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BusinessDallas Leading Indicators

By David Johnson |

Travel Oh City?

Nope, it’s Travelocity, as in velocity, arid it’s the end result of more begetting than you found in the Old Testament. American Airlines begat AMR Corp., which begat Sabre Holdings (the reservation terminals you see in travel agents’ offices), which in turn begat Travelocity. The final begat bought and merged with Preview Travel-which was already publicly traded-so Travelocity begat common stock, which now trades on the Nasdaq under the symbol TVLY. Slay tuned-Sabre still owns more than 80 percent of Travelocity’s offspring, and that’ll probably beget the future. Whew!

Red Meat in Gotham

A survey recently showed that 20 percent of Del Frisco’s patrons came from New York and New Jersey. So the North Dallas institution has taken on the Big Apple, big time. The steakhouse opened new three-story digs in Manhattan, replete with a wine cellar that holds 13,500 bottles and a dining room that seats up to 70 patrons. The new restaurant features a view of Avenue of the Americas, with Radio City and Fox News as neighbors. So how do you make money in a place like that? Co-founder Dee Lincoln said that the first thing she did was raise prices. “We looked around and discovered we were too cheap!” Dee is already thinking like a New Yorker.

Brand Junkies

Dallas-based “mall-tailer,” Gadzooks, has reason to shout its name. After several quarters of miss-guessing what its predominantly teenage clientele would be wearing, it is finally back in the groove. The secret? Gadzooks calls it branding. Seems as though the fickle tots are just like their parents : They want brand names emblazoned across their chests. Jerry Szczepanski, Gadzook’s chief executive, learned that the hard way. After a couple of years offering T-shirts and jeans, he’s back to stocking Mossimo. Doc Martins, and the like. The result ? Store sales are up 25 percent, while red ink has turned black enough for the addition of 50 new stores. So what will our kids be wearing in the next six months? “I have no idea,” Szczepanski says. “That’s why my desk is covered with copies of Maxim, Time, Seventeen, Teen People, and Mode.”

Truckin’ Away…

Grocery works’ trucks have starting showing up all over Dallas, and soon they will he headed toward Houston. The web site has everything your local Kroger carries, but instead of hunting fora parking place, you just power up the PC, click the mouse, and voila! The food appears at your doorstep. High tech? You bet. Even down to the trucks. Each delivery truck is outfitted with a Global Positioning System that helps drivers find your home and allows the head office to know delivery status at any time. This is the same system that UPS uses, and soon you’ll he able to track your delivery on the web site, much like UPS deliveries. So you’ll know when your Blue Bell is held up in traffic.

Teat i me

The Harvey House Hotel first popped up in North Dallas in 1981 at its LBJ location and later on Midway Road. It eventually expanded to 23 other states for a total of 30,tX)0 rooms in more than 112 properties. Along the way, Harvey changed its name to Bristol Hotels and Resorts, got listed on the New York Stock Exchange, and became a major player in the lodging industry. Not major enough, though. A few months ago, founder, chairman, and chief executive J. Peter Kline sold the chain to U.K.-based Bass Hotels and Resorts for double its market value. Kline speculates that in five years, there will he only five or six big players in the lodging industry. “It’s one of the few businesses that is both capital and labor intensive, and the barriers to entry are tremendous.” So does Kline take his winnings and drift off into the sunset? “My wife told me she married me for better or for worse, but not for lunch. I’ll he back,” Wow. So what’s the best thing about having a hotel chain purchased by a U.K. company? Teatime. Worst? Kippers!

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