C’est La Vie. You Never Can Tell

The title line is from one of my favorite Chuck Berry songs (I hope he’s a relative, but I don’t know) (I like the Emmylou Harris version too):

C’est la vie say the old folks. It goes to show you never can tell.

So I’m doing the old folks line today. Here’s a local club that looks either dead or dying. I wonder, as I go by, what their story might be, with the darkened windows and apparently empty space. It was a brewery restaurant near our Palo Alto Software office for a few years, we lunched there often, but that died. Before that it was an auto dealership, but that died. Bad luck? Bad location? Bad management? It seemed like a good location with a hitch in parking, and it seemed like a good restaurant. Then, for several years now, it seemed like dead or dying.

Then I discover (thanks ‘Chelle) that it’s actually a very successful nightclub haunt. Cool, I guess; I like surprises. But it also means I’m not very good at guessing who’s doing okay. Take a look at the place:

No signage, dark windows. Who’d think it was really hopping? I guess you can tell I don’t get out much at night. I thought it was always empty. But I discover that it’s successful and trendy. Last month the local Eugene Register Guard reported:

"Crowds are starting to understand the Indigo District’s new role in the music scene. Teenagers have gone there to bounce around to the frenetic hip-hop of Pigeon John or sit quietly in the corner to listen to David Bazan. The mix of fans is reminiscent of the WOW Hall, although the Indigo is not quite as crowded, at least not yet."

Okay, I stand corrected. Maybe anonymity during the day leads to success at night. I’ve posted recently on the importance of knowing who isn’t your target market. Maybe they needed to make it clear that I’m definitely not their target market.

Like I say, I like surprises. Do things your own way, be different, and you have the essence of strategy. Or, as I’ve written elsewhere, simply, strategy is focus. Consider this quote, from the Eugene Weekly:

[Owner Justin] Gibbs acknowledges that the legacy of the Indigo District involves a rather schizophrenic past. When the bar first opened its heavy, wooden doors, the menu advertised a business lunch, gourmet coffee and bar food served long into the night, well after the liquor stopped flowing.

"The new direction has refined the scope of what we’re trying to do," he explains. "When we first started, it was like ‘It’s a restaurant, it’s a bar, it’s a music venue, it’s an Internet café.’ We were going all day every day with just me managing. And as much as I loved being a restaurateur, it happened at the expense of doing music. That’s my primary passion."

So success involved more focus. Ironically, keeping me and people like me out of the loop probably helped. Quoting the Eugene Weekly again:

In the last year, the Indigo District has been keeping primarily evening hours, hosting music regularly, throwing raging dance parties and "doing a few things well," as Gibbs would say. After trying out so many types of business plans and suffering some low points, he and his staff are excited to settle into being "a music venue that serves food and drinks and does club nights."

"We had some growing pains in the last year. 2006 was an awkward point between being a new bar and an established bar. We had to adjust our vision."

This new vision will capitalize on what Gibbs refers to as the "cross-pollination between hip hop, rock and electronic" emerging in the independent music scene. He hopes that by bringing bands who blend the best of the best musically, the Indigo District will, by extension, provide the optimal nightlife experience for those committed to keeping the funk alive in Eugene.

Which is obviously working. What is it, stealth marketing? I go by there a lot, I read the local paper every day, but I hadn’t seen it. The target market, however, had seen it. C’est la vie.

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