The Backstory

In our cover story this month, Wendy Collie, CEO of New Seasons Market, and Kim Malek, owner of Salt & Straw, discuss their rapidly growing businesses and Portland’s red hot food scene. The conversation provides an interesting lens through which to explore trends in the grocery store and restaurant sectors.

wendykimIMG 7333 500pxIn our cover story this month, Wendy Collie, CEO of New Seasons Market, and Kim Malek, owner of Salt & Straw, discuss their rapidly growing businesses and Portland’s red hot food scene. The conversation provides an interesting lens through which to explore trends in the grocery store and restaurant sectors.

Behind the scenes, there were a few surprises. Collie and Malek revealed seriously goofy sides, mugging for the camera and relaying plenty of off-the-cuff anecdotes — like when the Salt & Straw dishwasher broke down while Collie happened to be standing in line.

Spoiler alert: The former Starbucks operations director rolled up her sleeves and fixed the problem in no time, although, Collie jokes, she had to return to the back of the line when it was all over.

tacticsgreenbrierIMG 7385 333pxIn this issue we also feature a conversation with Bill Furman, CEO of The Greenbrier Companies, the Lake Oswego-based railcar and barge manufacturer. Furman has a reputation for being outspoken, and he didn’t disappoint, weighing in on Portland’s “complete contempt for rural Oregon” and the “Luddites” who oppose coal-and-oil export terminals.

About 10 minutes into the interview, which I conducted last month, Furman directed a question to his vice president of communications, Jack Isselmann, who was sitting in on the conversation: “Do we want to go off the record on any part of this?”

Isselmann laughed: “That depends what you want to say.” But not once during the wide-ranging, 75-minute conversation did Isselmann interrupt. Later, Furman referred to Greenbrier’s “newfound zeal for transparent communications.” 

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“It means we’re sitting here talking to you about stuff we’re not supposed to be talking about.”

In the magazine business, the stuff people aren’t supposed to be talking about is often the real story — or at least it’s just as much fun to read about. Of course the reporter’s job is to ferret out the untold story, and to make sure the transparency is authentic and not just another spin operation.

When business executives are open with reporters, as Furman, Collie and Malek appeared to be, the effect can only be described as unexpected — and refreshing. Like a Salt & Straw ice cream cone on a hot summer day.

—Linda

Linda Baker

Linda Baker is the former editor of Oregon Business

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