Everybody’s business

Photo By Tom Angel

Here’s your SAT-style test of the week: Target is to Mervyn’s and VH-1 is to MTV as __________ is to McDonald’s.

The answer is Chipotle, the new “fast-casual” Mexican eatery currently under construction at the corner of Mangrove and Vallombrosa avenues.

I didn’t even know about the not-so-secret ownership of Chipotle, which has been chronicled in fast-food industry journals and such publications as Business Week. McDonald’s acquired a minority interest in the Denver-based chain in 1998 and now owns 90 percent of it. (Founder Steve Ells is still the CEO.) McDonald’s sales have been flat in recent years, but Chipotle’s are up. Even so, McDonald’s reportedly has considered unloading the restaurants, along with Boston Market and some other “branded” businesses it controls.

So, what does all this mean for Chico, besides more burritos and tacos selling for $7.50-$8 per meal? Well, as far as John Geiger is concerned—he’s the owner of Crazy Dog and the guy who tipped me off to the whole arrangement—it’s a little ironic, since the city wouldn’t let a Carl’s Jr. set up shop on that corner.

Almond joy
A few years ago, local farmers wouldn’t have wished for a huge almond crop. Supply and demand would have dictated less money, and the announcement of a crop numbering 1 billion meat pounds, like the one made June 26 about the 2003-04 harvest, would have been bad news. But that’s not the case anymore, said Tod Kimmelshue, president of the Butte County Farm Bureau.

“We’re glad to have a large crop because consumption worldwide continues to go up 4 to 5 percent a year,” said Kimmelshue, crediting the marketing efforts of the Almond Board of California for much of the increase. “We want to keep them eating almonds,” he added, and if there weren’t enough to go around, they might turn to—gasp—walnuts, pecans or peanuts.

The California Agricultural Statistics Service (CASS) tallied the objective forecast—that’s the one based on samples of actual kernels on trees—as up 9 percent from May’s subjective forecast. The number of nuts per tree is down 14 percent (down 24 percent in the popular Nonpareils) from 2002, but the weight of each kernel is up 18 percent.

Ford tough
Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes might not be urinating on Ford (you know you have one of those stickers on your Chevy truck) after learning of the automotive giant’s contributions to education.

We got two press releases from Chico State University in one week about Ford’s good works. In one, Ford is funding a fellowship so Antoinette Martinez, an assistant professor in the Anthropology Department and an author, can research “the role of Native American women in maintaining cultural and ethnic identity.” Also, Ford and local dealer Wittmeier have donated $7,500 toward the College of Agriculture’s annual golf tournament fund-raiser.

Who said corporate involvement in the schools was a bad thing?