Saturday, April 30, 2005

Is SouthPark overbooked?

Joseph-Beth Booksellers believes it can be best seller

Book Editor

For many book lovers, the rise and fall of bookstores in their community makes for an absorbing drama. Today, in Charlotte, the plot thickens.

At 9 a.m., Joseph-Beth Booksellers is to open a 29,000 square-foot store at SouthPark mall, around the corner from a Borders bookstore, across the street from a Barnes & Noble and a fairly short drive from Park Road Books, the Media Play on South Boulevard and a new Books-A-Million at Cotswold Village Shops shopping center.

Catch him one moment, and Joseph-Beth President Neil Van Uum sounds confident.

"If we get people within 30 feet of our door, we'll own them," he said. "We're opening a store that will blow a lot of people in Charlotte away."

But a few minutes later, as the interview moves toward the overall climate for bookstores, as well as the high rents and intense competition around SouthPark, caution kicks in.

"We're rolling the dice here," Van Uum said. "We think we'll do well, but this is a reach for us."

Some veterans of the Charlotte bookstore scene are flatly skeptical.

"He's been successful in some areas, and he's closed stores in some," said David Friese, co-owner of The BookMark in uptown Charlotte's Founders Hall. "I'm not sure his model is going to work here."

Nationwide, book sales have seen only modest growth in recent years. Bookstores have had the further problem of competition from online sellers, such as, and mega-retailers like Wal-Mart that discount bestsellers 40 percent or more.

Independent bookstores have struggled especially, squeezed by the longer hours, greater stock and deeper discounting of Borders and Barnes & Noble -- two corporate giants sometimes called "the Killer B's" by independent partisans.

But Joseph-Beth was featured in a recent Wall Street Journal article about the modest comeback by independents.

Though privately held, the company has expanded from its original store in Lexington, Ky., into Cleveland, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. It bought the independent Davis-Kidd Booksellers stores in Nashville, Memphis and Jackson, Tenn., and operates them under that name.

The Charlotte store is the company's eighth. Along the way, it has closed two stores. Company sales are projected at about $50 million for this year.

Van Uum and his wife, Mary Beth -- sister to the Borders brothers who founded Borders bookstores -- opened the first Joseph-Beth in 1986 and gave it their middle names. He bought her out after their divorce.

From early on, Joseph-Beth's strategy has been to match or exceed the big chains in store size, stock and amenities, while also providing the book knowledge and personal service independents are known for.

"Our goal in every market is to be the number one store," said Van Uum. "If we're going to compete with the chains, we've got to be."

In Charlotte, Joseph-Beth will offer not just a coffee corner with pastries or sandwiches -- typical in the chains -- but a restaurant and a wine bar. "Bronte Bistro" features dishes prepared from cookbooks sold in the store, and will focus on lighter fare, including vegetarian entrees.

That's part of the courting of women, who buy far more books than men. Van Uum said most bookstores are busy on the weekend, but success depends on attracting women during the week.

Toward that end, Joseph-Beth supplements its book and music stock with several lines of greeting cards and stationery. Book bags, reading lights, scented soaps and hand lotion are prominently displayed.

The two-story SouthPark store includes an upstairs room for book club meetings. As another part of its community emphasis, Joseph-Beth stocks any local book, including those by self-published authors.

"If it's your grandmother's recipes, we'll carry it," Van Uum said.

The new store will also, Van Uum suggests, upgrade Charlotte to an A List book tour town. The authors the store has already booked -- travel expert Arthur Frommer, and novelists Adriana Trigiani, Mary Kay Andrews and Lisa Scottoline -- are popular but not superstars.

Hang on, Van Uum said.

"We'll have authors coming who haven't been here in forever," he promised, declining to name names.

Whatever its strengths, Joseph-Beth is little known in Charlotte, and Van Uum acknowledges it has spent about $2 million preparing the space built for it by SouthPark owner Simon Property Group. He wouldn't share specifics of the rental deal, but said sales need to be strong.

"If we do less than $4 million (in annual sales), we're weeping here," he said.

Barnes & Noble remains committed to its Sharon Corners store, said Howard Spiva, the company's real estate director. Borders isn't running from the SouthPark area either.

"We've been able to co-exist with a lot of other book retailers in a variety of settings," said Jenie Dahlman, Borders' manager of field marketing.

Sally Brewster is owner of Park Road Books and president of the Southeast Booksellers Association, a group of independents. Joseph-Beth is a member, but Brewster fumes at its positioning itself as a community bookstore.

"They're a chain," she said.

Though outspoken on the problems facing bookstores, Brewster said hers can withstand the Joseph-Beth challenge. While small at 3,700 square feet, her store has lots of author events and close relationships with book clubs that look to her for recommendations and group-sale discounts.

"We keep doing what we're doing," she said. "I don't think they can match us for customer service."

Meanwhile, Books-A-Million, a Birmingham, Ala.,-based chain, has added to the pressure with a 16,000-square-foot store 2 1/2 miles from SouthPark. Though there are other Books-A-Million stores in the area, this one -- which opened Tuesday -- is the first in the city limits.

Jeff Skipper, the company's vice president for marketing, said the store will focus on serving the surrounding Cotswold neighborhood, which he described as "upscale" and "special" in its support of local businesses. "We're going to be a little more of a community bookseller in that market," he said.

But according to Van Uum, Joseph-Beth can woo book lovers from all across the region by bringing to its new store the best of what it has learned in nearly 20 years of business. It has even added some features for the new store, including an outdoor patio. And it's got the draw of being in the area's premier luxury mall.

But in tough times for bookstores, how special must Joseph-Beth be to prevail, here and elsewhere? Van Uum alluded to another upscale retailer headed for Charlotte.

"We want to be the Whole Foods Market of the book industry -- that special."

Friday, April 29, 2005

Proffitt’s and McRae’s Sold to Belk

Saks Inc. (Birmingham, Ala.) has said it is selling its Proffitt’s and McRae’s regional department store brands to Belk Inc. (Charlotte, N.C.) for $622 million.

Saks said it is still mulling options for its other regional department store brands: Parisian, Younkers, Carson Pirie Scott, Herberger’s, Boston Store and Bergner’s, mostly across the northern United States.

Upon completion of the transaction, which has been approved by the boards of directors of both companies, Belk will operate a total of 275 stores in 14 states with an estimated annual sales volume of $3.15 billion.

Nikes for $2.99

This is at least the best shopping story of the week.

I was in Roanoke last night with Kevin and decided to go to the new Nike Air Bound was my favorite pair of shoes during senior year of high school. It was hard to find when I got it back then (Champs Sports, Piedmont Mall, Danville, for anyone keeping records). I wore them until they literally fell apart. The shoe was popular enough to be retroed a couple of years ago, but I ignored it because some of the retro's details were different than the ones I knew and loved.

Anyway, these shoes have been long gone from stores, so when I found a pair in pristine condition, save for a missing box on the shelves of Ross, I was flabbergasted. They weren't my original black nubuck, but in white leather with black and red trim, they weren't bad at all. That wasn't the best part though. The shoes had been marked down to, believe it or not, $2.99! The few pairs that remain of the retro are selling for $115.00 at That amounts to a 97.4% discount off the current market price!

As in every fish story, there's a catch that made the shoes, dare I say it, not mine. They were too small. They were 12s and I wear a 13. I remember that from back in the day as well. That was the first shoe I ever bought in a size 13.

There is a happy ending to this tale, however. Though the shoes were too small for me, they were a slightly loose fit for Kevin, who proudly marched up to the counter and handed the cashier four singles for the deal of the week, if not the year.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Look at my striped shirt!

On the heels of the article about Stripey comes this funny satire. Enjoy.

Bars and stripes forever

New York Daily News

When most guys in New York want to get lucky, they wear the "Stripey." You know Stripey. It's the goofy-looking shirt that has become as basic as a pair of socks.

Key characteristics: somewhat fitted, vertical lines, the top two buttons undone. Worn with jeans that are just the right level of tightness, not loose enough to scream "Gap!," not tight enough to scream "Gay!"

Two years ago the Stripeys were daring. Invigorating. A funky alternative to the stale look of black pants and Banana Republic.

But now it's everywhere. The Stripey has monopolized the clubbing wardrobe, assaulting the city with a fashion blitzkrieg, the likes of which we haven't seen since the Trucker Hat.

For better or worse, the State of the Stripey is confident. Strong. And with no alternatives in sight, it has flattened the landscape of style, blurring the line between fashion and frat.

And, oddly, the Stripey is still considered bold, even though it's as daring as a pair of Dockers.

"They look like clones," says Jill, 26, a hospital nurse by day and clubaholic by night. She is pressed against the velvet ropes of the uber-hip PM in the Meatpacking District, shivering in the cold night. Behind her is a line of guys, all in Stripeys.

"Look at these guys," she says. "How do you decide who [to choose]?"

In the frat bars of the upper East Side, fashion standards appear more lax. Take Tin Lizzie, one of the Greekiest bars in Manhattan. A post-collegiate crowd jams to "Pour Some Sugar on Me," and the place overflows with Stripeys. Out of 65 guys, 72% (plus or minus 5% gin-and-tonic rounding error) wear either the Stripey or its siblings: the zigzag or the small-printed floral.

Joanne, a 23-year-old with the kind of large, bright pupils that exist only in Disney films, stops dancing and looks around. "Stripes! Of course! It shows confidence," she says. "Guys who wear a funkier shirt seem to have it going on."

On the dance floor, the men all sort of look the same. How is that funky? Unfazed, she says, "It's definitely more interesting than the usual business shirt."

Each of the 11 women polled at Tin Lizzie said she still likes the Stripey. Seven thought an undershirt (black) should be worn with it. Ten of the 11 want to see it untucked.

Nora disagrees. If a guy has the bod to pull it off, he should tuck, she says. And if he can get away with it, he should rock the floral.

A loud, almost neon, gold and purple Stripey walks by. "See that?" she asks. "Now that's a cool shirt! He's not a great-looking guy, but I'd talk to him because of the shirt."

The wearer of the gold Stripey turns out to be Charlie, a gravelly voiced, 30-year-old stockbroker. "I give the Stripey trend 12 more months," he says. When he's not working, he says, he likes to wear shirts "that pimp."

It's no different at the trendy Hotel Gansevoort in the Meatpacking District, where a rooftop view, an indoor swimming pool and wannabe models can't hide the familiar Tin Lizzie look - 52 of the 76 guys sport the Stripey.

Denise, a 37-year-old attorney who's wearing silver eye shadow, admits that if she were to have a one-night stand with a guy she met in a bar, he would be wearing the Stripey. Her friends all nod their heads vigorously. As for the color of the Stripey, Denise and her friends prefer bold, bright tones like orange and pink.

At Bridge & Tunnel on Union Turnpike in Fresh Meadows, the Stripey of choice involves purple and pink. A quick survey suggests you'll find them in equal proportions at Edessa on Fifth Ave. in Park Slope, Slate on Bell Boulevard in Bayside and Chance on Smith St. in South Brooklyn.

It's 2:30 a.m. at Rumor, a 12th Street Manhattan club that's more diverse in terms of ethnicity, music and vibe, and stii the guys are wearing the Stripey. Some have it completely unbuttoned in the hot club, revealing screen printed T-shirts beneath. Others accessorize with gold chains, bling or a Yankees cap. The Stripey is versatile.

There are dissenters. Joanne, a 27-year-old publicist, frowns as she inspects my shirt, a pink and purple, fitted, untucked Stripey.

"No more stripes," she says. "Maybe it's time for spots."

April 28 article

This is the April 28 column on the Adidas 1 running shoe. Came out pretty nice.

I Believe I'll Dust My Bling


"The first time I saw her was at a place that's torn down now, a real toilet," said RON DELSNER, the music promoter. "She was great. She spit on the floor. I never saw a chick spit on the floor before."

It was a lovely afternoon at the spring luncheon for the ladies of the Upper East Side Botanical Society.

We kid!

We kid because we love! They would have spittoons, of course.

We were actually backstage at the theater at Madison Square Garden, at the fifth annual Jammy Awards. The chick that Mr. Delsner was referring to was SINÉAD O'CONNOR, and he meant it as a compliment.

The Jammys are dedicated to honoring "the improvisational music community," and the awards show brought together musicians from all over the pop and success spectrum. Among those attending were HUEY LEWIS; BRUCE HORNSBY; BURNING SPEAR; TRAVIS TRITT; MEDESKI, MARTIN AND WOOD; LES CLAYPOOL; and MAVIS STAPLES, who sang "Freedom Highway" with the North Mississippi Allstars.

The International Smell of Jam Band Music wafted throughout the backstage corridors, and though the musicians performed free, they were treated to bottles of top-shelf tequila and beer chasers.

We found BUDDY GUY, who won a lifetime achievement award, sitting on a worn taupe couch in a backstage room, wearing jeans, a floppy white fishing hat and white sneakers.

Sitting next to him was the baby-faced JOHN MAYER, whom Mr. Guy called "the hit record man."

Mr. Guy is a curious one. The last time we saw him in concert, several years ago, he tied a towel around his neck and pretended to fly for a significant portion of the show.

Our correspondent asked him how the blues could go on being the blues when life has changed so much.

"I've had two wives," Mr. Guy said. "I don't have one now, and I don't think I'll ever have another one because, you know, everything changed but the dollar. The same dollar that my dad and my grandpap worked for is still here, man, and it's still working."

Judging by the national mint around his wrist and fingers, this dollar has apparently been working for Mr. Guy.

"I know you're not paying no attention to what I'm saying now," he said to our correspondent.

"You begin to look at my bracelet, and now you going to look at my ring."

He smiled. More gold there.

"You forget what my face looks like. You just want the rings and watch."

Mr. Hornsby, tall and still athletic-looking, talked to us about his days playing with the GRATEFUL DEAD, and Mr. Lewis lamented the fact that commercial music has become a dirty word.

Commercialism, pro and con, was a favorite conversation topic for the night, as has been mandated by the federal law on interviewing blues and rock musicians.

Ms. O'Connor, who was barefoot and has grown a bit round, still has those limpid blue eyes.

She has three children, and the 18-year-old, the oldest, was with her in New York. But he had gone back to the hotel. "You know how it works," she said. "I am his mom."

As we were talking to Mr. Delsner backstage, KEN DASHOW, the D.J. at Q104 , came into the room.

Mr. Delsner told him that he was going to London to see CREAM, which is having a reunion concert in May at the Royal Albert Hall.

"There's no shot they're coming to Madison Square Garden?" Mr. Dashow asked.

"I had them," Mr. Delsner said. "I had them, man. Then GINGER BAKER got cold feet because he had to get through an embassy in Toronto or Ottawa."

Two marijuana offenses in the early 70's had complicated Mr. Baker's attempts to enter the United States from South Africa, where he lives. "Nothing about heroin or overstaying his visas," Mr. Delsner said.

"I was negotiating. I even had posters made. They'll be a collector's item."

With Luke Jerod Kummer and Kari Haskell

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Field's not afraid of a mall store

1st new Chicago-area location in a decade

By Becky Yerak
Chicago Tribune staff reporter

For the first time in six years, Marshall Field's plans to cut the ribbon on a new store.

The department-store chain will open a location in a new outdoor mall in Bolingbrook in 2007--making it the first new outlet for Field's in the Chicago area in more than a decade.

Opening new department stores at malls has become an oddity recently as shoppers increasingly turn to specialty stores and freestanding discount chains like Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp.

Only two new enclosed malls are expected to open in 2005, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. And the total number of malls across the country could eventually drop from about 1,130 today to 900, the group says.

Field's choice of the 121-acre Promenade at Bolingbrook is notable because most of Minneapolis-based Field's 62 full-service stores are in enclosed malls.

Mall stalwarts such as J.C. Penney Co. and Sears Holdings Corp. have begun looking for a change of scenery, including opening more "off-mall" stores. Sears, for example, had been "stuck on 870 stores for 35 years" until a March merger with Kmart Holding Corp. enabled it to expand away from shopping malls on a massive scale, Sears CEO Alan Lacy said recently.

Field's, however, is hardly fleeing from the nation's malls. Earlier this month, it announced an expansion of a store in the Detroit suburb of Novi, Mich.--the first renovation of a Field's store since its flagship State Street store in downtown Chicago in 2003.

Field's growth comes amid a pickup in its financial fortunes. Under the previous ownership of Target Corp., Field's sales sagged even as Target poured millions of dollars into reviving the chain after buying it in 1990. In July 2004, Target sold the chain to May Department Stores Co., a struggling department-store operator whose chains include Lord & Taylor.

But Field's finished last year with a 3 percent rise in same-store sales, a Field's executive told a Retail Advertising & Marketing Association conference in Chicago in February. "We've turned it around," said Gregory Clark, Field's vice president of creative services.

In February, Federated Department Stores Inc., parent of Bloomingdale's and Macy's, announced that it was buying Field's parent, May, in one of a spate of retail deals that have occurred since early 2004.

Other department store chains are taking different tacks to expand.

Macy's, which recently mounted its first national advertising campaign, announced a partnership Tuesday with Inc. The Internet retailer will sell everything from exclusive Macy's brands, like INC apparel and Hotel Collection bedding, to a wide selection of jewelry, clothing and beauty products.

"With everything going on in terms of consolidation--both official and unofficial--retailers with their feet still on the ground are being more aggressive about keeping their brands in the bull's-eye of the shopper," said Wendy Liebmann, president of WSL Strategic Retail in New York.

She's not surprised that Field's newest store is in an outdoor center.

"They have greater convenience, or at least a perception of greater convenience," she said. "When you look at new locations for malls or stores, at the top of the list of places to evaluate are outdoor malls or lifestyle centers rather than typical suburban malls."

Field's 62 stores are in eight states, with 17 in Illinois.

The Promenade is at Boughton Road near Interstate 355 and the Interstate 55 exit. Construction of the new two-level, 180,000-square-foot store will begin this fall. By Field's standards, that'll be a midsize store. The Promenade's first phase will be completed in fall 2005.

"We're always looking for new and exciting opportunities, and this was an opportunity to expand our presence in Chicago," said Jennifer McNamara, a spokeswoman for Field's in Minneapolis.

It will be Field's first new full-blown department store in the Chicago area since the opening of its Northbrook Court store in 1995. The retailer's last store opening came in 1999, in Grandville, Mich.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

flippin' awesome

Suddenly, "Napoleon Dynamite" is everywhere!

I think I mentioned this quirky movie before, but it chronicles a chapter of this fictional guy in Pocatello, Idaho that's perpetually stuck in 1981 but living in the present day. He's weird enough by himself, but when you throw his family and his friends in, things get even stranger and more entertaining to watch.

The movie did okay at the box office but has become a cult classic on DVD. I was the first guy I knew that really dug this movie, but as I asked around, I found out that several of my friends liked it as well, though it left my friend Tim a little cold. No matter, the consensus is that it is awesome.

And as of late it's become trendy. There are now ND t-shirts at JCPenney and Dillard's, among other stores, that are actually pretty cool.

I'm scared that it may be a little too trendy and "jump the shark" time may come sooner than later. The mass-market t-shirts were a tip-off.

No matter, Napoleon Dynamite is still flippin' awesome.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Manhattanites and Mall Rats, Too

Malls Are Returning to New York, Home of Department Stores and Boutiques

By Joe Piscina
Columbia University Daily Spectator
April 25, 2005

In a city bustling with bodegas and boutiques, New York, a self-described nation within a nation, may have more in common with mall-laden America than it lets on.

The city’s several malls sometimes get overlooked—maybe because of the city’s other options or attitudes—or maybe because they aren’t recognizable as traditional mid-American staples. When asked if she had ever been to a mall in the city, Kim Lau, CC ’08, asked, “Where are there malls in New York?”

The Shops at Columbus Circle, New York’s newest mall, opened in February 2004 in the much-heralded Time Warner Center. Its name omits the word “mall” and offers an experience shoppers in Ohio won’t find, but the indoor retail center is not a new concept to New York.

Malls have had a role in sculpting the city’s shopping culture for the last half-century. Beginning in the early 20th century, New York became known as one of the world’s premiere destinations for shopping. Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s, among others, helped make New York one of a few places where shopping was more of an activity than an errand.

During this period, stores such as Tiffany’s and FAO Schwarz moved from Union Square up to 23rd Street, forming what became known as the “Ladies’ Mile,” complete with the department store Siegel-Cooper, whose pet department sold actual panther cubs.

Over the next several decades, the retail landscape, much like the rest of the city, was eclipsed by the allure of the increasingly popular suburban lifestyle. The suburban shopping mall, with its convenience and variety, became a welcome alternative to the hustle and bustle of the city’s large department stores.

Retail in the city bounced back during the ’90s with the advent of high-end boutique shopping in SoHo, the Upper West Side, and along Madison Avenue. And despite a post-Sept. 11, 2001 dip, the retail industry has found its second wind with the increasing presence of chain and big-box stores from the suburbs.

The West Side of Manhattan could be called a hotspot in this revolution. Kenneth Jackson, Jacques Barzun Professor in History and the Social Sciences and the author of numerous pieces on the American shopping center, said, “Someone once said, ‘If you were to put a roof over the Upper West Side, you would have one large shopping mall.’”

Beyond the proliferation of chain stores, the West Side is home to three of the city’s actual shopping malls. The Manhattan Mall, located on 6th Avenue and 33rd Street, with neon accents, an extensive food court, and a roster of stores such as Aeropostale, Sunglass Hut, and The Body Shop, seems straight out of the suburbs. It fits the profile of the every-mall so perfectly, in fact, that one may be surprised to walk outside the confines of the building and into the shadow of the Empire State Building, which lies just a block east.

A series of chain stores including Old Navy and The Disney Store accompany a nine-theater movie complex in the Harlem USA mall on 125th street. Originally lauded for its potential to reinvent Harlem economically and socially, the mall provides low-cost chain shopping to the neighborhood, despite concerns that it has destroyed some of Harlem’s distinct historic fabric.

Though The Shops at Columbus Circle is not only the only shopping center on the West Side to conveniently exclude the word “mall” from its title, it has the most uniquely New York flair. With a two story J. Crew, high-end shoe designer Stuart Weitzman’s outlet, and a Whole Foods that fills the entire lower level, the stores are of a decidedly different, more affluent strain.

The trend continues in what may be the world’s most sophisticated and expensive food court. In addition to Masa, home of sushi god Masa Takamaya’s $300-$500 dinner, Per Se features chef-legend Thomas Keller’s $350 prix fixe dinner, while Cafe Grey and Level V steak house offer their own culinary creations.

And while the other malls in the city seem more tailored to a typical student’s budget, The Shops at Columbus Circle probably receives the most name recognition from students on campus. Julian Fox, SEAS ’08, said, “Yeah, I’ve been there. It’s not a typical mall at all. Nothing like the ones I grew up around [in New Jersey].”

But New York seems unlikely to give up its individuality and give in entirely to mid-America’s sprawl across the rest of the country.

“New York has most definitely changed over the past 50 years, but not as significantly as a number of other American cities,” Jackson said, adding, “New York is one of the last bastions of the small, independent store. The city offers you an opportunity to go again.”

He said that chains generally fill the high-rent spaces in malls, while independent stores mostly survive in lower-rent areas.

The Meatpacking District on the Lower West Side, he explained, is a perfect example.

“It has a raw edge that attracts the younger New Yorkers,” he said. ”The mall has advantages for children and the old, but it is a very regimented environment. The mall is controlled and at 22, controlled is the last thing you want.”

Sunday will be freakin' sweet!

"Family Guy" is coming back to network television on Sunday, followed by "American Dad."

at long last...something from me

I’m going a little long today to make up for the fact that I’ve been absent. I’ve been so busy that I haven’t felt like writing much. Between going out of town, yard work, writing and recovering from those things, I’ve been up against it and tired. I’m glad you understand and truly appreciate your patience.

Last Tuesday, I was getting the articles for my news column straight. The paper said I could be in at least twice a month, and I’ve been trying to find stuff to put in. So far I’ve got one that I submitted about a computerized running shoe (the Adidas 1) that will run this week and I’m working on another about a plus-sized women’s store (Torrid) that will run in three weeks. Greensboro is the closest Torrid location, so when I went to the Alex Bugnon concert, I did a little research an hour or two before.

Speaking of the concert, I had a wonderful time. Alex didn’t actually make it to the stage until 9:30 (concert started at 8) but the opening acts were decent. One of the acts had a killer guitar player from Panama that played with all kinds of major acts. He played with the slightest bit of distortion and the greatest bit of originality, even playing with his teeth at one point.

Alex Bugnon is my favorite jazz keyboardist and he fronted a four-piece ensemble that included Victor Bailey on bass. That guy can tear up a bass, my friend. The set was better than I expected, but also shorter. He only played six or seven songs, but there was a lot of improvisation and the songs all took on several new dimensions.

The Orioles game was great, too. They beat the Yankees 8-4 and it was the third O’s win in the three game series. I couldn’t see the action as well as I hoped, but there was a one-man peanut gallery three rows back that filled everyone in within earshot about what was happening. At the end, everyone was chanting “Sweep” and “Crank the bus!”

Saturday, I was in Richmond with some of my old college friends. One of the guys I hadn’t seen since graduation and another one I hadn’t seen in 2½ years. We went out to the Short Pump Town Center and had dinner and some drinks. A good time was definitely had by all.

Anyway, that’s what’s up

Fashion, smashion

This was truly hilarious. Click on the image above and read this rant on jeans from craigslist.

Tired of the attire -- it's a bad fit

If Connie Mack didn't have to wear a uni, why does Felipe Alou? (San Fransisco Chronicle File Photo)

The NFL is no better. Tom Landry used to wear a suit and a fedora, but coaches now are supposed to sport a sneaker supplier's name or the team logo on his game clothing. (Associated Press file photo, 1984, by Ron Heflin)

The rule of uniformed managers is wearing thin
John Crumpacker,

Another baseball season is upon us, and that can only mean one thing:

The sight of middle-aged men wearing uniforms for games in which one thing is certain:

They won't be playing.

If you continue this line of thought in a linear direction, you are left with only one conclusion:

Then why are they wearing uniforms?


It's baseball, that's why.

Silly me.

It's tradition.

Of course.

Now tell that to the sartorial ghost of Connie Mack and all the other old- time managers who dressed like men when they managed their boys.

As a deeply committed non-baseball person, I've never understood why managers have to wear uniforms like their players. What, Jack McKeon might be called on as a pinch runner some time?

Why can't men 10, 15, 20, 30 years into their retirement as players wear a comfortable pair of slacks and a polo shirt with team logo when they manage a game? Somebody, please tell me in a way that makes sense.

Some years ago, I was assigned to interview Dusty Baker for a big-picture story on coaching in the '90s (the 1990s, smart guy). I went to Candlestick Park to meet Baker.

I sat transfixed as he rolled on layers and layers of socks. It was a hose overdose. Mountain climbers readying for K2 don't wear as many socks as this man did, but the only thing he climbed all day was the dugout steps.

People in the baseball-know later told me, patronizingly, that two of the 12 pairs of socks Baker put on his feet that day were stirrups (though not a horse was in sight) and sanitary hose.

Sanitary hose, now there's a concept. Just the thing for stashing salami or stanching a sucking chest wound, I guess.

Baseball is not alone in harboring haberdashery horror among coaches, however. It's just the most obvious offender.

Football coaches used to wear regular-guy clothes on the sidelines before leagues became little more than marketing tools and turned them into logo saps.

Remember Tom Landry, natty in his suit and trademark hat?

Uh, Tom, about the hat. It's got to go. It doesn't have our sneaker supplier's name or our team logo on it. Here, take this visor for a spin.

Remember Vince Lombardi, bundled up against the Green Bay winter in a classy camelhair overcoat and hats that ranged from Russian-style to fedora?

Mr. Lombardi, sir, wouldn't you be more comfortable in this puffy Gore- tex parka in official Packers colors?

Remember Bum Phillips, bless him, in his pointy-toed boots, snap-button shirts and cowboy hat? No, no and no. If he were a younger man and still coaching today, the NFL's Style Sycophants would force him to wear sneakers, khakis and a garish logo shirt no grown man would ever pay money for.

Bum Phillips, in sneakers? That's rich.

Of today's NFL coaches, only Bill Belichick gets it right. Forced to wear official team sideline crap, he puts on baggy sweatshirts, cuts off the sleeves to a three-quarters length and looks for all the world like a guy ready to rake leaves in the back yard.

Basketball coaches occupy the other extreme in game-time fashion. Fops, many of them have become. Perhaps because it's an indoor game played at night, coaches dress to the nines to coach their 12 players. The NBA even has a dress code for its coaches, in the unlikely event someone such as George Karl might say, "Screw it. I'm going with jeans and a Tommy Bahama shirt tonight, and look, deck shoes with no socks!''

(Dusty Baker, horrified: No socks? Are you crazy?)

Karl, in fact, went with a retro look a few weeks back while coaching his Denver Nuggets. Like his players, he wore a vintage Nuggets jersey from 1975- 76 and thought he might be fined for his temerity.

"I think I've been a little tight lately,'' he said. "It brought me closer to the team.''

No fine was announced -- the Nuggets said the matter was handled internally. Can't have a coach getting closer to his team at the expense of a $2,000 suit that has to be dry-cleaned every time it's worn.

I was watching some hoops game a while back in which the head coach of one team was a well-known wild man, noted for vaulting from his seat at each perceived slight by the officials, waving his arms like a third base coach (in uniform!) bringing home a charging runner, and putting more stress on his suit coat than it was built for.

Before the game was over, the suit coat was split down the back, top to bottom.

That would never happen with a comfortable knit shirt or a go-with-the- flow sweater.

I hope the man's socks escaped unscathed. Socks are important, you know.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

You've come a long way, playa

The Plain Dealer

In 20-some years, the bond between rappin' and ballin' has grown tighter - even if the raps of players-turned-performers haven't. It's been a love-hate-filled rocky road, though, loaded with cornball rhythms, baggy shorts, thrown punches and enough gold chains to slow down Shaquille O'Neal.

1984: Hip-hop pioneer Kurtis Blow pens the hoops dream "Basketball." OK, so the rap isn't exactly tight - "Basketball is my favorite sport / I like the way they dribble up and down the court / Just like I'm the King on the microphone / so is Dr. J and Moses Malone" - but it's the first rap to represent b-ball in the hip-hop 'hood.

1984: Michael Jordan enters the NBA and, within years, ushers in all sorts of hip-hop flava. Shorts get baggy, warm-up suits and gold chains get trendy, and Air Jordans become high fashion.

1986: Yo, Run-DMC summons fans to hold up their Adidas sneakers while rapping "My Adidas." The ode - "Got a pair that I wear when I'm playin' ball / With the heael inside make me 10 feet tall" - turns the shell-toe Superstar into the ultimate in playa-player footwear. Oh, yeah. It also scores a $1.5 million Adidas sponsorship for the trio.

1986: Converse rolls out the Weapon, a shoe geared toward fashionistas and ballers alike. The shoe has a little more bounce than the accompanying ad campaign, which features rappin' basketball players. Hey, we get the message.

1988: Public Enemy's hip-hop manifesto "Rebel Without a Pause" gives a shout out to bad- boy hoopster (and hip-hop icon) Charles Barkley: "Simple and plain / give me the lane / I'll throw it down your throat like Barkley."

1991: The University of Michigan's "Fab Five" take the court looking more like a hip-hop gang than a basketball team: heads shaved, shorts baggy and sagging, black socks and shoes and a battle cry straight out of a Geto Boys rap.

1992: Shaquille O'Neal launches his "musical career" on the "Arsenio Hall Show," rappin' with the Fu-Schnickens. Comical? That's nothing compared with what lies ahead.

gas is getting expensive

This was in the paper and was SO steve's blog. I had to post it.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Preppy fads overshadow fundamental shift in fashion trends

By Will Milton
The Flat Hat, College of William & Mary

We've all been enjoying our polo shirts and our pastels. I am as guilty as anyone else. There is something romantic, isn’t there, about wearing what our parents wore when we were six and seven? But allow me to shed some light on what’s really going on in fashion right now. It isn’t all Lily and Ralph, you know, which is good news if polo shirts make you ill.

What made us move away from country-club chic in the first place? The first time Ray-Bans and top-siders were trendy, their audience was more limited than it is today. When America picked itself up from Vietnam and gas-rationing and jumped into Reaganomics, the yuppie was born. (Excuse my history hack-job, but the clothes are what’s important here.) This upwardly mobile set of utter assholes exhibited a sort of neo-aristocratic obsession with luxury. But this was an active generation, not content to spend its money on silver and dusty old homes. Society had become increasingly sedentary over the past century, and most common, low-paying jobs were indoor occupations. These social climbers wanted to sport and travel and distance themselves from the rest of us nine-to-five copy boys, cashiers and receptionists. Rejecting the porcelain skin of cloistered aristocrats past, tan suddenly went from gauche to chic. Popular? Perhaps. Actually attractive? Debatable.

Eager to get the dollars of the nouveau-riche, designers delivered watches that could be worn on the yacht or taken on scuba trips in Fiji. Navy and white Keds-style sneakers skipped off the deck and into the dining room. Madras shorts recalled the golf club your dad belonged to, and then there’s that collar. That collar went up to keep the glaring sun off of the neck while boating or golfing, so your neck wouldn’t be red like a farmer’s. (I hope you can all extrapolate the two catch phrases I,m invoking here; you’re smart kids.)

So here we are, with every store at the mall pushing pink and green. (A jarring combination that makes my stomach turn when pulled off badly, such as that glaring fuchsia tote with neon green handles you ladies insist on carrying. I don’t care if it does have a damn Polo logo on it. It looks like something Barbie’s off-brand cousin would carry.) But this trend is only part of a larger movement that is taking over fashion in a shift at which we will later look to help us distinguish between what was turn-of-the-20th century and what is 21st century. If you hate the childlike vomit-doodles that Lily Pulitzer passes off as whimsical and charming, or if you have an inexplicable urge to rip the popped collars off of sorority girls and strangle them with their ribbon-strung pearls, I offer words of consolation — and the number of a very talented therapist.

The good news is that this too shall pass. But if you missed it this winter, when it was more apparent, what is really en vogue is luxury. Fur, broaches, feathers, ribbons, adornments of all types decorated the runways last winter, and this summer is seeing the revival of looks like aviator chic and Jackie O.’s understated elegance. These looks bring with them kid gloves, sumptuous silk details, gold thread — a return to opulence that was overthrown when yuppies were. It was replaced by sleek, black, adolescent silhouettes.

The mid to late 90s featured a return to 70s nostalgia and even high-end designers were playing with nylon and metallics all in the name of millennial-chic modernity. During what other era could Calvin Klein, with his monochromatic palate and skinny tie, have won his way into the closets of celebrities and socialites everywhere? (The rest of us were stuck with his underwear, but we got Travis Fimmel out of the deal, so who can complain? Although I wonder, can we return Ashton Kutcher without a receipt?)

The point is, if you can manage to look beyond the embroidered critters that have once again plopped themselves on our chests, and even infested our pants, preppy isn’t the only option right now. (Check out In Style’s April issue. Sandra Bullock may not have tempted you, but a series of readers, queries answered with text and a full-color layout should. It also has 156 smart makeup buys all listed on a chart that fits in your purse.) But keep it understated, keep it luxurious and, by God, you,ve hit the very definition of fashionable, haven’t you?

Friday, April 22, 2005

the alex bugnon concert

My ticket to the show.

Here's the rundown on the Alex Bugnon show from last week:

Alex Bugnon: keyboards, Fender Rhodes
Victor Bailey: bass
Vincent Henry: saxaphone, guitar
Rodney Bryant: drums, percussion

The Set:
Southern Living Listen
This Time Around Listen
Harlem on My Mind Listen
Piano in the Dark Listen
Sweet Sticky Thing Listen
107 degrees in the Shade Listen
Yearning For Your Love (encore) Listen

Gap Goes Fourth

Forth & Towne is the name of the newest retail concept for 35+ women

( - Gap Inc. (San Francisco) has announced that Forth & Towne is the name of the company’s new women’s apparel retail concept. Forth & Towne represents the fourth, and newest, concept in Gap Inc.’s family of brands, which includes Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy.

“Launching the brand Forth & Towne, which focuses on women over age 35, represents an important long-term growth opportunity for Gap Inc.,” said Gap president and ceo Paul Pressler.

Forth & Towne will launch in four test stores in the Chicago market and one in New York in the fall of 2005. It will offer a broad range of sizes, with a focus on fit, and assortments that serve a variety of occasions.

“We created an address with the name ‘Forth & Towne’ because we wanted it to evoke a sense of place -- to signify a special and unique shopping destination,” explained Gary Muto, president of the new division. “ ‘Forth’ references our fourth brand and ‘Towne’ conveys a sense of community that we want to create for our customers when they shop with us.”

Women over the age of 35, a rapidly growing segment of the population, is said to have, as a group, a spending power that accounts for about 39 percent of women’s total apparel expenditures.

Don't be cheap with your feet

Tara Pipia
Times Herald-Record, Middletown, NY

Don't think you can stop by a discount department store and find a superior running shoe for a low price.

Manufacturers make two kinds of sneakers: inexpensive ones with cheap materials and expensive ones with good materials and the latest technology. If you plan on running farther than the end of your block, you should take your shoe shopping seriously.

Frank Giannino, owner of Frank's Shoe Fitting, and Gary Groo, owner of the New Balance Store, both in Middletown, will tell you that where you buy your shoes makes a difference. Giannino says department stores sell brand names for less money because the shoes are made with just that – less.

The sneakers are "softer and lighter than those in specialty shops," Giannino says.

They are in no way suitable for the road. Expect to spend between $75 and $100 for running shoes, Giannino says, if you are serious about preventing injury.

Groo says that New Balance makes a variety of shoes, from low- to high-end quality. The model numbers in the department stores (400 to 700s) have less stability and cushioning. These shoes will cost only $40 or $50 but, "you get what you pay for," he says.

Of course, what shoe store owner wouldn't say that? Two local podiatrists, however, back up those claims.

Dr. Paul Atlas, a podiatrist at Family FootCare Group in Middletown, says the models offered by department stores are, indeed, of lesser quality.

"You won't find any sneakers made with new technology" in a department store, Atlas says. And, he adds, chances are there won't be a fit guide explaining what special features each shoe has.

For the serious runner, he suggests a specialty store where you will have a better chance of finding a quality shoe.

Dr. Bruce Fischer, a podiatrist in Florida, says department stores sell lower-end brand-name models and no-name brands. I tried to come up with some no-names without luck until my Uncle Vito told me about his Etonics and LA Gear. These types of brands are more likely to have even less stability than the lower-end brand-name models. Fischer highly recommends purchasing a quality model made specifically for running. But if you ask Uncle Vito, the Etonics are great.

Just to double check, I stopped by some local stores to see what models were available and at what prices.

Giannino and Groo sell New Balance running sneakers with higher-end model numbers, ranging from 765 to 1221. Giannino sells other name brands as well, but New Balance seems to be a popular shoe in his store. Prices in both stores ranged from about $75 to $145.

Kohl's sells a variety of sneakers with prices ranging from $35 to about $75. But the New Balance model numbers were all lower end: 410 to 715.

Dick's sold even more brands, with only one higher-end New Balance model (807). Most of the sneakers, regardless of features, were pricey.

Modell's had a variety of brands as well, but most were fashion shoes. The running shoes were inexpensive ($35 to $75), but, again, all models were lower end: 406 to 718 for New Balance.

Good shoes, fitted properly by someone who knows running shoes, could mean the difference between being sidelined with injuries or running pain-free.

With the 25th Times Herald-Record Orange Classic coming up in June in Middletown, you'll want to be at the starting line ready to go. Every Sunday, starting at 8:45 a.m. on Carpenter Avenue behind the former Caldor's, you can practice the 10K route. Bring your best running shoes, and if Uncle Vito decides to come, I hope he steps up from those Etonics and LA Gear.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Sole of the Sneakerhead

We Want Your Retro, Hard-to-Find Shoe Styles, The Fanatics Said. So the Companies Ran With It.

By Stephen A. Crockett Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 21, 2005; Page C01

Ian Callender's parents are upstairs in their charming Mitchellville home; mother in her office, father in the kitchen. Callender is in the basement, which, for today, has been completely pimped out. Jill Scott's lovely falsetto plays in the background, the lights are dimmed to a soft glow. Barry White would be proud.

The wine-colored, crescent-shaped couch is crowded with eight sultry models, all in undergarments that, if woven together, could make a shirt for an 18-month-old. Nestled in the middle is Callender, who isn't smiling. For one, he can't because he's supposed to be giving off a Don Corleone-meets-Don Juan vibe, and two, it's hard to be smiley when your girlfriend is watching from a few feet away.

The model in the yellow two-piece thingy asks, "So how much are all of these worth?"

"The ones that y'all are holding are about $2,000," Callender says.

Now he smiles.

The models gasp. Callender has posed them holding part of his collection of rare Nike Dunk SBs -- cool sneakers, to you there in wingtips -- as a photographer friend clicks away. Eight pairs of shoes worth $2,000.

Callender is a regular guy, Drexel University grad, good job. But he has a habit. He has amassed a dazzling collection of hard-to-find sneakers, mostly limited-edition Nikes that, if they can be found, might cost $300 to $500 a pair, retail. If he sold them on eBay, he could rake in several thousand dollars, easy.

And he is not alone in his habit. Legions of collectors are standing, zombielike, in the wee hours outside shoe stores, waiting for them to open, mumbling words like "deadstock" and "F.O.T.B." These people, mostly young men, are called sneakerheads. Sneakerheads want one thing: the coolest, rarest sneaker on the market, whether it be Adidas, Bape or Reebok. And right now, that sneaker is the Nike Dunk SB.

In February, a mini riot broke out at a store on New York's Lower East Side as sneakerheads camped out in freezing temperatures for days to get the new SB release, the Pigeon Dunk, for $300 a pair. When the store opened, according to the New York Post, 70 people were in line. Twenty got the shoes, the other 50 got attitudes.

In the age of sneakers with pumps, straps, lights, air bubbles and silver briefcases (the 2002 XVII Air Jordans came in a metallic attache for $200), Nike Dunk SBs are the anti-New Age Nikes. They are what Nike used to be: simple leather sneakers. They are the last Nikes your dad bought when basketball shorts were shorts, not knickerbockers. They are not attached to or endorsed by super athletes, unless you consider Jude Law shelling out $600 for a vintage pair an athletic endorsement. This time around, designs include stars, tie-dye, camouflage, plaid, zebra stripes.

Callender, 23, has been a sneakerhead since 1999, when he bought Nike Air Jordans for $100 while he was in college "trying to find myself." He found himself deep inside his soles. Now he has 60 pairs, half of which are Dunk SBs. Callender loves them all equally. They are his babies.

But what is the attraction? What is it that has sneakerheads standing in lines for hours to get old-looking Nikes with funky zebra stripes?

"To be honest with you, I have no idea," says Callender, a systems engineer. "They're just different."

Non-collectors sometimes look at collectors as odd people, obsessives who hoard oddness. For the collector, they are unabashedly fascinated with the object of desire. They purchase and protect it, even if it means only being able to say they are among the few who possess it.

Sneaker collecting is the hip-hop generation's stamp book.

"I have no idea why people collect stamps, but I don't knock them for it," says Alex Wang of San Jose, creative director for Sole Collector, a bimonthly guide to sneakerhead culture founded in 2003. (Callender was featured in Issue 4, and he hopes that the pics taken in his parents' basement make their way into an upcoming issue. To arrange the shoot, he called a friend, who called a friend, and before he knew it his basement looked like the Playboy Mansion.)

Wang, aka Retrokid, 28, has 600 pairs of sneakers. He is also administrator for an online message board called NikeTalk. Message boards are how sneakerheads find out the most important aspect of their collecting: the drop date.

On a local sneaker release day, it goes like this: Callender gets up around 6 a.m. and treks out to Pitcrew, a skate store in Frederick, 55 miles from his parents' house. "Out there you don't have to stand in line; you can sit in your car," he says. "People know who is first and who is second."

When the store opens, the sneakerheads line up and buy the shoes.

"The only problem is if you want two pairs you have to wait until the line has gone through one complete time," Callender says.

Is Nike brilliant or what?

Here is how they did it:

The original Dunk debuted in 1985 to coincide with Nike's "Be True to Your School" promotion. The company picked eight NCAA Division I college teams -- Iowa, Michigan, Duke, University of Nevada at Las Vegas, Syracuse, Villanova, St. John's and Georgetown -- and made Dunks to match their uniforms. (The Georgetown Dunks had "Hoyas" written in block letters.) Over the next two decades Nike morphed sneakers into everything short of astronaut boots.

In 2001, the Nike brain trust created a skateboard division but decided that instead of coming up with a new skateboard shoe straight out of the gate, it would first re-release the classic Dunks, which had been popular with skateboarders in the '80s.

To get skate cred and underground love for the re-release, Nike got major skate companies including Supreme, Zoo York and London DJ Unkle to create patterns for the Dunk. This new breed was christened the Nike Dunk SB (as in skateboard), then offered only at skate shops and boutiques in limited quantities. The suggested retail price was $65, but specialty shops found they could sell them for up to $500.

Most stores get only 20 to 30 pairs, and that's what has fueled the sneakerhead rage.

Kevin Imamura, communications manager for Nike's skateboarding division, says he's not certain how many SB versions have been created, but the Web site shows about 65. "We release stuff all the time," Imamura says. "That's a part of the surprise."

"The Pigeon Dunk was only sold in New York," Wang says, "and if you live in L.A., you couldn't get them unless you knew someone that was going to stand outside for hours. If you wanted them, you had to pay markup."

In the big bowl of soup that is all things wanted and sought, there is eBay, which is where real sneaker freaks go to pay markup.

A pair of Pigeon Dunks sold there for $1,000. The shoes, named in tribute to the New York street pigeon, are cement gray with a white swoosh and a pigeon on the heel. Yellow-and-black Wu-Tang Dunks hover around $750. Pro Zoo York Dunks can fetch as much $1,200, and Paris Dunks can range from $700 to $1,700 a pair.

"It makes me mad," says Callender. "I mean the way that sneaker collecting should be done is like, you buy two pairs, one to wear and one to keep in the box. But because people know that they can sell them on eBay for crazy prices, most boutiques only let you get one pair."

"We have all been suckered into this craze in one way or another," says Christina Coleman, 25, Callender's girlfriend, standing in his kitchen. She was late for the photo shoot after going to the Adidas store in Georgetown to get the new Roc-a-fella shell toes for Ian. Arriving an hour before the store opened, she was 10th in line.

"Everybody there was talking about shoes in this sneaker lingo," Coleman says. "It was like living in a foreign country." (Deadstock, by the way, means a foot has never been inside the shoe. F.O.T.B. means fresh out of the box.)

Coleman puts the box on the table. Ian's mom, Desiree, leans over her shoulder.

"How much were those?" she asks.

"$159 with tax," Coleman answers.

"Oh, those are cheap," Mom says. "I used to get real angry with him because that is a lot of money to spend on shoes. . . . My focus has always been academics, and at first I thought it was just a hobby. Then he started calling from school, 'Mom, is there a package there for me?' Then I knew it was serious."

Says Dad, Lennox Callender: "Every time the UPS truck pulls up, I know that the neighbors wonder, 'What kind of business are they into?' "

But Callender's folks can't be that mad -- his shoe addiction has brought them some shine. During Ian's senior year, his parents played the role of restaurant customers in a sneaker skit for the Drexel fashion show. "We were at a table and the waiter comes over carrying a tray with sneakers on it," Lennox says.

The whole craze amazes him. "I am 50 years old and I have never seen anything like this," he says.

Last year his son went to Manhattan to get the N.E.R.D artist-series Dunks. The plan was simple: Go up, hang out for New Year's, do an early-eve drive-by at Niketown on Jan. 2 to scope out a good location up front, then creep back down later that night when most normal folks would be sleeping, secure the good spot, and, when the store opened Jan. 3, get the shoes and roll out.

"When we drove by that night, there were 50 people in line," Ian says. "So we just parked and got in line."

With a friend, he stood in line for 15 hours.

Callender's mom remembers that day. "His godparents got a call that he was standing in line in Manhattan, so they went down there and brought him some blankets and hot chocolate."

"We weren't prepared," he says. "When the store opened, people just rushed the line."

Callender got the Dunks in a size 12 for $120. He wears an 11.

He sold the 12s on eBay for $370, got a pair of 11s for the same price. This is how a sneakerhead survives.

"I swore after that, that I would never stand in line to get another pair of shoes," he says. "Then I did it for the Hunters and the Hufs.

"I think about how crazy it is sometimes. I think, man, I just sold a pair of shoes to buy another pair."

No, crazy is selling your sneaker collection to fix your parents' car after you wrecked it. Which is what Callender did a couple of years ago.

"My parents went away to Hawaii and they told me not to take the car," he says, voice trailing off. He took the car and crashed it, something about a puddle on a highway. Instead of letting insurance cover it, he sold his sneakers on eBay for $3,500 and fixed the car.

But "when they got back the car was still in the shop, so I had to break it to them," he says. "But it could have worked."

"I am still really mad about that," he says. As most kids would be after crashing their parents' car.

"I was heartbroken because a lot of them were Holy Grails," he says.

Holy Grails?

"That is the shoe you would do anything for."

Making Sure the Shoe Fits


As anyone who jogs knows well, even the most advanced $250 sneakers vary greatly in comfort and efficacy, depending on whose feet are inside. But it is not easy for runners - even expert runners - to analyze their own problems and needs.

Foot shape, running style, past injuries and weekly mileage all come into play. Increasingly, salespeople at many stores are demonstrating that they can offer expert advice.

While some stores ask customers to run in the aisles or trot on the sidewalk under the eye of a salesperson, at JackRabbit Sports in Park Slope, Brooklyn, runners pound a treadmill in front of a video camera. Their stride is analyzed in close-up and frame by frame before a shoe is recommended.

"The weight should be evenly distributed across your whole foot," said Lee Silverman, the store's owner. If it's not, leg muscles overcompensate, which can lead to injury.

On a recent Saturday, JackRabbit was a kind of laboratory, illustrating how much joggers differ in their styles, their needs and the sneakers that work best for them. The opinions of sneaker experts might differ of course, but here is how the experts at JackRabbit analyzed the needs of a cross-section of customers and matched them with appropriate shoes.

1. Asics Gel-Kayano XI, $135
Who bought it: Sweet Joy Hachuela, 31, who runs 10 miles a week. She overpronates, and the arches of her feet flex slightly when she runs. She needed a sneaker with a lot of stability under the arch.

2. Adidas adiStar Cushion, $110
Who bought it: Tom Smith, 38, who is 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds; because of his size he had always bought shoes with lots of support. But at JackRabbit he learned he is a "neutral runner" who distributes his weight evenly and doesn't need the extra support.

3. Brooks Adrenaline GTS 5, $90
Who bought it: Frank Richards, 35, an ankle roller. These shoes, which have dense cushioning under the heel, prevent overpronation originating from the ankle.

4. Mizuno Wave Creation 5, $119.99
Who bought it: Chris Van Winkle, 40, who is training for a triathlon, has high arches and needed a sneaker with a lot of cushion in the back because he lands hard on his heels.

5. Asics Gel-Nimbus VI, $110
Who bought it: Joyce Berhoft, 36, who has knee pain, had always bought shoes with extra lateral stability. She learned she was a neutral runner and didn't need such a rigid sneaker.

6. Nike Air Structure Triax 8, $90
Who bought it: Melissa Richards, 30, who runs 10 miles weekly and wanted a wide toe box to accommodate a bunion.

7. Saucony 3D Grid Hurricane 7, $120
Who bought it: David Varnish, 45, a marathoner, had two concerns: his left foot overpronates, and he pounds on his heels as he runs. These sneakers help limit overpronation and provide plenty of rear cushion.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Converse wearers bond together

Cody Nabours UCSD Guardian

It seems that everywhere you turn these days you see them. Clean, smooth white rubber, unmarred inky black canvas and the unmistakable black stripe at the toecap; these are the Converse of the poseur. No white circle with the signature blue star, for the poseur will only wear low-tops. And clean, like the teeth of daytime television, for the poseur feeds exclusively upon the sterilized, harajuku model of rebellion consumerism-meets-high-fashion. The days of the Converse as an outward sign of coolness are over. The Converse Chuck Taylor is ubiquitous and universal and is once again the staple of the American youth, the shoe for every man, woman and child of today.

Once, not too long ago, if two wearing Converse happened to come across each other in public, an instinctive bond was formed, an unspoken understanding from one to the other of mutual respect and recognized coolness. Regardless of race, gender, relative attractiveness, shoe style and color, the Converse was a badge of allegiance to the underground world of marijuana and rock ’n’ roll, where ignorance was rewarded with sarcasm and pop culture was appreciated as art or irony, never entertainment. But no longer. Every good underground society of like-minded cool people eventually becomes too cool for its own good and makes a blip on the screens of the mainstream, and suddenly its members can no longer tell their own from the masses of people just realizing how cool it is to look like them.

This poses a problem to those who once proudly wore Converse, for it forces the pop-culture ethos of, “If it’s popular, it fucking sucks,” to turn its hateful gaze toward the shoe of punk rock, the shoe that so famously tapped out the count-in in the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video, the shoe that always split on the sides just when it got comfortable, that got torn from repeated ollies, that induced the feeling of floating after a day’s work in clunky regular shoes. Converse shoes are too dear to be cast aside because of some petty hatred of the mainstream; there have been too many memories soaked into their canvas, and their history is too big to bury. Let those who wore Converse continue to wear Converse, and teach each other how to spot the phonies in their midst. Remember, people that wear Converse are no longer automatically all right, for not all of them truly respect the institution of the shoe, the history that lives on in each worn down, torn up, sweaty pair of Converse.

A bassist I know, a follower of the punk-rock school, and, until recently, a Converse owner (he has chosen to follow his values, history be damned), recounts the purchase of his first pair. Taken by his mother to the store, he was allowed to purchase either black high-tops or white high-tops, the only “true” Converse, since they were the only colors available when she was a girl. More colors were implemented in 1966, one year shy of the shoe’s 50th anniversary, the same year as Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde, possibly the best rock ’n’ roll album of all time. Before that, it had been the sneaker of the American youth (at least according to “Happy Days”), and the all-white variety became immensely popular with American soldiers during World War II. Let’s not forget that people wore these things for basketball, either. Since then, iconic, inarguably cool Americans have worn the sneakers. (A random sampling includes Ferris Bueller, Snoop Dogg, Bruce Springsteen, and, oh, Marty McFly.) When his mother bought my budding punk friend his first Converse, the torch was passed; nearly a century of American history, the lives of generations of Americans, sat there in a box thick with the stinging odor of fresh, virgin rubber. Converse are the Adidas for the white folk. This history cannot be taken lightly. Much like the Chevy Corvette or the Fender Stratocaster, Converse shoes are wholly, irrevocably, quintessentially American, and I hope, at the very least, all the recent initiates to the shoe (not the cool) can understand and respect that.

However, much like the “pre-CBS buyout” Stratocaster that so aroused Wayne Campbell of “Wayne’s World” (a Converse wearer) are the torn-up Converse that sit on your feet — that is, if you got them before July 2003, when the company was swallowed by the Nike-East India Company. But by the time of Converse’s bankruptcy two years earlier, the shoes were being made in the United States no longer, but rather in factories throughout Asia. Appreciate the shoes on your feet, because if you buy new Converse, you are placing money in the hands of the Great Satan. When you see the torn Chuck Taylors on the feet of your fellows, know that the bond you share is that of the final generation of Converse-wearers uncorrupted by corporate-sponsored cool. All those who wear fresh-out-of-the-box, squeaky clean Converse, they are the automatons, the salesmen for American imperialism.

With the image of Converse, Nike has concocted the identity of rebellion to sell to the masses, based on nearly a century of classic American cool. The problem, which is always (or never) forgotten by the Freon-blooded corporate types, is that once you market the underground to the masses, it can no longer be cool. This is the vicious cycle that keeps culture moving forward like a shark. Because of it, it is no longer all right to purchase Converse, for the same reason I hate anyone who eats McDonald's. The great sneaker of the 20th century sits on your feet today and is the link to the legacy of that generation, a legacy we must all remember. Perhaps another generation will make the shoe cool again in eight to 10 years, but most likely it will be lost to the history books, a victim of Nike’s evil powers.

Don’t mind the poseurs who wear brand-new Converse — they have already been lost to the dark side. Just be sure to keep your distance. You, wear your Converse with pride: the Jack Purcells (my very first Converse), the Chuck Taylors, the Dr. Js and the One Stars. Rock the 20th century lest we forget all about it. But 21st century Converse, get outta my house; this is no bordello.



Fashion designer John Varvatos and the VF Corp. have formed a new company, John Varvatos Enterprises, ending two years of uncertainty over the future of the designer's brand, executives involved in the deal said yesterday.

Varvatos will own one-fifth of the company; VF will own the rest. The exact terms of the transaction weren't disclosed.

The designer has spent the better part of the past two years talking to suitors after his company's former parent, Nautica Enterprises, was acquired by VF in March 2003. "When I'd done all my homework," Varvatos said yesterday, at his Chelsea studio, "I realized I had the best thing in my backyard."

The pairing of Varvatos, whose suits sell for thousands of dollars, and VF, the company known for everyman's Wrangler and Lee jeans, may seem like an odd combination.

Eric Wiseman, who oversees VF's outdoor and sportswear divisions, yesterday admitted that the match wasn't an obvious one.

"VF doesn't have brands in luxury menswear," and isn't likely to acquire more, Wiseman said. But, he said, working with Varvatos convinced him of the brand's potential.

Sources place John Varvatos company's annual revenue at roughly $25 million, from the sale of men's and women's clothing, and licensing deals for fragrances, skin care and sneakers.

But in a sign of how difficult it can be to earn money in the rarified world of designer clothing, the business is said to lose about $4 million a year, perhaps providing an opening for VF, with its international sourcing network, to run the company more efficiently.

As a sign of the designer's popular appeal, Wiseman pointed to the line of laceless, canvas sneakers that Varvatos created for Converse. All 60,000 pairs quickly sold out of stores, and Varvatos is now due to design a line of clothing under Converse's Chuck Taylor name, due in stores for fall 2006.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Saks Looks to Sell Department Stores

Birmingham, Ala. (Chain Stoe Age) - Saks, Inc. is looking to sell its mid-price department stores in two separate clusters, according to today’s Wall Street Journal. The paper says that a sale of the stores may clear the way for a sale of the retailer’s luxury Saks Fifth Avenue division.

Saks would reportedly split its department stores into a northern division and a southern division, each to be sold separately. The northern group would include the retailer’s Carson Pirie Scott, Bergner’s Boston Store, Younkers and Herberger’s banners. In the southern division, there would be the McRae’s and Proffitt’s chains. A third southern chain, Parisian, may be excluded from the sale of the southern division.

Howard Johnson's, Landmark of Old Times Square, to Shut Down

By Robert Simonson

Howard Johnson's, one of the last functioning remnants of the rough-and tumble, Runyonesque Times Square of yesteryear, will be torn down sometime this year, the New York Post reported April 19.

The restaurant and the land it sits on, a prime site on the northwest corner of 46th Street and Broadway, was recently sold for "more than $100 million" by longtime owner Kenneth Rubinstein to Jeff Sutton's Wharton Acquisitions. Sutton plans to flatten the four-story edifice and replace it with a gleaming new retail outlet.

The Howard Johnson's was built in 1955 and is the oldest, continually operated business facing directly on Times Square. Its squat dimensions once fit in nicely with the low-scale, slightly down-at-heel architecture that for a long time characterized the area. But the real estate revival of the late 1990s saw it dwarfed by glass towers and glossy stores like Toys 'R' Us and the Virgin Megastore. Increasingly, the venerable old institution looked like an anachronism.

In the years following World War II, Times Square boasted not one, but three Howard Johnson's eateries (including one directly across the way, on Seventh Avenue). The restaurants—one of the first to be franchised nationwide— teemed with locals and tourists alike, and matched the homely qualities of other eating destinations of the era, such as Lindy's. In his recent book "The Devil's Playground," James Traub described how people would line up down the street to sample the trademark fried clams and ice cream.

In the '80s and '90s, the diner was still a viable enterprise, taking in tourist group after tourist group, who were attracted by the low prices and ample seating. In recent years, however, the crowds have died down. On any given night, the brown faux-leather booths sport only a smattering of patrons. The bar at the end of the place, with its sign encouraging patrons to order "a decanter of Manhattan, Martini or Daiquiri," is often deserted during the well advertised "happy hour."

Other old-time food emporiums like The Edison Cafe and McHale's have managed to hang on, in part because they do business on less prominent pieces of real estate. However, they have also managed to draw a loyal following among theatre professionals. Howard Johnson's is rarely frequented by the show people who work and live in the neighborhood. (Years ago, however, Gene Hackman worked as a maitre'd and Lily Tomlin was a waitress.)

Rubinstein is a member of an old New York real estate family. According to Traub's book, he has been looking to unload the property for some time, but was waiting for the right price.

The space above the restaurant housed The Gaiety, a strip club, for 30 years. The business recently closed.

Shell toes live on in heart of hip-hop

Daniel Mears / The Detroit News
James Wright gets ready to try on a high-top version of the Superstar with help from Pierre Koukoudian, store manager at Foot Locker at the Somerset Collection in Troy.

The iconic Adidas Superstar forged ties between rappers and corporate America
By Mekeisha Madden Toby / The Detroit News

James Wright hadn't even reached double digits when three rappers in black leather jackets and fedoras inspired what would become his lifelong love affair with athletic footwear.

The dudes were Run-DMC and the shoes were a pair of white Adidas with black stripes on the side. The shoemaker calls them Superstars. Everyone else knows them as shell toes for the scalloped rubber cap.

Regardless of the name, it's been 20 years since Run (Joey Simmons) and DMC (Darryl McDaniel) rapped about "My Adidas." But the impact stayed with Wright, now 25, who buys a fresh pair of high-top Adidas Superstars every spring.

"Adidas shell toes will always be in style," says Wright, a phone operator who lives in Pontiac. Wright says he owns more than 90 pairs of sneakers, three of which are the Adidas his one-time rap heroes boasted about being "funky fresh and yes, cold on my feet."

"You always go back to what you know," Wright says. "I outgrew the Run-DMC sound, but I never stopped liking the shoe."

Run-DMC made Adidas its shoe of choice in the 1980s.

"My Adidas" is a simple song about a classic sneaker that helped three guys from Hollis (in Queens, N.Y.), and a Euro-pean shoemaker with a trefoil brand symbol dance into icon status. Today, the group, DJ-less after Jam Master Jay's unsolved 2002 murder, has settled into the role of elder statesmen. And the company, which is coincidentally celebrating the 35th birthday of its Superstar sneaker, continues to enjoy international brand recognition, arguably second only to Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars or "Chucks." Adidas has released a series of shoes to celebrate the milestone, including a pair dedicated to Run-DMC.

The serendipitous two-step between Run-DMC and Adidas proved to not only resonate with hip-hop fans all over the world, but it set into motion a marriage between corporate America and the rap world that still exists today.

Now, companies chomp at the bit to write checks not only for rappers who push tennis shoes, but for those who tell their fans to "shake it like a Polaroid picture" too.

"These days, the youth consumer, particularly in urban America, identifies more with music stars than with sports stars," says Mario Bulgarelli, a buyer for Mr. Alan's. The sportswear retailer is based in Redford and has 11 stores in Michigan and Ohio.

"Fifteen years ago, Michael Jordan and his contemporaries influenced what kids wore on their feet. But they flooded the market. Now a Nelly song can sell more Nikes than even a basketball star like LeBron (James) can."

Like in most tales of trendsetting, the relationship between Run-DMC and Adidas was an accidental one. The rappers just liked the shoes, so they wrote an innocent song about them the same way Prince wrote about a red Corvette and Bruce Springsteen, a Cadillac.

After the song became a hit, Adidas made Run-DMC an endorsement offer they couldn't refuse. But the premeditated marketing motives of today's rap stars was not there, says Orville Hall, U.S. marketing manager for Adidas and a childhood friend of the group's late DJ, whose real name was Jason Mizell.

"Jay was wearing a fedora, a blazer with jeans and shell toes without laces back in junior high when we were in band together," Hall says. "When he joined the group, Russell (Simmons) looked at Jay and said, 'That's your look.' Before Run-DMC, rap stars dressed like rock stars.

"Everybody in Hollis wore shell toes. When Run-DMC raps about standing on '2 Fifth St.' in 'My Adidas,' they're talking about 205th Street and Hollis Avenue where everyone hung out. I don't think Nelly can say that."

What Hall is referring to is the 2002 hit Nelly tune "Air Force Ones" in which the St. Louis rapper talks about his love for the Nike style of sneakers. Soon after, Nelly and the shoemaker signed a deal. Similar deals happened for Outkast after Andre 3000 mentioned Polaroid in the chart-topper "Hey Ya" and Busta Rhymes who recorded an homage to pricey cognac in "Pass the Courvoisier."

On the other hand, "My Adidas" didn't attract the company until one fateful concert a year after the song had been released.

"In 1986, Run-DMC did the (Madison Square) Garden and they had everybody hold up their Adidas in the air," Hall recalls. "All you saw was a sea of sneakers. Then, Adidas got it."

Not even Adidas could have predicted the lasting impact the shell toe would have on hip-hop and popular culture. The Superstar started off in the United States as a basketball shoe, reaching the mainstream a decade later.

Adidas 35th Anniversary Run-DMC Superstar (Hypebeast)

In 1988, the shoemaker introduced the Ultrastar in honor of Run-DMC, a version of the Superstar that had elastic on the tongue, allowing wearers to sport the shoe without laces.

By the 1990s, the Superstar vacillated in and out of commercial popularity, eventually striking a chord with skateboarders. No matter what, the Superstar could always be found in the closets of nostalgic shoe collectors known as sneakerheads. These days, the shell toe is experiencing new life with kids interested in re-creating the retro-vibe.

Rachel Carroll, who co-owns the Burn Rubber Sneaker Boutique in Royal Oak with her husband, is looking forward to nostalgic reaction when the store starts carrying Superstars, which she said will be soon. "I remember my first pair of shell-toe Adidas. I think everyone who had them can," says Carroll, 35. "I was a little tomboy. Mine were white with baby blue stripes. You can't be a shoe collector and not have a pair of shell toes."

Serch, radio personality and shoe aficianado

Carroll must have pulled out a page of Michael Berrin's book. Berrin, better known as Serch, the rapper-turned-host of WJLB-FM 98's "Serch in the AM" morning show, is a huge sneakerhead.

The 37-year-old husband and father says he owns more than 300 pairs of gym shoes, about half a dozen of which are Adidas Superstars. Among them are a collector-enviable pair of black high tops from the 1996 Soccer World Cup games and a set of Jam Master Jay shell toes Adidas released after his death in 2002.

"Shell toes are the hip-hop equivalent of the little black dress," says the New-Yorker-turned-Detroiter. "It's really the one thing anyone and everyone can wear and be stylish, and they go with everything."

Serch has been collecting sneaks for 20 years. He is such a sneakerhead that he's profiled in the 2003 book, "Where'd You Get Those? New York City's Sneaker Culture: 1960-1987" (powerHouse Books, $35) by Bobbito Garcia.

And when he talks about his shell toes, he sounds like a Casanova recalling about his first kiss.

"I really got up on shell toes through breakdancing," Serch says. "They were good for moves on your tip toes because of the hard toe. They had great tread and they looked sweet when you were spinning on your head.

"My first pair was $35 and they were white with royal blue stripes. I bought them at Morton's Army and Navy in New York."

For gym-shoe lover Wright, shell toes are a part of a sneaker shopping spring ritual common in Detroit.

Admittedly susceptible to rapper-endorsed shoes, Wright owns a couple pair of S. Carter Reeboks, rapper Jay-Z's line of sneakers, a pair of G-Unit Reeboks and one pair of every color of the Nike Air Force Ones that Nelly pushed.

As styles come and go, shell toes will always have a special place in his heart and his closet.

"Maybe it's because I started wearing them when I was young," Wright ponders. "But I'll never stop wearing shell toes."

Take a walk through Adidas history

Courtesy: The Detroit News

Daniel Mears / The Detroit News
Adidas has introduced 35th anniversary editions of the Superstar, aka the shell toe.

Think you know Adidas shell toes? Read on. And if this timeline isn't enough for you sneakerheads, go to the source -- Adidas provides a full history on its Web site (

1970: The Superstar or shell toe gets its start in the United States (it is available in Europe a year prior, when Adidas founder Adi Dassler and his team of designers created the shoe). In the United States, the basketball shoe debuts on courts at ABA (the now defunct American Basketball Association) and NCAA games. Soon basketball players, professional and amateur, start wearing the shoe. Players like the leather -- most sneakers at the time are canvas -- and the unique "shell toe" design. The shoe is sold primarily in sports equipment stores; its limited availability only adds to its status.

1973-75: Basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar proves that it's not always the shoe, but who is wearing the shoe that matters. When Abdul-Jabbar sports the Adidas half shell -- a model with half a shell on the toe and suede on the toe box -- children of all colors, especially those in America's inner cities, fall in love with Adidas.

1978: As Abdul-Jabbar's popularity grows (he's with the Los Angeles Lakers for three years by 1978) so does corporate interest. Adidas creates the Jabbar sneaker in honor of the 7-foot-2 star.

1980: The shoe starts its transition from ball players to breakdancers and rappers, who embrace the shell-toed Superstar. The brand adds a little flair to the Superstar by applying the Trefoil, or the Adidas symbol, to the back of the shoe or outsole. Breakdancers could not care less. They like the shoe's tough leather toe for certain moves and rappers, DJs and young hip-hop fans like the shoe's edgy design. B-Boys, the first recognizable breakdancers, customize the shoes by painting the stripes on the side in outrageous, hard-to-find colors and fat laces become a staple.

1985: Run-DMC releases the LP single "My Adidas" as a precursor to their album "Raising Hell," which is released the following year. The Hollis, Queens, N.Y., trio raps about the shoe because they like them and are not initially paid to do so. They also customize the shoe by wearing them without laces. About a year after the song is released, Run-DMC tell an audience to hold their Adidas in the air. When the sky is filled with shell toes, Adidas executives take notice.

1988: The Ultrastar, a shoe designed exclusively for Run-DMC, is born and Run-DMC are spokesmen. The Ultrastar is a lot like the Superstar, except it has a thicker tongue, allowing the shoe to be worn without laces.

1990: Hip-hop interest in the Superstar wanes, but thanks to the crossover appeal of the Run-DMC song "Walk This Way," suburban kids and even rock stars adapt the shell toe. But the shoes become harder to find. The Superstar 2 is also born and has a thicker tongue for added comfort. Unusual decals and other doodles are added to the stripes on the side to appeal to women and girls.

1991: Adidas reissues the Superstar. A year later, Adidas enjoys a third wave of popularity as skateboarders and skater-punk wannabes embrace the shoe.

1995: A decade after rappers Run-DMC talk about their Adidas, rockers bring the shoe to the counterculture in the United States, Europe and in Japan. Trip hoppers, such as Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit, lead the unofficial campaign inspiring frat boys to wear the shoe. The Superstar also becomes a staple in sneakerheads' collections all over the world.

2000: In an attempt to appeal to more consumers, Adidas releases the Superstar Lux, a brown-colored hybrid that resembles Rockports.

2005: Adidas celebrates its 35th anniversary in the United States and creates several new series to commemorate the milestone. Among them are the cities series, which celebrates cities such as London, Paris, New York and Boston, with decals on the shoes that are synonymous with the metropolises. There's also the Music series, which features Superstars with custom designs from rapper and producer Missy Elliott; Ian Brown, lead singer of the band Stone Roses; and a shoelace-free pair designed by the remaining members of Run-DMC. All proceeds from the sale of the shoe go to the Jam Master Jay Foundation in honor of the slain DJ, who died Oct. 30, 2002.

Water at mall mainstay stops flowing after more than 20 years

Photo: Craig Cunningham

Cheryl Caswell, Charleston Daily Mail staff

One of Charleston (WV) Town Center's most prominent features -- its three-story waterfall -- has been shut off permanently and is being disassembled.

Instead of the familiar sight and rushing sound of the center court waterfall, mall visitors are now seeing the guts that have always existed beneath the beauty -- rusted steel beams and exposed plumbing.

"After 22 years, the atrium waterfall is being revised to be a bubbling first level fountain," said Lisa McCracken, spokeswoman for the mall.

"I haven't had the response you might imagine," said McCracken. "I think people just assume we are just doing a little remodeling to it."

The waterfall, which pumped 12,000 gallons of water per minute, was beyond simple repairs, she said.

"The structure and plumbing were in very poor condition and in need of significant renovations," she said. "We were having significant water damage.

"We would have needed to completely rebuild it, and it would have been a very extensive and expensive project."

The waterfall was a focal point and used to dramatically symbolize the grand opening at a formal gala in November 1983.

"It was a very special part of the preview and opening and has been a very special part of the mall ever since," said McCracken.

Over the years, mall officials have received both praise and complaints about the stunning waterfall.

"Folks love it, but some people felt it was awfully loud," McCracken said. "Even at Starbucks, which shares center court -- they love the waterfall but their customers at the tables found it a bit too noisy.

"We'll all miss it," she said. "For the city and the mall it has been an architectural landmark we all enjoyed. There were photographs shot in front of it and children throwing coins into it.

"But it will still be a wonderful water feature for center court," she said. "All of the structure on the first floor will remain. It will still have wonderful movement and sounds, but it the sound will be greatly reduced."

McCracken said work to take down the waterfall began last month and should be completed by the end of April. Then, the water will be turned back on for the new feature.

Work beginning on Northgate Mall

By SUE STOCK, Raleigh News & Observer Staff Writer

Construction began Monday on the $16 million renovation of Durham's Northgate Mall. Phase I of the project will involve the demolition of part of the Belk wing and the construction of a 10-screen, 2,200-seat movie theater.

Along with the theater, an exterior wall near the food court will be demolished, giving the stores behind the wall access from the street.

The 45-year-old mall will then add 20,000 square feet of store space in the form of an outdoor plaza, creating an outdoor shopping village. The grand opening of phase I is tentatively set for Oct. 21.

Phase II will bring an additional 33,000 square feet of smaller stores and restaurants. Construction is set to begin in January and stores will open Aug. 16, 2006. That work will be in the area between Center Court and Mitchell's Hairstyling.

'Monday Night Football' Heading to ESPN

AP Football Writer

NEW YORK — Are you ready for some football? On ESPN?

And NBC?

But not ABC.

"Monday Night Football," which 35 years ago was one of the biggest gambles in television history and then became the backbone of ABC's revival, is headed to cable. ESPN, which like ABC is owned by The Disney Company, will take over, beginning with the 2006 season, what has been a TV institution and made the NFL a prime-time ratings draw.

It will cost ESPN $1.1 billion a year over eight years, two sources familiar with the deals told The Associated Press on Monday, on condition of anonymity.

NBC, meanwhile, gets back into the NFL picture with a six-year deal to take over the Sunday night telecasts previously owned by ESPN. NBC lost the AFC Sunday afternoon package to CBS after the 1997 season.

"When the deal concluded with a handshake on Saturday," said NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol, "I walked up Park Avenue to my apartment and spent most of the time remembering most of the beginnings on ABC. I was Roone Arledge's assistant and I was the only one he would allow to come into the meetings with Pete Rozelle for the first prime-time package, when Roone was trying to sell Pete on why it would work.

"In my happiness that the prime-time broadcast is moving to NBC, I couldn't help but think how sad Roone would be at this point."

Commissioner Paul Tagliabue emphasized that the marquee television series, at least according to the league, will be the Sunday night package, for which NBC is paying $600 million a year, according to the sources.

"In the current media environment, Sunday is now the better night for our prime-time broadcast package," Tagliabue said Monday.

Also, the NFL's hopes for a more flexible prime-time schedule will be realized with the new agreements.

NBC will start its Sunday broadcasts with a pregame show at 7 p.m. eastern; games will begin at 8:15. In the last seven weeks, the league will be able to shift afternoon games to prime time to ensure more meaningful games are shown on national TV.

There also will be a time switch on ESPN's games, with an earlier start time of 8:40 p.m. eastern.

"The earlier kickoff times for both packages, NBC's Sunday night programming devoted to the NFL and flexible scheduling for Sunday night are all positive changes," Tagliabue said.

The commissioner still hopes to sell a package of eight late-season Thursday night/Saturday night games, although those telecasts could wind up on the NFL Network, one of Tagliabue's pet projects.

With the move of Monday night games to cable, a tradition will be altered, if not ended. After all, "Monday Night Football" has been a pillar of ABC's programming since it began in 1970, when Howard Cosell anchored the show that now stands as the second-longest running prime time network series, trailing CBS's 60 Minutes by two years.

"The turning point at ABC was when Roone Arledge moved sports to prime time and with that deal it happened for the first time," Ebersol recalled. "That was all him, and it was the reason why ABC moved up from third place."

After the coming season, however, ABC will be the only major network not carrying the NFL.

NBC also gets two first-round playoff games and the Super Bowl in 2009 and 2012 as part of the deal.

"A great deal with the NFL is the best deal you can get in television," Ebersol said.

ESPN said it had been assured by the league that it would get high-quality games.

"ESPN could have stayed on Sunday night," ESPN vice president Mark Shapiro said. "Unequivocally, our task was to continue ABC's tradition of Monday Night Football. We've been assured we're getting the preferred schedule."

Added George Bodenheimer, president of ESPN and ABC Sports: "From the Disney perspective, it was a smart move for ABC by moving out of football and having ESPN move into Monday nights."

NBC has been struggling in prime time this season, and even risks an unprecedented fall into fourth place in the ratings. ABC's newfound ratings strength with "Desperate Housewives" on Sunday nights has been particularly damaging.

CBS and Fox already have agreed to pay a total of $8 billion over six years for the rights to Sunday afternoon games.

The NFL will continue to show all cable games on free, over-the air television in home markets. So local stations will carry ESPN's Monday night games in the cities of the teams involved.