Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Belk holding 125th anniversary giveaways Wednesday

Charlotte-based Belk, Inc. is giving out gift cards up to $1,000 and free cupcakes at its stores on Wednesday, part of its 125th anniversary ("quasquicentennial") celebrations.

Starting at 9 a.m., the first 100 customers at each of Belk's stores will receive a gift card valued between $5 and $1,000. The fine print notes that there are three gift cards worth $1,000 being given out in total, one in each of Belk's three divisions.

There will also be cupcakes and other entertainment, Belk said.

The events are a continuation of Belk's 125th anniversary celebration, which has been ongoing this year. Wednesday is the actual anniversary of the opening of William Henry Belk's first store, which opened on May 29, 1888, in Monroe.

It was a discount store called "New York Racket," a name later dropped (and one that presumably wouldn't fit with Belk's current tagline of "Modern. Southern. Style.").

Here's a short snippet of Belk's early history: "Twenty-six-year-old William Henry Belk had been a store clerk for 12 years when, on May 29, 1888, he opened a small bargain store in the rural farming community of Monroe, North Carolina. He named it the New York Racket in hopes the name would attract customers and began practicing retail tactics that were unique for the time and place. Sales were strictly cash. Prices were clearly marked so there was no haggling. And, customers could return goods for an exchange or full refund if not completely satisfied. In 1893, William Henry persuaded his brother, Dr. John M. Belk, to leave his medical practice and join him as a partner in the business. Together, they expanded the company throughout the Carolinas and the South as the company flourished and grew."

Belk operates 301 stores now, mostly in the Southeast. The stock is privately held, largely still by the Belk family.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

H&M to open Carolina Place store

Another one of Charlotte's most highly-desired retailers is coming to the region: H&M plans to open a store in Pineville this fall, at Carolina Place mall.

The store will be the retailer's first in the Charlotte market. Fans of the fast-fashion apparel store have looked on with envy as the company opened Raleigh and Winston-Salem locations over the past few years.

The store at Carolina Place will be 17,000 square feet, located on the mall's upper level next to the Hollister store and near the food court.

From the store's announcement: "H&M at Carolina Place Mall will include collections for ladies, men, young ladies and young men, with separate “store within store” sections for lingerie and accessories. This location will also carry H&M’s fantastic children’s collection, which features quality clothing for kids ages newborn to eight."

Carolina Place is owned and operated by General Growth Properties. The 1.16-million square foot mall had a 97 percent lease rate in the first quarter, according to GGP's financial reports.

Carolina Place marketing director Scott Anderson said discussions with H&M have been going on for several years as the mall tried to sign the retailer.

"We’ve been working with them for a while trying to get that together," he said.

"It’s exciting," said Anderson. He said H&M was the most-requested store at the mall. "The last two years, you’re always getting questions - 'You guys need an H&M. When’s an H&M coming?"

Now that Charlotte has a Whole Foods, Ikea, and three Trader Joe's open, as well as an outlet mall and an H&M on the way, what stores do you want to see that the city still doesn't have?

View Larger Map

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Renovated Apple store at SouthPark grand reopening Saturday

Apple has spent a lot of money renovating its SouthPark mall store, and the company is holding a grand reopening ceremony on Saturday to celebrate.

From the company's announcement sent Tuesday: "The redesigned Apple Store, SouthPark, is opening soon, and it’s bigger and better than ever. There are more Apple products available for you to try. There’s more space for workshops, training, or to meet with a member of our Business Team. Even the Genius Bar is bigger, so we can help more customers."

Mecklenburg County building permits filed earlier this year show Apple spent more than $631,000 on the renovations. The scope of work included "partitions, ceilings, finishes,furniture, and related HVAC, electrical and plumbing work."

The store is currently open, but is holding a reopening event Saturday morning at 10 a.m. to mark the renovations. The first 1,000 customers get a free commemorative t-shirt (no purchase necessary), so if you haven't lined up for an Apple store opening yet, this is your chance.

Apple sent this promo photo. My take on it: "Your children will be amazed by Apple's laptops."

View Larger Map

Monday, May 20, 2013

New men's clothing store opens uptown

There's a new place for stylish men to shop uptown : Abbeydale is now open at 4th and Tryon streets.

The store held a soft opening Thursday, and has a grand opening scheduled for Thursday, May 30. Owner David Watkins said he hopes to grow both his new ready-to-wear line and his bespoke suit business in the new retail space.

"I have a lot of clients that wear suits and work uptown," said Watkins. He started the company two years ago, and had previously worked with clients by appointment at a studio in Plaza Midwood.

A native Charlottean, Watkins, 38, named Abbeydale after the east Charlotte street he grew up on. Watkins had worked in advertising for about a decade, but didn't want to stay in that field forever.

"I just kind of got burned out on that," he said. Watkins decided to do something he's always been interested in, designing men's clothing, full-time.

Now, he sources clothing for his new line from around the U.S. and the world. He sells denim from Virginia, ties from Italy, suits from Hong Kong and the U.S., shirts from New England and knits, such as polos, from California.

His look is an "American aesthetic," Watkins said. His suits tend more to the European, Italian style than the British. "Nothing too structured," he said.

With the new retail store, Watkins hopes to make headway selling his ready-to-wear line of clothes, which is arriving at the store now. But he said he remains focused on bespoke suits and custom apparel, created from scratch for each client.

"Our core business is still custom," said Watkins. "The Abbeydale product is a true custom product."

The most important thing, and the reason for all the attention paid to custom clothing, is how the finished garment actually fits, Watkins said.

"Our focus is on fit," said Watkins. "If it's ill-fitting, you're still not going to look great" even in a suit that cost thousands, he said.

Abbeydale storefront, from the store's Tumblr

View Larger Map

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Harris Teeter closing Providence and Queens store June 4

The Harris Teeter Express at Providence and Queens roads will close June 4, as the company works to complete a two-story replacement store at the site.

The new, 42,000-square-foot store is set to reopen in November, Harris Teeter spokeswoman Catherine Reuhl said. Harris Teeter announced the new store project in Feb. 2011.

Building permits show Harris Teeter is spending more than $9 million on the new store. The new building will include a second-story mezzanine and more parking than the current store, which was an A&P grocery store when it was built in 1938.

It will be Matthews-based Harris Teeter's second major store replacement in Charlotte. The Harris Teeter on Central Avenue is set to reopen May 29. At that location, Harris Teeter replaced a smaller, older store with a new, larger Art Deco-style building.

The Providence Road store project also includes road improvements designed to help drivers navigate one of the city's most vexing intersections, the Queens-Queens-Providence-Providence vortex that is Charlotte's Bermuda Triangle. You can see details about the roadwork here.

View Larger Map

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Papyrus opening SouthPark mall store

Stationery and gift store Papyrus is opening a new store this summer at SouthPark mall.

The store will open in June, according to SouthPark. Papyrus is located near the mall's food court. Building permits filed in April with Mecklenburg County show the company is spending $78,500 to renovate the 1,424-square-foot space.

Papyrus sells invitations, custom-printed materials, stationery and gifts for different events such as baby showers and graduations.

The company currently has a location at the Streets at Southpoint in Durham, its only retail outlet in North Carolina.

Papyrus storefront under construction
Papyrus storefront, courtesy SouthPark's Facebook page

View Larger Map

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

New shoe store, men's underwear store, coming to South End

Looking for a new place for your men's underwear, swimsuits, and gym clothes? Check out Brief, opening this summer in South End. And in the same building, opening later this summer, Shu is planning to open with women's shoes, handbags and accessories for sale.

The stores are at South Tryon Street and Summit Avenue. An exact opening date hasn't been announced yet, but owner Dan Mauney is trying to get Brief up and running by July and Shu by August.

Brief has a Facebook page with some more pictures and options to follow it for news about the store (There are many pictures of men in their underwear, as you might expect, so open with caution depending on your workplace etiquette).

Here's a description of Brief from the email I got this weekend about the store:
"Redefining how men wear underwear, BRIEF opens in South End this Summer offering one of the strongest collections of men's underwear, swimwear and loungewear. No longer the accessory, BRIEF will offer the latest and best designers in the three categories."

Mauney said the stores have been in the works for about two years, and he's been eyeing the South End space for six months. He plans to turn the 8,200-square-foot former office furniture showroom  into the two stores and an event space: 4,000 square feet for Shu, 1,000 square feet for Brief, and about 3,000 square feet for events such as trunk shows.

"I'm working around the clock to get things ready," said Mauney. The stores will each have their own entrances and staff, but will share a hallway and bathroom facilities.

Although Shu will start with only women's shoes, Mauney said he hopes to expand the selection to include men's shoes by spring of 2014.

Mauney said he's excited to be opening his stores in South End, and hopes the neighborhood's vitality will be a boost to his business.

"Every time I looked at another space, it sold me more on the South End location," he said.

View Larger Map

Friday, May 10, 2013

Starbucks coming to uptown Levine Avenue of the Arts

It looks like there's a Starbucks headed to the Mint Museum building on the Levine Avenue of the Arts uptown, near South Church Street.

Building permits filed with Mecklenburg County show the project - listed as "Starbucks @ Duke Energy Center" - will cost $161,150. The company is paying to upfit 1,937 square feet of interior space at the location.

The store will be the sixth Starbucks location inside the uptown I-277 loop, and another boon for office workers who need an excuse to skip out of work on a nice afternoon for some fresh air.

So, fellow office denizens, what's your coffee place uptown? I like to drop by the uptown Amelie's branch with a cup - can't beat $1 refills for a late-afternoon caffeine boost.

(Hat tip to the Charlotte Business Journal for having this tidbit first)

View Larger Map

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Zumiez, other new stores at Northlake Mall

Zumiez, a store peddling skateboarding, snowboarding, BMX, surfing and motocross apparel and accessories, plans to open by August at Northlake Mall.

Pronounced "Zoomies," the store carries footwear brands such as DC, Vans, Volcom, Obey and Skullcandy. The store will also sell apparel, snowboards and skateboards.

Taco Bell, "the nation's leading Mexican-inspired quick service restaurant," is also opening this August in the Northlake food court. Prepare for Doritos Tacos Locos.

Also open now at Northlake:

  • Locker Room by Lids, "the one-stop destination for headwear, apparel, accessories and novelties for your favorite professional and college teams," is open on the lower level between Dick's Sporting Goods and Dillard's on the lower level.
  • White House|Black Market is open on the upper level, between the Grand Court and Dick's Sporting Goods.
  • And women's apparel retailer Chico's is open on the upper level, between Macy's and Belk.

View Larger Map

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Cast Iron Waffles opening Piedmont Row location

Cast Iron Waffles is opening a second Charlotte location, this one at the Piedmont Row center in SouthPark.

The restaurant currently has a Ballantyne location, off Ardrey Kell Road. The new location doesn't have a date set yet, but the restaurant is hoping for sometime in early June.

You can follow the new Cast Iron Waffles location on Facebook here for the latest news about opening dates and more, or on Twitter.

Cast Iron Waffles serves gourmet Liege waffles and fair-trade coffee and espresso. Check out this description of their waffles:

"The Liege Waffle dough recipe originated in the 18th Century by the cook of the Prince of Liege, seeking to win favor. The result was a delicious treat that has been enjoyed on the streets of Belgium and all over Europe for centuries.

Imported Belgian Pearl Sugar is infused into the buttery sweet, twice raised Brioche style dough and smashed into a 100 LB, cast iron waffle press to create a caramelized sugar outer shell and a soft inside that will elevate your love of waffles to new heights."

(Thanks to an alert reader for sending me this tip).

Planned Cast Iron Waffles location

View Larger Map

Current Cast Iron Waffles location

View Larger Map

Friday, May 3, 2013

Boot Barn grand opening at Concord Mills

Cowboy and cowgirl types have a new option at Concord Mills: Boot Barn is holding a grand opening at Concord Mills this Saturday.

It's the company's first location in North Carolina. The store was formerly an RCC Western Store, a chain that was acquired by Boot Barn last year. The combined company operates 117 stores in 21 states, and is the largest "western lifestyle retailer."

Boot Barn carries boots, jeans, shirts, belts, hats, jewelry and other accessories from brands including Ariat, Carhartt, Levi's and more.

The grand opening events at Concord Mills include: "A special family and friends preview, musical entertainment from WSOC 103.7, a ribbon cutting ceremony, great giveaways, incredible discounts and FFA and 4-H fundraising opportunities."

Ribbon cutting at noon, boots optional.

View Larger Map

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Ralph Lauren closing SouthPark mall store

Ralph Lauren is closing its store in SouthPark mall, according to a letter the company sent to its loyal Charlotte clients this week.

The letter, forwarded to me by an alert reader, says the store's last day open at the mall will be May 17. There apparently aren't any plans to replace the SouthPark location with a local store soon: The letter directs clients to visit the closest Ralph Lauren location in Atlanta or shop online. The company is offering its loyal clients free shipping on online orders for a month.

"Thank you for being part of the world of Ralph Lauren and shopping with us at our Charlotte store. It has been our pleasure to assist you and your family," read the letter. It was signed by Robert Norton, a Ralph Lauren vice president.

No word yet on what will replace the store. Stay tuned, however. And as always, send me any tips at elyportillo@charlotteobserver.com.

View Larger Map

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

FABO moving to Quail Corners

The renovated Quail Corners Shopping Center has a new tenant opening this summer: FABO plans to close its Selwyn Avenue location and reopen at its new location this summer.

FABO's last day at its current location is Sunday, May 5th. Plans call for the new store at Sharon Road West and Park Road to open in June, though an exact date hasn't yet been set.

FABO (Fabulous Art Buying Opportunity) has coffee, pastries, beer, wine, and of course, art. The store opened in 2010. Here's the store's description: "FABO features locally roasted coffee, pastries and goodies all made locally, over 55 artists work from Pottery to Jewelry to Painting and much more! We also have an excellent selection of beer and wine."

View Larger Map