Sunday, April 25, 2010

Spring in my step

There's something about Spring in New England that makes me turn my attention from the inside of my house to the outside. A long, snowy Winter always makes the coming of Spring feel like an epic change that affects my mood and lifestyle. When the air stays consistently above freezing and my garden starts showing signs of life, I know that the warm days of Red Sox games and Samuel Adams Summer Ale aren't far behind. This transition has happened in just the last couple of weeks. This was my first weekend of being certifiably garden obsessed.

Last Fall we broke the bank and had an irrigation system installed in our yard. We are the proud new owners of a 22 zone system that allows us to dial in the watering for each garden bed and lawn zone. This is big stuff for New England gardeners for whom precipitation is reliable year round EXCEPT for a few days in the heat of Summer when grass, shrubs and perennials suffer. Yesterday I planted nine new shrubs and then promptly turned the system on to do the "watering in" for me. So far we've been extremely happy with the installation and system support from Autowater Irrigation Company in Lexington, MA.

We have mature trees around our property and so I deal with a lot of shade. Most of the plants I buy have to tolerate part shade. Yesterday I planted 3 groupings of 3 types of new shrubs each with their own benefits. In the front bed went Ilex meserveae, one 'Blue Prince' and two 'Blue Princess.' By planting male and female varieties, I hope to have some nice red berries and greenery to cut next December. Also newly planted are 3 Pieris japonica 'Mountain Fire.' Our house is white with red doors and black shutters so the new growth on these shrubs should add to our curb appeal. Last, I planted 3 Deutzia 'Chardonnay Pearls' in the backyard for their brilliant foliage and delicate white flowers. (The wine inspired name didn't hurt either.)

This is the time of year for planting so if I can find another few minutes of freedom, you can bet there will be more to come. What's new in your garden?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Why is the California Pizza Kitchen in Wellesley Struggling?

5:45pm on a Tuesday night in Wellesley.  I'm looking for a family-friendly restaurant- what are my options?  Bertuccci's, Qdoba, and California Pizza Kitchen come to mind.  Tucci's it is.  We arrive at Bertucci's at a quarter 'til 6 and the place is mobbed, which can be a good thing depending on how you look at it.  Sometimes it's like a elementary school cafeteria in there and your little ones can fling a fork across the room and nobody will notice.  But tonight, we were deep into the fuss-zone before our estimated 5-10 minute wait was up.  My youngest made a break for the door and I took it as my sign that our dining at Bertucci's wasn't meant to be.

While we were driving over to California Pizza Kitchen I was wondering: Why was Bertucci's so crowded?  Especially on a Tuesday night?  Based on visiting the CPK previously on Friday nights I had a feeling they wouldn't have a wait on a Tuesday night.  Sure enough the place was nearly empty.  I'd estimate it was only about 20% full.

To understand why the California Pizza Kitchen in Wellesley is struggling, we need to understand the Wellesley consumer.  This is no easy task.  People in Wellesley spend money on the following things:
  1. Education
  2. Real Estate
That's it really, and the real estate costs are in large part driven by positioning the family close to educational opportunities (public schools in town and colleges and universities nearby).  I'm exaggerating of course but I hope you catch my drift.  People don't spend their money on trendy frivolous things.

This is part of why the Natick Collection is a ghost town.  Add to this the fact that a lot of people in the Boston area dislike chain restaurants and things don't look good for the CPK in Wellesley.

Okay, so why is it that the California Pizza Kitchen struggling while Bertucci's is apparently doing well?  They're both chains.  Both are competing with almost a dozen other pizza places within striking distance.  Bertucci's happens to be headquartered in Massachusetts but I don't necessarily think of them as a Boston kind of company.  Is the menu at CPK too unusual?  Is it perceived as being too pricey?  Is it actually too pricey?  Is the ambiance off the mark for what people are looking for?  Not family friendly enough?  Do people not like the individual-sized pizza model?  Is the food not good?  Do people just not like it?  Yelp reviews are lackluster and inconsistent.

I honestly don't get it.  We had a great meal tonight and every time we've been there so far.  But I'm afraid it's not going to be around much longer.  The location seems a bit unusual as compared to their other locations (which tend to be attached to higher traffic areas like malls or urban locations).  The build-out always seemed half-hearted to me as well.  Like they could be out of there with short notice if necessary.  I hope they stick around but wouldn't be surprised if they don't make it.

What do you think?  Is the CPK in Wellesley going to make it?  Why doesn't Wellesley eat at the California Pizza Kitchen very often?
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