Monday, April 30, 2012

McDonald's headed to Quail Corners

A long-running spat over fast food at Quail Corners Shopping Center appears to be over, as the Charlotte Business Journal is reporting that McDonald's has signed on to put a location there.

The shopping center, at Sharon Road West and Park Road, is getting a multimillion dollar renovation. Neighbors had previously fended off attempts to put a drive-thru fast food restaurant there, and Crosland, the developer, had failed to win approval three times previously.

Here's an article from my colleague Steve Harrison about the zoning dispute, which stretches back to 1979, and the city's zoning decision last year to allow a drive-thru location there.

The Business Journal reports that the new McDonald's will be nearly 4,500 square feet. Salsarita's will be relocating to a 2,400-square-foot location close to Park Road.

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Friday, April 27, 2012

New neighborhood deli, shop opens in NoDa

There's a new neighborhood store for food, prepared meals, beer and wine in NoDa, called, simply enough, Bodega.

The store, at the corner of 35th Street and McDowell, had a soft opening last week. Lynn Matta is co-owner of the 2,200 square foot store, along with her sister and her brother-in-law.

"We had always seen this little store that was there, and we had always called it the bodega. They had gone out of business, and we loved the building," said Matta. They've spent the past six months renovating and refurbishing the building, preparing to re-open it as a food and beverage shop geared to the neighborhood's needs.

"We've been doing a lot of wine tastings and beer tastings, getting the menus ready and meeting with representatives from international food distributors," she said.

They carry homemade pimento cheese and hummus, local beers, upscale olive oil and balsamic vinegars, deli sandwiches, prepared foods and wine "you won't find in a grocery store," Matta said. They still have room to add more to the store, and Matta said they plan to put in bulk food, such as granola, grains, and chocolate-covered espresso beans soon. Matta said they also hope to start catering.

They're hoping for more input from the community, Matta said. "Everything we did up to the opening was stuff we picked, and now, we want to hear what the neighborhood wants...Come out and tell us."

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

South End gets Blush boutique

Blush, a new boutique, is set for a May opening in the space where Niche Market used to be.

The store at 1504 Camden Road has had paper over the windows and a sign for a few weeks now. I sent an email to the owners since I couldn't find a phone number, but I haven't heard back from them. However, the store's Facebook page now says it will be opening next month.

Blush will carry women's apparel and accessories, and says it will have "a range of price points and styles that will appeal to the women of Charlotte, regardless of age or budget." The page shows lots of vivid colors, including an array of jeans in pink, yellow, green and bright blue, along with dresses, shoes, handbags and necklaces.

I'll update this post if I get any more information, like an exact date. Feel free to let me know here if you know any more either.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

South Charlotte Target remodel underway

Target is remodeling its store at Blakeney Shopping Center on Rea Road to add an expanded fresh grocery selection, and expects the project to be complete by the end of June.

The store is one of the last in the area that haven't already had the fresh food facelift. Target has been pushing expanded fresh grocery selections for several years now, in an attempt to win shoppers from rivals such as Wal-Mart and drive more frequent shopping trips from existing customers.

The Rea Road store (called "Charlotte Far South" on the Target store remodel website) is one of 90 being remodeled in the latest fresh grocery renovations. Target has already converted almost 1,000 of its 1,765 stores to the new format, which includes another 10,000 square feet of space for groceries. They include fresh produce, packaged meats and packaged baked goods, along with the traditional dry food and frozen coolers.

The renovation also includes wider aisles, lower displays, an updated beauty aisle and a reconfigured shoe department in hopes of spurring more spending.

Data from Chain Store Guide, a company that collects market share data, shows Target is still a comparatively minor local grocery player, with 1.3 percent of Charlotte area grocery sales. It's the 11th-largest grocery retailer locally. Wal-Mart is the largest, with 21.5 percent of the market, followed by Harris Teeter, with 21.1 percent.

Here's an earlier story I did with Kathleen Purvis about Target's grocery program, which was originally called P-Fresh.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Elder Gallery relocates, but stays in South End

Larry Elder, owner of Elder Gallery, said his store is moving a few blocks, from South Boulevard to a larger location on South Tryon Street.

 The 11-year-old gallery's new home will be at 1520 South Tryon Street. Elder said the move to upgrade to a 6,500 square foot space was prompted by the acquisition of a large collection of work by the artist Carl Plansky.

"The significance of the Plansky Collection has caused me to realize that this collection dictates a larger, more appropriate space," said Elder.  "We anticipate national and international interest, and want to properly showcase the work of Plansky and the other fine artists we represent."

The recently-renovated building also features 28-foot ceilings, catering facilities and meeting rooms available for rent. A grand opening is scheduled for Friday, May 11, and Saturday, May 12, featuring landscapes by David Skinner, a California artist.

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Monday, April 23, 2012

Concord Mills gaining 2 new stores

Two new retailers, New York & Company Outlet and maurices, are set to move into Concord Mills this summer.

The New York & Company Outlet will be opening near the mall's Ann Taylor Factory Store. The company sells women's apparel and accessories.

maurices, which is spelled with a lowercase first letter, offers bi-weekly shipments of new apparel aimed at young women. It will be located near the Old Navy Outlet.

The store's openings will be timed to coincide with the opening of the mall's new XXI Forever store. At 30,000 square feet, the store is four times larger than the former Forever 21 store. Concord Mills has more than 200 retailers.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Dollar General opening new store in north Charlotte

Tennessee-based Dollar General is opening a new store in north Charlotte, as the country's biggest discount store continues to expand.
The store is at 2804 West Sugar Creek Road, in the Crossroads Shopping Center. There will be a grand opening celebration on Saturday, April 21. Starting at 8 a.m., the first 50 customers will get a $10 gift certificate for Dollar General, and the first 200 shoppers will get a free tote bag.
The new store features an updated layout, Dollar General says. Seasonal items are on display in the middle of the store, and coolers are located at the front. Signage has also been updated and expanded.
Dollar General has more than 10,000 retail stores in the U.S., compared to Matthews-based Family Dollar's 7,100 or so. Both discount chains have been trying to burnish their image, with updated store designs, more consumable goods and a wider range of products. They've been booming in recent years, as a combination of the recession and stumbles by huge rival Wal-Mart have driven more shoppers to try out dollar stores.

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

10 at Park Lanes, new restaurant to open on Montford

More changes are coming to the popular entertainment corridor at Montford Drive, with 10 at Park Lanes open, and a new restaurant slated for the former 15 North Roadside Kitchen.

The grand opening for 10 at Park Lanes is set for Saturday, April 28. The renovated George Pappas Park Lanes, at 1700 Montford Drive, features a restaurant, three outdoor patios, and a 24-tap outdoor beer garden. In addition to the bowling lanes, 10 at Park Lanes has four cornhole boards and is planning to add bocce ball and ping pong tables.

The place also has 12 taps for dispensing North Carolina-made moonshine, and the bar has unusual drinks such as "Jalapeno and Bacon infused Moonshine with our house Bloody Mary mix." 

"We rebuilt Park Lanes with an Americana feel that will take you back to the ‘60s when it was originally built," said Adam Williams, one of the four new owners. "We want to honor the building, the look and the architectural style."

Meanwhile, a short distance down Montford, Charlotte Restaurant Traffic is reporting that Xenia Hospitality Group will open a new restaurant in the former 15 North Roadside Kitchen space. Xenia owns local spots including Ilios Noche, Nolen Kitchen and Big View Diner. 

No word yet on what the new restaurant will be like, but Xenia hopes to have it open by June 1.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

$2 bills: A secret sign from nudists?

Yup, that's the case, at least according to a press release I got yesterday from the American Association for Nude Recreation. 

"Nudists in North America are Spending $2 Bills This Memorial Day," the press release read. "If someone pays for a product or service with a $2 bill this Memorial Day Weekend, it just could be a message from a member of the American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR), who wants you to know that nudists are your neighbors, and that they have economic clout."

Memorial Day is next month, and the nudist, or naturist, group, is spreading around the $2 bills as a way both to demonstrate the economic importance of nudists and spark conversations with curious people. The AANR, which promotes recreation such as hiking, sports and swimming "without the discomfort of wearing clothes," says nude recreation and travel is now a $400 million a year industry.

"Because $2 bills are uncommon, AANR members hope to make themselves “visible” by spending them in local retail establishments and restaurants, demonstrating how important nudists are to the economy. It’s also an opportunity for anyone who enjoys nude recreation to strike up a conversation with someone who might be curious about nudism, but was perhaps reluctant to ask," reads the press release.

So, shopkeepers, pay attention this Memorial Day Weekend: If someone pays you in $2 bills, they just might be trying to tell you something.

Odd footnote: I currently cover business, but I've written about nudists at least twice before. While an intern in Washington, D.C., I wrote a story for a national wire service about a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals "Running of the Nudes" protest in front of the Spanish embassy, to protest Spain's annual running of the bulls. And while I was an intern at The Miami Herald, I wrote a story about a festival celebrating the anniversary of the opening of Haulover Beach, South Florida's nudist hangout. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Einstein Bros. Bagels opens in Ballantyne

On Tuesday, a local franchisee is opening Charlotte's fourth Einstein Bros. Bagel, this one in Ballantyne, and the first 100 customers will get free bagels.

The store is located near Ballantyne Commons Parkway and Johnston Road. It will open for business at 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday.

Phil Rice is the new store's owner. The 25-year-old has plans to expand with up to a dozen more Einstein locations in the Charlotte market. You can read about his Myers Park store, and a bit more about Rice, in a previous blog post here.

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Monday, April 16, 2012

SouthPark hires new guest services manager

SouthPark mall has hired Raye Schmucker as its new guest services manager. Schmucker will be in charge of managing programs such as the mall's giftcard sales, the Simon Kidgits Club, and, of course, the guest services department.

She'll be responsible for raising sales of Simon Giftcards, SouthPark said. The Simon Giftcard is basically a Visa or American Express giftcard good anywhere those credit cards are accepted.

Schmucker has been in customer service-related positions for more than 20 years, SouthPark said, with jobs in grocery and hotel guest relations, managing a travel agency and running two personal businesses.

She graduated from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. A native of LaGrange, Illinois, she lives with her husband in Monroe.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Best Buy in Monroe set to close

Best Buy, struggling with mounting losses and the unexpected resignation of its CEO, said Saturday that it will permanently close its store on Highway 74 in Monroe next month.

The complete list of stores Best Buy plans to close was released early Saturday. The only other store in North Carolina targeted for shut down is in Rocky Mount.

The company said employees at the stores have been notified, and Best Buy is "working to help these employees find other positions." They'll get a severance package if they decide not to move to a new location, Best Buy said.

The Monroe store's final sale will begin immediately, on Sunday, April 15. Sales of up to 20 percent off select items will be offered to start. The store will permanently close on May 12. There are 12 other Best Buy stores and four smaller standalone Best Buy mobile locations in the Charlotte area.

Some of the hardest-hit markets are around Minneapolis, which is losing six stores, Chicago, also losing six, and California, which is losing seven.

Best Buy posted a $1.7 billion loss in its most recent quarter, after holiday season that missed analysts' revenue forecasts. Sales at stores open a year or more, a key measure of a retailer's health, also continued to slide. The retailer is closing 50 of its biggest big-box stores to focus on the smaller Best Buy Mobile format.

And in another blow to the company, Best Buy's CEO Brian Dunn - who worked his way up from sales associate to helm the company - abruptly quit this week. The company initially said, "There were no disagreements between Mr. Dunn and the company on any matter relating to operations, financial controls, policies or procedures. There was mutual agreement that it was time for new leadership to address the challenges that face the company." 

However, since then, the Wall Street Journal has reported that Dunn resigned in the midst of an investigation into whether he misused company resources to carry on an alleged relationship with a 29-year-old female employee.

Best Buy has been grappling with ever-increasing competition from online retailers such as and the electronic boutique juggernaut that Apple created with its retail stores. Those market forces already claimed big box competitor Circuit City.

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Friday, April 13, 2012

Myers Park Hardware building is no more

Proceeding with plans to expand its store at the Providence and Queens roads intersection, Harris Teeter recently finished demolishing the old Myers Park Hardware building at the site.

The building was most recently home to Interiors Marketplace, which closed after 19 years. The owners had originally planned to relocate, but weren't able to find a suitable space. Owners John and Kelly Vieregg are focusing on their second store, Post & Gray. Here's an earlier blog post about the closing.

The new Myers Park/Eastover Harris Teeter is set to be two stories, with a 29,500 square foot ground floor and a 12,500 square foot mezzanine. It replaces the smaller Harris Teeter Express located on the site, which was originally an A&P grocery store when it opened in 1938. Here's an earlier post with more details.

A tentative opening date for the new store is early spring next year.

Myers Park Hardware in 1947 - thanks, Maria David, for the picture

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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Toys "R" Us/Babies "R" Us opening April 27 in Gastonia

A combined Toys "R" Us/Babies "R" Us store is opening Friday, April 27, in Gastonia, at the site of a former Harley-Davidson dealership.

The new store at 2830 East Franklin Boulevard is in the store's side-by-side format, with both brands being sold together. The company says that it's designed to cater to parents, who can shop for both older kids and babies at the same location.

"Integrating the Toys“R”Us and Babies“R”Us brands in one location has been an ongoing initiative for the company for the past six years, and our customers nationwide have been responding favorably," CEO Jerry Storch said in an email. The company started converting stores to the side-by-side format in 2006, and has combined 180 of them to date.

The new store is designed with some green features, such as skylights to get natural light, a white, reflective roof to reduce cooling costs, LED signage and light fixtures, and low-flow toilets and urinals.

The site is the former Carolina Harley-Davidson location. Here's a 2010 Gaston Gazette story about what led to the store's closing.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Bridal dress boutique opens uptown

Lineage Bridal, a consignment boutique for designer wedding dresses, has opened a store in uptown Charlotte after years of operating as an online business.

"We’re very excited that our new boutique is designed with the needs of today’s brides in mind,” said co-owner Natasha Duff-Cole, in a statement. She founded the business in 2009, connecting brides-to-be with brides-who-were who wanted to sell their designer gowns.

The business also partners with other stores to offers dresses that are samples or from last season. Duff-Cole and Jodene Pooler also have "Finder's Service," in which they meet with brides, discuss their time frame and budget, and locate a dress to suit them.

“Our online presence has connected us to clients living in cities ranging from Seattle, Los Angeles and Houston to West Palm Beach, Chicago, New York City and Canada,” said Duff-Cole. The business will continue to operate the same online, in addition to the Charlotte store.

So, brides-to-be, you can visit the store's website linked above, or call them at 704-376-3006. And have a great wedding.

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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Easter spending to hit $16.8 billion

The National Retail Federation is forecasting that Americans will spend nearly $17 billion this Easter holiday, led by sales of spring apparel, food and - what else? - candy.

The result of the NRF's survey is welcome news for retailers, as it's predicting a rise of about $2 billion from last year's Easter spending.

Average consumer spending is predicted to be $145.28, the first year above pre-recession levels. Clothing and accessory spending is forecast to total $3 billion, candy spending is forecast to be $2 billion, and spending on food for Easter meals is forecast to be a whopping $5.1 billion.

There are more details in the NRF report linked to above, but the basic takeaway seems to be this: High gas prices aren't holding back consumers, who are ready to spend more as the economy slowly improves.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Wal-Mart inches up in Charlotte, Harris Teeter slides a bit

New data from Chain Store Guide, a firm that tracks market share for different companies, shows Wal-Mart - independent of its Sam's Club division - edged Harris Teeter to become the Charlotte region's number one grocer last year.

According to the data, Wal-Mart's share of the Charlotte region's grocery market grew from 20.7 percent in 2010 to 21.5 percent in 2011. Matthews-based Harris Teeter's market share fell slightly, from 22 percent in 2010 to 21.1 percent in 2011.

Combined with Sam's Club (5.8 percent of the market in 2011), Wal-Mart sold 27.3 percent of groceries in the Charlotte region last year.

Food Lion's share dropped, after closing down Bloom and trying to re-work its brand. In 2010, Food Lion had 19.2 of the Charlotte region's grocery market (Bloom included), but in 2011, it fell to 17.7 percent of the market.

Here are the rest of the top 15 area grocery retailers, with their market share for both years:
1. Wal-Mart: 21.5%
2. Harris Teeter: 21.1%
3. Food Lion: 17.7%
4. BI-LO: 7.7%
5. Sam's Club: 5.8%
6. Costco Wholesale: 4.2%
7. Lowes Foods: 3.0%
8. Aldi: 2.0%
9. BJ's Wholesale Club: 1.8%
10. Trader Joe's: 1.5%
11. Target: 1.3%
12. Dollar General: 1.3%
13. Family Dollar: 1.3%
14. Compare Foods: 1%
15. Ingles Markets: 0.7%

1. Harris Teeter: 22%
2. Wal-Mart: 20.7%
3. Food Lion: 19.2%
4. BI-LO: 7.4%
5. Sam's Club: 5.5%
6. Costco Wholesale: 3.9%
7. Lowes Foods: 3.2%
8. Aldi: 2.1%
9. BJ's Wholesale Club: 2%
10. Trader Joe's: 1.6%
11. Target: 1.4%
12. Compare Foods: 1%
13. Ingles: 0.7%
14. The Fresh Market: 0.7%
15. EarthFare: 0.6%

Monday, April 2, 2012

New store, plastic surgery office now open at SouthPark

Two new stores are now open in the Village at SouthPark, and Paul Simon's for Women is opening soon.

Eye Candy is a new, 1,500-square-foot boutique. It's the Gastonia-based store's second location. And Criswell & Criswell, a plastic surgery office, is also now open.

Lily Pulitzer opened in the mall last month, in case you missed it. Here's a post about the stores when they were announced. Combined with Coldwater Creek's closure and City Tavern moving into what was formerly San Antonio's, it's shaping up to be a pretty busy year at SouthPark.