Saturday, September 28, 2013

See you in early October

Hi readers. I'll be out of the office for the first week in October. I plan to be back Oct. 7. In the meantime, if you have any news or questions, please email me and I'll get back to you when I return. Thanks!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Toast Cafe plans to expand through franchising

Toast Café, started eight years ago in Charlotte, plans to kick its expansion plans into high gear with a franchising program, the owners said.

Toast has three locations, in Dilworth, Ballantyne and Davidson. The company is working on its first Fort Mill location as well.

"We have been around for eight years and decided that was the best way to go," said Robert Maynard. "It's been a long road to get this thing really, really right."

He and Brian Burchill co-founded the company after working as actors and musicians in New York.

Their goal is to open 25 stores in the Charlotte area and beyond over the coming years. They've worked to standardize the menus and methods so that they can expand the concept, Maynard and Burchill said.

"Consistency is very important," said Burchill.

They've also hired Brett Larrabee as director of brand development. Larrabee previously worked for Five Guys Burgers and Fries, and helped to grow that franchise to the national presence it is today.

He sees parallels in the two businesses. Where Five Guys made its mark offering a "better burger" option - a slightly more upscale alternative to staples such as McDonald's - Toast offers a "better breakfast" option, compared with companies like IHOP.

"It really is the same concept as Five Guys," Larrabee said of Toast. "It's just breakfast, not burgers."

Toast already has potential franchisees lined up, but is still looking for more, the company said. Development will focus on the East Coast at first. One of the brand's selling points is that since the restaurants are open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., meaning owners can have time to spend with their families.

Part of the franchising will be a name change, they said. The new name will be something similar to Toast Café, but it hadn't been settled on yet as of this writing.

So, what do you think? How many Toast Cafes would you like to see around Charlotte?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Big Lots opening new store in Mooresville

Big Lots is opening a new store in Mooresville's Festival Shopping Center, replacing an older location nearby.

It's the second area store Big Lots has replaced recently. Earlier this month, Big Lots opened a new store in the Carolina Pavilion shopping center, replacing an older store on South Boulevard.

The Mooresville store has a grand opening planned for 9 a.m. Oct. 4. The store is 25,000 square feet,
and replaces the store less than a mile away at 219 Plaza Drive.

The company is donating $1,500 to the N.F. Woods Advanced Technology and Arts Center to mark the new opening.

"We are confident this new location will deliver a fresh and exciting customer experience they are sure to enjoy," said John Martin,chief merchandising officer for Big Lots, in a statement.

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Family Dollar takeover in the works?

The speculation won't quit: Analysts and commentators keep wondering if Family Dollar will be sold to its major rival, Dollar General.

The latest round comes in the form of an article in the Tennessean, Goodlettsville-based Dollar General's hometown paper.

"Does Dollar General have Family Dollar takeover in mind?" the headline asks.

Matthews-based Family Dollar is one the region's major corporations, with about 1,000 people working at their headquarters on Monroe Road. A Charlotte-grown success story, Family Dollar operates about 7,600 stores.

Dollar General is larger, with 11,000 stores. Both companies are fighting big-box rival Walmart, while also trying to pick up business from grocery stores and other traditional retailers they can undercut on price.

Analysts are sounding off over whether a Dollar General-Family Dollar combination makes sense. Yes, says Credit Suisse: Such a deal would reduce competition, create a dominant company and lead to big cost savings.

No, says Mark Montagna, an analyst with Avondale Partners: "I do not expect that to happen, he told the Tennessean. "It takes a lot of work to merge two companies … and a lot of things can go wrong. When Dollar General is doing so many things right, I would not expect them to try it."

Family Dollar's next earnings call is scheduled for Oct. 9. Executives might address the takeover speculation there. There are a ton of variables, of course, No. 1 of which is probably whether Family Dollar or Dollar General wants anything to do with a merger or acquisition.

Dollar General's CEO recently said he's not, on an investor conference call. And remember, Family Dollar rebuffed activist investor Nelson Peltz and his Trian Fund in 2011, when they offered to take the company private in a leveraged buyout.

For what it's worth - and file this under "odd" - I was contacted this week by someone who identified themselves as "an investigator based in New York conducting some research on behalf of an investment fund regarding the Family Dollar company."

They were looking for information about whether CEO (and founder's son) Howard Levine views the business as a "family affair," and how that might influence his decisions about the company's future. Hm.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

What's next for former Caribou's, Bruegger's spot on East Boulevard?

Bruegger's Bagels on East Boulevard has followed Caribou Coffee to the dusty graveyard of lower East Boulevard restaurants, which means the building is now open for a new tenant.

A reader recently emailed me to check what was going into the space. The buildings and land, with a tax value of almost $2 million, are owned by the limited liability corporation East Boulevard 1601.

That entity is managed by Lincoln Harris, the Charlotte mega-developer. I left a message for a Lincoln Harris representative, but didn't hear back on Monday. A listing to lease the space appears to have been taken down from Lincoln Harris' website.

Although Lincoln Harris has developed a host of successful Charlotte properties, the company faced some opposition in Dilworth last year. Lincoln Harris lost a high-profile zoning battle to put a Walgreens store and drive-thru at the corner of Kenilworth Avenue and Morehead Street.

So, has anyone out there heard what could go into the spot? And what would you want to see?

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Monday, September 16, 2013

New rendering of H&M store at Northlake

Ladies and gentlemen, prepare yourselves: We have a rendering of the new H&M store planned for Northlake Mall.

There it is. The store is slated to open in the coming months, and Northlake officials said they are building a new parking lot to accommodate parking at the new store. The parking lot, near the mall's Entrance 1, is set to open in October.

"Opening by late fall, in time for the holidays, the Northlake store will occupy approximately 25,600 square feet in the former Borders Books location at the front of the center," the mall said in a statement.

"Charlotte has wanted an H&M for a long time, and we’re truly excited to be welcoming them to our retail lineup," said Phil Morosco, general manager of the 1.1 million-square-foot mall.
Building permits show H&M is spending about $2 million on renovating and expanding the store.
The store will be H&M's second Charlotte-area location. The Swedish fast-fashion retailer is also building a 17,000-square-foot Pineville store at Carolina Place mall. No opening date for that has been given, but it is also expected to open later this year.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Big Lots opening at Carolina Pavilion

A new Big Lots store opens soon in south Charlotte, in the Carolina Pavilion shopping center, replacing another store on South Boulevard.

The store's grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 20, at 9 a.m. The company is also donating $1,500 to South Mecklenburg High School.

The new store is 24,000 square feet, and replaces the Big Lots store formerly at 6025 South Boulevard.

Big Lots is a "closeout retailer," meaning the store buys discounted goods that aren't selling well elsewhere, are overstocked, or are from places that are going out of business. It then sells them at a lower price to consumers.

Here's the store's description of itself, in case you're not familiar with them: "As North America's largest broadline closeout retailer, Big Lots has the power to negotiate the best deals in the business. We sell a broad range of high-quality, brand-name products, including consumables, seasonal items, furniture, housewares, toys, electronics, home decor, tools and gifts."

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Michaels opening Salisbury store

A new Michaels arts and crafts store is opening Oct. 6 in Salisbury.

The company's new store in the Wallace Commons shopping center opens at 10 a.m. Michaels said in a press release that the first 100 customers will get $1,000 in gift cards, and prizes will be given out each hour throughout the day.

“We are thrilled to be joining the Salisbury community and we hope everyone will come out to help us celebrate during our grand opening week,” said manager Cindi Lane, in a statement. “Our new store features thousands of products that will inspire every crafter at any level.”

The 19,120-square foot store will employ more than 60 people, the company said.

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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Cost Plus World Market grand opening in Cotswold Village

Cost Plus World Market, a new store at Cotswold Village, has its grand opening scheduled for Thursday, with events and giveaways planned through the weekend.

The store is the retailer's fourth Charlotte-area location. A ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday, with doors opening immediately afterwards.

Thursday through Sunday, the first 200 customers each day will receive a free tote bag. Free tastings and live entertainment are scheduled for 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Daily raffles will also be held.

Here's a description of the store from its website, if you're not familiar with them:

"Our everyday low prices and high-quality, original items are a great value. Choose from eye-catching, trend-setting home accents, an awe-inspiring array of international foods and wines, and much more.

We bring the beauty and excitement of global bazaars to you. Our selection is always changing, and, like favorite mementos from your life, each item has a story worth sharing. From Balinese baskets, pottery from Portugal and collectibles from Africa to scrolled artwork inspired by Spanish artifacts - each store is a treasure trove.

Gifts galore fill our floors - you’ll find something for everyone, from children to parents. And when you need entertaining essentials, we’re your one-stop shop - whether you’re hosting a holiday or a very personal special occasion

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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Monroe Goodwill moves to new store

The Goodwill store in Monroe will reopen Saturday, Sept. 21, in an upgraded building with a more modern interior, the company said this week.

The new location is on West Highway 74 and replaces Goodwill's store at 1213-B Roosevelt Blvd. The store is set to open at 9 a.m., after a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The 12,000-square-foot store will employ all the same people as the current store, Goodwill said.

The new store has more modern fixtures to display merchandise and an updated interior, Goodwill said.

“We feel that the increased roadfront visibility offered by the new location will engage even more
shoppers and donors from Monroe and the neighboring Indian Trail and Stallings communities,
which will benefit the entire area,” said Barbara Maida-Stolle, executive vice president, in a statement.

The current store will be open until Sept. 17, though Goodwill will operate a donation center there afterwards.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

New men's underwear store open in South End

Men have a new option for purchasing upscale underwear in South End, with Wednesday's opening of Brief.

The 1,000-square-foot store features underwear, swimwear and other men's loungewear from a variety of upscale designers. Here's a description of the store from owner Dan Mauney:

"The shopper will delve into the world of the best designers including internationally known brands such as Calvin Klein, TommyJohn, Diesel, SAXX Underwear, 2Xist, C-IN2, Parke & Ronen, Baskitwear, Andrew Christian, N2N Bodywear, Speedo, Hugo Boss, Gregg Homme, 2Eros, Whittall and Shon, Hanro among many others. The collections of swimwear will offer everything from racers, square cuts to traditional board shorts. Finally, loungewear will include everything from leisure, weekend casual, athletic, yoga wear and robes."
 The store plans to have online shopping live by Sept. 15.

Mauney is also opening a 4,000-foot shoe store called Shu in the same building, which he plans to open in October. The store will also sell accessories, handbags and jewelry, and Mauney plans to add men's shoes next spring.

The building also has a 3,000-square-foot flexible space that Mauney will use for fashion shows, parties and other events.

"The neighborhood is right," Mauney said of South End. "It's perfect."

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