGoogle is accelerating a real estate deal spree, spending $585 million to buy more than half of a Silicon Valley office park and agreeing to lease an entire campus in development to make space for its growing workforce.

The owner of the world’s largest search engine bought six office buildings at Pacific Shores Center in Redwood City rom Starwood Capital Group and Blackstone Group. It also plans to occupy all of Moffett Place, a six-tower development on 55 acres in Sunnyvale, according to Meghan Casserly, a Google spokeswoman.

Google, based in Mountain View, has spent billions on property leases and purchases as it expands hiring and makes acquisitions. The company said in its quarterly report filed Thursday that it signed office leases for a total commitment of about $1 billion through 2028 and bought land and buildings for $585 million, without disclosing details.

“I just can’t point to another major technology company that’s taken down so much real estate in a relatively short period of time,” said Mark Kuiper, senior vice president with Colliers International in San Jose. “Google is a huge employer and they’re putting their stake in the ground and saying Silicon Valley is our home base.

The company had 55,030 full-time employees as of Sept. 30, up almost 19 percent from a year earlier, the filing shows.

Outside of Silicon Valley, Google’s major real estate purchases include New York’s 111 Eighth Ave., a former industrial warehouse that takes up an entire block in the Chelsea neighborhood, which it acquired for $1.8 billion in 2010. In July, the company bought a San Francisco office building and agreed to lease space at a nearby tower.

Black Friday 2014: By the numbers

christmas shoppingSource: ~ Author: Kevin Tampone

Black Friday and the rest of the holiday shopping season is often the make or break period of the year for retailers.

Regardless of what you think of all the hype, stores really do rake in a lot of money around the holidays. Call it rampant consumerism fueled by corporate greed if you want to, but the spending is real.

The predictions and projections about how much money changes hands throughout the season, and on Thanksgiving weekend in particular, are often gaudy. And wrong occasionally, of course.

But that doesn’t make it any less fun to gawk. So here’s a look at Thanksgiving, Black Friday and holiday shopping, by the numbers.

4.1: The percentage increase in projected holiday sales for 2014. Sales rose 3.1 percent in 2013. The 10-year average is 2.9 percent

$616.9 billion: The total amount of sales expected during the holiday season of November and December.

8 – 11: The projected percentage increase in online holiday sales. Non-store holiday sales rose 8.6 percent last year.

$105 billion: The total amount of projected online holiday sales.

725,000 – 800,000: The total number of seasonal employees retailers will hire this year. Retailers hired 768,000 seasonal workers a year ago.

6: As in 6 a.m. As in the time Kmart stores will open on Thanksgiving morning.

42: As in Kmart stores will be open 42 hours straight from the time they open on Thanksgiving to the time they close at midnight on Black Friday.

140.1 million: The number of people who definitely will or might shop over Thanksgiving weekend.

95.5 million:
The number of people who will or may shop on Black Friday.

25.6 million:
The number of people who will or may shop on Thanksgiving.

44: The percentage of holiday shopping the average consumer will do online.

$718: The average amount consumers will spend on the holiday gifts in 2014.

61: The percentage of consumers planning to shop in a physical store on Thanksgiving or Black Friday.

45: The percentage of people who plan to shop on Thanksgiving Day.

49: The percentage of people who started or planned to start their holiday shopping in September.

If you are in the market to lease, buy or sell commercial property in Northern California, Realtors associated with Century 21 M&M Commercial is look forward to walking you through the process. Rest assured that Century 21 M&M Commercial Realtors will do their best to make sure that both sides are protected during the transaction.

Holiday Is (Almost) Here: 5 Shopping Trends Marketers Should Watch


shopping‘Tis the season … to shop. The holidays may still be a few months away, but consumers are already gearing up for the year’s biggest shopping season. They’re searching for deals and checking them twice across a variety of screens (mobile, increasingly). Given that the holiday shopping season kicks off earlier every year, we wanted to help get a game plan in the hands of marketers. Here we take a look at some seasonal highlights from last year and identify five key trends to make the year’s busiest retail season a successful—and joyful—one.

1. Mobile: the gift that keeps on giving

From research to purchase, holiday shoppers are increasingly turning to mobile. Looking at usage from last year, there’s little doubt that smartphones have become almost as addictive as eggnog.

  • During Q4 2013, mobile accounted for almost 35% of online traffic, up 40% YoY (IBM Digital Analytics Benchmarks, 2014).
  • December sales on smartphones and tablets were up threefold from 2011 to 19.1% (IBM ExperienceOne, 2014).
  • 52% of online smartphone shoppers used their phones throughout the shopping process during the 2013 holidays (Google and Ipsos MediaCT, 2014).
  • Post turkey, 40% of Black Friday’s online shopping was on mobile (Custora, 2014).

As seen in our piece on Back to School, the second-most popular shopping event of the year, mobile plays an essential role in the shopper’s journey. Given last year’s holiday numbers, we expect this trend to escalate—and not just for research and/or purchase but for the entire path. According to a Google/Nielsen study on the Mobile Path to Purchase:

  • On average, consumers spend 15+ hours researching on mobile sites and apps.
  • Mobile influences shoppers’ purchases across channels; 93% of those who research on mobile end up purchasing a product or service, and most of these purchases happen in a physical store.
  • But do they know where to go? Proximity matters to these mobile consumers. In fact, 71% of smartphone shoppers used a store locator to find a shop location.
  • There’s a sense of immediacy for these shoppers. Over half (55%) of the “I want it now” crowd who use mobile to research want to make a purchase within the hour (83% within a day).

2. So long Black Friday, hello Gray Friday

Last holiday season, shoppers seemed hungrier for a deal than they were for turkey. Black Friday transformed into Gray Friday; the big shopping day’s sales were diluted a bit as retailers began their promotions and deals early. And consumers responded (some even ditching their family dinners to shop). Consequently, we’re starting to see a shift away from “tentpole” events such as Black Friday. “Retailers stretched Black Friday deals and promotions across November—removing the focus from one big day of shopping,” reports Shopper Trak’s founder Bill Martin. A Google Consumer Survey conducted in July shows the following:

  • Some shoppers (29%) will start holiday shopping before Halloween.
  • Most will wait to begin buying gifts until the holiday shopping period: 19% will start shopping on Black Friday/Cyber Monday, and 48% will do so in early December.
  • Not only was consumer interest in Black Friday up 27% YoY from 2012, but queries relating to the topic also started about a week earlier (Google Data) (Chart 1).

Chart 1: Black Friday Query Demand

Source: Google Data, Indexed Search Query Volume, United States.

Black Friday remains the #1 in-store shopping day during the holiday season. The next best days, according to a 2013 MasterCard SpendingPulse report, are December 21 and 23. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the most popular days for online shopping, and Fridays and Saturdays are the top days overall for in-store holiday shopping.

3. The constantly connected, savvy shopper

O, come all ye faithful—and savvy—shoppers. This holiday season, shoppers are more informed than ever about their purchases. Long before the swipe of a credit card, they’ve been pondering and researching purchases for hours on many screens and during every hour of the day.

  • The time spent on digital has increased by more than two hours in the past three years—from 3 hours 11 minutes in 2010 to 5 hours 46 minutes in 2013 (eMarketer, 2014).
  • Since 2012, the time spent researching popular holiday shopping categories, such as toys and home appliances, has increased 9.9 to 12 hours and 13 to 15.8 hours, respectively (Google and Ipsos MediaCT, January 2014).
  • Before making a purchase in 2013, shoppers referenced 12 sources of information—up from just five in 2010 (Google and Inmar, 2013).

Many of these informed and educated holiday shoppers are brand agnostic. In other words, they’re open to influence, and that’s music to a brand’s ears. A study about 2013 post-holiday shopping by Google and Ipsos MediaCT shows that 57% don’t yet have a specific brand or product in mind. But capturing the attention of shoppers who hunt for holiday gifts across many different screens can be a challenge. Brands need to pinpoint the best platforms on which to share engaging content and promotions with consumers. YouTube is a stand out for shoppers: 64% referenced the video site as the most influential channel for making shopping decisions. Creators such as Bethany Mota are particularly persuasive; 85% of the views for brand-related content on YouTube stem from YouTube creators rather than directly from the brand.

4. In-store traffic is down, but the spirit of spending is up

In January, The Wall Street Journal reported that foot traffic to stores in November and December plunged from 38 billion in 2010 to 17 billion in 2013. But the fact that consumers may have made fewer visits to retailers, that doesn’t mean overall sales were down. In fact, retail sales for that same period increased from $681 to $783 billion. So, although fewer people shopped in-store, those who did bought more, adding value to each visit.

Increasingly, shoppers are relying on their smartphone while making that in-store visit. A 2013 Google study done in conjunction with the Google Shopper Marketing Agency Council and M/A/R/C Research tracked mobile’s impact on the in-store shopping experience. The research showed that 84% of smartphone shoppers use their device while shopping in a store, and one in three will use it to find the information they need rather than ask an employee (Chart 2).

Chart 2: In-Store Smartphone Usage

Source: Google/Google Shopper Marketing Agency Council/M/A/R/C, “Mobile In-Store Research,” April 2013.

5. Deck the halls with deals

We already know the holiday shopper is smart and keen on research. A good deal on price and shipping will have them reaching for their wallets.

  • An extremely high percentage (92%) of shoppers will check prices online for the best bargain (parago, 2014).
  • 91% of shoppers say a low price is an important to very important factor in the decision to buy (Google).
  • Free shipping was deemed the second-most important factor for shoppers when purchasing online (, Spring Planning Guide, 2014).
  • A comScore/UPS study reports that 83% of online shoppers are willing to wait additional days for delivery if they can get free shipping.

The holidays are closer than you think—especially for digitally savvy consumers. They’re already on the lookout for great deals, and that means you need to be where they are … now. This year’s holiday shopping season is geared to be a long one, bustling with well-informed shoppers who are as keen on a digital deal as they are for more traditional in-store shopping. This year, as you add ingredients to your seasonal marketing mix, be sure to take these five holiday trends into account:

  • Mobile engagement will be paramount to holiday success. Your products need to be easy to find and purchase across screens. Make sure consumers are always seeing the latest, context-relevant information.
  • The holiday season is long (very long, actually). Retail success is no longer confined to the sales for just one day, such as Black Friday. Ensure that your brand is top of mind for the consumer by being present throughout the research period and at the time of purchase.
  • Today’s shoppers are putting more hours into research, and that means brands have an opportunity to get in front of them and influence behavior. Be there when they are researching (think search and display ads) and remind them throughout the process with remarketing.
  • Foot traffic to stores may have declined, but the value of those in-store visits is on the rise, and many shoppers are turning to smartphones while shopping. Providing detailed information through mobile can help them figure out what to buy (and what else they may need).
  • Online shoppers are value conscious. They want the best deal and, whenever possible, free shipping. These two factors will significantly drive their purchases.

Silicon Valley commercial real estate boom driven by tech

Silicon Valley commercial real estate boom driven by techSource: Mercury News ~ Author: George Avalos, Oakland Tribune

About 6.2 million square feet — enough room for 31,000 workers — is under construction in Santa Clara County and Menlo Park, Jones Lang LaSalle estimated. Colliers International’s regional research manager, Jennifer Vaux, based on Colliers’ construction pipeline and broker estimates, puts the figure even higher: about 6.5 million square feet.

“It’s mainly access to talent,” said Tim Bajarin, principal analyst with Campbell-based Creative Strategies. “Silicon Valley has the richest pool of young tech talent in the world.”

A commercial real estate boom is underway in Santa Clara County and south San Mateo County, with developers constructing or renovating roughly 6 million square feet of office space — double the activity of a year ago.

Most of the new space won’t be empty long. More than one-third of the office and research space under development already has been gobbled up by tech firms eager to expand.

“We are starting to see some very tight office markets in Santa Clara County,” said Andy Poppink, managing director for the Silicon Valley office of commercial realty brokerage Jones Lang LaSalle.

Some 4.9 million square feet, or 79 percent, of the current building activity consists of new office space, Jones Lang LaSalle estimated. The rest, about 1.3 million square feet, involves a major renovation of existing buildings. The figures include a 500,000-square-foot complex in Mountain View leased this month to Google and the 434,000-square-foot Facebook West Campus in Menlo Park.

“Social networking, Internet and cloud technology companies are the primary drivers of the growth,” said Phil Mahoney, an executive vice president with realty firm Cornish & Carey.

Tenants have already agreed to lease 39 percent of the 5.7 million square feet, even before it’s complete, Jones Lang calculated.

Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, Amazon, Apple(AAPL), Samsung and Dell are in the pack of companies hunting for space, Mahoney said.

“We see a lot of optimism about growth on the part of the biggest tech companies and a lot of smaller ones,” said Chad Leiker, a vice president with Kidder Mathews, a realty firm.

The roughly 6 million square feet under construction or being refurbished in Santa Clara County and Menlo Park is more than twice the 2.65 million square feet that was being developed in the same area in the middle of last year. And in mid-2011, only about 500,000 square feet was under construction, according to Amber Schiada, director of Bay Area research for Jones Lang LaSalle.

Geographically, the commercial real estate boom has pushed from north to south. A slew of leases and property purchases by Apple, Facebook and Google have gobbled up available space in Cupertino, Mountain View and Menlo Park, causing a leasing surge in Sunnyvale, Santa Clara and, now, San Jose.

But not every Bay Area commercial real estate market is booming. The East Bay has virtually no developer-launched construction, Schiada said.

In addition to building new space, developers are spending tens of millions of dollars to renovate existing buildings, giving decades-old properties a fresh start. The face-lifts are necessary because tech firms want attractive offices to help them recruit top-flight engineers being wooed by multiple tech companies.

“Developers who don’t renovate their older buildings will be left standing on the curb,” said Jim Beeger, a Colliers senior vice president.

Some realty firms have torn down entire buildings to construct brand-new offices. In Sunnyvale, developers bulldozed several buildings, including offices and a hotel, to clear the way for a state-of-the-art LinkedIn campus totaling 587,000 square feet, typically enough for about 2,600 workers.

Other developers, including Bixby Land, are renovating existing buildings to create campuses. In April, Nimble Storage leased a three-building San Jose campus created by a $10 million Bixby renovation. And Bixby has just launched a renovation of a three-building project in north San Jose that will offer a sleek look for tech tenants. The developer added modern exteriors and interiors, along with a large common area featuring an olive grove and fire pits.

“We want to create a unique environment that most employers in Silicon Valley want,” said William Halford, Bixby’s president.

If you are in the market to lease, buy or sell commercial property in Northern California, Realtors associated with Century 21 M&M Commercial is look forward to walking you through the process. Rest assured that Century 21 M&M Commercial Realtors will do their best to make sure that both sides are protected during the transaction.

Small loans power SBA to big year for small business lending

The Card

Source: ~ Author: Kent Hoover

The Small Business Administration approved nearly $19.2 billion in 7(a) loans in fiscal 2014, the second-largest total in the history of this government-guaranteed loan program for small businesses.

This total was topped only by 2011’s $19.6 billion, when lending was boosted by fee waivers and higher guarantees adopted as part of the economic stimulus package.

(The SBA called 2014’s numbers a record in its news release, but we’ll have to forgive them for being overenthusiastic.)

But any way you slice it, 2014 was a great year for the SBA’s flagship loan program. In dollars, 7(a) lending was up 7.4 percent over 2013. In number of loans, 2014’s total of 52,044 was up 12 percent.

Nearly 60 percent of these loans were for under $150,000. The number of loans of this size were up 23 percent in 2014, helped by the agency’s decision to eliminate fees on them.

The news wasn’t so good for the SBA’s 504 loan program, which is primarily used to finance owner-occupied commercial real state. The SBA approved only $4.2 billion of these loans, the lowest total since 2009. These loans peaked in 2012, when a temporary program allowing businesses to use 504 loans to refinance their existing commercial real estate mortgages was in effect.

The agency’s fiscal year ended Sept. 30.

If you are in the market to lease, buy or sell commercial property in Northern California, Realtors associated with Century 21 M&M Commercial is look forward to walking you through the process. Rest assured that Century 21 M&M Commercial Realtors will do their best to make sure that both sides are protected during the transaction.

Haunted Shopping Haunts


halloween nightWant to meet a real-life ghost while you’re out shopping for your own ghoulish costume this Halloween? Well, you’ll want to check out this nifty list of haunted retail venues where you can get the scare of their lives (depending, of course, on how you feel about paranormal activity).

It turns out that, in some corners of America, you can get a fright in the malls, shops and stores you visit every day. In some cases, a shopping center was built over a reputed grave or even sacred ground. In another, a store was the site of a tragic end to grisly tale of love-gone-wrong. Whatever the lore, these retail venues have over time become unwitting hosts to ghosts and other haunted spirits who from time to time assert themselves to unsuspecting (but quickly believing) visitors.

Thanks to Susan Piperato of NREI, you can check out some stores, shopping malls and little shops across America where you’re likely to run into some spirits of the dead.

For instance, many visitors to Seattle expect to encounter flying fish when they head to Pike Place Market. But they probably don’t count on running into the ghost of an elderly woman, who’s frequently seen wandering the complex at night.


At the Santa Anita Mall in Arcadia, Calif., employees frequently discover a little boy, dressed like he was out of the 1930s, wandering among the stores and escalators.


Apparent tragedy hit this Kmart in South Los Angeles back when it was still a Zody’s store. As the story goes, a jilted boyfriend made a young couple meet a grisly end. Now, four spirits are said to roam the building.


As for this Walmart in Oxnard, Calif., workers at night are said to have run into a little girl in a blue dress and with two pigtail braids. It is believed she met a tragic end at the very location the store was built.


Not spooked enough? See the full list of “Haunted Retail Venues” from NREI. And then next time you’re out shopping, expect the unexpected!

If you are in the market to lease, buy or sell commercial property in  Northern California, Realtors associated with Century 21 M&M Commercial is look forward to walking you through the process. Rest assured that Century 21 M&M Commercial Realtors will do their best to make sure that both sides are protected during the transaction.

Is Your Business Eligible for a Government Grant?

Source: ~ Author: Michelle Goodman

computer & womenNonprofits aren’t the only businesses eligible for government grants. Since 2010, for-profit company Canopy Apps has received $2 million in National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants to develop translation technology for medical professionals working with patients who don’t speak English.

Jerrit Tan, CEO of New York City-based Canopy, believes more entrepreneurs should take advantage of the billions of dollars in business grants offered by government agencies, which can buy a startup valuable R&D time and boost credibility.

“You’re literally turning stacks of paper into money for your business,” Tan says, referring to grant applications. “And the government usually does not take equity.”

Of course, nabbing local, state and federal grants involves more than cutting and pasting your business plan into an application. Here’s what you should consider.

Aim high. A revolutionary idea is essential, says Tan, whose translation app targets the language barriers that plague 15 percent of U.S. patients. “Incremental ideas usually don’t win,” he says. “It’s almost like the crazier, the better–within reason. This is the government, after all.”

It’s essential to be able to quantify the effect your product will have on the market, says Amy Baxter, an Atlanta pediatric emergency doctor who in 2009 scored $1.1 million in NIH funding for Buzzy, a pain-blocking device used for administering injections to children. “Make it clear how big the impact of the problem you want to solve is,” she says, “and how inadequate the previous solutions are. Even better is to have a way to measure how well your solution is working.”

Put in the time. For large federal grants, expect to spend several months preparing an application.

“It’s not a fast process,” says Michael Patterson, CEO of Graphene Frontiers in Philadelphia, an advanced materials and nanotechnology company that has won 10 grants from local, state and federal agencies totaling nearly $1.3 million. Payments can be slow to arrive, too. To tide you over, he says, “you have to have funding from other sources or be able to get other funding quickly, whether that’s revenue or equity investments or something else.”

Find the right opportunities. “There are grants out there that can be more trouble than they’re worth,” Patterson warns. Some have big payouts but overly restrictive stipulations on how the money can be used. Others, meanwhile, seem almost too good to be true, such as the $930,000 Graphene has received from the National Science Foundation, including a match on outside investments of 50 cents on the dollar.

But don’t discount smaller grants. Many have less stringent application requirements and spending restrictions. A $2,000 grant Graphene received from a Pennsylvania economic-development program was designed to support larger grant-writing opportunities. Graphene used the money to bankroll proposal efforts for a hefty Department of Defense grant.

Get external feedback. When pursuing a grant, Canopy runs its application by “as many smart people as we can find,” Tan says. The more removed from the business reviewers are, the more likely they’ll be to find the hidden flaws in the proposal.

Outsiders may also come up with new commercialization ideas. In Canopy’s case, that meant selling the translation app to the legal, construction, travel and education sectors, industries the NIH has no vested interest in. As Tan points out, even with a grant, “it’s still up to you to find other ways to commercialize your product.”

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