Schizophrenic Nation

On Bread Alone

It might seem like you're dealing with a consumer market so intricate that only a Zen master could decipher its motives. But when you know your customers--when you greet them, seat them, move among them and study them--their desires can be as clear as day. Even if they aren't purely logical.

Konia, for instance, brought in clientele with the allure of exotic cigars, cocktails and an atmosphere of decadence. "They come here for adventure," she says. "But once they taste the food, they want to come back." And since even the adventurous don't always want a cigar with their swordfish, Konia was faced with crowded, smoke-filled dining areas and no place to put the nonsmoking overflow.

So she recently built an upstairs addition for nonsmoking patrons. It's not the crowd Konia expected. But with sales of $1.1 million last year, the success of her venture certainly isn't an unwelcome surprise.

In the end, maybe the best entrepreneurs for this eclectic era are eclectic themselves: bold, imaginative and not so uptight that they wouldn't pair a Chanel skirt with a $20 T-shirt. It's a good time to sell jewelry in the $45 to $50,000 range, as Courtney does. It's a good time to try new and comfortable sales formats, like Bluefly.com's. It's finally time to recognize that even if man could survive on bread alone, that isn't really living.

Let us eat cake.

Contact Sources

Bluefly Inc., (212) 944-8000, http://www.bluefly.com

El Portal, (800) 723-7568, http://www.travelsupplies.com

Erica Courtney Boutique, (323) 938-2850, fax: (323) 938-8964

Federal Grill & Cigar Bar, (610) 776-7600, http://www.federalgrill.com

Saatchi & Saatchi, (212) 463-2000, http://www.saatchi-saatchi.com

Urban Epicuria, (323) 848-8411, fax: (323) 848-8416

Yankelovich Partners Inc., (203) 846-0100, http://www.yankelovich.com

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This article was originally published in the March 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Schizophrenic Nation.

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