Archive for the Literature Category

The Shaping of Southwest Style

Posted in General, Literature, Santa Fe Non-Profits, Who's Who with tags , , on April 4, 2011 by Jenny Kimball

Arnold Berke, Jenny Kimball, Stephen Fried, Fran Levine

Our Mary Jane Colter weekend in partnership with the New Mexico History Museum was a high-energy event, we had more people than I expected—a perfect example of how history can be brought to life and made relevant to us today. A sold-out crowd of 150 history and culture buffs celebrated the legacy of La Fonda’s feisty architect and designer in a truly interactive weekend of talks, presentations, and socializing. The youngest participant was a 13-year-old “Fred head” who will be giving me a tour at the former Montezuma Hotel in Las Vegas tomorrow! Biographer Arnold Berke, historian Stephen Fried, and architect Barbara Felix, kept us intrigued and amused with the kind of insights that emerge when you do historical research. Barbara even made us metaphorically lift our carpets in the guest rooms to reveal Colter’s original painted concrete floor underneath, awaiting restoration.

Barbara Felix

One theme that emerged over the weekend is the renewed emphasis nowadays on historical preservation, rather than just knocking down the old. Colter herself shows why: Her then-unique taste in local materials, artisanal products, and what we would call ethnic design and recycling suggest how deeply rooted these aesthetic values are, and how we respond to them in buildings like La Fonda without knowing exactly why—or didn’t know, until this weekend.

 

Jenny Kimball, Daggett Harvey

I was especially pleased to see a large number of Harvey family members come and share their insights. Daggett Harvey closed the weekend with an affectionate portrait of a woman who was assertive before her time: Mary Jane Colter was decisive, visionary, and intimidating at a time when women were not even allowed to vote! I think he spoke for all of us in saying that he had a new appreciation of what she did for the Fred Harvey Company—and for its legacy at La Fonda and throughout the Southwest.

 

“Appetite” for a Good Read?

Posted in General, Literature, Who's Who with tags , , , on September 14, 2010 by Jenny Kimball

It is odd to read a book about the very business you run.

But Stephen Fried wrote Appetite for America – How Visionary Businessman Fred Harvey Built a Railroad Hospitality Empire That Civilized the Wild West.

I spent time with the charming Stephen Fried in Santa Fe a year or so ago before this book was published and then again recently when he came to La Fonda for a lecture and book-signing.  I recently had a chance to finish it and what a page-turner it was.  Fried draws on the Harvey history but puts it in the context of events.  It is an excellent overview of American history of that era (late 1800s through the mid 1900s) with an intriguing focus on branding and marketing, which Fred Harvey practiced before the concepts were even conceived.  While reading, I highlighted several statements Harvey made.  Over a century old, they still apply today in terms of providing top-notch service in the hospitality industry.  I share a few of the Harvey gems with our senior staff at our weekly meetings.

For instance, Fred Harvey’s list of “Fundamentals” is still inspiring.  We, at La Fonda, presently aspire to:

  1. Have a sincere interest in people.
  2. Like all your daily contacts with guests.
  3. Radiate cheer and make guest feel at ease and at home.
  4. Remember “Travel follows good food routes”.
  5. Keep well-informed and updated on the condition, origin, and season of different supplies, and the serving of same (a forerunner of the locavore mantra?)
  6. Be human and be yourself.
  7. Courtesy and a smile pay dividends.
  8. Real service is without discrimination.
  9. Preserve or create – Never destroy (precursor of the recycle/environmental movement?)
  10. Tact is an asset and honesty is still a virtue.

This book is available for purchase at La Fonda’s gift shop.  Call 505-988-1404. I highly recommend it.   It is very entertaining and I learned a lot while reading it.

It is a Very Small World Sometimes

Posted in General, Literature, Who's Who with tags , , , on September 1, 2010 by Jenny Kimball

It’s not often that I read a business book that I can’t put down, but Chip Conley’s book, Peak – How Great Companies get their Mojo from Maslow, is one of them.  Perhaps it is because, like me, he is a hotelier, and so his examples resonate with me.  Perhaps it’s because he references two new friends of mine as an example of connecting customers to a greater cause. Helaine Beckerman, Executive Vice President and General Merchandising Manager for Macy’s in New York City and Santa Fean Willa Shalit, Fairwinds Trading Company’s CEO, partnered to support Rwandan women artisans.   I met both these women at Santa Fe’s most recent Indian Market.   One more coincidence that might have contributed to my intense interest in this book was a quote on the back cover by another Santa Fe friend, Alan M. Webber, co-founding editor of Fast Company.

All these coincidences aside, the book is genuinely a good read for anyone wanting to gain peak performance for their company, while balancing the needs of employees, customers and shareholders.  Conley accurately describes his book as being about “the miracle of human potential:   employees living up to their full potential in the workplace, customers feeling the potential bliss associated with having their unrecognized needs met and investors feeling fulfilled by seeing the potential of their capital leveraged”.   I highly recommend Peak – How Great Companies get their Mojo from Maslow.

Eat Local. Eat Healthy.

Posted in General, Literature with tags , , , on July 22, 2010 by Jenny Kimball

There is a plethora of books out there about healthy eating and I am trying to square their advice and guidance with becoming more of a ‘locavore’.   My favorite books on the subject have been Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food and Food Rules, all by Michael Pollan.   I highly recommend all of these books as they are very practical and easy reads.

I also read The Conscious Kitchen, by Alexandra Zissu, which is helpful in making decisions about what’s good for personal health, what’s good for the planet, and what tastes great.  I also read the China Study, by Dr. T. Colin Campbell, who sums it up as: “People who ate the most animal-based foods got the most chronic disease … People who ate the most plant-based foods were the healthiest and tended to avoid chronic disease. These results could not be ignored.”   This goes against the grain (pun intended) of how many of us were raised with milk and beef as being the be-all and end-all in our diets.

But wait!   There’s more! Edible, by Tracey Ryder and Carole Topalian, contains essays about local farmers as well as recipes for locally grown food. Anna Getty’s Easy Green Organic is a broader book in that it defines labels, recycling and compost tips as well as providing many yummy recipes for locally grown food.  Lucid Food, by Louisa Shafia contains eco-kitchen basics and recipes that are convenient, affordable and healthy

If you only have time to read one of these books, I recommend In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan.  I think it is the best book on the subject. Among his many rules of thumb, are:

  • If your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize it as food, don’t eat it!
  • Avoid food products containing ingredients that are unfamiliar, are unpronounceable, total more than 5, or that include high-fructose corn syrup.
  • Get out of the supermarket whenever possible. Go to a farmer’s market; buy fresh whole foods picked at their peak of their taste and nutritional quality, join in community supported agriculture by subscribing to the farm of your choice.
  • Eat meals. Among 18-50 year old Americans, roughly 20% of all eating now takes place in the car.

Jenny’s Business Book Club Reviews

Posted in General, Literature with tags , , , on April 2, 2010 by Jenny Kimball

I have been reading numerous books to increase my knowledge about how to run an environmentally conscious, service-orientated, financially successful, charitable committed, social media savvy, fun to work for, community-promoting hotel located in an historic building on the oldest hotel site in the country, and employing some of the longest tenured staff in the industry. While writing this, I immediately see not only what a challenge this is, but ask myself, is it even possible? Most of our key staff shudder when I mention another book I am excited about; they know what this really means is not only more work for them, but more effort at gracefully talking me out of whatever new, possibly crazed, idea I want to discuss.

I started my “homework” by re-reading Good to Great by Jim Collins. It was the industry’s required reading when it was published in the late ’80s, and it is still a very viable tool in helping to analyze whether or not you have the right people “on you bus” — and if they are in the right seats on your bus. Although many of the companies Collins holds up as models are no longer in business, or are no longer ones to emulate, the book still provides solid advice to help determine if people are happy in what they are doing, if they are effective, and even if they are in the right job.

Another book  I recommend to anyone in a service business is Setting the Table by Danny Meyer. Though he runs many successful restaurants in New York most of his concepts and creative suggestions are easily applied to any type of hospitality business. Our restaurant staff read this book and found helpful hints throughout. Meyer often uses humor to solve some of the thorniest service problems, and couldn’t we all use a lesson in using humor instead of anger when it comes to dealing with conflict.

After reading Groundswell, by Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li, part of the Forrester Research team, I decided to start this blog. Groundswell delves into the various aspects of social media and helped me understand some of its basic concepts and terminology. It also made me realize that La Fonda had been — and would be — defined in the market by others instead of ourselves if we were not proactive in this area. So, I decided that we needed to be more socially media savvy, and I am taking the time to write this blog. It is a small start and another step in La Fonda’s entry into this vast social media world. I would recommend this book to anyone like me who did not grow up with a computer in my grade school classroom and who has, to date, refused to personally participate in Facebook or Twitter. It certainly brings to light the pitfalls a company can face (not to mention lost opportunities) by not understanding or participating in today’s new social media “groundswell”.

I read Change by Design by Tim Brown this week. After reading this book, I searched the internet and found that the author participated in one of the Ted Talks, so if you are not a quick reader or learn better by listening to a lecture, then save yourself some time and click here to hear his 16-minute synopsis of design thinking. This book is less targeted at service-orientated companies such as La Fonda, and more at those that design and make things. Nonetheless, there are still many pearls of wisdom about applying the art of innovation to a customer-driven organization, as well as using design thinking principles to tackle pressing world issues instead of just redesigning fashion and gadgets.

I also suggest anything written by Malcolm Gladwell, including Blink, The Tipping Point and Outliers. Each of these books will make you think or see something in a different light. Gladwell has an amazing ability to simplify very complicated subjects, making them easy to understand.

The Snowball: Warren Buffet and the Business of Life by Alice Schroeder is a surprisingly interesting page turner that tells the unlikely story of the Oracle from Omaha. This story continues to unfold since Buffett has not rested on his money-making laurels but continues to put it all on the line again with his recent investment in Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp.

Next on my reading list is Too Big to Fail by Andrew Roos Sorkin, as well as The Big Short, by Michael Lewis. More reviews to come…

Lannan at the Lensic

Posted in General, Literature, Santa Fe Non-Profits, Who's Who with tags , , , on March 25, 2010 by Jenny Kimball

One of the many unique and special things about living in Santa Fe is being able to take advantage of the Readings and Conversations Program sponsored by the Lannan Foundation. These lectures occur throughout the year and are held in our venerable and gorgeously renovated historic theater, the Lensic.

Santa Feans are fortunate that Patrick Lannan moved his Foundation here in 1997. This Foundation has supported many writers, artists and activists and brought many of them to Santa Fe so we could hear their stories in their own voices. Where else can you, for $6 a ticket, listen to such world-class writers and heroes like Breyten Breytenbach, Sebastiao Salgado, Junot Diaz, and Isabelle Allende, just to name a few?

These conversations are always sold out and last night’s was no exception. Arundhati Roy, Lannan’s 2002 Cultural Freedom Prize Winner, was the speaker.  Though I read Man Booker Prize winning novel, The God of Small Things several years ago—and thoroughly enjoyed it—I had no idea what an eye-opening conversation last evening would hold. She read from her new book, Listening to Grasshoppers: Field Notes on Democracy, and spoke about her two and a half week trek deep into the forests of Central India with the armed Maoist rebels to report on the Maoist insurgency. She explained that India’s police are fighting a war against what the government is calling their country’s “gravest internal security threat”. Roy describes the complexity of the situation in that “the tribal people, the forests, the minerals and the Maoists are all stacked on top of each other”.

The article she has just published describing this outing can be found at http://www.outlookindia.com/.  Whether or not you agree with the political positions Roy has taken, after listening to her talk about India and its challenges, it certainly makes one appreciate living in America.