Quiet business

Just as the Tar Heels have a harder time scoring without Kendall Marshall’s assists, Chapel Hill businesses could use an occasional feed – in the form of publicity.

The Town of Chapel Hill may say it’s open for business, but it apparently doesn’t want anyone to know what those businesses are. A sign ordinance passed some months back prevents a business from using its easily recognizable logo, font and colors. And if it weren’t for The Daily Tar Heel, no newspaper in Chapel Hill would leak word of a new business opening.

Jahan International Market and Persian Tea Room opened nearly a year ago in Cedar Falls Courtyard next to The Pig (you didn’t know the former BBQ Joint has a new owner, either?) on Weaver Dairy Road. But unless you’ve wandered back through the parking lot, you’d never know it was there. No sign along Weaver Dairy Road, and no coverage from the press.

Streets Deli in East 54 set up a hot dog cart out back along N.C. 54, trying to get the attention of all that traffic going by. But the Sabrett cart and an awning were the only signs allowed. Open a year, it never received any mention in a local newspaper. The family-owned business, the town’s only Jewish deli, closed earlier this month.

The Flying Burrito closed after nearly 20 years in Midtown Market (that’s the commercial enclave anchored by Foster’s, on the corner of Hillsborough Street and The Junior), and it received no press coverage.

Yet Somerhill Gallery owner Joe Rowand, who declared bankruptcy and stiffed local artists out of about a quarter million dollars, opens up a new gallery – legally, he can do so, as long as he doesn’t use the Somerhill name – and he gets a front page story in The Chapel Hill News.

An argument could be made that no one reads newspapers anymore, except people my age. Even so, if a local paper wants to contribute to the community, it needs to publicize local businesses when they open, whether or not those businesses buy advertising from the paper.

A couple other business moves you’ve never read about in a newspaper: The Red Hen, purveyors of new and used clothing, books and gifts for moms and their children, and originators of the Breastfeeding Café, has moved from Weaver Street in Carrboro to University Mall, victims of the reduced customer traffic during the reconstruction of Weaver Street. With the extra space it has at the mall, The Red Hen has expanded its inventory to outfit children up to size 16.

And Rob Noti, bicycle repairman extraordinaire, has moved his business, True Blue Wrench Works, out of his home and into a storefront at 101 Lloyd Street in Carrboro. He shares the space with PARcycles, formerly an online only custom bike parts business that needed a brick-and-mortar shop to do business with major suppliers.

You heard it here first.
– Nancy Oates

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24 Comments

  1. Ph. Johnson-Sledge

     /  December 1, 2011

    As you’ve said before Nancy, what this town really needs is a newspaper. Unless its about
    the arts, is written by an eighth grader, or is “town-friendly”, it won’t show up in the C H News. (Oh how I miss the days of Ted Vaden.) The CH News has no curiousity–it explores
    nothing. It has become a self-indulgent relic. While everyone understands that newspapers days are numbered, is there no way that CH News could at least make an effort to stay relevant and be a more comprehensive resource to the community? Maybe Schultz and co.
    should do an internship at the Daily Tarrheel.

  2. Road Warrior

     /  December 1, 2011

    Nancy:

    I am glad you are doing this. I think your blog is an excellent place to do this once or twice a week. You should go to or contact the folks at the Chapel Hill Leads Group and the Chamber and see if they would just send you the information.

    With the possible exception of our resident Trustfundian Anarchists and out of town Right Wing Landlords, most everyone else would kind of like to have local businesses succeed and fewer empty buildings on Franklin Street.

    As for a local Newspaper, Chapel Hill News represents the “UNC Disney” that the people who graduate from UNC and never leave want. Unfortunately, the reality is high taxes on those who own a home, no taxes on the 4 year Residents at UNC, pushing the Homeless to the Suburbs, the Pit (140 West) and no support for businesses that don’t sell primarily alcohol or t-shirts.

    Maybe instead of selling sponsorship on buses, we should sell naming rights to Disney?

  3. George C

     /  December 1, 2011

    Road Warrior, you seem to have a problem with the University (or at least their students). “no taxes on the 4 year Residents at UNC”.
    Do you live in Chapel Hill? If so, then may I ask why did you choose to live in a university town since I know of no university towns where the students pay property taxes. They do, however, spend money and thus generate sales tax income. Many, perhaps most, folks who choose to live in a university town do so because they like the vitality a university brings to the town. And for those who don’t, it’s not like they didn’t know what was there before they moved in.

  4. My wife is one of those UNC alums who never really left town and I can say she’s appalled by the CH News. May just be because she was DTH editor and has a different expectation of journalism.

  5. Nancy Oates

     /  December 1, 2011

    Road Warrior — I do contact the Chamber for a business openings and closings column I write for Carolina Alumni Review, UNC’s alumni magazine. Kristen Smith has been so helpful I almost feel I should give her a commission. Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership is less reliable about returning phone calls. Back in the Ted Vaden days, I got almost all my leads from The CHN. Now I think The CHN gets its leads from Chapel Hill Watch. Thank goodness for Kristen Smith and the Chamber staff.

  6. runner

     /  December 1, 2011

    In our house, we call the Chapel Hill News the “Paper of Frustration”.

  7. Dan Shannon

     /  December 1, 2011

    All,

    I agree with much of what has been said in this thread. So much so, in fact, that we are launching a new weekly newspaper called Chapel Hill Magazine’s The WEEKLY after the first of the year. It will be a very lively, very community-based publication. We just announced it yesterday so your timing is great because I think we will answer many — maybe all! — of your concerns.

  8. Ed Harrison

     /  December 1, 2011

    “A sign ordinance passed some months back prevents a business from using its easily recognizable logo, font and colors. …
    Jahan International Market and Persian Tea Room opened nearly a year ago in Cedar Falls Courtyard next to The Pig (you didn’t know the former BBQ Joint has a new owner, either?) on Weaver Dairy Road. But unless you’ve wandered back through the parking lot, you’d never know it was there. No sign along Weaver Dairy Road, and no coverage from the press.”

    This is not an accurate description of the sign issue that the Cedar Falls Courtyard and other small commercial have. Their issue is entirely unrelated to any standards regarding logos. The sign ordinance revisions passed in the Spring were intended to deal with larger commercial centers. The ordinance proposed, and Council adopted (9-0), a threshold of 150,000 square feet in size for individual centers. The owner of the Cedars Fall Courtyard (whose name escapes me at the moment) came to the October 28 meeting of the Council Committee on Economic Development at Dwight Bassett’s invitation. He asked that Council start the process to revise the sign ordinance on behalf of smaller centers. He received immediate and specific support from Roger Stancil, who had experienced the problem of finding that center (to get to The Pig) very recently. Stancil pointed out that having signs more visible (i.e. larger) from Weaver Dairy Road would make for safer driving, among other benefits. Given the early and enthusiastic support from Manager, this will probably be a 2012 action item for Council. It has to be done town-wide, by law.

  9. Terri Buckner

     /  December 1, 2011

    Ed, The old Wachovia/new Wells Fargo buildings aren’t 150,000 sq ft but yet they have very identifiable/visible (and ugly) signs all over the place. Why are they allowed signs but smaller centers like Cedar Falls aren’t?

  10. Amike

     /  December 1, 2011

    Does it have to come from newspapers? WCHL/Chapelboro has covered much of this–most recently the Red Hen’s move to University Mall, I think (link below)–plus numerous other recent/upcoming business openings (like Hector’s and the Rathskeller, for instance).

    http://www.chapelboro.com/pages/11462050.php

  11. Community based?

    “The Weekly will follow the business model of its parent publication. Twelve thousand affluent Chapel Hill households receive Chapel Hill Magazine for free, and it’s sold on newsstands for $5.00 an issue.”

    I stopped getting the Chapel Hill Magazine shortly after I publicly commented that it was the “whitest” local mag I’d seen. Not sure if it was because of that comment or that I wasn’t affluent. To its credit, I have noticed (I thumb through it occasionally while in the checkout line) it appears to have broadened its articles beyond debutante balls and executive black tie galas.

  12. Fred Black

     /  December 2, 2011

    Will, I think the CHM must have escaped your typically thorough and complete analysis that you perform. From its first issue, the magazine has provided coverage of the community in a way no other pub has. I am always particularly impressed with their coverage of youth in our community for other than athletic accomplishment and issues concerning parents and young people. Their coverage of our many not for profits over six years has made a real difference in the success of their events and I’m glad they do it. Hats off to Dan and his staff for another successful venture in our community!

  13. Scott Maitland

     /  December 2, 2011

    Hey Will if you don’t think that the Weekly is community based enough then that just means that the opportunity is there for you to start your own paper.

    Nancy….thanks for giving new businesses a shout out and for businesses that are closing a “thank you, well done.”

    Dan…thanks for doing something. Thanks for creating jobs. Thanks for risking your capital. Thanks for creating another vehicle for our community – yes, Will, “white” affluent people are in our community as well – to interact and get to know each other.

    Most of this comment line unintentionally speaks to one of the greatest aspects of capitalism – creative destruction. Either companies stay relevant and provide a good service or they go away. We, the citizens of our community, vote everyday with our pocketbook. No meeting is needed, no grand plan, the company either gets it done or goes bankrupt. Capital is then reallocated into something else. It is the ultimate democratic process. There is no gatekeeper. No self-appointed guardian of values or purpose or “should haves.”

    God bless the entrepreneur. As Teddy Roosevelt said:

    It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

  14. Fred, Scott, I haven’t read the CHM closely since I stopped getting it at home. The first issues definitely had an affluent flare with little local color, so to speak. The photos and articles throughout displayed a side of Chapel Hill I rarely am privy to – the cocktail circuit, balls and galas, a celebration of the elite.

    Fred, good to hear the CHM branched out. Can you direct my attention to some of their more substantive efforts?

    Scott, I agree with you that we’re seeing an entrepreneur stepping in to fill a perceived need. Just pointing out it’s hard to claim that a weekly will be “community-based” while retaining a business strategy of targeting only the most affluent of Chapel Hillians.

    What a newspaper chooses not to report, as we’ve seen with all the local media outlets, is as important as what it chooses to report. My perception of the CHM was it was a mag dedicated to bolstering its advertisers revenues and painting a picture of a Chapel Hill dripping in cash. As Fred has said, it appears there’s more to it than that now.

    We already have one local media outlet, WCHL, which is not willing to challenge one of its news making sponsors , will the Weekly be made of stronger stuff?

  15. Nancy Oates

     /  December 2, 2011

    A magazine is different from a newspaper. CHM doesn’t purport to be a news magazine. When I produced stories for Better Homes & Gardens, the aim was to give people ideas, let them dream, show happy families in what appeared to be attainable houses or renovations that actually were very expensive. But I could pull the magazine out from under a pile of bills and sit in my kitchen with dishes piled high in my sink and dust bunnies reproducing like rabbits, and look at the pleasant pictures and believe that all my problems would go away if I just painted my home office the right shade of green.

    Let’s face it, there is a sizable portion of CH that is dripping with cash. At least CHM showed those who dripped with cash giving some of it to good causes by buying benefit tickets way out of my price range.

  16. Nancy, just my point. Dan has been successful targeting a particular market (of which I’m not a member) and making his print endeavors flourish. That target market for a Chapel Hill weekly, even with similar content, might also work as well for his new Weekly.

    I’d like to see a new media voice covering and accessible to ALL of Chapel Hill’s community but from Dan’s announcement the thinking behind the Weekly doesn’t seem to fit that mold.

    On another note, does he really think he can make a go of it by limiting online content?

    I understand the idea of using perceived scarcity and exclusivity as a sales tool but print-only will only guarantee that folks like me can’t direct eyeballs at his content. Of course, many of the local outlets trying to use the web are failing both economically and with their online efforts. Part of that, though, is poor online implementation.

  17. DOM

     /  December 2, 2011

    I’m going to wait and see what it’s like before I pass judgment. It’s Dan’s project, why not just wait and see what he does with it?

  18. Ph. Johnson-Sledge

     /  December 2, 2011

    If Dan’s new venture promotes,without bias, the 60+ Chapel Hill-Carrboro nonprofits (most with no advertising budgets to speak of) upcoming fundraisers, rather than show pictures of those attended them after the fact, like CHM does, he will be serving the community in a way that no other publication currently is. And, that has to be worth something. Dan has always wisely understood that people will gladly pay for something that is a pictorial whos who of CH. How he attracts that same customer for a weekly has yet
    to be defined, but I bet he finds a way. Anything that gives CHN a run for its money,
    so to speak, can only be a good thing.

  19. Terri Buckner

     /  December 2, 2011

    News comes in all formats, so I hope this new venture is successful. But that still leaves the community without a media venue that serves as a watchdog over local governments and large institutions such as the Chamber of Commerce, IFC, and UNC.

  20. John Kramer

     /  December 2, 2011

    Hey, Terri, maybe you should start such a media venue. If you think that is a big need in the market, then you should be very successful.

    Let me know how that works out, thanks!

  21. Road Warrior

     /  December 3, 2011

    George C. – actually, I like the University. You misread my comment. What I deeply dislike is people who want the BENEFITS of living in a University Town without the students. People who deny the vitality that it brings.

    What I have a problem with is people who come here and want the Town to freeze at what they remembered it to be. This is a changing community and cannot just be what it was in 1960,1970 or 1992 or whatever your graduating year is.

    We need businesses that encourage people to live here. We need Carolina North as a business incubator. We need the Airport gone and infill development. What we don’t need is what we have now, which is t-shirt shops, restaurants and vacant lots because we don’t want the “problems” of Business Incubators.

  22. Patrick M

     /  December 3, 2011

    I don’t know about anybody else, but I read about the Red Hen leaving West Weaver St in the Carrboro Citizen newspaper over a week ago.

    http://www.carrborocitizen.com/main/2011/11/23/the-red-hen-leaves-weaver-st-for-university-mall/

    And they covered the original closure/transfer of the Flying Burrito when it happened.

    http://www.carrborocitizen.com/main/2007/10/18/flying-burrito-the-end-of-an-era/

    The Citizen, while not all things to all people, is a good community newspaper operating at about the right scale.

    Let’s face it- the Chapel Hill News, as far as I can tell, is Mark Schultz, Katelynn Ferrall, the guy who does the sports page, and a remainder of people who place ads and manage the Real Estate section- and that the paper may or may not be copy edited in Charlotte. I think the paper has slid in quality in recent years but I think that’s more about the struggles they are having keeping the lights on than the desire of the staff to put out a good product.

  23. Nancy Oates

     /  December 3, 2011

    Patrick — The Carrboro Citizen did cover the Flying Burrito closing in 2007, but it reopened under new management. Recently it has gone dark, and no paper has covered that.

    And the Chapel Hill News is even smaller than you think: No one copy edits it anymore, not since my eagle-eyed husband, the news editor, was downsized in 2008. It’s kind of insulting, when you think about it, that the CHN figures its readership is not smart enough to notice the mistakes. Remember the Oct. 30 edition that reprinted the front page of the Oct. 23 issue instead? The CHN never even published a correction. Maybe it, too, concedes that nobody reads it anymore.

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