Does Aldi Deserve the Hype?

The Pros and Cons of the German Grocery Chain

Will you really save a ton of money if you shop at Aldi? The numbers have already been crunched, so rather than re-crunch them, I’ll refer you to this article here. In a nutshell, it says that while Aldi claims to save you over 40% on groceries, it really only saves you 20%. That’s still a lot, and if you’re in a position where every penny matters, that 20% is going to mean a lot to you.

But still, there are pros and cons to shopping at Aldi.

Pro: You can walk out of Aldi with a full grocery bag and be amazed at how much less you spent, compared to other stores. That’s a pretty big pro.

Con: If you’re brand loyal — say you prefer Land O Lakes butter or a certain flavor of Doritos — you’re outta luck. Aldi only carries Aldi brand stuff. If you don’t like having to find the closest equivalent to the thing you actually want, Aldi should not be your first stop.

Pro: Aldi makes up for its lack of Doritos by bringing you stuff you can’t get anywhere else: German chocolate. And this. Actually, these are why I don’t shop at Aldi that often. If I did, I’d gain 200 lbs off of these.

Con: Coin-operated grocery carts. That’s just a pain.

Pro: “I shop at Aldi” is a much nicer-sounding sentence than “I shop at WalMart.” Also, there’s no website called “People of Aldi.” You know what I’m talking about.

Pro: It’s not called “Whole Paycheck.”

So there you go. I think there are plenty of good reasons to shop at Aldi. If you’re looking for a way to slash your grocery budget, shopping at Aldi is a great option.

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Etsy Card Readers

If you have an Etsy store, and sell items offline as well, then you should take advantage of the Etsy card reader. Etsy is offering card readers to its sellers — for free. When you make a sale with the card, the sale is reflected in your online store, so your on and offline sales are streamlined and your inventory is always accurate. The Etsy reader takes a 2.75 cut on every sale.

Benefits of Selling on Etsy

If you’re an artist, crafter or seller of vintage items, you should consider setting up an Etsy store (if you don’t have one already). The great thing about Etsy is that people already use it to shop. There’s an Etsy app that users can download to their phones and browse while they’re sitting around at airports, train stations or waiting for no-show dates. Because people are already on Etsy, it is a good way to make sure people see your product, especially if your product is the kind of thing people don’t know they want until they see it.

For example, if you make origami wedding veils, you might have a hard time selling that on your own website. Why? Because no one searches for “origami wedding veil”. But if someone looking for a wedding veil is swiping on Etsy and your origami version pops up — presto! A sale.

And now with free card readers from Etsy, you can sell your origami wedding veils online and off.

Neat.

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Company Spotlight: Avalon Precision Metalsmiths

It may share a name with a mythical island that disappeared into the mist, but Avalon Precision Metalsmiths is anything but mythical. The company provides precision casting services for a broad range of industrial applications and industries. Avalon Precision Metalsmiths is a new company formed in 2014 when Precision Metalsmiths merged with Avalon Castings. Prior to the merger, both companies had several decades worth of experience.

Why We Like Them

Avalon Precision Metalsmiths operates four facilities that each have the same equipment. What does that mean, you ask? It means the company can take a project from start to finish faster than most other companies can. Efficiency like that is something we definitely like to see. Also, they’re a full-service company, which means they save their clients time and money by handling everything their clients need. That’s Aces in the CPAC-Fuller book. They also provide off-shore metalsmithing for clients who need parts at a lower cost.

I have to mention that at CPAC-Fuller, we do express a preference for companies that strive to keep their manufacturing here in the United States. American-made matters to us. However, though Avalon Precision Metalsmiths operates an offshore facility, they do a considerable amount of manufacturing here in the US. Additionally, their offshore facility enables them to provide greater flexibility to their clients. And flexibility is another thing we like around here.

Who They Serve

Avalon Precision Metalsmiths serves a wide range of industries, from the Oil and Gas industry to the Aerospace industry.

How Can I Learn More About Them?

Visit their website at www.avalon-castings.com.

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Fans for Martial Arts Gyms

Photo credit: Several seconds / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND
Photo credit: Several seconds / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

If you work out at Bally’s or LA Fitness or some other corporate chain, then you probably don’t have to worry about climate control. However, if you train at an independently-owned specialty gym — such as a boxing or martial arts gym, then you know that climate control can sometimes pose significant challenges. For instance, in the summer, when you’re wearing sparring gear and sweating your way through a fight on a 90 degree day, you wish your un-air conditioned gym had something more than floor fans to keep you cool.

That’s why it’s pretty sweet that Big Ass Fans has designed fans specifically for specialty gyms. From their website:

In the warm summer months, Big Ass Fans offer a perceived cooling effect of up to 10°F (5.6°C), without the clutter, noise and trip hazard of floor fans. Working with your HVAC system, Big Ass Fans silently and gently distribute conditioned air throughout the space. In the winter, slow your fans to smoothly redirect warm air collecting at the ceiling back down to floor level, improving comfort and reducing your heating expenses. While your clients work up a sweat, we trim down your utility bills.

Big Ass Fans has “fitness specialists” who understand what gyms and their clientele need to stay cool. We love companies that turn to experts for help with their specialized products. Indoor sports facilities, such as batting cages, also benefit from the cooling power of their fans and the expertise of their team.

Big Ass Fans manufactures fans for other industries too; you’ll find their fans in all kinds of facilities, from horse barns to auto dealerships. They also make beautiful ceiling fans that you can install in your home. The Essence fan comes in several colors, including “Blinded by the White” and “Cocoa Ono.”

Cute.

 

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Naturebox: Is it Worth it?

naturebox snacks

Naturebox is a monthly subscription service that delivers healthy snacks to your door. The cheapest option is about $20 per month. But is it worth doing?

It depends on what’s in your box. Plantain chips, for instance, aren’t such a great value with Naturebox. Why pay what equates to $4 for a 4.5 ounce bag of plantain chips when you can get a much larger bag for a lot less at your local Mexican grocery store? However, Naturebox offers sriracha-roasted cashews and they are just about the best thing you’ll ever eat. For me, it makes Naturebox totally worthwhile.

Moral of the story: Naturebox is what you make of it. Skip stuff that you can get at any grocery store or bodega and go for stuff that only Naturebox offers. For instance, you can get honey mustard-flavored pretzel bites anywhere. But as far as I know, only Naturebox offers honey macadamia pretzel pops. You probably won’t find watermelon fruit chews or ancient grains granola anywhere else, either. Dried apples, on the other hand, are everywhere. You don’t need Naturebox for dried apples.

What’s Cool about Naturebox

Picking your own snacks is fun but Naturebox does offer “curated” selections as well. “Nutritionist picks” is a good option for the calorie conscious.

What else is cool? Naturebox puts the nutrition information for each snack right out front for you to see. It’s a helpful guide for finding a snack that meets your dietary needs or restrictions.

Naturebox also has faceted search on its website, which means you can use various filters to find the snack you want. If you’re for vegan snacks or gluten free snacks or non-GMO snacks, Naturebox will make it easy to find what you want!

Naturebox won’t turn your life upside down, but it is a fun way to get tasty, healthy snacks delivered to your door.

 

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Pouf Hamburger. You know You Want One.

Hamburger beanbag
Hamburger beanbag: the right blend of comfort and kitsch.

Next time you camp out to buy tickets to see Adele or Lady Gaga or whoever the kids are listening to these days, leave the lawn chair at home. Chillax in style with this eye-catching and comfortable cushion. The Pouf Hamburger (Hamburger Beanbag in English) lets you add a touch of whimsy to any space. Prop it up on your coach, use it to make an extra seat around the coffee table, or let it cradle your head while you snooze on the bus. If prefer to be prone, separate the “buns”, “patty” and “tomato” and line them up on the floor, using them as an impromptu futon.

Discovering the Joy of Etsy

I found this kitschy cushion on Etsy, and it took me under two minutes of browsing on the site to find it. My point? If you’re looking for something unique, rare or one-of-a-kind (currently, there is only one Hamburger Pouf available) Etsy should be your first stop. It’s a great place to go for gift ideas; some of the presents I’ve found on Etsy include:

  • Fun, vintage embroidery kits
  • An electronic handheld baseball game from the 1980s
  • Christmas-tree-cookie shaped jewelry
  • An iPhone case festooned with a cartoon version of the Beatles
  • A “Gone with the Wind” cookbook

There is also a ton of vintage clothes, handmade toys, fancy French macarons and much, much more. If you’re not an Etsy shopper yet, you will be once you start browsing. It won’t be long before you find that handmade, uniquely-crafted, quirky thing  you just can’t live without.

 

 

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Neusalt delivery truck

Robert B. Hill Co. Provides Custom Options for Industrial Water Softeners

An elderly couple sits on a couch, both gazing at a wand from a test kit that the woman holds in her hand.

“Do you think it’s possible after all these years?” the woman asks.

“Look,” the man says, “it’s turning color!”

The woman’s face becomes sober and she says, “It’s positive. We’ve got hard water.”

Do you remember that gag? It’s from a commercial that ran on TV quite a bit in the late  ’90s. It’s long gone now, but hard water is still a problem for many homes and businesses. Recently, our team discovered a major player in the water softening business. Twin Cities-based Robert B. Hill Co. manufactures water softeners for industrial and commercial applications. The company serves a broad range of industries, from food processing to pharmaceutical.

Industrial and Commercial Water Softeners

Neusalt delivery truck
Neusalt Delivery truck brings salt directly to a client’s storage tank.

Robert B. Hill water softening systems can remove uranium, arsenic, radium and all kinds of other nasty stuff you don’t want in your drinking water. The company also offers a very efficient method for delivering salt: they deliver it straight to storage tanks which are installed outside of the facility, which means no bags (and no mess) and no need for delivery personnel to enter the facility (which means no interruptions.) The company delivers salt to several counties in Minnesota, including Anoka County, Hennepin County, Ramsey County, Dakota County, Washington County and many others. The salt comes straight from the Great Salt Lake in Utah.

Because not all hard water is the same, every facility has different space issues and every client has different priorities, Robert B. Hill Co. performs a thorough analysis of each client’s needs and delivers a water softening system designed to meet them. Here at CPAC Fuller, we give gold stars to companies that put their clients’ needs first and provide custom rather than cookie cutter solutions.

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Innovative Spaces: HiFi Hair

This ain’t your mama’s strip mall hair salon. HiFi Hair, in Minneapolis’s Loring Park neighborhood, offers more than just haircuts. A trip to HiFi is an experience.

Hair
HiFi Hair can help you rock a style like this.

The salon opened in 2012 and since then has become glorious haven of rock n’ roll memorabilia, its walls plastered with everything from the Rat Pack to David Bowie. You might hear a Chuck Berry tune on the juke box when you walk in, and you can flip through a book of Annie Liebovitz’s photos while you wait. Or you can pop into the record shop that’s right next to the salon.

The mirrors, lights and reception desk are all salvaged from old churches, which, combined with the leopard print chairs, creates the kind of look that’s cool in a way that only a rock star can pull off.

Innovative Spaces vs. Innovative Services

See the thing about hair salons is that there really isn’t an innovative way to cut hair. There’s a right way and a wrong way; you give your client what she wants or you don’t. What’s innovative about the salon isn’t the services — the service is top-shelf — it’s the setting. HiFi Hair offers something that bland, froufrou shopping mall salons don’t: a fun place to hang out.

Businesses have to innovate where they can. Because there is no way to top quality as a selling point when it comes to hair, HiFi Hair has smartly taken a new avenue toward innovation, and chosen to amp up the coolness factor of its space. Go and reward them for this intelligent strategy with some business. Be aware that their haircuts are a bit on the expensive side: $40 – $55. That’s about $5 – $25 more than you might pay at the mall. But if you can afford it, go and have an experience. And get a rockin’ haircut.

Photo credit: °]° / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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vintage bike

Quality Bicycle Products: The Name Says it All

While “Quality Bicycle Products” may not be the most imaginative name for a company, but I can’t think of a better one. Quality bicycle products are exactly what this industry leading distributor of bike parts and accessories offers. The company, located in Bloomington, Minnesota, distributes a vast array of bicycle parts, and owns several unique brands. Here are just a few of QBP’s kick-ass bike brands:

Civia

vintage bike
A vintage bike, similar to the bikes designed by Civia.

QBP offers several brands of bicycle, including the popular Surly brand. However, I want to focus on Civia, mostly because I have a soft spot for that vintage look. Civia bikes are designed with an eye towards fashion, providing cyclists a reliable yet stylish way to navigate the city’s hippest neighborhoods. At CPAC Fuller, we like to give gold stars to companies that make smart moves, and Civia was definitely conceived with a specific cyclist in mind: young, urban, artistic and chic.

45North

Minnesota cyclists who ride year-round need top-shelf protection to get through the cold months. QBP’s 45North brand offers studded tires, balaclavas, insulated biking boots and pedals designed to shed snow. These products help make winter biking easier and more comfortable. In extreme temperatures and on icy roads, you need protective gear and tires that won’t slip. As much as I don’t enjoy winter biking, looking at 45North products makes me want to give it a go. A great brand does more than just make you want to buy it — a great brand gets you to change the way you think.

Whisky Parts Co.

From the Whisky Parts website: “Throw a set of wheels built with Whisky rims on your bike and get that “super-fresh legs” feel every time you head out. Our carbon rims wind up to speed easy and keep you there with less effort.” SOLD. Like Civia, Whisky Parts knows its customer: tough, gritty and focused solely on the road. A gold star for Whisky!

These are just a few of the unique brands that QBP offers. To learn more about what else the company offers, visit qbp.com.

Photo credit: ines saraiva / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)
 

 

 

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