Tractors are sexy: Octane Press publisher gets motors running with farmequipment books and calendars
There's a country song about how tractors are sexy. This farm equipment certainly sells a lot of books and calendars for Austin-based Octane Press.
Octane focuses on the transportation niche, says owner Lee Klancher, including not only tractors but race cars and motorcycles. A prolific writer and photographer, Klancher first got into the niche in college, running an engineering school magazine, and was subsequently recruited by Motorbooks, which covers the transportation market from motorcycles to heavy equipment.
“They hired me to write a book about Farmall farm tractors, which sold about 40,000 copies the first year,” Klancher says.
But who are these people buying books about tractors?
“There is a huge group of collectors, people who store them and take them to shows. Sales are also driven by people who have fond memories, growing up with parents or grandparents who were farmers. Tractors played a huge role in our history.”
“There is a huge group of collectors, people who store them and take them to shows. Sales are also driven by people who have fond memories, growing up with parents or grandparents who were farmers. Tractors played a huge role in our history.” Klancher points out that tractors also benefited from the touch of some top industrial designers.
A 2012 calendar, "Tractor: The Art of the Machine," featured collectible tractors getting the super-model treatment by Klancher and light painter Mark Jenson, who photographed the equipment at sunrise, sunset, in the studio and under the stars.
If you don’t think tractors are sexy after seeing these spreads, well, you just don’t appreciate clean lines and beautiful lighting. The 2013 calendar features only Farmall tractors from some of the premier collectors in America, prettier than any working vehicle has a right to be, with more artful lighting and beautiful settings.
Octane Press has published full-length books about tractors, too, including one called How to Restore Tractor Magnetos. Most people probably don't even know what that means, and Klancher admits it truly is a niche market. But he happens to like that.
“When I started Octane Press, no one was doing tractors. Motorbooks had quit doing it, so I jumped at the opportunity to fill that vacuum. Our book sellers actually ask us for more tractor books, and I enjoy it, especially the photography. I love being out in farm country shooting early in the morning.”
Motorcycles are another passion of Klancher’s – he got his first one at age 11 – and they feature prominently in the press catalog. There are books on Honda, Ducati and Triumph motorcycles; books on how to choose, find and buy the perfect motorcycle; and one about motorcycle dream garages, which include a 10,000-square-foot warehouse in New York, a private airplane hangar in southern California, and Jay Leno’s garage.
Klancher personally researched “The Adventurous Motorcyclist’s Guide to Alaska” with friend and co-author Phil Freeman, hitting dirt roads and backcountry trails through remote country, dealing with inclement weather, bears, and bad food.
“The harder a place is to get to, the more interesting I find it, and Alaska is full of remote spots, some as out there as the Bolivian Amazon and Australian outback,” he says. “Alaska is the holy grail of adventure motorcycle riding.”
One of his favorite Alaska rides is the 135-mile route from Cantwell to Paxson on the Denali Highway, a narrow dirt road with views of Mount Denali, the Talkeetna range and the northern lights. On the almost-60-mile McCarthy Road, Klancher came up behind a grizzly running down the road, which is maybe 15-feet wide and tree-lined. Fortunately, the bear turned off.
He also publishes several books on auto racing.
“I like good narratives, and in this niche the good narratives are in racing,” he says, something anyone who followed the sometimes soap-opera-like saga of Austin’s F1 track will believe. Other books on the list came from friends of friends or other connections. “I tend to back authors over ideas. If I find an author I believe in and want to work with, I’ll go that way.”
The Press does a brisk mail-order business, and while the standard is media mail, those looking for a great last-minute gift for a race car, motorcycle or even tractor fan (we know you’re out there!), offers overnight shipping. Klancher suggests calling the office to get something overnight. He keeps some items in stock and will be happy to find a way to get them to local customers.
Because no one should have to start 2013 without a Farmall calendar.
With snail mail, laziness begets clutter: all the catalogues, coupons and flyers for a free teeth cleaning pile up. It’s like paperwork. An Austin-based startup is willing to do some of the cleanup and enable a different kind of laziness.
For about $5 a month, Outbox will pick up your mail for you, scan all of it and let you look it at online (or on its iPad app), like email.
And like email, you can sort, scan and ignore. It has a spam filter, too — those pages-long Red Plum coupons for stores you don’t go to? You can unsubscribe and have ‘em shredded and recycled.
For the pieces of physical mail you do actually want, Outbox arranges for them to be delivered to your house, in regularly scheduled intervals. Things like packages will still be delivered as normal.
“The goal is to never make you go to your mailbox again,” Baehr says.
Co-founder Evan Baehr, a Harvard Business school grad who’s spent time working at Facebook and hobnobs with (and gets some of Outbox’s funding from) PayPal’s Peter Thiel, pulled together big names for their investor and advisory board, including early players from Twitter and Netflix.
And they’ve even wrangled a former vice president of the U.S. Postal Service.
Given the big names behind the service, its appropriately slick and the service is not without a few cool tricks: they can duplicate your mailbox key from just a picture, so Outbox can intercept mail from almost anywhere. “The goal is to never make you go to your mailbox again,” Baehr says.
There are already a few of mail-digitizing services, like Doxo, Manilla and Zumbox, that specialize in collating bills into digital counterparts and are free. If you’re bad about keeping on top of your payments, those solutions might work better (since they spit all your bills on to one clean page); Outbox is more for those trying to achieve some serious paperless zen.
But this also means someone’s looking at all your mail. The company’s “unpostmen,” who intercept your mail, and storage facilities (physical and digital) are vetted with leading security measures. Baehr assures that Outbox’s “unpostmen” are more heavily screened than current postal workers.
Moving forward, Baehr says the goal is to build partnerships with businesses to make their “going paperless” options more streamlined. Baehr says that Outbox is currently in talks with the city of Austin, which is trying to go paperless, for a possible, future collaboration.
The service is currently only available in Austin, but the company has plans to venture to other major cities in 2013.
Real World Business School
While some undergrads might require their parent’s signature when purchasing a new car or leasing an apartment, Leprechaun Cider Company founder Jake Schiffer needed mom and dad to sign for a start-up company.
Leprechaun is Texas’ first hard cider company and was founded by a then-underage, aspiring entrepreneur who has since became an of-age business pro.
The Houston born-and-raised founder admits that it’s been challenging and exciting diving headfirst into entrepreneurship rather than pursuing a formal business education.
“This is my business school . . . I can’t learn business in a book. I have to get out there and do it,” Schiffer says.
“All we do to add sweetness is add back crushed fresh apple juice. We don't add back sugar."
Cider has yet to see the craft beer industry’s ubiquity, which is good news for Schiffer, who entered the market and signed a distribution deal with Duff just in time to catch the hard cider wave that’s about to hit the national market. The Texas-made tipple is currently in four states and is in talks with 10 other states as well as Canada.
It’s not just good timing that has lead to the company’s rapid expansion. Unlike the concentrate-rich, mass-produced Woodchuck Ciders of the world, Leprechaun refuses to take cost-saving shortcuts, opting instead to use fresh apples hand-picked at their peak, and limiting themselves to only two varieties of apples.
“[The competition] uses very cheap apple concentrate, dozens of varieties of apples, shaken off the tree or crushed — it’s not cared about,” Schiffer says. “They heat it up to the point where it breaks down all of the bacteria. They ferment it . . . they add water, which dilutes it.
"And because it doesn’t taste like apple anymore, they add back bags of sugar.”
In contrast, Schiffer says Leprechaun takes an artisanal approach to retain the unprocessed flavors of their apples, resulting in a product that is natural and gluten-free, completely devoid of preservatives and concentrate.
“All we do to add sweetness is add back crushed fresh apple juice,” Schiffer says. "We don't add back sugar."
While the cider’s tap handles are side-by-side with beer and often served in pint glasses, the seven-percent alcohol by volume cider is more closely related to a lighter wine than beer. Schiffer says that after extensive travel through Europe, where he sampled a variety of ciders, from drier British versions to the sweeter, more carbonated ciders of Spain, he could taste the difference with the big American brands.
He wants to present a purer cider that is true to its history.
“We crush the champagne yeast, which gives it a more light-bodied wine or prosecco-like flavor and mouth feel. Not as beer-like or as syrupy [as comparable products],” Schiffer says.
This makes it flexible in terms of cooking and mixing. Schiffer also says he’s a fan of shandies made with Leprechaun and local beer.
“This is my business school . . . I can’t learn business in a book. I have to get out there and do it,” Schiffer says.
Even in the midst of expansion, the company is making big moves to continue honoring its home state. While the cider’s apples are currently grown in Oregon, Schiffer plans to establish an apple orchard in West Texas very soon. The central business office and company has also found itself a new home in the Houston Heights.
For the time being, Lepechaun won’t be doing tours, choosing instead to focus on a cautious national expansion and maintaining its high quality standards in the expanding line.
Pomegranate, which began as a seasonal variety, will soon proliferate the market as a year-round option for those seeking a fruitier, dessert-like pint. It will join Dry and Golden, making for a well-balanced lineup.
Even well before the company was signed over to him on this 21st birthday, Schiffer worked hard to provide a cider that makes him and his state proud.
“We’ve worked our butts off to get where we’re at,” Schiffer says. “We’ve done everything we can to grow, so I feel like we’re right on schedule.”
Sarah-Jayne Smith has considered herself a designer for as long as she can remember, dabbling in photography, painting, graphic and interior design throughout her career. The latter path is where she learned of a "dirty little secret" that many women harbor in their closets.
It's not a sex toy or letters from old lovers. It's the constant lie about how much they spend on their clothing and accessories; how they justify buying replacement pieces by giving the old away.
"There's an odd sort of snobbery about selling your own goods," Smith tells CultureMap. "Like trying to profit from your Prada."
She chose the name based on Aesop's fable about the two birds, the showy peacock and the equal-opportunity magpie, whose personality types represent the fashion industry.
The universal problem inspired Magpies & Peacocks, a fashion philanthropy that Smith officially launched in June. It breathes new life into those not-unusable-but-no-longer-relevant pieces through upcycling, giving local creative talent an inventory of luxury items to fashion entirely new pieces.
She chose the name based on Aesop's fable about the two birds, the showy peacock and the equal-opportunity magpie, whose personality types represent the fashion industry. The organization connects the two to reduce waste, foster creativity and support community nonprofits.
Here's how it works: Magpies & Peacocks hosts "Closet Deposit" parties at specialty retailers to collect inventory from donors, who receive a tax donation receipt for discarded goods. The organization accepts everything, categorizing by rummage, ravage and re-heirloom pieces.
Fledgling designers are granted access to these goods to create their own collections using bits and pieces of donated items. Volunteers help mentor and incubate the artists along the way, offering branding direction, business plan development, publicity advice and money management skills, plus help from milliners, photographers and other independent artists.
Fledgling designers are granted access to these goods to create their own collections.
Each artist's completed collection will be branded under Magpies & Peacocks — a name that lends authority and traction — and the one-of-a-kind pieces will eventually be sold online and through select retailers. (One local specialty wedding store is already planning to put wares on display.)
The new nonprofit has already reached out to Houston high schools and universities, like the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts and Houston Community College, which are planning to make it part of the curriculum, matching designers with students in other arts-oriented areas to help with photography, film and journalism. But the opportunity is also available to independent artists in the area.
"We shop and then we give, we shop and then we give, we shop and then we give — but we don't do any of that with a public claim," says Smith, who acknowledges that her organization is breaking the nonprofit mold and distinguishing itself as an unusual charity.
The Magpies & Peacocks board has perceived three distinct areas of need where it will divert the funds it collects from the designed goods: Catwalks & Classrooms (which focuses on arts and educational programs), Snouts & Tails (singling out local animal welfare charities) and Breasts & Tests (to support cancer screening and research facilities).
Magpies & Peacocks will be building up its inventory throughout the winter during Closet Deposit events at at Cakewalk Style on Wedneday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.; at One Green Street on Dec. 8 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m and in CAMEO at West Ave on Dec. 13 from 6 to 8 p.m.
Starting from bed rest
Kendra Scott's success story is one for the books: Pregnant and confined to bed rest, with a recently-unemployed husband and a meager bank balance, she began creating custom jewelry.
Once she was allowed back on her feet, Scott would walk around to Austin stores taking sales orders and then sell her samples to the very last shop on her route so that she'd have the funds to purchase supplies to fill them.
Eleven years later, Scott opened her fourth eponymous boutique (and the largest yet) in Rice Village this week, with others slated for CityCentre and Scottsdale, Ariz. — and she's revolutionizing the way that women shop for jewelry.
But the best part is, each wearer has the ability to tailor pieces to her personal tastes or a particular outfit at the Color Bar.
"I found that what was missing out there was colorful, beautiful jewelry using natural gemstones, at a price that I could afford," Scott says.
She and her design team lean on antique jewels and contemporary trends for inspiration to create pieces that are in vogue, on-brand and timeless — something that, Scott hopes, a granddaughter will pull out of a jewelry box decades hence.
But the best part is, each wearer has the ability to tailor pieces to her personal tastes or a particular outfit at the Color Bar. The Rice Village boutique is equipped with two 55-inch touch screens, a half-dozen iPads and even "bar menus" with images of products and options.
This makes each customer a part of the design process. They select the style, the stones and the metal, and then watch while a store clerk — all of whom are trained stone-setters — makes the design a reality.
"It's like Build-A-Bear for grown women," laughs Scott, who got the idea early on when her workers would customize the colors of their own jewelry pieces for a night out on the town.
She took that concept on the road for a trunk show at Henri Bendel in New York that was supposed to last just three days. It ended up attracting lines out the door for three months, and the Color Bar became a staple.
But the shopping isn't the only thing that is experiential: Kendra Scott boutiques are event driven, with the Color Bar available for booking for bridal brunches or girlfriend get-togethers, and a Girls Night Out each Wednesday that draws fashionable crowds for cupcakes, champagne and select jewelry deals.
Kendra Gives Back parties offer opportunities for an organization to benefit from 20 percent of proceeds. Attendees, meanwhile, can gild themselves and feel guilt-free about the indulgence.
The new Kendra Scott boutique is in Rice Village at 2411 Times Boulevard, Suite 120. The store is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday from 12 to 6 p.m.
CultureMap Emails are Awesome
Luxe plastic surgery center injects River Oaks with cutting-edge techniques, posh recovery suites, secret access, and more
With the holiday season in full swing and many prepping for a new look for the new year, image-conscious Houstonians have a new option for cutting-edge cosmetic treatments and plastic surgery in one of Houston’s most elite neighborhoods.
Nuveau Plastic Surgery + Medical Aesthetics, a local leader in cosmetic medical procedures, has quietly opened a sleek new facility in River Oaks (3720 Westheimer Rd.). Owned and operated by renowned (and board-certified) plastic surgeon Dr. Edward Lee, the facility offers myriad reconstructive surgeries for men, women, and children, as well as beauty treatments, touch-ups, and more.
Aside from top-of-the-line technology, instrumentation, and treatments, the boutique center has personalized service and features to the tony RO crowd. A secret entrance ensures privacy for discreet clients, much like similar operations in Los Angeles and New York.
Another top-drawer feature: Tastefully appointed pre-op and post-op suites keep patients in-house, rather than having to leave posh treatment centers and head to crowded hospital rooms for recovery.
In keeping with Lee’s insistence on a medicine-first approach, anesthesia for patients is provided by Medical Anesthesia Associates, an MD-only group.
A cut above
Notably, the center places a primary focus on plastic surgery, which, for the uninitiated, has a clear distinction from cosmetic surgery. Randy Rakes, managing partner, tells CultureMap that it’s important for clients to understand the difference.
“You have to understand, you have to go through hundreds of hours of training and cases — face and the entire body — to get that board certification, and go through rigorous testing in order to meet that specification,” he says.
Why is that important? The industry, Rakes notes, is rife with practitioners such as “OBGYNs or dermatologists or people who have not really been trained in the art of plastic surgery, who take a class somewhere and learn how to do liposuction or a fat transfer — and then they're ‘experts’ in aesthetic surgery.”
That’s especially key when selecting a provider for highly invasive — and potentially serious — procedures such as facelifts, eyelid surgeries, tummy tucks, liposuction, rhinoplasty, breast lifts and augmentations, breast reconstruction, and more, Rakes adds.
In an era of Instagram beauty demands, more choosy clients are opting for streamlining facial features. To that end, Lee is one of a select few surgeons in the U.S. who regularly performs “V-Line '' surgery. The set of procedures, popularized in South Korea where Lee honed many of his skills, aim to narrow the width of the jawline and the face.
Aesthetics with an expert eye
Lee’s elegant, 5,500-square-foot center is adorned with CASA Houston designs, Italian-influenced finishes, and soothing elements evocative of a modern art museum or luxury spa. The facility houses a Visia Skin Analysis Studio and seven treatment suites aesthetic work such as Botox, microneedling, VI peels, Halo Laser Resurfacing, Moxi Non-Ablative Laser, Broad Band Light Photofacials, Coolsculpting, Emsculpt, and more.
Rakes says that his registered nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and estheticians are elite, by design, as he and Lee insist on credentials. “All of our injectors are licensed in the State of Texas,” he says. “Most places don't have that, the reason being is that they are much more highly skilled than a traditional, regular nurse injector. So they have a much higher skill set. The people who do our lasers and things of that nature have 10 to 15 years of experience, so clients know that they're getting the best possible treatment with the best possible devices — we own every medical device that's considered cutting edge in the industry.”
Rakes, a longtime medical industry processional with a keen eye for trends and technology, says that his clients aren’t just looking for traditional services, but new technologies and treatment, such as PRP and other regenerative therapies. “I think patients are kind of moving a little bit away from the traditional Hyaluronic fillers like Restylane and really looking for something with a more natural approach.”
His treatment teams stimulate collagen with fillers such as Radiesse, “and then we combine that with energy-based devices to even further lift the tissue and work as a synergy between using the injectable and the device, because the combination of both of those things give the patient the best possible results,” Rakes notes. Lee and Rakes also focus facial care on medical-grade skincare brands Alastin, Revision, and Elta MD.
A global scope
Aside from his board certification in plastic surgery, Lee has also trained in craniofacial and pediatric surgery. His medical mission work has taken him to Thailand, Haiti, and Cambodia, where he has performed surgeries for nonprofits such as Operation Smile and Smile Train for those in need.
Those in need of non-traditional treatments can also trust Lee, says Rakes, who points to Lee’s work in the cosmetic and plastic surgery-obsessed Korea. “Some of the Korean techniques are much more advanced than the techniques that are available here in the United States,” says Rakes. “Dr. Lee does a lot of things that other physicians here just don't do.”
Those interested should book early, Rakes advises, as the holiday and new year rush is in full swing. The center offers “pre-buying” slots where clients can reserve space and time. “We’ve been very busy,” says Rakes, noting the local celebs who’ve shared the work they’ve received there on social media. “I think people come here because they know they’re getting the very best treatment and results available.”
For longtime Houston food insiders, Peg Lee needs no introduction. A lifelong local culinary instructor, she has been a fixture in the food scene since the 1970s, where she (often humorously) led cooking classes at Houston Community College.
She was a no-brainer to found and direct Rice Epicurean's cooking school. And the newly launched Central Market made waves in 2001 by enticing her to launch its now wildly successful cooking school, which, thanks to Lee, has lured top national and international chefs and food names.
Along the way, Lee mentored now well-known chefs such as Robert Del Grande, Greg Martin, and Mark Cox.
Quite apropos, the Houston legend is now the namesake for a new cooking school in one of the city's most beloved urban green sanctuaries, Hope Farms. The Peg Lee Culinary Classroom in Hope Farms' Gathering Barn now hosts field trips, classes, tastings, and free cooking demonstrations for children and adults.
Locals can also book the charming space, spearheaded by Recipe for Success/Hope Farms founder Gracie Cavnar, for cooking parties and cooking classes for anywhere from four to 24 students. Those interested can find more information on classes, which center on Cavnar's passion for healthy eating, and more here.
As for the classroom, visitors can expect a white, farmhouse-style kitchen with custom cabinets and high-end appliances, all reflective of a home kitchen. Butcherblock countertops, matte black accents, and farm-made tables and more adorn the space, while a Wolf Induction cooktop, A GE Café Smart Five-in-One Wall Oven, and other state-of-the-art appliances get folks cooking.
Fittingly, classroom water is tied into the farm's new rainwater capture system for the ultimate in sustainability.
“Peg was one of my earliest mentors in the imagining and crafting of what Recipe for Success Foundation would become,” Cavnar noted in a statement. “Then, when we began programing, she rolled up her sleeves and got to work, helping us teach children to cook and bringing her many resources to help us raise money and awareness for our efforts. It is my deepest honor to pay her tribute with the naming of our classroom.”
New craft brewery bringing 'bold American beer,' Texas comfort food, live music, and more to Sugar Land
Sugar land's new craft brewery
Houston’s growing craft brewery scene will add a new outpost in Sugar Land. Talyard Brewing Co. recently began construction on a 15,000-square-foot production and tap room that will open in early 2024.
Located in Imperial, a massive mixed-use development on the site of the former Imperial Sugar refinery, Talyard will occupy a three-and-a-half acre site that will include a beer garden with shaded seating areas, pickle ball courts, a playground, and a stage for live entertainment.
Principals Keith Teague and Chuck Laughter are Sugar Land natives and neighbors who bring experience from the business world to Talyard. In a release, Teague says that intend to serve “bold American beer” paired with a food menu of Texas comfort food made from locally sourced ingredients.
“We want to push the boundaries of style and tradition by combining old practices and new,” Teague added.
Ultimately, the brewery’s 20-barrel brewhouse will be capable of producing 10,000 barrels per year. For now, brew master Sean Maloney is dialing in recipes on a test system. Formerly of 8th Wonder Brewing, Maloney has been working on the West Coast and recently finished the World Brewing Academy’s Master Brewer Program, administered by the Siebel Institute in Chicago and the Doemens Academy in Munich.
“As I’m sure is the case for many ventures like ours, the idea of starting a craft brewery was hatched over beers in the backyard,” Teague said. “Sean attended high school with Chuck’s son, and over the years, we’d see him at family gatherings during the holidays when he was visiting from the West Coast. Those backyard beer sessions turned into area brewery tours together, and eventually the idea of sharing our passion here locally was born.”
Talyard will add to Imperial’s extensive entertainment options. The area also includes Constellation Field, home to the Sugar Land Space Cowboys, a weekly farmers market, and the Fort Bend Children’s Discovery Center.