Thursday, May 31, 2012

Junior League goes to longer hours

The Junior League of Charlotte WearHouse is moving to a year-round schedule with longer shopping hours, six days a week, starting Friday, June 1.

The store, which opened in 1936, used to operate on a summer and fall schedule with varying hours. Now, the thrift and consignment store will be open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday, all year.

“Not only are our customers able to have an extra hour to shop in the evening, but our volunteers will also have an extra hour to reach their JLC commitment goal,” said Michele Stack, the store manager, in an email.

The store is hosting two "Happy Hour" events (non-alcoholic) on Friday, June 1 and Saturday, June 2, to celebrate the longer hours. Featuring refreshments, giveaways and shopping specials, the Happy Hours will run from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Run by volunteers, the non-profit JLC WearHouse donates proceeds from its sales to the Junior League of Charlotte's community initiatives.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Clothes Mentor opens on Kings Drive

Charlotte has a new upscale used clothing store, as Clothes Mentor is opening on South Kings Drive, in a shopping center near the intersection with Morehead Street.

The store is currently only open for buying women's apparel. They'll buy "gently used clothing, shoes, accessories, and perfume" for cash. According to the store's FAQ, they're looking for: "Women's clothing sizes 0-26, maternity, shoes, handbags, accessories, & designer perfumes. We look at purchasing tops, blazers, coats, dresses, skirts, shorts, capris, jeans, pants, shoes, jewelry, & belts. We are looking for items that are in great condition and that are current to stores in the last 1-2 years."

Clothes Mentor (main corporate website) has 54 locations in 22 states. Their only other North Carolina store is in Wilmington. The business was founded by Lynn and Dennis Blum, the Columbus, Ohio, couple that also founded Plato's Closet.

Clothes Mentor needs about six weeks to build up its inventory, and expects to open to the public for sales sometime in July. Expect more to come, and hopefully an interview with the local couple that owns the Charlotte Clothes Mentor, as we get closer to the opening date.

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Monday, May 28, 2012

Hardee's planning big Charlotte expansion

Hardee's owner CKE Restaurants, Inc., said it plans to open as many as 35 new franchise restaurants in the Charlotte region. That's on top of 51 Hardee's currently in the Charlotte market.

"We are excited to expand in the Charlotte area, and we’re now looking for experienced multi-unit operators to join the brand,” said CKE vice president Ned Lyerly in an email.
The California-based company is holding an event on June 7 in Charlotte, from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m., to discuss the business one-on-one with interested potential franchisees. To learn more or register, click here.

So what does it take to open your own Hardee's franchise? "Qualified candidates should possess a minimum net worth of $1 million and a minimum liquidity of $300,000. Franchisees can expect an initial investment of $1.1 million."

Hardee's obviously has deep Carolina roots. Founded in 1960 in Greenville, there are now 1,912 Hardee's restaurants nationwide. And Panthers owner Jerry Richardson made his name as a businessman by running Hardee's franchises after his playing career with the Baltimore Colts. CKE also owns Carl's Jr., of which there are 1,313 locations.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Harris Teeter dealing with Triad-area robberies

Matthews-based Harris Teeter has cut hours at seven of its stores in and around Greensboro, following a string of late-night robberies this year.

The stores affected by the hours change are in High Point, Greensboro and Kernersville. They were formerly open 24 hours, but now will operate from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. Employees won't have their hours reduced, but some will have to work different shifts, the store's spokeswoman said.

"At this point, there is no indication of why Harris Teeter is chosen, other than Harris Teeter is probably our one grocer in the area that is open 24 hours a day," Greensboro police Capt. Mike Richey told WFMY in Greensboro. "And it is an extremely popular grocery store, so they're easy to find."

Here's an earlier story about the robberies themselves, which are being investigated by police in Winston-Salem, Greensboro and High Point. Authorities are also looking for at least two robbers responsible for a pair of robberies Monday at Harris Teeter stores in Cornelius and Fort Mill.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

More groups join Family Dollar tobacco opposition

More anti-smoking groups are calling on Family Dollar to reverse its recent decision to sell tobacco products, a move the Matthews-based retailer has shown no inclination to make 

The groups, led by Legacy, are claiming Family Dollar customers are more likely to be low-income and minority, and more likely to be smokers. 

"Family Dollar could heavily impact the lives of those Americans who already suffer disproportionately from tobacco’s economic and health consequences,” said Cheryl Healton, CEO of Legacy. The statement continued, "Since Family Dollar stores mainly operate in neighborhoods with low-income and middle income families, the company has the potential to increase access to the nation’s deadliest consumer product."

"While the company has defended its policy as a business decision based on customer demand, Family Dollar has the unique opportunity to stand out as a company that is committed to keep customers healthy by not selling tobacco products," said Healton.

Family Dollar has said the move is purely a business decision. About one third, a higher proportion of their customers than the national average, smoke. Those customers are getting their cigarettes elsewhere, Family Dollar said, so to be competitive the store needs to carry tobacco.

“We’re not in the business of judging our customers for their purchases,” said Family Dollar spokesman Joshua Braverman in April, when the issue was first raised. “It’s just another category where we add the convenience for them.”

What do you think? Does a retailer have any responsibility towards its customers' health when it comes to products like tobacco, or should it just be a business decision?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Food Lion raises over $500,000 to fight hunger

If you've ever wondered whether those solicitations at the supermarket cash register to donate a dollar to a cause really add up, the answer seems to be yes: Salisbury-based Food Lion said it's raised more than $500,000 in two weeks with its anti-hunger donation campaign.

The "Hunger has a Cure" campaign allowed customers to donate $1, $3 or any dollar amount at checkout. The proceeds will be donated to Feeding America food banks. In total, the money will pay for more than 3.7 million meals for needy people, Food Lion said.

This year's campaign topped last year's total of $440,000. "We are ecstatic about the more than 3.7 million meals that we were able to provide to families in need," said Bill Garcia, manager of community relations for Food Lion.  "We are proud to work with Feeding America to help eliminate hunger in our communities."

Food Lion is a subsidiary of the Belgian grocery conglomerate Delhaize Group. The company operates more than 1,100 Food Lion stores, with 57,000 employees.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Belk to debut Joseph Abboud collection

Charlotte-based Belk is set to start selling Black Brown 1826, a line by menswear designer Joseph Abboud previously only sold at Lord & Taylor.

“We view Black Brown 1826 as a modern approach to classic, Southern style,” said John
Thomas, Belk executive vice president, in a play on the department store's tagline. He said the line will be sold in 61 of Belk's 303 stores, as well as online. Half the items are exclusive to Belk, Thomas said. 

Belk is holding a private kickoff party for the line Wednesday at its flagship SouthPark store, with Abboud in attendance. Guests will have the chance to see the new collection and register for prizes, such as  $500 worth of Black Brown 1826 and a weekend with a convertible on loan from Hendrick BMW.

Abboud said the collection is  a "modern American brand." He said he's hoping to "push the envelope in a smart, interesting and tasteful way."

"A lot of preppy brands have very rigid requirements," Abboud said. "We're reaching out to style-conscious guys. We're not very heavy into big logos and crests."

The collection of shirts, shorts, blazers and denim have all been "merchandised with the Southern gentleman in mind," Belk said.

Putting the Black Brown 1826 line in Belk, Abboud said, will help it have more of a reach beyond Lord & Taylor's customer base. Abboud said since the recession, he has seen Americans shift to a more "European" buying mindset: Buy fewer, but more high-quality, clothes. He said he's tried to adapt his collection to fit that approach.

"This collection can appeal to a lot of different financial tiers," Abboud said. "If you find that one cashmere sweater you love, you don't need to buy eight."

Monday, May 21, 2012

New movie theater for grown-ups at Arboretum

Cinebarre, a new movie theater that bars children under three, serves restaurant quality food and drinks, and requires kids under 18 to be accompanied by a parent, is opening this summer at the Arboretum shopping center.

The theater aims to provide a high quality, grown-up movie watching experience, said CEO Terrell Braly. "It's kind of like a rock-and-roll movie theater," said Braly. "It's really for grown-up people and nice families...We don't want to be the drop-off spot for teenagers to just hang out and be disruptive."

"We take away the things that would annoy you, i.e. the crying babies and unattended tweens," said Braly. "We feel like a few basic things like that are the reason there was a decline in movie attendance."

Cinebarre is a joint venture with Regal Entertainment Group, which formerly operated the movie theater at the Arboretum. This will be the company's first location in Charlotte, and sixth overall. There are also Cinebarres in Asheville, Charleston, Denver, Salem (Oregon), and Seattle.

Prices for tickets will be the same as at regular movie theaters, and the shows will be first-run films with a smattering of popular indie films. Food and drinks, said Braly, will be priced competitively with normal restaurants - no $7 sodas. And, Braly said, the popcorn comes with real butter.

Once in the theater, patrons have a table in front of them, and a server takes orders. The menu includes items such as burgers, pizza, salads, and beer and wine. "Eighty-three percent of all movie-goers go to a meal an hour before," said Braly. "We've combined the experience."

Although Cinebarre usually doesn't allow children under three ("It's not because we don't like them," said Braly, "We just don't like them screaming in the movie theater."), there are "Cry Baby" showtimes every first Tuesday of a film's release, allowing parents to bring their kids.

Braly, who started Cinebarre with Regal in 2007 after founding and then selling a similar chain of movie theaters in Texas, said the company will be quickening its pace of expansion. Cinebarre is hoping to grow into new markets that are two or three hours from its existing markets (as in Charlotte to Asheville), and is currently looking for its next location north of Charlotte.

Braly hopes to have Charlotte's Cinebarre open by the end of July, maybe in time for the new Batman movie's July 20 release. There will hopefully be a movie star at the opening (they got Lou Ferigno at Cinebarre Charleston for "The Avengers"), Braly said. And he said Cinebarre plans on being here to stay. "This isn't just a flash-in-the-pan idea. It's been well-studied," he said.

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Friday, May 18, 2012

Container Store fitting in at SouthPark

The Container Store at SouthPark mall is doing well, a company spokeswoman said Thursday, as the store tries to stay on top of trends and cycles through its year of sales.

Company spokeswoman Olescia Hanson was in town visiting the SouthPark location, which opened last August in the former Joseph Beth bookstore. The location is the Container Store's second in North Carolina (the first was in Raleigh). Hanson said the Container Store isn't planning any further Charlotte-area stores. Each one of the stores is a destination, she said, and the company is focused on expanding into new markets.

The Container Store is based in Coppell, Texas. The company operates 54 stores, and is growing steadily. It's expecting sales in fiscal 2012 to top $700 million. This year, the Container Store is opening five new locations, in Arlington, Texas, Las Vegas, El Segundo, California, Westbury, New York and Boston.

Part of the retailer's strategy is to always have a promotion going. The SouthPark store is currently in the midst of the "Go Organized!" travel sale, followed in late June by the "Happy Organized Home Sale." Then a back-to-school sale in August, a shelving sale after that and "Gift Wrap Wonderland" to finish off the year.

The Container Store's busiest period tends to be right after Christmas and New Years, as they put their proprietary Elfa organization brand on sale and capitalize on people's resolution to get organized.

Another part of The Container Store's strategy is to adjust its offerings to conform to outside trends. Hanson pointed to a number of changes the company has made in its travel products to entice customers harried by the TSA and no-frills airlines.

More organized suitcases and compression bags are in, as customers try to cram as much as they can into carry-ons to avoid checking bags. Lighter suitcases are also in, for the same reason - less suitcase weight equals more weight you can devote to cramming that bag. Travel-sized, leak-proof Nalgene bottles for carrying TSA-approved amounts of liquids are also popular. People are taking more short, weekend trips, so The Container Store has upped its collection of weekender bags.

Another item that's been popular are travel blankets and pillows. "Airlines have cut back on little luxuries we used to get, like pillows and blankets," said Hanson. "People are bringing their own, especially on long trips."

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Mother-son team starts online boutique in Charlotte; New Shops at Target merchants

Here's a two-parter today: First, a mother and son in Charlotte have started an online accessory boutique, called The Accessory Gardin. Second, The Shops at Target has announced their fall lineup of limited-time merchants.

The brainchild of Anita and Evan Gardin, the store sells sunglasses, jewelry, hats, and other accessories. It opened its e-doors early this year.

Anita Gardin had previously operated a small boutique in Lowell, which closed after a year. By moving to an online business, the pair hopes to access a new market, selling goods online without as much overhead. Anita Gardin is picking the merchandise and designing custom pieces of jewelry, and Evan Gardin is handling customer service-related aspects of the business.

Now, on to Target. The Shops at Target is a program offering merchandise developed with smaller, local boutiques. The program kicked off earlier this month with five stores selling everything from upscale dog accessories to men's and women's apparel and perfume.

Each collection of 400 items, or "flight," is available for only a few weeks. The fall flight will feature 230 items from four boutiques, sold in Target stores and online starting Sept. 9. Here is the lineup of stores that will be participating: The Curiosity Shoppe, Kirna Zabete, Odin, and Patch NYC.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

New boutique opening on East Boulevard

A new boutique named Vestique is opening next week on East Boulevard, bringing women's apparels and accessories.

The store, at 1532 East Boulevard (click here for some photos), is the first Charlotte location for Vestique. The store was founded in 2010 by two college friends. Vestique started out as a web-based store, and they opened their first retail location in Raleigh last year.

The East Boulevard store is going into a space that was formerly Busbin, an interior decoration and home furnishing store. Vestique is one door down from Pour Olive Oil, an artisanal oil and vinegar shop that just opened as well.

Vestique is set to open Tuesday, May 22. The store's initial hours will be from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Jeweler, chiropractor coming to Ballantyne Village

Abraham Joseph Fine Jewelers and Ballantyne Chiropractic Wellness are set to open this summer in Ballantyne Village, the south Charlotte shopping center said.

The chiropractic center will be owned by Dr. Cheri Snipes, and will offer services such as spinal decompression, infrared sauna therapy, and anti-aging services.

“My mission is to provide the Ballantyne community with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions about their health care, chronic disease prevention and injury treatment,” Dr. Snipes said, in a statement.

Abraham Joseph is owned by Abraham Pamucki, a native of Turkey who started his career as a jewelry apprentice there. The shop will do custom designs, in-house repairs, diamond and gemstone settings, and appraisals, as well as selling diamonds and gemstones.

"Our in-house manufacturing allows the customer to create their own item reflecting their individual personality and style," said Pamucki, in a statement. The stores are set to open this summer, although no exact date was given.

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Monday, May 14, 2012

Lowe's puts out mobile app for Android

Mooresville-based Lowe's Inc. has unveiled a version of its mobile app for Android phones, as it continues to bulk up its digital commerce offerings and catch up with rival Home Depot.

The free app, announced last week, is the same as the  existing iPhone version. It allows users to shop from their phones, find stores and instructional videos, and track their purchases with the MyLowe's online tool. And with Android accounting for 61 percent of smart phone sales in the first quarter, it allows Lowe's to reach a big part of the market previously left in the dark.

"Expanding our app availability to Android users and integrating MyLowe's is part of empowering consumers with the ability to access information wherever and whenever they choose," said vice president Gihad Jawhar in a statement.

Home Depot, the country's largest home improvement retailer, embraced mobile apps before Lowe's, with iPhone and Android apps out for more than a year. The Atlanta-based company has also been aggressive with in-store QR code scanning and online shopping, and deployed thousands of mobile devices to its in-store clerks to speed customer service.

Lowe's, after several disappointing quarters, responded by creating the MyLowe's online portal, an iPhone app, rolling out  tens of thousands of iPhones to in-store associates, beefing up its e-commerce selection and expanding in-store Wi-Fi to allow customers to use smart phones while shopping. With its Android app, Lowe's now can reach nearly the entire smart phone market (Except for me - I'm pretty sure I'm one of the last five people on Earth with a Blackberry).

So both Lowe's and Home Depot have now placed big bets on the power of mobile technology to transform their in-store retail experience. What do you think?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Micro Wal-Mart near Charlotte

There's a miniature Wal-Mart outside Charlotte, one of only 10 in the nation, and this pea-sized version of the biggest mega-retailer could be the precursor of a major shift away from big-box strategy.

As detailed in this blog post from UNC-Charlotte's Urban Institute, the Wal-Mart Express is a 15,000 square foot store about 30 miles outside of Charlotte, in Stanly County. At that square footage, the Express store is barely 1/12th the size of a standard Wal-Mart Supercenter and not even twice as large as the average Family Dollar.

So why would a retailer that made its name gobbling up greenfield sites by the hundreds of acres even contemplate downsizing? Wal-Mart has been under-performing smaller stores for several years now, with a well-publicized U.S. sales slide that lasted for longer than two years. During the same time, at the height of the recession, the popularity of discount retailers Family Dollar, Dollar General, and Dollar Tree exploded.

The smaller stores are located either in rural areas too small to support a big box, or in urban areas too small to fit one. In a city like Charlotte, customers in many neighborhoods can either drive or take a bus to Wal-Mart or walk to a Family Dollar. This ease of accessibility, combined with low prices, helped lure in many customers who might otherwise have gone to Wal-Mart.

Dollar stores were quick to recognize and capitalize on this trend. They've added a much wider assortment of groceries and consumable goods - Family Dollar just added cigarettes - and shifted away from former dollar store staples such as low-priced apparel. Stanly County's Wal-Mart Express is next to a Dollar General.

Both dollar stores and mega-retailers have emerged as major grocery players (Wal-Mart just overtook Harris Teeter as the number one grocery retailer in the Charlotte region), but dollar stores seem more suited to the "fill-in trip," that mid-week dash for milk and eggs. A smaller Wal-Mart format positions the retailer to capture more of that traffic as well.

It remains to be seen if the Wal-Mart Express experiment will succeed, or ever pop up in Charlotte itself. Until then, you can drive to Richfield, Stanly County, if you want to get a peek into the future.

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Hot dogs headed to East Boulevard

A new restaurant called JJ's Red Hots plans to open in early July on East Blvd., serving smokehouse hot dogs from Buffalo, N.Y.

JJ's will be in the space formerly occupied by Boardwalk Billy's, at 1514 East Boulevard. The building has had a few different restaurants through it in the past several years, and none has been quite able to stick, despite the busy traffic on East Boulevard and the rooftop deck.

JJ's will be relying on quality hot dogs and a touch of nostalgia to make its mark.

"This concept is inspired by beloved hot dog joints like Ted’s in Buffalo, N.Y., where I grew up eating chargrilled hot dogs, onion rings and shakes. Ted’s and other timeless restaurants like them are rooted in classic American values,” said Jonathan Luther, the restaurant's founder, in an email. "At JJ’s we will strive every day to live up to these old-school values."

The renovated restaurant will have a takeout window, Luther said, and the hot dogs will all come from Sahlen's Packing Company in Buffalo. The restaurant will serve beer and wine as well.

Tip of the hat - Charlotte Restaurant Traffic reported this first.

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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Online grocery launches Charlotte home delivery

Lettuce Carry is now delivering groceries in the Charlotte region at no extra charge with a minimum order of $25, offering an alternative for customers too harried to make it to the supermarket.

I first saw this on our news partner WCNC-TV, which had a story about Lettuce Carry on Friday. The service is privately owned and operates out of a warehouse in Pineville, delivering to most of the Charlotte region and parts of South Carolina.

Lettuce Carry stocks about 15,000 items, smaller than a traditional supermarket which might have 40,000 or so individual items. But that's still more than many smaller stores, such as Aldi or Trader Joe's, which carry around 10,000 or fewer.

The service offers next-day delivery for free on orders over $25, as well as weekly and monthly deliveries on minimum orders of $75. You save 3 percent and 5 percent off the total bill with those options. A same-day "expedited" order comes with a $10 delivery fee, but no minimum order size.

Online grocery shopping hasn't exactly caught fire so far with traditional retailers. Harris Teeter offers curbside pickup, where shoppers order online and show up at the store to pick up and pay for their completed order. Publix, which is opening in the fall near Charlotte, recently discontinued a similar program after it failed to attract enough customers.

Lettuce Carry seems to fit the same convenience niche that Swiss Farms, a new drive-thru grocer on Sardis Road, is aiming for. With traditional grocery shopping shifting to ever-bigger stores (Wal-Mart, Target, Harris Teeter's expanded stores), some consumers seem to be finding they don't have the time (or desire) to browse 20 aisles each time they need milk and eggs. Hence the rise in food sales at small-box retailers such as Family Dollar, drive-thru grocers selling just the basics, and grocers who will bring a limited selection of the essentials straight to your door.

According to WCNC, Lettuce Carry has about 50 customers so far. Have you tried it, or would you? Why or why not? I'm curious to hear what you think.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Sam's Club in Mooresville soon

Sam's Club, as originally reported by my colleague Joe Marusak, is planning to seek approval for a store near Interstate 77, Exit 36.

The store would be off of N.C. 150 West, on Ervin Road. That's across from the Mooresville Crossing shopping center. The company will ask Mooresville's Planning Board for a rezoning to allow the store on Thursday, May 10.

Sam's Club is owned by Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart. The company had 5.8 percent of Charlotte-area grocery sales in 2011, up from 5.5 percent in 2010, according to the latest market share data from Chain Store Guide. The closest Sam's Clubs to Mooresville now are currently in Kannapolis or the University City area in Charlotte.

Monday, May 7, 2012

New interior design store in South End

Interior Motives is open on South Blvd., the product of interior designer and founder Will Smith's "modern eclectic" aesthetic.

Smith opened the store on April 1, after months of preparation. "I went to every furniture store in Charlotte," said Smith, who was an interior designer for 12 years before opening the store. "I don't think I missed one, and if I did, I don't know about it."

He settled on South Boulevard, and set about finding pieces that captured his design aesthetic. "It's challenging to find those things you need when you really need a statement piece. I said what items do I tend to find that people really love?" Smith said.

"I call it modern eclectic. You could come to our place and find an antique piece, but it will have a modern edge," said Smith. He tends to favor pieces with natural elements, re-purposed pieces, and creations from local artisans. "It's tactile, it's things you want to touch, you want to feel, and sit on."

"Most of our stuff is made in the U.S. We do have some imports, and we also do custom stuff as well," said Smith, a Duplin County native who's been in Charlotte since moving here to attend UNC-Charlotte.

"I started dabbling in the interior design business after I did an internship and realized I didn't want to be an attorney," he said.
Now he sells wallpaper, lighting, accessories, home decor, furniture and rugs. He said he's trying to appeal to all segments of the market, with large, assertive pieces and smaller pieces of furniture that would fit in a small apartment.

"We try to have a balance of everything," he said, "from the custom client to the client that just moved into their first apartment and needs a table."

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Friday, May 4, 2012

Artisanal olive oil on East Boulevard

A new store is open on East Blvd., offering customers over 40 unique, upscale olive oils and vinegars.

Pour Olive Oil is the brainchild of owners Sophie and Doug Jones, who also live in Dilworth near the store. In a former art gallery, Pour has stainless steel containers (called "fustis") full of olive oils and vinegars. Customers can sample them in the store, and their bottle is filled straight from the fusti tap.

Here's a quick sampling of some of the flavored oils they carry: Tuscan Herb, Black Truffle Oil, Organic Basil, Lemon Fused, Persian Lime Infused, Blood Orange Fused, and Herbs de Provence. The oils are sourced from individual growing zones, like wines, according to Pour Olive Oil. Among the vinegars, you can choose from flavors such as Dark Chocolate Balsamic, Raspberry Beret, and Cranberry Pear.

And while you might think of olive oil as a product you only eat on salads or use in cooking, the store boasts that the oils and vinegars are tasty enough to sip straight. Plus, if you bring back your empty bottle, you get $1 off your next purchase.

You can follow Pour Olive Oil on Twitter @PourOliveOil. The store is open Tuesday - Sunday, with varying hours. Call 980.207.1510 for more information.

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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Tex-Mex headed to Montford Drive

A local restaurant group plans to open a restaurant called Maverick - Rock Taco in the former 15 North Roadside Kitchen on Montford Drive.

The restaurant will feature a Tex-Mex menu with a rock-and-roll theme. The new owners, Xenia Hospitality Group, hope to add a pair of outdoor patios as well as expanding the bar, and are aiming for live music from local bands up to five nights a week. The group currently operates Charlotte restaurants Ilios Noche, Nolen Kitchen, and Big View.

"We want to do something really fun," said co-owner Stratos Lambos. "The menu will be real Mexican-style, street food, small plates, strong flavors, lots of different chilies." The bar will have a wide selection of craft beers, said Lambos, and a Bloody Mary-style drink made with Mexican beer.

Xenia is aiming for an early June opening, with lunch and dinner menus. Lambos said prices will be affordable. "We don't want anyone to spend more than $10 on lunch," including drink and a side, he said.

The Xenia group had originally looked at the building when it was a smokehouse, before 15 North took over. But it was dilapidated at the time, and Lambos said he passed. "It was a blessing, because we were able to get the restaurant completely built out as opposed to building it out ourselves," he said. 

Now, Lambos said the lack of extensive amounts of construction overhead to repay will help him keep prices competitive. "We don't have this burden that we have to cover overhead with a very large check average," he said. He hopes that will keep customers flowing during the street's slower hours. "The biggest challenge on that street is going to be Monday to Wednesday lunch," he said.

Lambos plans to put decks on the front and side of the building, pending zoning approval. Lambos said music will be an important part of the new restaurant. "I really want to capitalize on bringing in some small local bands, young bands that want to come in and play their music," he said.

Though Montford Drive is a thriving nightspot fueled by the bar scene, Lambos said his hope is that Maverick will be known as much for its food as its drinks. "It's young, it's fun, people going on bar crawls up and down Montford," he said. "We want our restaurant to be a destination for food. I believe the longevity of a great restaurant-bar is in the food."

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Shops at Target debut Sunday

The Shops at Target, a new store-within-a-store merchandising idea from Target, will debut at all of the stores locations and online this Sunday.

The Shops will feature items designed in conjunction with five small boutiques. They'll range in price from $1 to $159.99, covering product lines including upscale dog accessories and treats, candy, body care and perfume, and men's and women's apparel.

The collection of 400 items, or "flight," as Target calls the group, will also be available online. But the whole collection will be sold for only several weeks. Target has had success with other limited-run merchandise offerings, especially its smash-hit Missoni collection last year.

Additional "flights" featuring other boutiques are planned for later this year and next year, Target said. The five individual boutiques that will be featured are: The Candy Store, Cos Bar, Polka Dog Bakery, Privet House, and The Webster.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Michaels craft store replaces Stonecrest Borders

A new Michaels arts and crafts store is opening soon at the Stonecrest shopping center, in the anchor space formerly occupied by a Borders bookstore.

An opening date for the store hasn't been announced yet, but both the sign in front and Stonecrest's website have it as "Coming Soon." There are currently four other Michaels stores in Charlotte.

Borders, of course, liquidated last year, closing about 400 big-box locations and costing nearly 11,000 employees their jobs. Much of that empty retail space is still sitting unoccupied as shopping centers and malls search for new, permanent anchor tenants.

Stonecrest also recently opened a new Soma Intimates store.

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