Long Beach Highway Mystery – Can You Solve It?

Being recently retired and the original owner of my 1969 Porsche 912 Coupe, I now have the time and means to pursue my lifelong interest in the US highway system that existed roughly from 1926 until the early 1960s.

One US highway that piqued my interest is US Route 6 (US 6), also known as the “Grand Army of the Republic Highway”. From 1937 to 1964 it was the longest (about 3,600 miles) of all US highways, connecting Provincetown MA on the tip of Cape Cod, Massachusetts and Long Beach CA.

The present western terminus of US Hwy 6 now intersects with US Route 395 in Bishop, CA. The previous routing (a general term) brought US 6 south co-signed with US 395 to what is now CA Hwy 14 north of Ridgecrest and continued south through Rosamond, Lancaster, Palmdale, Santa Clarita and into the San Fernando Valley (co-signed with US Route 99) on what is now San Fernando Road to Figueroa Street where Old 99 diverged on its separate way to the Mexican border at Calexico.

US 6 continued south on Figueroa Street into Long Beach where it turned east on State Street/Alternate US 101, now known as Pacific Coast Highway.

But where did US 6 officially end (or start) in Long Beach? Unfortunately, at this moment I don’t know and that’s where the mystery begins.

If you know (or are?) a long-time Long Beach resident, you may have additional information. Or, if you have any old (1940s or 1950s) photos, home movies or maps of Long Beach, they may help solve the mystery.

Some vintage maps show a US 6 federal shield on State Street (now PCH) east of Figueroa but west of Atlantic Avenue. Others show the same federal shield on State Street between Atlantic Avenue and Lakewood Boulevard traffic circle.

These apparent inconsistencies deal with the highway’s “alignment” (not the more general “routing”) that could be quite normal since federal highway designations in the last century were often changed for any number of usually political reasons. But I’ve found nothing to date showing a verifiable “End” to US Hwy 6 in Long Beach.

Also, there’s the matter of the “Grand Army of the Republic Highway” commemorative plaque placed on the Municipal Auditorium at Seaside and Long Beach Boulevard in May of 1953.

The Auditorium was demolished in the early 1960s and the plaque was relocated to the nearby Terrace Theater, now the Long Beach Performing Arts Center.

Since I’ve found nothing showing an official US 6 alignment south of State Street/PCH, I believe the Municipal Auditorium plaque has been placed (twice now) not at the actual end of the official highway alignment, but rather on a suitable public building in Long Beach. Others believe it has more significance relative to the actual end of the Highway.

Stay tuned because when I solve the mystery, I’ll let you know.


Descent Into Madness – Sport Driving in Los Angeles at the 101-405 Interchange

Driving in California is always an adventure, in Los Angeles, the sport of driving has been elevated to an art form. Like qualifying for the Indy 500 pole position, you never know who you will be sharing the road with. Some drivers are on their cell phones arguing with their agents, boyfriends or psychiatrists. Others are putting on makeup for that big audition, or suffering from either caffeine overdoses or withdrawal symptoms. Some days it takes a unique mix of passive aggression, anger management and an inner connection with your auto insurance agent to make it safely across our vast freeway expanses.

On a recent drive, we found ourselves traveling north on the Interstate 405 freeway through the treacherous Sepulveda Pass down into the San Fernando Valley. That’s why I’m calling this little essay Descent Into Madness. Interstate 405, or the San Diego Freeway is the major north / south artery connecting LA’s San Fernando Valley with the West Side of Los Angeles. U.S. 101, or the Ventura Freeway runs east and west along the southern part of The Valley, and connects Los Angeles with Ventura County in the north. These two arteries intersect at the foot of the Santa Monica Mountains range in a tangle of concrete called the 101 / 405 Interchange. This interchange is rated #1 on the list of America’s 24 Worst Highway Bottlenecks.

To cross The Pass in the old days you needed to use a dirt road called Sepulveda Boulevard. At the top of the mountains it ducked into an art deco tunnel under Mulholland Highway. Today the best route is the 405 Freeway which blasted its way through the rocky mountain pass and now flows over the top of the Santa Monica Mountain range, down towards U.S. Route 101. Mulholland crosses over the 405 on a huge steel bridge flying across the freeway.

Under optimum conditions, it is a dangerous section of highway. It has six lanes of cracked and patched asphalt with only painted white lines and Bott’s Dots separating you from your fellow drivers. California is attempting a massive improvement project at the 101 / 405 Interchange which just adds to the challenge by turning it into a huge obstacle course. Ominous steel cranes loom over the freeway with distracting signs and construction equipment littering the sides of the road.

The slope on this small stretch of highway is steep, so that just adds to the speeding, careening and screeching. Drivers on the right are frequently stopped or slowing as cars cram into lanes for the Ventura freeway exits. Drivers on the left are usually speeding up in the thinning traffic as they continue north on the 405 through the Valley. If everyone stayed in their lanes the arrangement just might work. Unfortunately that isn’t the case.

Cars cut across lanes of traffic because they are going to miss the 101 turn-off lane. Drivers also slam on their breaks when they realize how steep the grade is and their SUV is picking up too much speed; “Hold the phone honey, I gotta drive”. Irritated drivers in the right hand lanes are sick of everyone cutting in line, so they won’t let you in. There is a lot of sudden braking and jockeying for position, reminiscent of the Indy 500 on the final laps. The middle lane becomes sort of a no-man’s land of crisscrossing cars, like a dangerous ballet of flying steel with flying cell phones and travel mugs.

Until the highway improvements are finished, this interchange raises the thrill level for driving in Los Angeles to an art form.Drop by http://www.AngelCityArt.com to see photos. And don’t forget to buckle up and in the words of the immortal traffic guru and punster Bill Keene; “Be alert and you won’t get hurt”.


How to Find a Great Location for Your Salon

We’ve all heard the saying, “Location, Location, Location”, when talking about starting a business. That’s great advice but how do we know if a location is good for a hair salon to thrive? There can be a countless number of variables to consider, but we can narrow down the list to just a few. We’ll do this by focusing on only the most important factors that we can measure objectively.

  • How much competition is already in the area?
  • How much through traffic does the area receive?
  • What’s the general population and demographics of the area?

Let’s break these down one at a time and see how we can objectively measure each.

How much competition is already in the area?

Go to Google Maps and search “hair salons , ” Replace and with the location you’re interested in. For an example we’ll perform a Google search for: hair salons Medford, NJ

Now we can see a set of locations where our competitors are located. From this page we can see if they have a web site and reviews. Having a few other hair salons in the area must mean that this isn’t a good place for my location, right? Not necessarily, like most things in business it’s not so cut and dry. As long as there are enough potential clients in the area than having some competition isn’t a bad thing. We’ll see shortly how we determine if this area has a good amount of through traffic and a healthy population.

How much through traffic does the area receive?

We would like to know if the area has a good amount of through traffic that can help us with potential new customers. This can be a great source of walk-in business. The great thing about finding this information is that most Department of Transportation departments (DOT’s) publish vehicle traffic counts of their commercial roadways. To find if your state has traffic count data available you can Google, “ traffic count”, where state can be the 2-letter abbreviation for the state you’re interested in. For example for New Jersey we would Google: NJ traffic count

In the search above we find exactly what we are looking for, the NJDOT Traffic Counts search page. New Jersey actually has a really nice searchable interface using Google Maps. Some of the other states that I’ve searched seem to have just a PDF of the information available. This is fine, but I prefer the interactive map version. Keep in mind that some states may not have this data available at all. So following the third search result brings us to the State of NJ’s traffic counts page. Enter your target address into the search tool.

That will put the red balloon marker on the map directly on the address we entered. The other markers on the page, in blue and red, are places where there were actual traffic studies performed by the state. What we need to do is drag our red balloon marker onto one of the other markers and a small information box will appear displaying the traffic counts. The column called AADTstands for Annual Average Daily Traffic . This is the total volume of vehicle traffic of a highway or road for a year divided by 365 days. For example it may say that approximately 13,000 vehicles travel past this point every day. It will also tell you the date the traffic count study was performed. In our example it started on May 25, 2010. Since this is less than two years ago the data is a good approximation of the present through traffic in this area. The last column is a link to the actual report with a more detailed breakdown of how many vehicles travel in each direction and it even breaks it down to the hour. This can be useful to see if there is still a healthy volume of traffic only during certain hours of the day. Now you want to keep dragging the red balloon marker to different traffic count markers around the area and you can spot if patterns develop. In our example, the markers to the south show 6,000-7,000 traffic counts. In this case I’d say that’s a healthy flow of traffic for your new salon.

What’s the general population and demographics of the area?

One quick way to do get some basic demographic information for a particular town is to look the town up in Wikipedia. Let’s take a look at Medford, New Jersey on Wikipedia. This is a good place to start if you don’t know the town very well. It will usually have information such as the general population, historical population, history, transportation, basic demographics, and usually some good external links to local township websites. This is great source of information for our initial search, but we can go deeper and get more detailed information about the demographics and economic characteristics of the town. We can find this information at the U.S Census Bureau American Fact Finder website. For our example, after searching for Medford, NJ we are shown a list of different documents.

These documents describe general, social, economic, and housing characteristics. I need to caution you that there can be a ton of data, but we can just focus on the most recent data. Just looking at the breakdown of age groups, average family income, and housing can give you a feel for the town. You can be creative in how you interpret the data and use it to reach your clients. If we know that the average family income is on the lower side maybe we can offer special discounts to our clients. On the other hand if the average family income is on the high side maybe we can think about offering higher end more expensive services. Now we’re getting more into marketing, but that will have to wait for another day and another blog post.

Sanity Check

As business owners our time is one of the most valuable assets we have. Using technology for this purpose is one of the many ways we can achieve this goal. By using the tips given in this blog we can quickly assess an area’s viability for the location of our salon, but we also need to do a sanity check. Take the time to visit the area and make sure that the information we’ve gathered looks realistic. Make a few separate trips, maybe once on a weekday and another on a weekend. Perhaps go midday or early morning and visit some other businesses in the area to get a feel for the town. Is the grocery store clean and stocked? Are there nice restaurants, coffee houses, gyms, business centers, or neighborhoods that you think could be a source for new customers?

Investing in the Czech Republic – Outside of Prague – Part 1: Brno Property

Imagine if you had bought property in Prague 8 years ago….

Brno property has been getting a lot of exposure lately. And for good reason. Attractive deals in Prague are getting harder to find. Attention is beginning to turn elsewhere.

Brno is the second largest city in the Czech Republic. Being the business capital of Moravia it boasts some big name companies such as IBM, Siemens, Minolta CR, Honeywell Controls and FEI.

At the end of March 2005, RyanAir began daily direct flights from London to Brno. Flights from Dublin to Brno are rumored to be next on the list of priorities.

In 2008 a major motorway is planned to be completed that will link central-northern Moravia with Poland making the area more attractive for Polish investors and traffic.

Currently, property prices are a third of what is available in Prague and there is a strong and growing rental demand for quality properties.

What are outside sources saying about Brno?
The city of Brno has won the competition for European City of the Future 2004/2005 which is organized by the prestigious FDI magazine, a Financial Times publication, in the category of Visegrad group cities. It even beat out Prague and Budapest.

“Brno’s fast economic growth and high GDP-per-capita helped to push it ahead of other cities in the region. The judges also gave top marks for its economic potential and recent FDI deals involving UK-headquartered engineering firm IMI International, US technology group Honeywell and US advanced engineering company Danaher Motion, which between them created 900 jobs. Brno also scored well for its international promotion strategy and incentives.”

Swiss company Aguna chose to build their new plant in Brno. The company intends to invest almost 250 million crowns during the first two years. They will be able to employ at least 80 people in production and development of precision instruments. A large part of the employees will be college-educated specialists.

“The quality level of the work force was the deciding factor for Aguna.”

“Their representatives are convinced that they will find engineers in Brno who are just as capable and qualified as in Switzerland,” said Tomás Bohrn, Project Manager at CzechInvest, and added: “This precision engineering project demonstrates the huge potential of Brno as well as the South Moravian region to attract technically advanced engineering R&D investments.”

Daikin Industries Ltd. is a world leader in the production of modern air-conditioning equipment. After the double-billion investment in Plzen, the Daikin company has decided to build a new factory for the production of compressors into air-conditioners in Brno. In the first stage, the company intends to invest 1.2 billion crowns and to create more than 500 skilled jobs.

“Our decision to invest at first in Plzen and now also in Brno is strategic and very important for the future. The Czech Republic should become the important base for our production for the fast-growing markets of the European Union,” says Jiro Tomita, General Manager of Daikin Europe, and continues: “The factory in Brno will deliver compressors to our subsidiaries in Plzen and in Oostende, Belgium. It is the compressors that are the most important part and ‘heart’, which secures the functioning of air-conditioning units.”

Symbol Technologies launched operation of their new centre in Brno for shared customer support and financial services for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA). Symbol Technologies has already invested more than seventy million Czech crowns into technological equipment and within three years plans to set aside another almost half a million crowns for wages, training and operation. The centre will initially employ 200 people and this number is expected to increase by another 550 employees.

“We chose Brno for several reasons, namely the good offer of qualified labour, a good site and the good position of Brno in proximity to Symbol’s existing centres and customers in Europe,” said Steve Priestley, Vice President and General Manager of Symbol for EMEA. “By concentrating repair, customer call support and administration of finances, contracts and orders into one European centre we will be able to improve the overall standard of our services and keep it at a high level for the long-term.”

Austrian-German producer of health care and hygienic products Lohmann & Rauscher announced publicly the end of December, 2004 that they will build their new plant in South Moravia. The company is investing more than 41.5 million euros into expansion and modernization of its production facility here and will create over 160 new job opportunities.

“While the company in Germany concentrates on a selected part of health care products like plaster casts and bandages, we are gradually transferring production of medical dressings, operating masks and other surgical products to the Czech plants. Production at the enlarged plant in Slavkov near Brno should be launched within two years and the main customers will be the European subsidiaries of Lohmann & Rauscher,” said Rudolf Vonys, procurator of Lohmann & Rauscher s.r.o, and added: “Our final customers are health care facilities all over Europe, for example German, French and Austrian hospitals and Dutch, Swedish and Italian pharmacies.”

Japanese Company Ohmori Technos Corporation has decided to build a new factory in the area of Brno. At the outset, the company will invest about 15 million euros. Estimations suggest that at least 150 new positions will be provided in the Brno area. Production in the new plant is scheduled to start by the end of 2006.

“Today, the Czech Republic is known as the center of industry in Europe. In fact, a broad range of Japanese companies have successfully established their plants in the country. Assessing these situations, we have decided to carry out this investment,” commented Fumio Ohmori, president of Ohmori Technos Corporation.

The world’s largest airline, Lufthansa from Germany, has officially committed, as of the end of February 2005, to opening a new shared services centre in the Moravian side of Czech Republic. The new centre, which will be located in Brno, will assist customers of Central and Eastern Europe. It is expected to employ up to 100 people. This tenth call centre for Lufthansa, named Global Telesales Brno s.r.o., will start operations on June 1st 2005.

“Central and Eastern Europe is a strategic market for us where we plan in the coming years to double the volume of our activities,” commented Stephan Semsch, Lufthansa’s Director for Central and Eastern Europe, and added: “We thoroughly assessed 30 possible localities in total and ultimately chose Brno for its strategically favourable position within the region and its proximity to the important airline hubs of Munich and Frankfurt. Other great advantages of the Czech Republic are its membership in the EU, quality telecommunications and technical infrastructure and the motivated, qualified and cost-effective work force.”

Daido Metal, producer of bearings for the automobile industry, signed an agreement on future agreement on the purchase of land with the city of Brno today to build a new production plant. The investment of Daido Metal will amount to nearly 13 million euro and the plant will employ up to 100 persons in the first stage. The production should be launched at the beginning of next year.

“The Czech Republic has a very strong position in Europe in the automobile sector and even many of our clients have their production plants here. The production of our Czech plant will cover the demand generated both in the Central European countries and on the entire continent,” says Issei Yoshida, Managing Director of Daido Metal Europe.

“Our Czech branch, Daido Metal Czech, will be the first company within the entire group to operate fully independently, without a strategic partner from the same field. The only partners in the Czech Republic will be the locals, in particular in the area of technical engineering and development, We also intend to cooperate with the city of Brno,” says Tetsuro Nishiyama, Managing Director of Daido Metal Czech s.r.o.

Acer, the major manufacturer in the notebook sector will opened a new service center, with a related call-center for customers in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). The Acer shared services centre opened on July 1st in Brno, within the industrial complex Cernovická Terrace and is expected to provide at least 60 new jobs.

“We have been experiencing great market growth in the last two years in the countries of Europe, Middle East and Africa. The new centre will replace the current solution, where customer service is being provided via external service providers,” stated Stefan Engel, Region Manager North + Central Europe and added: “Our goal is to provide even better support to all countries involved in their native language and double the staff within one year.”

GigaByte Technology, a producer of computer components, is building a high-tech repair centre in Brno – Cernovicka Terasa where customers from all over Europe will send their laptops, graphics cards and motherboards. 25 million CZK is being invested with a projected 50 employees being required.

GigaByte Technology chose the Czech Republic over the other Central European countries, including Hungary, which was the Czech Republic’s main competitor. Brno won mainly owing to its quality infrastructure and sufficient, qualified work force.

The service centre will be built in Brno despite the fact that the company will not be receiving government investment incentives. Its executives thereby confirmed that Czech Republic has a lot to offer foreign investors.

Progeon Ltd, a leader in third party outsourcing in India, has completed its first phase of its project in Brno. The company currently employees 80 people in its downtown Brno office and provides process management services in sixteen European languages. Future growth plans will eventually offer career opportunities for hundreds of people from Brno and the surrounding area.

“The Czech Republic is an attractive destination for companies like ours that hope to reach a wide European market,” said Akshaya Bhargava, managing director and CEO, Progeon Ltd. “Brno has excellent infrastructure and facilities, a supportive government, and people with multiple language skills.

The best quality and most beneficial industrial zones in the Czech Republic were handed awards by the Czech ministers. The fifth annual “Industrial Zone of the Year” awards were presented according to the recommendations of the Ministry of Industry & Trade and CzechInvest in cooperation with the Association for Foreign Investment (AFI) and partners in the “Partnership to Support Foreign Direct Investment in the Czech Republic”.

The award for Industrial Zone with the Most Economic Benefits was given to the “Cernovicka terasa” Industrial Zone in Brno, while the Zone with the Most Social Benefit in 2004 was the Ostrava Hrabova Industrial Zone – 1st Stage. The Industrial Zone with the Best Town Planning Solution is being prepared by a private developer in Ostrava — CTPark Ostrava, and the “Brownfield of the Year” was won by the Skoda Plzen Industrial Zone.

Brno is a city that is going places. All indications strongly point that way.

But let’s see some numbers. What are flats currently going for in Brno and what could we expect for rental income?

Studio apartment (1 + 1). Seven minute walk to main town square. One minute walk to trams and biggest park in the downtown Brno area. Newly renovated apartment in a heritage building. Listed price 750 000 CZK. Est. Rent: 8000 to 9000 CZK

Two bedroom (3 + 1) flat on Merhautova St. Completely reconstructed. One minute walk to the trams. Balcony. 90 m2. Big storage space in the basement. Asking price 1 590 000 CZK. Est. Rent: 12000 to 13000 CZK

Three bedroom (4 + 1) flat in heritage building. Eight minute walk to downtown square. One minute walk to the trams. Window view of the biggest park in the downtown area. Newly renovated. Balcony off the master bedroom. Around 140 m2. Est. price 2 500 000 CZK. Est. Rent: 14000 to 15000 CZK

At Czech Point 101 we are not going to hype you with inflated figures. All prices are based on our analysis of living and working right here in the Brno market.

One of the most important things about buying investment properties is the neighborhood you buy into. We can advise on the current ‘hot’ areas and those that will be getting attention in the near future. Contact me at any time, for free, to get more information about the Brno real estate market or start progressing on investment properties now.