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Morrisville Town and Country Hardware Being Replaced with WalMart Express

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.

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Nowell’s Furniture Closing

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.

For more information on Nowell’s Contemporary Furniture,visit www.nowellsfurniture.colm/about


Tax-Free Weekend Coming Soon

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.

For more details on items exempted, consult the State’s exemption guide (.pdf)


2012: The Endangered List

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):

  • Best Buy
  • Kmart
  • Salsarita’s
  • Taco Bell
  • Dillard’s
  • A.C. Moore
  • Jibarra or Cantina South
  • OfficeMax and Office Depot
  • Cinelli’s (North Hills)
  • QShack (North Hills)
  • Fresh Market (Cameron Village)
  • Charlotte’s (North Hills)
  • Fiesta Mexicana
  • Applebee’s (A few locations)
  • Nowell’s
  • 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:

  • Radio Shack
  • Pronto Pasta
  • 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.


Jolly’s Closing After 130 Years

jollys 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.


Lululemon Coming to North Hills

lululemon Recently Total Wine completed their move into the left half of the former Harris Teeter store in The Lassiter. The right half is about to become the next location for Lululemon . The Vancouver-based chain offers athletic apparel for yoga, running, and dancing, as well as in-store events for yoga, self-defense, and more. No opening date is set yet, but the store is currently training employees, so it won’t be long.


Raleigh Clothing Icon Closing

TylerHouse After 45 great years, a local retailer of nice women’s clothing is shutting its doors. Tyler House, one of North Hills Mall’s original tenants, is closing their doors. No word on whether this is a business failure, a casualty of the economy, or the simple choice to walk away by the owner.

Tyler House was one of the crown jewels of North Hills Mall. Owned by the Tyler family who lived only a handful of blocks away, Tyler House had a personal touch and was one of the area’s favorite clothing stores. Its success led to the opening of a store in Chapel Hill’s University Mall in the mid-70s. However around 1980 North Hills began losing its luster as Crabtree slowly attracted more local businesses. Seeing the success of the Nowell’s Hooper’s store, for example, the Tylers broke down and took the Crabtree plunge with a store that always felt bland and impersonal. Some time in the mid 80’s or so, the Chapel Hill store closed.

I can’t remember the details, but around the time of the Crabtree store’s closure and a bit before North Hills Mall’s failure, the Tylers moved to Cameron Village with a single store that served them well until their retirement.

One of the first signs of life in the New North Hills, was the opening of a Tyler House store in The Lassiter, in the space that so long held a hair salon. The store endured multiple construction obstacles, with the facelift of the North Hills Plaza (The Lassiter) and the construction of The Alexan.

Raleigh is losing a piece of its history with the closing of Tyler House. It is difficult to run a small, reasonably priced store as national chains have figured out better how to deliver consistent styles at a lower price. The trend also presses heavily on shopping center owners seeking ways to differentiate themselves from any other shopping center in Anywheresville. As the economy continues its tumble, Tyler House will likely be just one of several pieces of Raleigh’s DNA that is lost.


North Hills Getting Bookery

Emerald Isle Books , a privately owned, small bookstore at the beach is relocating to Raleigh’s North Hills. The North Hills Bookery plans to open in the first week of November. From the EIB website:

We carry a wide variety of books including the current bestsellers. From mysteries to romance we have all the popular authors.

Note: The NH Bookery will occupy the space that Wolf Camera once filled, to the right of Jolly’s.


NC Tax-Free Weekend Coming Next Week

taxfree Beginning at 12:01 am on Friday, August 5, there will be no sales tax on many items through Sunday night. Items such as clothing, footwear, and school supplies of $100 or less per item; school instructional materials of $300 or less per item; sports and recreation equipment of $50 or less per item, computers of $3,500 or less per item; and computer supplies of $250 or less per item will be exempt.

Clothing accessories, jewelry, cosmetics, protective equipment, wallets, furniture, items used in a trade or business, and rentals are not covered by the exemption and will be subject to the applicable tax.

Here is more info from the NC Dept of Revenue:


Tommy Bahama Coming to Crabtree

bahama TBJ reports today that this fall, a Tommy Bahama store will open in the former Levi’s space in Crabtree. This will be the second of their stores in N.C.. The first is at Southpark Mall in Charlotte.


Anna’s Linens Coming to Crossroads

annas National bedding retailer Anna’s Linens is coming to Crossroads Plaza. It will occupy the space in the center building that was once occupied by several CD and video stores, and Space Savers. It will be the state’s second Anna’s.


A Native’s Guide to Visiting Raleigh

rbc-010421[1] While the NHL has prepared a fantastic week of hockey-related activities for this year’s All-Star Game , it also is a great time to take in some of the local experience that has made the Triangle (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill) one of the best places to live in America . The food, architecture, and entertainment events here are more than enough to handle, certainly in a weekend. We’re a lot cooler than you think. We just don’t talk about it.

The Triangle experience is unique, but in a subtle way. We don’t have a expressly tourist district. We don’t have centuries-old ethnic customs. Rather, the Triangle is a great place to raise a family and live a normal life.

When the Hartford Whalers moved to Raleigh, the team was adopted at a moderate rate. However the playoff series in 2001 against the New Jersey Devils cemented this team in many Triangle residents’ hearts. The team’s popularity grew in the ensuing years until 2006 when the Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup. Ever since the Canes have been a universal success, and found their way into the hearts of even the area’s most die-hard college basketball fans.

The tradition of college basketball runs deep here, and the area has become known in the basketball world as “Tobacco Road”. This is an unfortunate moniker, however, as it so inaccurately paints the Triangle lifestyle picture. The Triangle is about education and tech. The only industrial component to our history lies in Durham’s history in producing tobacco products, but those are days long gone.

Because much of Raleigh’s growth has happened in the last 45 years, there is a strong suburban component here that has been attractive to hundreds of thousands of transplants. While there is plenty of Anywheresville stuff, there is more do to and enjoy than most have the time or money to do. Eat a southern hot dog, some barbecue, and a hot doughnut as you ride around and take in the area that so many people decided to call home.

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Hard Times for Restoration Hardware

If you have any gift certificates or store credits for Restoration Hardware , you may want to go ahead and redeem them now. There is no word of any plans for the Crabtree store as of now , however I just learned that there location at Atlanta’s Lenox Square is closing soon. The company has been in a two-year slide that included even the closing of their flagship store. If they are having problems keeping their location at one of America’s most affluent malls open now, then there are problems in the company that severely limit the prognosis in nice malls like Crabtree.

When Restoration Hardware opened around 10 years ago, they offered a fresh, funky look at home furnishings. They offered an excellent collection of furniture that put a modern touch on classic French Country. The selection was topped off with an interesting assortment of sit around, funky new versions of antique toys, and more. About a year ago someone in the company thought it would be a good idea to completely change the store’s motif. Instead of the clean, bright, uplifting look that made the store so popular, designers went with an all-shades-of-brown look that created the most depressing retail store I’ve ever seen. The company’s executives will likely blame the housing crash, and perhaps that is what put the company in a tailspin two years ago. However this last attempt at saving the company was the wrong one and was a loser move for consumers.

This is potentially bad news for Crabtree Valley Mall, as well. Crate & Barrel will be closing its doors in the mall on January 23 (and moving to Southpoint on March 3). A loss of Restoration Hardware would leave the once flourishing home furnishings sector of Crabtree to just Pottery Barn.

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