December 14, 2018

domains: The Squishiest, Sweetest Sleep

The water bed evolved nonetheless, shaking off its sleazy associations as a lame sexual prop and sight gag. By 1984, Waterbed Magazine fretted that its customers were aging, “edging toward the 40-year old category.” In 1986, according to the Waterbed Manufacturers Association, water bed sales reached nearly $2 billion — between 12 and 15 percent of the American mattress market — and retailers like Waterbed City, based in South Florida, were making millions of dollars.

While Mr. Hall was always touted as the father of the industry, he did not share in those riches, though he continued to advise a number of companies, and to design improvements to the original product, as did others. Gone were the shin-nicking wooden frames, and the early sloshings, as water beds went waveless and mainstream, encased in soft-edged mattress forms that looked just like their coil-filled cousins.

You could buy baby water beds, and suites of water bed furniture, including one wince-making number in dark wood paneling, the “Captain Pedestal,” that looked like a high boy married to a schooner.

By 1991, one of every five mattresses sold was a water bed. That same year, Mr. Hall won a lawsuit against a Taiwanese manufacturer for patent infringement. A jury awarded him $4.8 million, plus interest, which he shared with investors who had chipped in for his legal fees. “It was about the principle of the thing more than anything else,” he said.

Yet only a few years later, water beds had lost their luster. Traditional mattress companies figured out how to approximate the comforts of a water bed with pillow tops and foam, and most people turned away, though there were stalwarts who clung to their vinyl oddities like gear heads with an eight-track.

Water-bed manufacturers found other markets, like dairy-cow farmers, who had discovered that the soft structures protect their generally prone animals’ joints (dairy cows do their best work lying down). Wistful articles began to appear about the dwindling number of water-bed salesmen, and their loyal, aging customers. Last year, someone started a GoFundMe campaign to buy a bed from a dealer in Tampa, Fla., who was planning to shutter his 46-year-old business, raising $167.

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Robert Plotnik, ‘Bleecker Bob’ of Record-Store Fame, Dies at 75

For nearly 50 years, until it closed in 2013, the business that Mr. Plotnik began with a fellow record collector, Al Trommers, drew rock fans and performers to its quirky selection. And although it originally specialized in oldies, it soon switched its focus to the cutting edge, helping to popularize emerging musicians by sales and by word of mouth.

“Without him it’s unlikely there would be the Ramones, Elvis Costello, Talking Heads, New York Dolls, so many acts now so well established in the music firmament but 40 years ago just whispers,” the critic Roger Friedman wrote on the website Showbiz411. “CBGB’s and the Mudd Club were where you heard the music, but Bleecker Bob’s was where you held, felt it, saw it, listened to it, bought it.”

Customers emerged from local clubs and coffeehouses and lingered in the store until 3 a.m., or as long as the mercurial Mr. Plotnik would indulge them.

“I used to cut school and hang out in his store until he threw me out and banned me,” Harley Flanagan, a founder of the band the Cro-Mags, wrote on Facebook. “I remember being mad at him for a long time because of it, but the truth is he just felt that I should be in school and not cutting school. As I got older I realized he was actually a really good guy when he wasn’t screaming at people and kicking them out of his store.”

Robert Edward Plotnik was born on Aug. 28, 1943, in Baltimore and raised in New Jersey. His father, Jack, was a cabdriver. His mother, Elsie (Robinson) Plotnik, was a homemaker. In addition to Ms. Kitzer, he is survived by a daughter, Alexandra Plotnik.

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Wellness ‘For the Culture’

Ask yourself: What do I eat normally and what is the healthier version of that? “You don’t have to lose your culture. I still eat rice and beans. I just use brown rice now,” said Ms. Santana. Swap white bread for whole wheat. Use nut milks instead of milk. “It’s easy transitions that start people on the path to eating healthy. They can see that it doesn’t have to be hard, bland or expensive,” said Ms. Santana. She recommends White Castle’s Impossible sliders, a meatless alternative, to people newly transitioning from a traditional American diet to a plant-based diet. “It shows being vegan doesn’t have to mean eating flavorless food.”

When she first went vegan, Ms. Santana was always left out of family meals and felt alienated. But eventually, with her help, her brother, and then parents started eating primarily plant-based diets. Instead of the Dominican staple, sancocho, her mother now makes a vegan root vegetable stew for the family. Bell pepper, garlic, sweet peppers, cilantro, celery, and vinegar flavor the base, while the traditional beef is replaced with tubers and root vegetables — kabocha squash, cassava, plantains, yams, and yellow and white eddoe. “It’s hearty and delicious,” said Ms. Santana.

Homemade smoothies are most economical. Buy greens and fruit in season and freeze them for days and months to come, says Ms. Santana. That way you can make a new blend every day. “You have to be connected to the foods that make you feel good. Until you make things yourself you won’t know what those foods are,” said Ms. Santana. Try her favorite post-workout green smoothie: banana, green apple, kale or spinach, almond butter, and almond milk. “It’s nutty, not too sweet, and filling,” she said.

If you need to grab-and-go, look for healthy-living shops in your neighborhood, owned by people from your neighborhood. Ms. Santana’s favorite juice bar, Juices for Life, is on a mission to bring healthy food options to neighborhoods that don’t have them. The smoothies are $5 or $6. “If you’re waiting to go downtown to get a smoothie at say, Juice Press, it’s like, ‘O.K., here’s my whole check for the week,’” she said. “Juices for Life is delicious with all the healthy, organic ingredients, but at an accessible price point for my community.”

Your neighborhood may not have a juice bar, but it probably has a bodega that makes fresh juice. And most restaurants have a vegan option. There may not be a Whole Foods with organic options, but you can request the goods you want with your local supermarket manager, suggests Ms. Santana. “Open the lines of communication with your local shops and restaurants,” she said. “If enough people request gluten-free or dairy-free, a larger range of produce, and even kale, they will provide it. Trust me. I’ve done it.”

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Corner Office: Gregg Renfrew of Beautycounter on Toxic Chemicals and Getting Fired by Messenger

First, she made a list of more than 1,500 potentially harmful ingredients that she vowed never to use in her products. Next, she turned the conventional business model on its head, eschewing department stores in favor of a network of independent consultants — think Avon rather than Estée Lauder. Finally, she embarked on a campaign to introduce new regulation to the personal care industry, noting that the last comprehensive law governing it was passed in 1938.

Beautycounter, which is privately held, has raised some $86 million from investors including the U2 frontman Bono and the private equity firm TPG, and is valued at about $400 million.

This interview, which was condensed and edited for clarity, was conducted in New York.

What was your childhood like?

My father worked in finance. He was quite successful early on, but then fell on hard times. My mother started working to support the family, selling real estate, and also buying houses and renovating them. We moved 11 times when I was little, and it was a good learning experience for me. From a very early age I understood the value of money, how quickly it can come and go, and the need to be financially independent. I’m not driven by money to be extremely wealthy. I’m driven to not have to worry about money, which is a different thing.

What did you do after college?

When I graduated, my mother gave me a black briefcase with my initials on it and a check for $5,000 and said: “This should be enough to get you your first and last month’s payment on an apartment, and some furniture, and a suit. You’re on your own.” I wanted to go be a ski bum. My mom said, “You can do whatever you want to, but this is the only money you’re going to get.”

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Jerry Ohlinger, Colorful Dealer in Film Memorabilia, Dies at 75

Mr. Ohlinger had hundreds of thousands of movie stills.

“You can really see details that you don’t see in the film, because the film doesn’t pause for you,” he explained to The New Yorker. Also, he said, most such images were taken not during filming (because of concern about shutter noise), but during rehearsals, so they often caught a unique moment slightly different from what filmgoers saw.

The man was just as quirky as the store.

“I loved him dearly because of and despite all of his peculiarities,” Dollie Banner, a longtime employee, said by email. “Your quintessential New York proprietor, but also a singular one-of-a-kind character. Thrifty to an absurd degree, cigar dangling or left perched somewhere catching you unawares. The high-pitched voice and even higher laugh. Most gleeful when he could buy something cheaply and sell it for a top price, even if he had to wait decades to do so.”

By the 1990s the combination of higher rents and competition from online traders was putting pressure on Mr. Ohlinger. He tried to adapt by getting into online sales himself, but kept the store open too. After the building that housed it changed hands and he was faced with a near doubling of his rent, he moved to West 35th Street in 2004. By 2014 that space had also become too expensive, and a spate of articles reported that the store would be closing.

But Mr. Ohlinger again showed his resilience, opening the smaller operation on West 30th Street, which Mr. Marlborough said will continue.

Mr. Ohlinger leaves no immediate survivors.

His presence always made the shop more than just a place to buy things, Ms. Banner said.

“I think a lot of customers came to spend some time talking to Jerry and not just to obtain their particular piece of movie memorabilia,” she said. “His knowledge of movie paper was spectacular, covering all kinds of distribution and printing anomalies, multiple rereleases, etc. His taste in movies was random, very subjective, but he found value in every title, no matter the quality.”

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The Start-Up Offering Credit to Other Start-Ups

But, there are conditions: Brex insists the card be paid in full every 30 days, and it monitors the company’s bank account balance daily to ensure the start-up is not recklessly burning through cash. “If they’re spending $50,000 a month and have $60,000 left in their bank account, I know they’re going under in the next month so I’m going to stop giving them credit,” he said.

The automated online application process is fast. “We can issue a card in five minutes,” Mr. Dubugras said. He added that he hadn’t seen a single default.

And investors are clearly optimistic about the company’s outlook: Brex’s latest round of financing last month valued the firm at $1.1 billion, making it one of the youngest start-ups to be valued at $1 billion or more.

Silicon Valley Bank, which has been offering corporate cards to start-ups since 2008, goes one step further than Brex, offering charge cards, whose balances are due monthly, and regular corporate cards with revolving lines of credit.

“We do not use the personal credit history of the founders or FICO scores” to assess risk, said Eduardo Vergara, head of Global Treasury Services at Silicon Valley Bank. “We’ll look at how much capital they’ve raised, who the investors are, who the founders are, and what’s their track record as entrepreneurs.”

SVB also relies on instinct, having extended financing to start-ups for the past 34 years. “We can really see and assess which ones are more likely to be successful — which ones we should be offering credit, which ones to lean in on,” Mr. Vergara said.

Some disrupters require the entrepreneur to personally guarantee the corporate card, said Mr. Dubugras, which means, if the business fails, the entity could go after the founder’s home, car and assets to cover the credit card losses.

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New Women’s Groups Focus on Generational Mix

In most other countries, young and old freely mix together, with several generations often living under one roof. But in the United States, that mostly happens in the workplace. Even so, millennials and baby boomers tend to stick with their same-aged cohort, rarely associating out of the office.

This is a limited way of socializing that cross-generational groups seek to expand. “A lot of people think if they’re mothers they can only be friends with mothers; if they’re single they can only hang out with single people,” said Shasta Nelson, 41, the author of “Friendtimacy,” a book about deepening friendships that was published in 2016. “But research suggests that it doesn’t matter what commonality we have, only that we find a couple of commonalities. If I say, ‘I’m in my 40s and I only want to meet people in my 40s,’ it’s as much of a predictor of friendship as saying I can only be friends with people born in September or who like Madonna or who have my name.”

According to Ms. Nelson, only three things are necessary for a relationship to flourish: positivity (it has to feel good); consistency (you have to be in touch on a regular basis); and vulnerability (you have to feel safe with each other). None of them has to do with age.

“A friendship is any relationship where two people both people feel seen in a safe and satisfying way,” she said.

Ten years ago, Ms. Nelson created GirlFriend Circles, a kind of for women to meet online and take it offline if they choose. She later started Travel Circles, which helps women of all ages take trips to meet other women around the world.

Angela Wilkinson, 48, a self-described “suburban housewife in Middle America” (in this case, Marion, Iowa), went to Greece, Italy, Rwanda and Peru with Ms. Nelson. With two sons now in their early 20s, one of whom has special needs, Ms. Wilkinson said she always felt isolated at home, and unable to meet new people.

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working it out: Whoa, Whoa, Whoa. Leggings That Cost $300?

Wone’s offerings also aren’t the most expensive out there. Katie Warner Johnson, a founder and the chief executive of Carbon38, which sells fashion forward active wear, said that women’s willingness to pay about $300 for Michi leggings was “essentially the foundation of our business.” One of the first items Carbon38 offered was a style called Medusa: a swirling patchwork of black spandex, mesh and heather gray fabric that made it look as if the pants were growing up the wearer’s leg. And women were lining up for them back in 2014.

“We’ve been really able to play with the price spectrum since then,” Ms. Johnson said.

Elizabeth van der Goltz, the global buying director of Net-a-Porter, said the site was initially “nervous” to stock leggings over $200. Now there are $490 blue and black Fendi leggings printed with scribbled hearts and $345 Lucas Hugh black leggings with opalescent tape stripes and pinhole mesh inserts for ventilation.

These printed Fendi leggings cost $490.

These brands have “high sell-throughs,” Ms. Van der Goltz wrote in an email. (Their cost continues to accrue after purchase: The Fendi leggings, though designed to sweat in, require hand washing or dry cleaning.)

What does $300 and up buy you? In the case of Wone, not strategic color blocking, or extra ventilation. Instead, Ms. Hildebrand touts personalized finishing and Italian and French fabrics, which cost $20 to $25 per yard, as opposed to the $3 to $4 for fabrics more typically used in active wear.

As opposed to the standard promise of holding up through 50 machine washes, Wone’s are guaranteed through 50,000 washes — that’s every single day for the next 136 years, or at least through your lifetime, no matter how much exercise might extend it. (What will future archaeologists think when they excavate large amounts of indestructible athleisure?)

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On Fire Island Ferries, Aging Mariners Seek Successors

Mr. Molnar said he hoped to work summers as a captain but planned on attending college and pursuing a more lucrative career.

Many of the ferry company workers followed a family path.

Don Guinta, 60, the company’s freight manager, brought his daughter Kristen Chance, 27, into the business. She’s eight months pregnant, but recently helped him log in a mountain of packages being sent over to Fire Island, a task he called “organized chaos.”

Favorite parcels included food sent from Dean Deluca, Zabar’s, Citarella and other Manhattan markets, he said, standing next to a pile of Amazon deliveries, a surfboard and a tall bass fiddle.

The traditional Sunday-morning freight boat is known as the “bagel boat,” for its principal cargo.

Another tradition is spotting celebrities who use the ferries, often disguised by hats and sunglasses. The list of passengers with boldfaced names includes the actors Tina Fey, John C. Reilly and Katie Holmes.

“Every personality in the world comes through these boats,” said Captain Villing, as he steered the 85-foot Belle up the West Channel toward Fair Harbor.

He recalled how the actor Tony Randall used to buy candy for groups of local children in Seaview, and how the comedian Mel Brooks and his wife, Anne Bancroft, rode the ferry to their house in Lonelyville. “She kept a low profile but you always knew when Mel was on the boat because he was always doing his comedy,” Captain Villing said as he pulled into Fair Harbor and helped his crew unload luggage.

He got a welcoming hug from Fred Fahrbach, 77, who has a summer home nearby and who said of Captain Villing: “I don’t think the ferry would run without him.” Then Captain Villing headed for the mainland, with Fire Island astern.

“It’s been a good living,” he said, adding that he hoped to remain working as a summertime captain. “As long as they got a space for me, I’ll be here.”

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Bags of Cash and Stealthy Deliveries: How Pot Start-Ups Pay Taxes

The federal government has a history of taking a hard-line view of this industry. In 2015, the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City likened Colorado’s legalization of marijuana to allowing “trade in endangered species or trade with North Korea.”

But that hard-line is beginning to change, which could mean that down the road, federal regulations might loosen up.

Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, said last month that he would introduce a bill decriminalizing cannabis. And President Trump recently suggested that he would be open to signing a law that would allow states to control their cannabis industries without threat of federal prosecution. A business group, the National Cannabis Industry Association, recently produced a video encouraging citizens to ask Congress to “support legal small businesses that are successfully replacing the criminal marijuana market.” More than 200 of its members will visit Washington starting Monday to lobby Congress on issues including banking and taxes.

John Boehner, the former speaker of the House who had been one of the most staunch opponents of legal marijuana, said his views have changed. He recently joined the advisory board of Acreage Holdings, an investment firm dedicated to the cannabis industry. Bill Weld, the former Republican governor of Massachusetts who also has joined the Acreage advisory board, said he believed cannabis could help wean people off opioids.

Shutting off access to the federal banking system presents a variety of risks, said Peter Conti-Brown, an assistant professor of legal studies and business ethics at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. The chance of income being underreported increases, he said, as does the chance of employee theft or even armed robbery as large amounts of cash move through the business ecosystem.

“Marijuana businesses and banks are caught in the crossfire,” Mr. Conti-Brown said.

Some credit unions and small banks that are chartered by their state, not the federal government, have tried to fill the void by offering basic banking services to the cannabis industry. George Allen, president of Acreage Holdings, said the companies he has invested in have been able to find banking in the 11 states where they operate, which has, among other things, allowed them to pay taxes electronically or by check.

Tai Cheng, the chief operating officer for Aloha Green Apothecary in Hawaii, a state where marijuana is legal for medicinal purposes, runs his company almost completely in cash.

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