Saturday, May 10, 2008

Traffic and tea

I enjoyed San Francisco... but it doesn't hold a candle to Charleston for me. I was glad to see Charleston coming into view below the clouds on my return flight.

(And for Eric, here's my promised review of my AirTran flight: consistently great service all the way through. They did lose my luggage despite a two-hour layover in Atlanta, and they were then one day late delivering it to my house, but other than that, it was pretty flawless. I actually signed up for their rewards program during this trip.)

I'll be writing about the trends I found at Web Expo 2.0 in my Small Business Charleston web column, but quickly... two new offerings of interest presented to myself and the other thousands of attendees were Dash and ZoomProspector.

The latter is still in beta and Dash doesn't have complete information for every city yet, but watch for them both! ZoomProspector helps business owners and executives decide which cities might be best for their new(est) location. Dash helps the rest of us; a small screen installs on your vehicle dashboard and alerts you to heavy traffic ahead, along with possible alternate routes. One could wish they'd retained Apple's design team--the actual item appeared a bit clunky in the presentation once mounted on the dash, sort of like a large alarm clock purchased for $7.99 at WalMart--but how handy is that! I'll probably wait a bit for the number of users to build up in Charleston, then purchase my own.

(The traffic data depends on other users in your area, as each unit is tracked by a GPS unit. On its FAQs page, the company says this: "Dash Express users will begin to see the benefits of the Dash Driver Network with only a few devices in a given market. This is all it takes for the system to start learning. And every additional device in the area just makes the network better. For an averaged sized metropolitan area it takes just a few hundred units for the Dash Driver Network to provide live up-to-the-minute data for most major roads during commute hours." Penalty points, though, for the slippery language... I don't know about you, but to me a "few"--as in "only a few devices in a given market"--means two or three, not "just a few hundred units." Try telling your significant others s/he can invite a few friends to dinner, then having 200 people show up and try to fit into your dining room.)

Now onto my latest recommendation for best firms in Charleston...

Many of you know I'm a fan of tea. (For my Forty Under 40 photo, I considered bringing some bright blue, zen-wonderful teapot for my prop, but I settled for several Compatibility decks.) Well, then, you can imagine my delight when Teavana ("heaven of tea", according to the company's website) opened its doors on King Street, just a bit south of Calhoun, a few years ago! A sort of Starbucks for tea lovers but with more of a zen vibe and a smaller footprint, the staff will whip you up a glass of your favorite concoction or send you out the door with bags of loose leaf tea from the amazing selection behind the counter. There are teapots on the shelves, samples of the teas of the day just outside the front door, and a courtyard garden in the back. Yes, these days it's more of a national company than a local firm, but it's still very welcome to this tea lover, and its roots are not far from here: its first teahouse opened in Atlanta 11 years ago.

One note: I suspect, but have no proof, that Charleston Place gets its teas from Teavana. The names are the same. High tea at Charleston Place is enjoyable, no doubt, but pricy for the amount of tea, munchies, and service delivered. Those with less time or loose change can enjoy the same flavors just a few blocks north.