Tuesday, December 25, 2012

What's open on Christmas day?

If you need a last-last-last-minute gift, some toothpaste, or just to get away from the family for a few minutes on Christmas, there are a few stores that will be open Christmas day itself.

Here's a list of some of the chains that aren't closing:

  • Walgreen's
  • CVS Pharmacy
  • 7-Eleven
  • Denny's
  • IHOP
  • Starbucks
  • Waffle House
  • McDonald's is reportedly urging its franchised locations to stay open
Domino's, Dunkin Donuts and Burger King are opening select locations.

For more information, check out a summary of personal finance site GoBankingRates.com's survey of retailers.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Vinnie's Grill & Raw Bar closes on South Boulevard

After 20 years, Vinnie's Grill & Raw Bar has closed up shop at its South Boulevard location.

Former general manager David Luckey said the restaurant's last day of business was Sunday. The closure is permanent, he confirmed.

He said the general economic conditions had caused Vinnie's to struggle. "This economy makes everybody broke," said Luckey, who was helping to clean out the restaurant Thursday afternoon.

There are no plans to close the second Vinnie's location in Mooresville, which remains open, Luckey said.

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Crisp opening Latta Arcade location

Crisp, a restaurant with a plethora of salads, is opening an uptown location soon, in Latta Arcade off of Tryon Street.

Crisp at Latta Arcade
It will be the company's third Charlotte store. There are Crisp locations on 7th Street and East Boulevard. The owners couldn't immediately be reached to pin down an opening date for the Latta Arcade store.

Jerry and Kerin McCarthy opened Crisp in 2007 in the Elizabeth neighborhood.

Crisp will be joining a lineup that includes a Quizno's, Indian, Japanese, pizza, and sandwich restaurants. Latta Arcade is popular with the uptown office crowd as a lunch destination.

Here's a link to Crisp's Facebook page, where they post specials and daily menu options.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Highway 55 opening in north Charlotte

A new Highway 55 Burgers, Shakes, & Fries is opening in north Charlotte, the adding another local store for the eastern North Carolina company.

As previously reported here, Highway 55 is hoping to franchise up to 75 locations in western North Carolina over the coming decade. Another local Highway 55 location opened recently in the University Pointe shopping center (details here).

University Pointe store
The new store opening is on Davis Lake Parkway, and will open Dec. 27. Father and son team Greg Hinson, 55, and his 27-year-old son Brad, 27, are opening the franchised store, their first. Their goal is to open six more stores in north Charlotte, Huntersville, and Mooresville over the next several years.

Greg Hinson previously worked as a mechanic for 30 years, and Brad had been a network engineer.

"When my dad and I discovered Hwy 55, we knew that it was a company we wanted to be involved in. Highway 55 has the family feel and dedication to serving their community we were looking for," said Brad Hinson, in an email.

Highway 55 is also opening a new location soon in Gastonia's Franklin Square, though no exact date has been set.

The chain, headquartered in Mount Olive, was formerly called Andy's Burgers.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Epicentre offering cab vouchers for those who drink

In an effort to help cut down on drunk driving, the uptown Epicentre complex is offering vouchers for cab rides to patrons who consume alcohol.

The $10 vouchers are being offered in conjunction with the Mecklenburg County ABC Board and is funded from the sales of distilled spirits in the county. The vouchers are available at the valet stand to adults over the age of 21, and can be used with City Cab, Crown Cab, or Yellow Cab.

So if you're drinking at Blackfinn, Whiskey River, Howl at the Moon, or any of the many Epicentre watering holes, please be responsible and take a cab (or a pedicab, or the light rail). With $10 off, the choice is even easier.

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Walmart Neighborhood Market opening on Independence Blvd.

A Walmart Neighborhood Market is opening next year on Independence Boulevard, the first store of its kind in Charlotte.

As previously reported on this blog, the store will be in a former Best Buy location at 7421 E. Independence Boulevard, in the Independence Square shopping center. That shopping center also has a Super Global Mart international food store.

The store will be hiring about 85 people to work full and part-time. They'll start working in January as the store prepares for its opening.

There are some 200 Wal-Mart Neighborhood Markets nationwide. They're about the same size as traditional supermarkets, and carry similar lines of goods. This is the state's second Neighborhood Market. The first opened in Cary in October. Here's a local news story from Cary with pictures of the store, to give you a better idea what to expect (Their verdict: "Walmart Neighborhood Market looks like a lot like a slightly less fancy Harris Teeter.").

“We are excited to add this Walmart Neighborhood Market to Charlotte and bring good jobs with career opportunities to the area,” said store manager David Thomas, in a statement. He's been with the company for three years, and started his career in Shelby.

The new Neighborhood Market will be a challenge to other supermarkets, of course, and also to other smaller,  discount food retailers, such as Family Dollar. It represents the fourth new grocery option in the region announced or opened this year, along with Whole Foods, 201central, and Publix.

Building permits show Walmart is spending more than $3.5 million to upgrade some 50,000 square feet of the building.

Here's Walmart's description of the Neighborhood Markets: "Walmart Neighborhood Markets were designed in 1998 as a smaller-footprint option for communities in need of a pharmacy, affordable groceries and merchandise. There are now about 200 Neighborhood Markets in the U.S. Each one is approximately 38,000 square feet and employs about 95 associates. Walmart Neighborhood Markets offer fresh produce, meat and dairy products, bakery and deli items, household supplies, health and beauty aids and a pharmacy."

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Friday, December 14, 2012

Frozen yogurt, cupcake shops closing in Dilworth

Two relatively new food options on East Boulevard are closing this weekend, as Freshberry Frozen Yogurt and Smallcakes Cupcakery throw in the towel.

The neon-accented stores opened in the former Blockbuster location at Kenilworth Avenue and East Blvd. just this summer. I wrote about them when they were first announced in February, which you can read about here.

Sunday will be the last day of business for Freshberry and Smallcakes. There's no word yet on what will be replacing the stores. Owner Nick Smith was out of town Thursday, said a woman at the store.

Smith, a longtime Charlotte franchise owner who opened the city's first Jersey Mike's sub shop and Moe's Southwest Grill restaurants, will be featured in an upcoming Observer store on franchising. He said that the Freshberry/Smallcakes concept is closing due to slow traffic.

That certainly seemed to be the case Wednesday night, when I went by the restaurant on my way home from work. A man in a cowboy hat was spinning LED lights to lure people into the nearly-empty parking lot.

Freshberry was entering an already crowded fro-yo marketplace, with a slew of businesses including Yoforia, Tasty Yo, Pinkberry, TCBY, Cherry Berry, and the Frozen Isle. And directly across the street from Freshberry, on the opposite corner in the Kenilworth Commons shopping center, is Menchie's, a fro-yo franchise that opened last year.

Read more here: http://obswhatsinstore.blogspot.com/2012/02/frozen-yogurt-cupcakes-subs-headed-to.html#storylink=cpy

A Jersey Mike's that occupies the other half of the former Blockbuster building will remain open. 

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Coal oven pizza coming to Concord Mills

A new restaurant, Tony Sacco's Coal Oven Pizza, is set to open next year at mega-mall Concord Mills.

The store is in addition to three more locations set to open in Charlotte next year, although details on the other Tony Sacco's restaurants were not immediately available.

According to a news release from Concord Mills, the new restaurant is 4,500 square feet, and will be opening near Entry 1, across from Sun & Ski Sports. The opening date is currently set for spring 2013.

The restaurants have anthracite coal-burning ovens that operate at 1,000 degrees. In case you were wondering whether they are actually burning coal to cook the food, the FAQ answers that: "Yes we are! We only burn pure anthracite coal from Pennsylvania. It creates twice the energy per pound as wood, and burns cleaner."

 Also noted: Shopping center owner and operator Brixmor Property Group said it has signed leases with two new Sleepy's mattress stores in the Charlotte area. A 10,000-square-foot Sleepy's will be located in the Carolina Pavilion shopping center on South Boulevard, and a 6,150-square-foot Sleepy's will be in the Franklin Square shopping center in Gastonia.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Family Dollar CEO Levine to ABC's 'Nightline'

Howard Levine, CEO of Matthews-based Family Dollar, was set to appear on Tuesday's edition of "Nightline," talking about the growth of dollar stores and defending the practice of importing cheap goods from overseas.

The "Nightline" story is about the rapid growth of dollar store chains, which have become a $56 billion industry. The major chains, including Dollar General and Dollar Tree, have opened thousands of new stores over the past years.

During the segment, Levine told the interviewer he doesn't mind when he - or his 7,550 stores - are called cheap.

"If somebody told me I was cheap, I would take that as a compliment," Levine said. "That means we are looking for value. That means we don't overpay for stuff."

He also defended the fact that about a third of the goods the company sells are made overseas, much of it in China, as a necessity. "Unfortunately, a lot of manufacturing has gone overseas," Levine said. "They have a cheap way of doing it and consumers accept it. There is no backlash from that so you got to go where you get the value and you got to go where you have the workmanship and the factories to do that."

So, did you see the video? What did you think?

(Editor's note: The show featuring Levine was bumped for extra coverage of a mall shooting in Oregon that happened earlier in the day).

Monday, December 3, 2012

See you next week - I'm off

Hi readers. I'll be out of the office and traveling for this week and a bit of next. I'll be back Dec. 11. In the meantime, if you have any news about store openings or closings, or any questions, please email me at elyportillo@charlotteobserver.com. Thanks!