It’s grilling season, and Triangle residents are doing a little spring cleaning and getting their equipment ready. For most, having a good portable propane tank is key. There are several options to consider, however, regarding how one supplies the gas.
The most convenient method for keeping stocked with propane is a tank exchange program. The customer takes their tank to a home improvement or grocery store, and takes home a different, filled tank. If there are any problems with the tank itself, the tank exchange vendor will pull the tank from circulation. The tank refills at Home Depot run in the $22 neighborhood, but the customer doesn’t have to purchase a tank, pay a membership fee, or pay a tank deposit fee.
Another option is refilling an existing tank. Places like U-Haul on Capital Blvd (just beyond Peace Street) and Costco can fill a tank, as long as it is in working condition and hasn’t expired. Tank refills are $10.50 at Costco, and are in the $15 neighborhood at U-Haul. This is a considerably less expensive option thank trading, but there are risks and difficulties.
In order to get propane at Costco, you park near the tire center, and take your tank to the propane island for inspection. (There is a call button if the attendant is not present). Once the tank passes inspection, you go into the store, wait in a cashier line, and tell the cashier that you are buying a 20 pound propane refill. After paying, you present your receipt outside at the propane station, and take your tank home.
Tanks can only be filled if they pass inspection, however. The valve must appear to be in working condition, and the tank should not appear rusty. The handle of the tank has a date imprinted, and this date must not be more than 12 years ago. Any tank that fails the inspection is denied and the customer must find another solution.
That risk doesn’t seem so great, however, when one considers the long term costs. Comparing a season of using an exchange program vs. Costco’s refill program, the Costco program is staggeringly cheaper. I use roughly 3.5 Blue Rhino tanks per year, which ends up costing around $77. Even though the tank is a 20 lb tank, Blue Rhino and RapidXchange only put 15 lb worth of material in the tank. Therefore I have used 53 pounds per year at a cost of $77, or $1.47/lb.
Costco’s refill delivers 20 lb of propane at a price of $10.50, or $0.53/lb. This would cost me $27.83, resulting in an annual savings of about $50. That’s almost enough to buy two brand new unfilled tanks ($27.50 each) inside Costco. Each tank has its own gas gauge and has a 12-year lifespan. Over that 12-year lifespan, a tank exchange program would likely cost me $924 while a pair of Costco tanks with refills would likely cost $389.
The Costco system of selling propane is a hassle, for sure. However the long term costs are so much less, they are worth considering versus a tank exchange program.
Today TBJ posted a slideshow of upcoming North Hills projects that is worth a look. The photos show renderings for a 19-story building that will go between Sparians and Six Forks Road, the 6-story Midtown Green apartments, an amphitheater, a free-standing Chuey’s, and details of the upcoming Allister apartment complex on Ramblewood Drive.
Tucked away, however, in the slide show are images of some other unannounced projects, too:
The high-rise condos planned for the space next to the Brothers Cleaners drive-thru are still present.
The two high-rise buildings that were once denied by the Raleigh City Council still appear in the plan. The buildings would sit in the vast surface parking lot between Six Forks Road and Coquette, and Lassiter Mill. The plan shows the removal of the Exxon station at the corner.
First Citizens’ low-rise crescent shaped office building adjacent to their odd circular building at Lassiter Mill and Six Forks is also present.
At North Hills East, a low-rise building is present between Sparians and the Camelot/Dartmouth intersection.
A very tall cluster of buildings is depicted between Piola and I-440, where Aldert Root School temporarily sat a few years ago. Originally this area was to hold a retirement development, but with an amphitheater going in at that end of the development, I certainly hope the plans have changed.
Most interesting, though, is the pair of high-rises, taller than the Renaissance Hotel, that would replace the JCPenney parking deck. The current deck has seen better days, for sure. Currituck Road is not depicted in the view, however this pair would best logically fit between the Currituck extension and the existing JCP.
The Ramblewood developments appear, as backward as they are, to be in place as being constructed now. (Why in the world are the single-family homes up at Ramblewood at the main traffic outlet while the high-density condo buildings are stuck in the back adjacent to Drewry Hills houses? )
The (recently razed) BB&T and former Bank of America buildings across Six Forks from the fire station are still present, indicating some error in this master plan.
The plan looks good from the birds eye view, though the complex is going to have to have a lot more parking than it currently has. When that parking is built, hopefully it will make more sense than the CapTrust tower’s parking; the creepiest parking garage in Raleigh.
As predicted, the sloppy, Casual Friday trend continues to take its toll on nice menswear stores. The Varsity, a fixture in the Hillsborough Street, Crabtree, and (most recently) North Hills menswear scenes is “retiring”. The store joins the likes of the Stagg Shop, Wrenn-Pharr (& the Club Shop), Chokey’s, and much of the Nowell’s group as Old Raleigh memories. There is a sale going on until inventory is cleared.
TBJ posted today that Bass Pro Shops will open their first Triangle location in about a year. The outdoor sports superstore will be located “in the Harrison Square Shopping Center” (across Harrison Ave. from SAS.)
This location has me scratching my head, as all existing structures there are occupied. I’ve seen no indication that the Harrison Avenue Carolina Pottery store is in trouble, at last check. Most likely the Bass Pro Shops will be in a new facility, just to the right of the shopping center, behind Wendy’s, and in plain view from I-40 (if the TBJ article is accurate). WRAL posted this same story minutes ago, but has a map pointing to a location 2 blocks south on Harrison Avenue. Given Bass’ site selection pattern, they are certain to pick a location that is visible from the interstate, however..
The move shouldn’t be a big surprise, though, as the opening of Gander Mountain in Morrisville has been a huge success. IKEA, are you listening? hmph hmmph?
Happy New Year, everyone! 2012 was an fascinating year, with the Olympics, the Election, and a little bit of economic traction, the year turned out to be more interesting than expected. With the close of the year, it’s time to pull out the old crystal acorn and make a few quick predictions (30 to be exact) for the upcoming year. (Don’t take these to the bank, though! If this thing were any good, I’d be in Vegas with it.)
Publix will begin construction on their first Triangle store…in Cary in the Davis/54 area.
Publix will pick Creedmoor/Millbrook for their first Raleigh store location. The new owners of Falls Village will make a strong play for Publix, offering to raze half of their center to accommodate a large grocery store.
Raleigh will begin discussions to tear down Memorial Auditorium – with the dominant bookings of the DPAC, Raleigh people are increasingly irked by having to go to Durham for so many good events. Leaders in Raleigh will talk about removing the center section of the performing arts complex and replacing it with a stacked, 3-tier facility to compete with the DPAC.
Violence will be an increasing problem in Glenwood South, and patrons will start seeking another focus for nightlife, most likely in…the Hillsborough Street area, which will be the next wave of downtown revitalization.
Orvis will close in Triangle Town Center and seek space in a part of the Triangle where their patrons actually live. Perhaps Kidd’s Hill behind Crabtree?
Development of both Kidd’s Kill properties will finally begin, but the Soleil Center/Westin land will remain an empty lot.
A new mall will be announced for the I-40/42/70/540 area between Clayton and Fuquay. It will focus on serving the Johnston County market.
Best Buy will close at least one Triangle location. My bet is the newest store, Brier Creek.
Between Liles, The Varsity, and Nowells, Raleigh will only support two, and one will close.
As brick & mortar retail continues to struggle, Crabtree will add another restaurant in its mall proper
While Washington policy will grow much more liberal than we’ve seen in the previous 4 years (increasingly hostile fiscal policies toward the wealthy, increased spending on social programs, and a stark increase in liberal social policies and transit expenditures), North Carolina policy will become more conservative, but not by much. In the next four years issues like Gay Marriage, Legalization of Pot, and Gun Control will stay put in this state, unless there is federal mandate…
…The Supreme Court will rule that Gay Marriage must be recognized by all states, and Federal Legislation implementing more stringent gun control will override North Carolina’s stance.
North Carolina will get an increased amount of funding for transit (regional “high” speed and local light rail), but the State of North Carolina will decrease expenditures in these areas, and no real progress will occur in the next four years, especially with light rail.
Raleigh will continue its oppressive assault on drivers in neighborhoods by reducing the speed limit on Glen Eden to 25 mph. They will also erect more of those contrived islands meant to annoy and slow drivers.
UNC and NCSU will field bubble teams in football, once again, that will get absolutely no national attention.
If the NHL season is cancelled, Backyard Bistro will close.
T-Mobile will be bought by one of the other carriers, most likely AT&T, reducing the number of carrier networks to three in the Triangle.
Free Wifi will be everywhere by the end of the year. In the malls, the restaurants, and in grocery stores. Most importantly, I predict that free wifi for every fan in the building will be implemented in the PNC Arena. (yay!)
The number of restaurants with tablet menus will grow quickly. In fact, only cheap or snobby restaurants will be without a tablet presence by the end of 2013.
Buca di Beppo will announce their first Raleigh/Cary location
PDQ will announce two more locations. One in the Southpoint area and one in Cary.
One of downtown Raleigh’s Indian restaurants will close. Will it be Blue Mango or Mantra that survives?
BJ’s Brewhouse will announce their first North Carolina locations – on in Charlotte, one in Cary.
The next big culinary ethnicity, after Mexican starts to fade, will be South American. Restaurants like Machupicchu and Guasaca will have excellent years, but will see more competition, too, especially in the casual dining space.
Guacamole variations will be the next trend within the Mexican food space
The IHOP on Hillsborough Street will close, but will be replaced in 2014 by a mixed use apartment building that will have street level retail, including a new IHOP. (This is a planned project. The prediction is that execution will begin this year)
The Triangle will be selected as the site for filming a nationally prominent movie.
No significant changes to Raleigh’s skyline will be introduced in 2013.
A MakerBot-like 3D printing business will open in Raleigh, allowing people to create functional and artistic plastic items just-in-time.
Here’s the big one: 2013 will be the Year of Durham, and the crowning moment will be an announcement by Google that their second Google Fiber city will be…Durham.
It appears that some may have missed TBJ’s announcement last week concerning Publix. It appears the excellent supermarket chain is eying sites in the Triangle.
The Lakeland, FL-based chain has nearly 1,100 stores spread throughout Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and South Carolina. The expansion would mean direct competition for Charlotte-based Harris Teeter, which has stores Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, DC, Maryland, and Delaware.
If Publix wants a slam-dunk site in Raleigh, they should go into the former Hannaford and Lowes grocery store spot between Costco and Trader Joe’s. (map it) The complexion of that retail neighborhood has considerably improved since the failure of those stores, and the addition of Costco and Trader Joe’s draws people from across the entire eastern half of the Triangle already. The site has convenient I-440 access, and is a location where both Inside The Beltline and Outside The Beltline shoppers feel comfortable. The site is currently leased by a workout gym, but who are we kidding? Right?
An alternative might be the newly razed lot between the old grocery store site and Trader Joe’s. My limited understanding of this former ITT industrial property is that it has had brownfield contamination issues. Depending on the progress of the cleanup, this site could be, and should be developed into a multi-use retail/residential development that ties in to Holly Park to the north, the future light rail corridor to the east, and the Costco area to the south. It is an excellent opportunity looking 10 years forward.
As far as other areas of older north and west Raleigh go, unless an existing grocery store’s current lease is not renewed, it is hard to imagine another site for Publix that could be gracefully executed, to be honest. Perhaps Kids Hill behind Crabtree? Perhaps a corner on Blue Ridge Road? These don’t have nearly the visibility and ease of access. Old Raleigh has very few non-industrial commercial corridors. Therefore the Wake Forest/Six Forks area is absolutely the best option for capturing old Raleigh. There are other lots in that area, such as the Southern States Nissan property, but considerable terraforming will need to be accomplished to deal with the flooding that property periodically experiences.
To be honest, though, Publix could go into any safe area and do well in Raleigh. The sooner the better!
The nation’s next Sur La Table store may land at Streets at Southpoint Mall tomorrow morning. The store, which carries a full line of cooking equipment, is aiming for “go” when the mall opens.
I visited the Sur La Table store in SoHo a couple of weeks ago and while the store is similar to Williams Sonoma, the inventory is a bit more of a full complement cooking supply store and not quite as high-end than Williams Sonoma. It’s a store this market badly needs, especially the Raleigh market.
A few things to note in the store: the selection of thermometers, knives, and the demo of the induction cooking surface. Also of note is the store’s Grand Opening Sale which gives customers a $10 gift certificate for each $50 spent thru the store’s closing on Sunday evening. The store also runs cooking classes, such as Sunday’s $47 Essential Knife Skills class, which has gotten rave reviews online. (ask them if they demo the CIA method of peeling a pepper!)
The store is located in The Streets at Southpoint’s outdoor section.
A reader named Mike recently alerted me to an interesting retail story going on in Morrisville. It seems that the Town and Country Hardware (“formerly Ace”) at Davis and Morrisville Carpenter is closing on October 31. According to employees, the store’s lease was not renewed and the replacement will be a Wal-Mart Express.
This is interesting on several levels. According to a News & Observer article in July, Wal-Mart has been rolling out 15,000 square foot stores in small towns to compete with large drug stores and Family Dollar stores. Morrisville, however, is suburbia, and there is a full-sized Wal-Mart store very close by at I-540 and 54.
Secondly, this is apparently a dagger to the local Ace Hardware system and consumers’ ability to maintain equipment. A year ago I my lawn mower needed repair, so I took it to the Ace Hardware on Kildaire Road late on a Saturday afternoon. It took the store a month to return the lawn mower because that store is not an actual service site. Rather, they sent all lawn mowers over to “the Davis Drive store” (presumably the one at hand). I’m not sure where Cary’s Ace is sending lawn mowers now, but if they are sending them to North Ridge, it will be 2 months to get one repaired.
It is extremely sad to see stores like this (that offer services to our appliances) drying up. It’s one thing to worry about the amount of garbage we could be composting, but it’s another thing to make servicing expensive items like TVs and lawn mowers so difficult that it is easier and/or cheaper to simply discard the item than to go through the service hassle.
Very sad news today from the Nowell family. Jerry Nowell was my Philosophy teacher at UNC, and was talented enough to clarify Immanuel Kant.
" August 23,2012 (Cary,NC) — After 107 years in business,Nowell’s Contemporary Furniture will close its doors by the end of this year.
Owner Jerry Nowell,who was diagnosed with Multiple Myaloma in 2010,announced the closing recently.
“I’m now unable to work,” Jerry said. “At first,we thought my wife [Kit] would run the store. And she has since March of this year. But we did some soul searching and realized that we wanted to spend some time together. Retail is a seven-days-a-week business. That’s one of the reasons why we finally decided it was time to put this thing to bed.”
William McKee Nowell,Jerry’s grandfather,began the store 1905 by selling furniture out of the back of a horse-drawn cart. His merchandise was so popular that he moved it into a storefront in the now-historic Prairie Building in downtown Raleigh. Jerry’s mother and father inherited the store and moved it to its current location in Cary in 1957.
Since then,there have been a lot of “firsts” in store’s history. In 1968,Nowell’s was the first furniture store in the Triangle region to challenge the “blue laws.” The blue laws were enacted to enforce religious standards,particularly the observance of Sunday as a day of worship, restricting Sunday shopping. Nowell’s Contemporary Furniture helped start a movement to remove those laws in North Carolina.
“We were also among the first in the area –possibly the first — to have a diverse sales team,” Jerry noted. “We were also the first all-contemporary furniture store in North Carolina.”
Jerry Nowell holds a PhD in Political Theory. He was teaching at UNC-Greensboro in 2001 when his older brother,who had been running the store since their father’s retirement,suddenly decided to retire himself. That presented the Nowell family with a choice: either close up shop right then or Jerry would have to come home and take over management.
“I set a goal to get to the 100-year mark,which we did in 2005,” Jerry said.
And they kept going,racking up Readers Poll wins for the “best place to shop for contemporary furniture in the Triangle” year after year from Spectator magazine,the Independent Weekly,and Metro Magazine. In 2010,Business Leader magazine named Nowell’s Contemporary Furniture one of the top 100 small businesses in the state.
Since Jerry took over management,the store has also been a good corporate citizen. “We’ve raised and donated roughly $30,000 over the past 11 years to organizations such as Interact,cancer research,and Camp Kanata,” Jerry said. “We’ve also sponsored a little league team.”
Nowell’s Contemporary Furniture has also been one of Triangle Modernist Houses’ (TMH) primary sponsors. TMH is a non-profit organization dedicated to archiving,preserving and promoting modernist residential design from the 1950s to today. Among other support,Nowell’s has been the naming sponsor for TMH’s annual Nowell’s Architecture Movie Series,and Jerry Nowell has served on the TMH advisory board.
Jerry has also served on the Cary Players’ Board of directors,allowed the community theater troupe to store props in Nowell’s warehouse and to use the store’s truck to load shows in an out,and the store has been a consistent advertiser in the Players’ programs.
After Jerry was diagnosed with cancer in 2010,he kept working as long as he could. But his treatments eventually made it impossible for him to keep up with the seven-day-a-week schedule.
Kit Nowell took over for a while. But according to Jerry,there was more to their decision to close than his health and the store’s demanding schedule.
“We’ve also found the business moving in a direction that we don’t really like,” he admitted. “We’ve always offered good values,but we’ve never sacrificed quality or service for price. People are getting more and more price conscious now, to the point that we either must lower the level of quality or the level of service,and we don’t want to do that. We knew that if it reached the point where we could no longer be proud of what we do it would be time to retire. And that’s where we are.”
From now until the end of the year,Nowell’s is holding an “Everything Must Go” sale. For more information on the sale,go to www.nowellsfurniture.com.
The State of North Carolina will once again offer a sales tax holiday on certain items this year. The Tax-Free weekend will take place from August 3-August 5, and will exempt sales takes from the following items:
Clothing with a sales price of one hundred dollars ($100.00) or less per item.
Sport or recreational equipment with a sales price of fifty dollars ($50.00) or less per item.
Computers, including tablet computers and netbooks, with a sales price of three thousand five hundred dollars ($3,500) or less per item.
Computer supplies with a sales price of two hundred fifty dollars ($250.00) or less per item.
School supplies with a sales price of one hundred dollars ($100.00) or less per item.
Now that we are done looking in the rearview mirror, it’s time to focus on the year ahead. Each year new ideas and businesses bloom while other find themselves caught in inescapable traps. Some fall prey to bad locations, others to market redundancy, poor product, or poor service. Others are just obsolete.
In 2012 there will be some surprising big box store closings. There has been a concerted effort in previous years to buy local and shun the big boxes. However in 2012, larger market forces instead of grassroots organizations will probably be what shuts the doors for some of these outlets.
Here is a look ahead at the list of retail and restaurant businesses that have an aura of danger according to this one man’s senses (in no particular order, and no wishes associated):
Jibarra or Cantina South
OfficeMax and Office Depot
Cinelli’s (North Hills)
QShack (North Hills)
Fresh Market (Cameron Village)
Charlotte’s (North Hills)
Applebee’s (A few locations)
Sam Ash or Guitar Center
McCormick and Schmick’s
Barnes & Noble (not all locations)
The news staff at NBC17
Any thoughts or additions?
1/5/12 – Here are some more for the list:
Bear Rock (Lake Boone)
1/16/12 – I completely forgot to add this one, but the last time I was in there the store was about 70% empty:
Blockbuster Video – Townridge Square
I don’t mean to pick on these merchants, but if I had a gift certificate or significant savings coupon for any of these, I would probably go ahead and use them sooner than later.
Today WRAL reported that one of Raleigh’s oldest retail business will shut its doors. Jolly’s Jewelers opened its doors in 1881, but Frank Jolly Ragsdale is retiring, according to the report, and the business will close.
I have mixed emotions here. I was always a big fan of Ragsdale’s brother-in-law, the late Jerry Young, and followed him from Jolly’s in North Hills Mall to his own store in Cameron Village. He sold that store to Rocky Mount’s Clyde Bailey, and it still remains an excellent store. In the face of Cameron Village’s shift toward more chain retailers, Ragsdale moved Jolly’s to a showcase location in the new North Hills as one of the center’s first tenants. The location was highly visible and made a great statement about both the quality of shopping in North Hills and the center’s dedication to local retailers. However the interior of the store always felt awkward and cold, and I only entered one time.
Emotions aside, it is easy to believe that the jewelry business is terrible now. The price of gold (chart) has skyrocketed more than 700% in the last ten years. Couple that with a poor economy and you get a one-two punch that is sending many local dealers out of business.
Some also ponder the viability of brick & mortar retail in a shopping center like North Hills which is notorious for high (really high) rents. We recently saw Tyler House’s closing, and one has to wonder if the dam isn’t finally breaking on the backs of many other high-end retailers.
What comes next for the space in North Hills? Another Italian restaurant? Just kidding. I always thought that corner would have been perfect location for a two-story Barnes & Noble as nice as Triangle Town Center’s. Alas B&N’s mistaken evaluation of the market (even before Amazon starting slicing them to pieces) concluded that the pitiful Crabtree store is enough for this part of Raleigh. Ironically a private book store just opened next door to Jolly’s, but I wouldn’t bet on their ability to expand into Jolly’s space.
Most likely another jeweler will take the space. Until that time, Jolly’s will begin their store clearance sale tomorrow.