Archive for the ‘Stories’ Category

h1

Live from Las Vegas: Day 1

June 3, 2010

The Ben Bridge buying team explores the latest offerings at the Couture Show in Las Vegas, June 3, 2010.

h1

Omaha Round Up (with video!)

May 3, 2010

It was a fun weekend in Omaha!

The Oracle was in typically fine form–answering questions all day about topics ranging from Goldman Sachs (he was supportive), derivatives (they continue to be dangerous when parties don’t understand them), and the long term prospects for the US (bullish). Even the usually taciturn Charlie Munger piped in with a few gems and added to the levity of the day. At one point a questioner asked about how to cope with potentially high interest rates in the future. Munger, 86, responded, “If I can be optimistic when I’m nearly dead, you all can handle inflation.”

Before the meeting began, there was a very amusing movie featuring Warren and Charlie and a few friends. This year’s movie included ABC’s Desperate Housewives plotting to land a billionaire and ending up with Charlie. Another segment had Warren pitching for the Boston Red Sox and striking out Alex Rodriguez to win the AL pennant. The movie included a preview of a new animated series called “The Secret Millionaires Club,” where Warren teaches kids about financial literacy.

There was also a cool video showing the history of Berkshire’s latest acquisition, Burlington Northern Santa Fe. BNSF dates back to 1849 and the railroad “Empire Builder” James J. Hill. BNSF has played an integral part in the growth of the United States and it is exciting to have the railroad as part of the Berkshire family.

Another highlight of the event is the chance to visit many Berkshire companies in the convention hall adjacent to the arena where the meeting takes place. Companies ranging from See’s Candy to Justin Boots, Dairy Queen, GEICO, and Fruit of the Loom hawk their wares to shareholders. Watch the video for more on that.

Because of the growth of the meeting, to get good seats we had to be in line at 5:45am! As unpleasant as it sounds to stand outside in the cold Omaha morning, waiting to get in only adds to the festival atmosphere of the meeting. It is so much fun to meet shareholders from all over the world and swap stories about meetings past, the boss, and speculate as to what Warren’s take will be on a great many issues.

It is truly a unique weekend–unlike anything else I have ever been to and likely unmatched by anything in the world. It is a fitting tribute to one of the world’s most admired and distinctive companies.

I look forward to next year’s meeting and encourage you to make plans to get to Omaha at least once for a spectacle unlike any other.

-Marc

From the floor at BRKFest 2010!

h1

Off to see the Oracle: Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting 2010

April 29, 2010

Warren Buffett and Marc Bridge, Ben Bridge Headquarters, May 2009

For the past ten years, Ben Bridge has been a proud member of the Berkshire Hathaway family of companies. Every year a number of us from the company join the thousands of pilgrims who make the trek to Omaha, Nebraska for the annual meeting that has been called “Woodstock for Capitalists”. This year is no exception.

Marc will be blogging from Omaha this weekend, and if he is really nice to her, our favorite travel blogger Lisa might contribute a word or two!

Last year more than 35,000 shareholders filled Omaha’s Qwest Center (and a number of nearby overflow rooms) to listen to 6 hours of questions and answers with Berkshire Chairman Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger. With the purchase of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, the stock split, and the company’s addition to the S&P 500 Index, thousands of new shareholders will be flocking to the Cornhusker State to learn from the masters.

“The Warren and Charlie Show”, as it is affectionately known, regularly covers topics as far reaching as the relative performance of the US economy, the impact of derivatives and government regulation, the rise of China, what small children should do with their lives, and every once in a while touches on the performance of Berkshire businesses in between bites of See’s Peanut Brittle and Cherry Coke. (Berkshire owns See’s Candy and is the largest shareholder in Coca-Cola).

In addition to the meeting itself, the weekend has sprawled into a celebration of business, investing, old-fashioned American values, and Omaha steaks. It is as much a carnival as a business meeting and the perfect embodiment of the Chairman’s worldview.

It is always an enjoyable, educational, and fun weekend. I hope you will check back periodically for updates from BRKfest 2010!

-Marc

h1

Lisa in Asia: Day 5

March 10, 2010

Well, it’s our last full day here in Hong Kong.  We have a number of appointments but also want to take a bit of time to walk through the show and look for potential new vendors.  The show is absolutely enormous filling level after level of the convention center.  It’s hard to even see one whole floor let alone the five that exist!

Our team at the end of the day

This trip, we have found some great new engagement rings and bridal sets.  One ring in particular grabbed Peter and I from inside a display.  It is just perfect, and got an ‘ooh’ from Laurie when we showed it to her.  It is an emerald cut diamond with small diamonds around it, and an intertwined band.  I particularly liked the motion of the band, it had dimension and visual interest.  It’s a size that will make it very affordable, but is also just beautiful, any woman would be happy to wear it.  I can’t wait for it to come in and have customers fall in love with it like we did!

It was exciting to see different jewelry than I’m used to seeing.  This show is so international, that we saw a different variety of styles and gemstones highlighted.  I fell in love with Jade. lavender Jade in particular.  Jade isn’t something often seen in traditional U.S. jewelry stores, but is extremely popular in Asia.  It can be extremely valuable, with the best pieces being worth more than diamonds.  I know very little about the stone, so I simply enjoyed looking at the windows of beaded, carved, and ornamental Jade.

When we were in Italy, Laura mentioned that there weren’t many people in my age group at the show.  We talked about the future of our industry and how important it is to have the next generation coming up through the ranks.  In Hong Kong, it was totally different, there were lots of members of that next generation.  At many of our appointments we talked with not only the owners of the company, but their forward thinking children as well.  I think that the mix of experience and enthusiasm is essential to the future growth of the industry.

It has been a great trip.  We have found some new, different merchandise, and I can’t wait for our stores to see it!

That’s all for this trip.

Good Night!

Lisa

h1

Lisa in Asia: Day 4

March 6, 2010

Today we saw some beautiful jewelry!

We started the morning with a company we have worked with since their inception.  In fact, we found out that we were their second customer when they founded the company in 1992.  Ben Bridge was second only because we had an afternoon appointment and they met with someone else that morning.  They really understand who we are and know how to create merchandise for us.

After lunch, Laura and I went to an appointment that was focused entirely on colored gemstones.  The vendor is extremely knowledgeable about different gems, and he had stones that were reasonable for us to buy, as well as fabulous specimens.  I have always loved colored gems, and that love only increased after getting my G.G. (Graduate Gemologist degree).

Laura sorts through gemstones

My favorite part of the meeting was getting to see unusual gems.  I held an enormous hunk of Rhodonite that was about the size of my hands.  We also saw a pile of the most fabulous, enormous, rough Morganite.  The peachy-pink color was quite intense!  I’m not sure I’d know what to do with those large stones, but they were very impressive.  I saw Brazilian Green Opal for the first time.  The stones were cut in to cabochons (smooth tops) and had a mysterious luminescence to them.  It is unbelievable what is able to come out of the ground!  At this appointment we were mostly looking for special collections for our Festival of Gems.  It is a show that will travel from store to store this summer.

Tumbled Morganite and other beautiful gems

This afternoon we saw some new concepts.  There was a new idea for men’s jewelry that was interesting, but ultimately decided it was targeting a younger customer than a BB customer.  We also saw a collection of adorable tiny charms.  There was everything from a Chanel bag to a colorful ice cream cone.

We had a very brief moment to walk the show at the end of the day, but tomorrow we have set aside time to do so.  We want to make sure we have the opportunity to really see what else is out there.

Good Night!

Lisa

h1

Lisa in Asia: Day 3

March 5, 2010

Today was the first day of the actual show.  We visited a few booths and were able to see each company’s entire line.  It is important that the buyers travel to these shows not only to find new vendors, but also because when our existing companies come to the U.S., they only bring a fraction of their line.  While they would edit the collection to fit the audience, it’s helpful to see all of the options to be able to really see what the company has to offer.  We ended up staying in one booth for three and a half hours with tray after tray after tray of merchandise.  I’ve never seen so much jewelry in one place before!

One of my favorite things looking through trays of jewelry is finding pieces that we purchased in the past.  I love looking at a tray and finding something familiar, it’s like seeing an old friend.  One of the companies we met with today has made lots of our little creatures, like the pearl swan we had in our Holiday Catalogue this year.  What creativity the designer has to create adorable bugs, animals, and sea forms out of gemstones!

At night we went out with some longtime business associates/friends and had a “Girl’s Night” (Peter had a quiet night to himself).  We went up to Victoria Peak, which has a beautiful lookout over all of Hong Kong.  It was simply spectacular.  Since we’ve been in Hong Kong, the peak has always been shrouded in clouds, but today it was just light enough to see through them.  The view itself was quite surreal.  The city is enormous and all of the buildings are tightly packed together.  The temperature in Hong Kong right now is warm (70s) with lots of humidity, and at the top of the peak the wind was rushing by.  We could literally see the clouds blowing by as if someone had a giant hairdryer directing them.

Hong Kong from Victoria Peak

For dinner we went to a private dining club.  The view there was also incredible, but totally different.  I went out on the terrace and was immersed in bright lights.  We were right in the middle of the energy of the city.  Dinner itself was quite a show too.  I had Peking Duck for the first time, what a great flavor!  My tea came with quite a presentation.  The server had a teapot with a spout that was about four feet long and he twirled the pot around as if it were a baton and poured the tea over his head and in to my cup.  Later in the evening he did a little show for everyone twirling the teapot and pouring tea in lots of different, artistic ways.  The other mini show of the evening was a man making noodles with his hands from a hunk of dough.  He made the dough so long that he even jump-roped with it at one point!

Pasta Making

Tomorrow we have lots more beautiful jewelry to see!

Good Night!

Lisa

h1

Lisa in Asia: Day 2

March 4, 2010

Today we went to a couple of headquarters.  The first meeting we had was with Jessica Fong and her associates.  I have heard wonderful things about Jessica for years, but had never met her before.  She, and everyone in their office, were warm, welcoming and incredibly passionate about their work and about giving back.

A couple of years ago, Jessica Fong did Laurie, Laura, and Peter’s numbers (in numerology) on a long car ride.  She then developed a set of diamond numbers for us to have in our stores.  Today Jessica determined my number.  After only meeting me for a few minutes, and calculating my number (seven), she was able to speak volumes about who I am as a person and what my role is in life.  It was almost eerie how right on she was.  As we were leaving, Laura and I both said that we had to buy our diamond numbers when we get home.

At one point in the meeting someone mentioned a tiara.  My roommate Lauren likes to think that I wear a tiara at work, so this was my chance!!  Laurie and I got to try on fabulous diamond and colored gemstone tiaras and a scepter/wand.  Who says work shouldn’t be fun?!

Laurie and Lisa try on tiaras and a wand!

Jessica is very spiritual, and believes that the universe has given her so much, that it is her duty to give back.  She has already helped to build three schools in China and is looking for more ways to get involved in making the world a better place.

This evening we had a bit of time in between a meeting and dinner so we visited the ‘Lady’s Market’.  It was a long narrow row of shops filled with fabulous inexpensive items.  We had way too much fun bargaining and ended up buying shoes, pashminas, and even a Seattle sports jersey!  We went right when people must have been getting off work, so it got more and more crowded.  The city is incredibly vibrant with people out and about on the streets.

Lady's Market

At dinner I was able to see a bit of the light show that occurs every night between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon.  Evidently, it originally started to promote tourism in Hong Kong, but they have continued to put on the performance every night.  There are neon lights on the sides of buildings, green lasers shooting across, and boats lit up like the rainbow.  What a show!

Tomorrow is the first day of the actual show, so I am looking forward to it!

Good Night!

Lisa