From the February 1996 issue of Entrepreneur

Rubber stamps are making their mark-and we don't just mean on paper. These days, anything from tennis shoes to tablecloths is fair game for those with an itch to ink.

"Fabric stamping has gotten really popular," says Teresa Lohr, owner of Stamp Soup, a rubber stamp store in Long Beach, California. "It's art without anxiety. The majority of [rubber stamp enthusiasts] are not artists. This does your artwork for you, and it looks fabulous."

Speaking of fabulous, Lohr expects her fledgling shop to increase sales by 20 percent this year. She's not the only one benefiting from the trend: Rubberstampmadness-a publication for stamp devotees-has enjoyed a 100 percent increase in circulation in the past two years. And David Hachmeister, publisher of the trade magazine Rubber Stampin' Retailer, projects the $150 million to $200 million art stamp industry will grow 15 percent to 20 percent this year.

"It's an addiction," says Lohr. Call it what you will: It seems safe to say rubber stamp fever is a long way away from being stamped out.

America's Most Wanted

There's nothing like the tried and true. That's what we discovered when we asked industry experts to name America's favorite foods:

Favorite Sandwich:

Hamburger

Favorite Dessert:

Ice cream

Favorite Cookie:

Chocolate chip

Favorite Beverage:

Soft drinks

Favorite Fruit:

Banana

Favorite Snack:

Popcorn

Favorite Flavor:

Chocolate

Wicket Ways

Don't be surprised if cricket soon hops into the national spotlight. Long beloved throughout the world, this British game is enjoying growing popularity here in the States.

"Over the last five years, I've seen increasing interest [in cricket] within the mainstream American community," confirms Max Shaukat, president of the World Cricket League (WCL) in New York City.

Shaukat, whose WCL plans to launch the first professional North American cricket league this year, credits greater TV exposure as a key factor in getting the ball rolling. Perhaps even more important: Immigrants from cricket-playing regions like India, Australia and the Caribbean are bringing their passion for cricket with them.

"There are people from many cricket-playing countries who have been here for years," says Manisha Achaibar of U.S. Cricketer, a magazine sporting a circulation jump from 2,000 to more than 10,000 in less than three years.

Cricket, anyone?

Coffee, Tea Or 'Net?

Pay phones are passé. To make a connection nowadays, technically inclined consumers are putting their quarters into coin-operated Internet kiosks.

"Essentially, we're offering coin-operated Internet access in public places," says Kevin Saxe, president of CafeNet Inc., the Los Angeles-based company behind the concept. "We've created a system that allows the user to be away from home and [still be] connected to the Internet."

Aimed at novice and sophisticated computer users alike, CafeNet's terminals are housed in various cafe sites in Southern California. According to Saxe, the company intends to set up terminals at airports, bookstores and shopping centers nationwide.

"As more and more people begin to do business on the Internet, there's a definite need for public Internet access," says Saxe, whose company charges consumers 25 cents for three minutes or $5 an hour on the Internet. "[We offer] a place where people can walk up and check their e-mail, send e-mail, possibly buy something through the World Wide Web, and then go on their way."

Now that's a good connection.

Research assistance by Stephanie Osowski

Cheers!

Not all drinking establishments are created equal. Indeed, a growing number of entrepreneurs are spinning the bottle and ending up with businesses that are intoxicatingly inspired. A sampling:

By The Book

The success of Bar and Books speaks volumes. A New York City-based chain of upscale cocktail lounges that mixes drinks with reading material, Bar and Books boasted a 100 percent sales increase in 1995.

"We're not a bookstore pretending to be a bar," explains co-founder Mark Grossich. "We're a bar that happens to have books."

And lots of them. At each of Bar and Books' three locations, Grossich estimates some 3,000 to 4,000 books line the shelves. Customers read if they choose or merely soak up the ambience.

"[We're] seeking a return to the elegance of the '50s," says Grossich, who hopes to take his 5-year-old bestselling concept to other major cities. "[Back then,] people were simply more sophisticated about their nighttime entertainment."

Wines Of The Times

How do customers react to Marquis Sauvage's wine bar? "They're kind of overwhelmed, I think," says Sauvage, 27, who co-founded Denver-based Enoteca LoDo three months ago.

And wine-er, why-not? With more than 55 varieties of wine to choose from, Enoteca LoDo patrons have good reason to feel a little lightheaded. Whether it's $4 or $44 per glass, there's a lot of wine tasting to be done.

"Our place is casual and comfortable," says Sauvage, who forecasts an international future for his enterprise. With a diverse audience ranging in age from early 20s to 50s, Enoteca LoDo may well set the world spinning.

A Taste Of Japan

"Ninety-nine bottles of sake on the wall, 99 bottles of sake . . . ."

Well, maybe it doesn't have the same ring to it. But even if sake never penetrates the American consciousness to the same degree as other alcoholic beverages, Griffith Frost is betting that the domestic market for this Japanese staple is far from quenched.

"Eventually, sake will [comprise] 5 to 6 percent of the wine market," predicts Frost, president of Japan America Beverage Co. in Forest Grove, Oregon. "That's a pretty big number."

Frost is certainly doing his part to up the ante. His sake brewery, which is a joint venture with Momokawa Brewing in Japan, recently broke ground in Oregon. And by April 1997, Frost expects his premium sake to hit supermarkets-and sales to runneth over.

Why such confidence? "[Sake is] one of the fastest-growing alcoholic beverages in the industry, primarily because Asian foods have been growing [in popularity],' says Frost. "When people have Asian foods, they want to have an Asian wine-and that's where sake fits in."

Head Over Heels

It's shoe time! Thanks to the trend toward casual dress codes in the workplace, an increasing number of men are footing the bill for (you guessed it) more and more shoes.

"It's an oversimplification, certainly, but professional men used to have two kinds of footwear: wing tips for business attire and [sneakers] for casual attire," says Bill Boettge, president of the National Shoe Retailers Association. "Now there's more of a need for that in-between shoe."

Dallas Shoes, a Cleveland-based chain of shoe stores in Ohio, is counting on that need continuing. Recently, the chain launched two men's-only locations (both in the Cleveland area). According to Melissa Fienga of Dallas Shoes, customer reaction has been positive.

If men continue to flip head over heels for casual shoes, it can only be good news for the somewhat tread-worn shoe industry. As women buy fewer dress shoes (ironically, due to the same casual dress codes), the $15 billion market for men's shoes is expected to pump up the volume.

Contact Sources

Bar and Books, 889 First Ave., New York, NY 10022, (212) 980-9476;

CafeNet Inc., 1632 Camden Ave., #304, Los Angeles, CA 90025, http://www.cafenet.net;

Dallas Shoes, 19200 Cranwood Pkwy., Cleveland, OH 44128, (216) 587-7333;

Enoteca LoDo, 1730 Wynkoop, Denver, CO 80202, (303) 293-2887;

Japan America Beverage Co., 820 Elm St., Forest Grove, OR 97116, (503) 357-7056;

National Shoe Retailers Association, 9861 Broken Land Pkwy., Columbia, MD 21046, (410) 381-8282;

Rubber Stampin' Retailer, 136 W. Vallette, #6, Elmhurst, IL 60126, (708) 832-5200;

Rubberstampmadness, P.O. Box 610, Corvallis, OR 97339, (503) 752-0075;

Stamp Soup, 4127 Norse Wy., Long Beach, CA 90808, (310) 496-1595;

U.S. Cricketer, 160 Orange St., Bloomfield, NJ 07003, (201) 731-9409.

World Cricket League, 301 W. 57th St., #5D, New York, NY 10019, (212) 365-3055.