A Valley Of Shopkeepers

Old-line merchants, watching dot-coms implode, are adapting--and thriving

Welcome to the new Silicon Valley, where stocks are cheap, people are nervous, and everybody carries a flashlight. A year ago, venture capitalist John L. Doerr was bragging that we were witnessing the "largest legal creation of wealth in the history of the planet." Now, tech stocks are in the dumps, pink slips are flying, and those uberbooster VCs who got us into all this are off huddled somewhere counting their money, trying to ignore the dying bleats of the dot-coms they launched. And for your winter enjoyment, there's a fresh hell: rolling blackouts. Local radio announcers give the daily likelihood of power outages across our energy-strapped region in the same breath that they relate Nasdaq's daily jitters and earnings shortfalls. You hear these gloom indexes and think: Hey, what happened to our little reinvention-of-the-universe science project anyway?

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