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Posts from — March 2010

Boutique is Beatiful

The China Law Blog recently highlighted an article about boutique law firms and why they have been doing well during this recession:

  1. Better expertise in the areas they serve (international law in the case of China Law Blog’s firm, Harris & Moure)
  2. Better customer service
  3. Better pricing (for example, Harris & Moure will do many jobs for a fixed fee).

I feel the same way about many of the smaller automation suppliers; I feel the products are better, the service is better, and the pricing is better than  I get from the automation giants.  OK, they aren’t covered as well by the press (or many bloggers), but that’s never concerned me.  The ones that have been around a while (such as Galil) are going to be in business just as long as the biggies, with a lot fewer strategy changes.

And, when these firms get bought out by big companies, they do seem to get at least just a little bit worse (and sometimes much worse — I can think of a couple cases where I’d find it difficult to buy from them again).

In summary, I do often feel that small is beautiful.

March 31, 2010   No Comments

Despite all the stores, sometimes shopping is hard

Silicon Valley is filled with stores; I’d say retail is still overbuilt, despite some store closings.  But recently, I had a lot of trouble finding some definitely non-exotic items.

First, I went looking for a 4″ Crescent wrench.  I looked at four stores, including Lowe’s and Orchard; the results weren’t pretty.

I bought a 4″ Craftsman wrench at Orchard about a decade ago, but now Orchard has nothing.  At least Orchard has some good hand tools, such as Bondhus hex wrenches.

I wasn’t impressed with Lowe’s hand tools; about half seemed to be private labeled made in China specials.  They didn’t have any 4″ Crescent wrenches.

Fry’s actually has some nice hand tools, although their selection was better a few years ago.  For example, I bought some really sweet Wiha screwdrivers there, but they don’t sell those now.  And they don’t sell 4″ wrenches.

I finally went to the local Ace hardware store, and found a sweet little 4″ Crescent wrench (made by Crescent).  It wasn’t cheap, but the quality is excellent, and I expect it to last a decade or two.

The second item I wanted was a pen (Sakura Jelly Roll) someone gave us; I really like the way it writes.  So I looked at the Office Depot, Staples, and Target, didn’t find it, gave up, and then found the Sakura web site.  Apparently, their pens are only sold by specialist stores (e.g. art and technical drawing stores).  Sometime I’ll make a trip to one of those stores; they have some really cool sounding products, including pigment ink pens and embossing pens.

March 30, 2010   2 Comments