Tuesday, May 31, 2005

random shots of piedmont mall

Lower level mall entrance near JCPenney.

The new Boscov's under construction on the site of the old Hills/Ames

Center court

Geodesic dome skylight over center court.

the weis project

The Weis Project: a historical depiction of one of Pennsylvania's most dominant supermarket chains.

Weis Markets is a fascinating company. An old supermarket chain, Weis features an extremely diverse collection of stores that spans many eras. Its stores reflect the historical backgrounds of the markets in which they operate, and they also reflect many changes in the retail grocery industry.

Many of the company's stores are decades old and have not seen renovations since they day they opened, others are decades old and have been renovated to include a more modern look and feel, and still others are much more modern creations that sport the company's newest prototype.

The Weis Project chrnoicles these changes with a presentation of articles and artifacts from the company's history (secondary research), and an ever-expanding collection of store photographs and descriptions (primary, field research).

best thing going

The Best Products Co. Indeterminate Facade building in Houston blends prototypical big-box features with a brick facade that appears to be simultaneously undergoing construction and demolition. It is currently empty.
Courtesy SITE Projects Inc.

The Best Products showrooms were Post-Modern icons, giving the suburbs their own landmark architecture. An admirer asks, "Where are they now?"

By James McCown
Metropolis Magazine

Before big-box retailing even had a name, James Wines was taking the box and turning it on its side, extruding its facade, even making it appear to crumble. The New York-based architectural designer and sculptor was cofounder with Alison Sky of SITE, a design firm that changed forever how we think about suburban retail with its series of Best Products showrooms, built between 1972 and 1984. The buildings drew interest far and wide: to locals they were curiosities, visual points of reference in suburban wastelands seemingly desperate for any sense of place; to the artistic elite they were Dadaist works worthy of Duchamp, winking comments on everything from consumer culture to the increasingly fractured nature of American life.

But these buildings-as-sculpture in Wal-Mart country were not to last. Best Products Company, an appliance and housewares catalog retailer, folded in the mid-1990s. Of the nine showrooms SITE built, all but two have either been torn down or stripped of their architectural witticisms. What's left of the Peeling Project in Richmond, Virginia, its front elevation now just a blank wall, houses a weekend flea market and pawn shop heralding "Top $ for Your Gold." The Tilt Building in Towson, Maryland, an engineering marvel whose 450-ton masonry-block facade seemed to balance precariously on one corner, was razed completely and the site redeveloped. Buildings in Miami and Milwaukee were retrofitted into a Sears and a Wal-Mart, respectively. The Notch Project in Sacramento and Water Showroom in Hialeah, Florida, also lost their absurdist touches to become traditional big-box venues. (article continues)

The Indeterminate Facade building today.

UPDATE: Panoramic shot of Indeterminate Facade

In April, 2002, Diebold Essen went to the site with his digital camera, stood on the edge of the parking lot, and turned 360 degrees, snapping away. On the next page, you can see the result: Indeterminate Facade Showroom, well into its third decade, before its destruction, in context.

SouthPark keeps momentum going

Dillard's, SouthPark mall, Charlotte, North Carolina, proposed new facade (Architecture+)

Planned mall expansion joins changes across neighborhood

Charlotte Observer Staff Writer

SouthPark, the region's most upscale shopping destination, will soon give shoppers more reasons to open their wallets.

Dillard's, the last SouthPark mall anchor to retain its original 1970s facade, recently filed plans for a massive expansion and remodeling. And dozens of new stores are opening in the mall and the area around it, evinced by the red earth and construction vehicles dotting the landscape.

The proposed 47,506-square-foot Dillard's addition would complete the mall's transformation into a high-end center that attracts shoppers from as far as Columbia and Virginia. Nordstrom and a new wing of high-fashion stores opened in 2004, and both Belk and Hecht's have completed multi-million dollar renovations. Luxury retailer Neiman Marcus is slated to open its first Carolinas store there in fall 2006.

"This is an opportunity to bring Dillard's into step with all of the other anchors," said city planner Tim Manes.

The store's expansion is the latest in a string of new developments in the SouthPark area. About 6 miles southeast of uptown, it's home to some of the city's toniest residential neighborhoods.

The Indianapolis-based Simon Group, which owns the mall, has started grading work at the far corner of the mall site at Sharon Road and Morrison Boulevard. It is building 90,000 square feet of stores with 150 apartments on top. The "town center" project will include green space and connect to a planned parking deck.

The company often includes offices and apartments on its new mall sites, said spokesman Les Morris. But this is the first time the company has gone back and added those elements to an existing mall.

"The idea is to have people live in a community, shop there, eat there, even work there," Morris said.

Other projects under construction in the SouthPark area include:

• Offices, apartments, condos and street-level stores on about 20 acres a block west of the mall, on Fairview Road. Called Piedmont Town Center, it will house the headquarters for Piedmont Natural Gas. It's slated to open at the end of the year.

• About 140,000 square feet of stores, restaurants and office space on the north corner of Sharon and Colony roads. It's called Morrison Place; the first phase is expected to open late this year.

• A 14,500-square-foot Walgreens drugstore on the northwest corner of Sharon and Morrison, where the Goodwill collection trailer used to sit. Garden Secrets nursery will move from Park South Drive to a site next to the drugstore on Morrison, and a Bojangles' restaurant will open on the other side of the nursery.

While some neighbors welcome the changes, others say it's exactly what they feared would happen when they lost a contentious court battle to stop the mall's expansion a few years ago. Traffic is getting worse, they say, and the new retail could force vacancies at older shopping centers in the area.

"The problem is, we are not on a main traffic corridor and our roads are not able to handle the traffic," said LeeAnn McGinnis, who has lived in the nearby Foxcroft neighborhood for 20 years.

She said it took her 11 minutes on a recent day to drive 1.6 miles on Fairview Road, from Colony Road past the mall to Park Road.

Despite such concerns, local real estate observers say there's plenty of demand for the new stores.

"There's pent-up demand because the incomes have increased so quickly in the area," said Jensie Teague, senior managing director at Faison. "There's also very little vacancy."

The proposed Dillard's expansion would grow the store to about 270,000 square feet, making it second in size at SouthPark only to Belk. Further details of the plan were not available. A company spokeswoman declined to comment, and the store manager could not be reached Sunday.

The Charlotte City Council, which must approve the expansion, will hold a public hearing July 18, with a decision in September. Neighbors said they knew of no organized effort to fight it, noting that they have resigned themselves to living near a regional shopping destination.

Several shoppers, meanwhile, said they're looking forward to the change.

"I don't think Dillard's could be too big," said longtime customer Janet Neely of Charlotte. "They have great stuff and their prices are nice and reasonable."

Maggie Bean, 33, agreed, but said there's one other thing the store should update:

Its plastic shopping bags.

"All the other stores here have these great boutique-type bags, made of paper or canvas with nice handles, but theirs are like the ones from Wal-Mart," she said.

"They need to upgrade."

belk, piedmont mall

I finally got some pictures of the iconic Belk at Piedmont Mall in Danville, Virginia. The light and the camera phone worked together to create an interesting montage of photographs. I just wish I had better resolution!

This will likely be posted to LiveMalls soon, but this blog is a little less formal, so I can riff all I want and not answer to the decently high standards I've placed on the narritive there.

This store opened as Belk-Leggett in 1984 and replaced a downtown store and a smaller shopping center branch. The exterior is one of the best crafted by Jean Surratt and his associates in the Belk Stores Services architectural department. Unlike most department stores of the era, Belk-Leggett was done in a traditional style, with echoes of Williamsburg and Old Virginia abounding. The lines and details are strong and the design still looks fresh 20 years later.

Main entrance facing Piedmont Drive.

Lower level side entry, facing Central Avenue.

Lower level mall entrance.

Escalator well with three-tiered chandelier and Williamsburg-style detailing.

Escalator well: arches, a skylight, and a chandelier.

Upper level mall entrance at an angle.

Upper level mall entrance.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Nike Designs Can Get Personal

The maker of athletic gear has relaunched a website focused on customization, part of a growing trend in retail.

From Reuters

Nike has a message for shoppers looking for the hottest shoe design: Just do it — yourself.

The world's largest athletic-shoe maker has relaunched a website where shoppers design their own shoes, choosing such features as the color of the famous Nike swoosh and personalizing the tongue with a word or phrase.

The bid to target shoppers who want to stand out marks part of a growing trend toward customization in retail that analysts see as a way for companies to charge a premium for self-styled products.

Customization also connects shoppers more closely with a brand and helps companies attract fickle but acquisitive young consumers by giving them the power to put their personal stamp on products such as sneakers, jeans and digital music players.

Whether it's a cellphone ring tone of a favorite song, a faux fur for an iPod or a pair of ice pink and black Nikes, young shoppers see customization as a way to express themselves and build on what they like about certain brands.

"It is really a democratic desire," said Sharon Lee, co-founder of Look-Look Inc., a Los Angeles-based consumer research and trend consulting firm. "Every person wants to say, 'This is much more me and I'm not part of this kind of mass culture.' "

Lee sees the customization trend growing, especially in the coveted youth market. Yet even as these shoppers increasingly demand customization, few retailers effectively mine this market, she said.

But Nike is trying. Company spokesman Alan Marks said the company had operated Nikeid.com since 1999 but relaunched it in March with more styles and new technology, offering added choices to self-style products such as sneakers, bags and golf balls.

He said the website — where most shoes cost $100 or more — showed customers were willing to pay more for the chance to design their own sneakers. He declined to say how many shoppers had visited the website or how much business it had generated since the relaunch.

"Once you try it, you become vested in your own design," Marks said. "There is a Nikeid customer who sees value in being able to design their own shoe, and they are willing to pay a slight premium for that customization."

The relaunch of the site also comes amid a recent fashion shift to premium sneakers that has shoppers spending top dollar on athletic footwear.

Demand for athletic shoes that cost more than $100 grew 18% in the United States last year to almost $600 million, according to data from marketing firm NPD Group.

Nike has backed the website with a television and Internet marketing campaign in hopes of winning more customers in the lucrative U.S. market, of which the Beaverton, Ore.-based company's share is more than twice that of each of its largest rivals, Reebok International Ltd. and Adidas-Salomon.

John Horan, who publishes the trade magazine Sporting Goods Intelligence, said the timing was right for Nike's renewed push.

The robust market for rare shoes on the Internet and at boutiques where collectors are willing to pay thousands of dollars for sneakers shows that consumers will pay more for something that is unique or at least hard to find, he said.

"Clearly, they can do more with the fact that the average price points are going up and consumers are willing to pay a little bit more," Horan said. "There is a market out there for rare kinds of shoes."

Other observers say Nike has simply learned that young shoppers now demand ways to differentiate the products they buy and that the customization trend will only get bigger.

Lori Holliday Banks, senior fashion analyst at Tobe Report, said Nikeid.com showed how a preference for personalization, once seen as a preserve of the rich with monogrammed shirts and towels, was now in favor with a broad range of consumers.

"People want unique products because we are over-saturated with mass merchants at every level," Banks said.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

random shots of SouthPark, charlotte, nc

I took these with my camera phone on May 28, 2005.

I think the Simon Development Corporation Nazis may be on to my camera phone. As I was leaving SouthPark a security SUV was sitting near Kevin’s car; I guess waiting to bust me if I took pictures.

I'm trying to figure out why they're so uptight about it. I've been busted before there with a regular camera and trust me, though I look pretty ethnic, I'm no terrorist. It's like they can't understand that there are people who just like taking pictures of malls! Is that so hard to fathom?

I'm trying to train Kevin to be a better stool pigeon/diversion, but it's not working. If I stop to adjust my camera phone, he'll stop too and ask me too many damn questions. Oh well.

The new West Plaza (former site of Sears), with California Pizza Kitchen, Urban Outfitters and Joseph-Beth Booksellers

The Fountain Court

The older of Belk's mall entrances

random shots of eastland mall, charlotte, nc

This is the home of the doomed Belk store. I took these with my camera phone on May 28, 2005.

At Eastland, I went in a discount place called Fred's (may have mentioned Fred's before; this time I actually went in). Fred's was like a clean version of Roses, but had a few cool things; like a closeout pair of Adidas track-style shoes inspired by vintage products (that was for some inexplicable reason at this store). I will have to go back sometime.

Lower level entrance along Central Avenue

Center Court, Dillard's and the Ice Chalet

Former JCPenney, now Burlington Coat Factory and Fred's.

lakehurst tribute

Opened in 1971 in Waukegan, Illinois, north of Chicago, Lakehurst was a sprawling, mixed-use complex which housed a 1.1 million square-foot enclosed shopping mall and numerous freestanding commercial, office, recreational, and residential structures. Lakehurst remained in operation for 30 years, until competition from nearby mega-mall Gurnee Mills and the departure of many of its anchor retailers led to the mall's demise and eventual closure in 2001. The shuttered Lakehurst Mall spent three years in decaying limbo and was completely demolished in 2004. The property is now being redesigned as a new mixed-use development to be known as Fountain Square of Waukegan.

Nicole Yugovich's website serves as a tribute to Lakehurst and as an archive of its history and memories. Included on this site are a detailed history of the Lakehurst property, numerous pages of photographs, a listing of stores from throughout the years, a step-by-step photographic tour of the demolition, and a memories page. Your contributions, recollections, and reminiscences are welcome and encouraged, and will be included on this site with your permission.

Gander Mountain opening in Greensboro

Amy Joyner
Greensboro News & Record

Outdoor enthusiasts will get their own super store this fall.

Gander Mountain, a Midwestern company with 45 years experience in the retail business, is opening a 66,000-square-foot store on Vanstory Street, near Interstate 40 and Four Seasons Town Centre in Greensboro. The store will employ about 100 people, an equal mix of full-time and part-time workers.

Gander Mountain is often compared with Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, which bills itself as a destination store for hunters, fisherman and people involved in other outdoor sports. Gander Mountain stores are smaller, but they generally stock the same types and quantities of merchandise as their competition, Bass Pro Shops.

"We want to be more of a friendly neighborhood store to help you with your hobby," said Matt Lukens, a spokesman for Gander Mountain.

The company carries a wide selection of hunting and fishing gear, apparel, footwear, marine accessories, camping supplies, firearms, boats and all-terrain vehicles, as well as cabin furniture and home accessories. The company also offers a variety of in-store seminars on hunter safety, dog training, first aid, fly fishing, outdoor cooking, boating archery and other topics.

Gander Mountain, which is named for the founder's favorite outdoor spot in Wisconsin, is in the middle of an aggressive growth campaign with plans to open 18 stores this year. The company also plans a second North Carolina location in Mooresville next spring.

"We're a speciality retailer to an underserved market: the outdoor lifestyle," Lukens said.

The Greensboro store is set to open in September. For more information, visit www.gandermountain.com.

New Friendly center will have downtown feel

By Jim Schlosser, Staff Writer
Greensboro News & Record

With the former Burlington Industries headquarters now rubble, Starmount Co. is guarded about what stores and restaurants may occupy the new shopping center planned for the 33-acre site on West Friendly Avenue.

Starmount executive Ron Wilson said if people want a preview of the design the company intends, they should visit the Streets at Southpoint in Durham.

Starmount will seek a smaller version of Southpoint, which opened in 2002: Side-by-side shops and restaurants that resemble a busy downtown street. Parking will be "defocused,'' to use Wilson's term, and will be behind buildings.

"You are not going to ride down Friendly Avenue and see parking lots,'' he said.

He said today's trend in shopping centers is almost Disneylike: They resemble downtowns with a town commons, plus many have a residential component.

Wilson said several new restaurants will face Friendly before motorists reach the center's entrance, which Wilson said will be gorgeous. Cars will go right or left at the entrance on a street forming a U. Stores will line the streets. A town commons will be in the middle, for entertainment and other public events.

Shoppers may need to drive behind the buildings for a parking place, as they once did in busy downtowns. Customers will also have to do some walking. It won't be a matter of parking in front of a store, as can sometimes be done in adjacent Friendly Shopping Center.

Wilson said buildings will be one and two stories.

The Streets at Southpoint has several department stores, but Wilson doesn't envision one in the new center.

It would, he explained, consume too much of the limited space.

Besides, he said, Friendly Center, which Starmount opened in 1957 and has practically rebuilt several times, has two upscale department stores, Belk and Hecht's.

In February, Starmount President Coolidge Porterfield speculated the Harris Teeter supermarket might relocate to the new center.

If so, the store would seemingly be far larger than other buildings planned for the downtown-like street. Wilson said he's not sure of Harris Teeter's plans. If it does move, he said, the old building (which is relatively new) could be remodeled for shops or torn down for a new use.

He said he can't reveal potential tenants until leases are signed.

But as an example of what Starmount seeks, Wilson cited the Chinese restaurant chain, P.F. Chang's.

He called Chang's one of America's hottest chains and said Greensboro residents drive to Durham to eat at a Chang's in a Starmount shopping center across from the Streets at Southpoint. Wilson said Chang's serves Chinese food "that's a little bit on the gourmet style.''

Wilson said the center will have classy landscaping with plenty of grass and trees. Some trees are already there. Some removed for the Burlington building implosion will be replanted and many more will be added.

"This project really excites me, and I'm hard to excite,'' Wilson said.

He said work has been under way for weeks. While D.H. Griffin wrecking company was preparing for Monday's spectacular implosion of the former textile headquarters, Starmount was grading and putting in utilities in the portion that served as Burlington's parking lots.

He expects the shopping center to be finished late 2006, and a residential/retail phase in 2007.

Wilson said Starmount is wrestling with the design of the retail/residential area that will be near the corner of Hobbs Road and Northline Avenue. It could be townhouses with retail and offices on the ground floors and residential above. Or it could be one building with retail, offices and parking on the lower levels below residential. The land is zoned for 100 residential units.

He said one of the nation's best designers, the architectural firm LS3P, with offices in Charlotte and three other cities, is designing the center and residential/retail complex.

The firm designed the popular Phillips Place in Charlotte.

A Web site describes Phillips Place as "complete with arcades and a cobblestone town square ... (Phillips Place) has the ambiance of a pedestrian-friendly small town.''

The new center, Wilson said, will be an extension of the old center next door.

"This is an opportunity for us to take Friendly Center to a new level," he said.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Carolina Place plans renovation

Pineville, NC (WSOC-TV) -- A busy mall in Pineville is planning some major changes to attract more shoppers.

Mecklenburg County issued building permits to Carolina Place mall for four and a half million dollars in renovations.

The company which operates the mall is adding a large bookstore, sporting goods store and three new restaurants.

Construction crews will remodel the interior, putting in an all new food court and improving seating areas and restrooms.

In East Atlanta, the Signs of Chic Are Emerging


In the sprawling, 6,000-square-mile metropolis of Atlanta, where public transportation is limited and neighborhood hopping is best done by car, it's nice to know where to go for what. Sleek boutiques? Virginia-Highlands. Faux-bohemian cafés? Little Five Points. Glitzy shopping malls? Buckhead, of course.

And now Atlantans are quickly adding another cultural hub to their list: East Atlanta, home to a lively sprinkling of quirky shops, restaurants and nightspots that's reaching the crest in what has been a steadily rising wave of cool.

"New people are coming to this neighborhood every day," said Wondwesson Sadik, who opened his East Atlanta Arts & Antiques Bazaar in November in a former grocery store, a property he bought in 1997, when most surrounding shops were boarded up. "Just yesterday, someone came in and asked if they could lease the space for a new restaurant. But I said, 'not yet.' "

For now, Mr. Sadik is enjoying his shop's strategic position, just a short stroll away from East Atlanta's nexus - the intersection of Flat Shoals and Glenwood Avenues - where in the last year, new businesses have blossomed like peach trees in spring:

Sugar Britches is a shop that sells youthful dresses and bikinis, (404) 522-9098. Rare Footage sells very stylish sneakers, (404) 215-2188. Ventige Soul is filled with racks of urban-chic dresses and funky jeans made in house, (478) 335-9568. And Cantina La Casita, a Mexican restaurant on a side street, serves authentic tamales, enchiladas and fine tequilas, (404) 622-8081.

"Something is definitely happening around here," said Jerrald Goodloe, the owner of Rare Footage. "It's all finally coming together."

While declarations of a neighborhood renaissance have been made since the late 90's, growth came in fits and starts. It turned out that East Atlanta had many kinks to work out before it could draw a wide audience.

"There was a lot of turnover with businesses at first," said Cantina's co-owner, Alan Raines, who also helped to open the neighborhood's sleekest restaurant, Iris, in 2003. "Now there's a good base of people with experience who have figured out what niches need to be filled."

It's indeed an exciting time in East Atlanta, whose past demons include major integration conflicts, white flight and a nasty crime wave that began a slow reversal in the early 80's. Then in the late 90's, came major angst over gentrification - led by whites in this mostly black neighborhood - and perceptions among many that Sherry Dorsey, then the councilwoman, did not respond to the concerns of many constituents.

In 2001, Natalyn Archibong, who pledged to represent more diverse interests, defeated Ms. Dorsey. Now, some of the issues that Ms. Archibong emphasized in her campaign have become realities, including the allocation of just under $1 million for new streets with wider sidewalks. Other shops, nightspots and a new branch library are on their way, and chatter has been rising about both the long-awaited renovation of the Madison Theater on Flat Shoals Avenue and plans to build a light-rail system to connect the area with downtown.

And still, despite all the changes, people here still count diversity and a friendly, communal feel among East Atlanta's best assets.

"I compare the neighborhood to an early Greenwich Village," Mr. Raines said. "There's a good group of people who are very invested in the community."

Nordstrom knocking, again: Tony Seattle retailer's name resurfaces as possibility for Pittsburgh region

Ted S. Warren, Associated Press
Shoppers use a skybridge to enter a Nordstrom store in downtown Seattle.

By Pamela Gaynor, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Over the years, it's been courted as a centerpiece for Downtown Pittsburgh redevelopment, it's been looked at as a possible alternative draw at the North Side sports stadiums and it's been mentioned as a possible anchor for malls in Robinson and Cranberry.

Now Nordstrom apparently is in a regional developer's sights again.

Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group, owner of three local malls, showed off a site plan at the shopping center industry's spring convention this week that featured one of the Seattle-based retailer's stores as a new anchor tenant for Ross Park Mall.

Whether a lease is imminent or even in the works is anybody's guess.

No agreement has been announced and a spokeswoman for Simon Properties declined comment. A spokeswoman for Nordstrom did not respond to phone calls.

But the appearance of the Nordstrom name -- known in retail circles for bend-over-backwards customer service -- set off a bit of a buzz among Pittsburgh leasing agents who attended the show.

"It was the basis for conversation because a Nordstrom at Ross Park Mall would certainly impact a lot of tenants" and prospects, said Robert E. Gold, a broker for CB Richard Ellis/Pittsburgh.

"It could attract tenants" including some upscale ones that "might not otherwise" consider Ross Park or even the Pittsburgh region, he said.

Gold said he was surprised to see Simon so publicly show a site map bearing the Nordstrom name before any agreement was announced.

Maps showing prospects that are in discussions sometimes are shared confidentially with parties in the industry, but rarely would be aired at events that news organizations attend, he said. By touting prospect that's in discussions, a retail center owner or developer tips its hand to rivals.

But to see the Nordstrom name surface again in a region that it explored earlier didn't surprise retail analysts.

Following a financial slump several years ago, Nordstrom has turned around and "built a solid foundation to grow square footage again," said Jennifer Black, an Oregon-based retail analyst who once worked for Nordstrom.

In addition, retail analysts expect the planned merger of Federated Department Stores, whose holdings include Macy's, with May Department Store Co., whose holdings include Kaufmann's, to result in store consolidations, putting myriad desirable locations up for grabs.

"From a site location perspective, we've been waiting to see ... if there are sites that come up in places [Nordstrom] wanted to be," Black said.

Both Macy's and Kaufmann's operate stores at Ross Park Mall and at Simon Properties' two other local shopping venues, South Hills Village and Century III Mall. Ross Park, which serves shoppers from some affluent North Hills communities, is the kind of location upscale Nordstrom traditionally seeks.

In the past, the retailer has had serious discussions with numerous local interests.

As recently as late 1999, Nordstrom looked at Downtown possibilities as part of Mayor Murphy's since failed Fifth and Forbes redevelopment plan. At the time, Nordstrom also was looking at sites in Robinson and Cranberry, and its vice president of real estate said he didn't rule out the possibility of opening multiple outlets in the region.

Friday, May 27, 2005

May 26 column

This is the May 26 column on Ross Dress for Less. Not bad at all.

Stereotyping black men

By Derrick Z. Jackson
Boston Globe

HERE I AM, fresh off columns condemning the common use of the n-word, and discussing this issue until I'm hoarse with my 14-year-old son, my Boy Scouts, school students, and youth in the streets. Then my own profession makes my job tougher.

Last Sunday the Globe's City Weekly section had a photo essay where it asked seven people to describe what their clothes say about their ''politics, their personae, and the places they live."

There were two white men -- a 19-year-old punk rock musician with an orange mohawk and a 21-year-old college senior marketing major in an ordinary T-shirt. There were three white females -- a 20-year-old college junior, who is an aide for Governor Romney, dressed in a loud green top and frayed denim miniskirt, a 28-year-old director of a nonprofit artists institute wearing a bunched up T-shirt, and a 46-year-old hospital patient transporter wearing a Mao T-shirt. There was a 29-year-old woman of color, an administrative assistant, in a tie-dyed sarong.

The only male of color was a 15-year-old black boy. He wore a white do-rag topped by a cocked, backward baseball cap. While all the white subjects smiled, the black boy had no smile. His cold stare matched the nickname for his fashion: ''Sophisticated thug."

This was a bad do-rag day at the office. Though explained to me as clearly not the intention, it came across as a monolithic look at a black male when white men and white women were depicted with balance. It promoted an aura of criminality while all the other subjects were pursuing crafts, careers, or college.

It promoted an image of irresponsibility. The 15-year-old black boy, too young to hold down a full-time job or college internship, is depicted as matching his white do-rag with his ''white Nike Force sneakers he keeps immaculately clean with toothpaste and dish detergent." He dances to a rap ring tone on his cellphone. Despite being only in 10th grade, the 15-year-old is the second-highest spender on his wardrobe, $368. The five people under him spent between $55 and $150.

Having a 15-year-old ''sophisticated thug" represent black males among a variety of white adults played into what John Edgar Wideman wrote in a 2003 essay in Essence magazine. He said, ''Black boys are forced to remain boys or grow up too soon or never get a chance to grow up. They experience arrested development."

The stereotype of the ''sophisticated thug" is still too commonplace in America's newspapers and television stations, according to researchers who study media stereotypes. The award-winning 2000 book, ''The Black Image in the White Mind: Media and Race in America," by Robert Entman and Andrew Rojecki, found that black people are still disproportionately depicted as criminals and ''ghettoized" into crime, sports, and entertainment coverage.

''These images are corrosive," said UCLA political scientist Franklin Gilliam, who is conducting a national focus group study on racial attitudes. ''It's not just about keeping black males infantile; what it does is keep a focus on the 'misanthropic nature' of black men. If everyone else depicted is 'in the system' and this young black man is perceived as not, the common response of society is that he's the problem and we need to remove him from the system."

Lori Dorfman, director of the Berkeley Media Studies Group, which has published several studies of how youth are depicted as violent in newspapers and television, said: ''All by itself, the picture or what the young man is wearing isn't a problem. It's a problem in the absence of other images. If that's the only image they get of a black male teenager, it's a highly distorted picture."

It is so overdone that newspapers and television stations need to be extra vigilant not to reflexively fall for the colorful nature of ''sophisticated thugs" and to provide what Gilliam calls ''countervailing images" to provide a more complex picture of black males. ''I'm the highest-ranking black man at UCLA," said Gilliam, who is an associate vice chancellor. ''When I wear my suit in the campus parking lot, everyone is polite to me and knows me. When I change into workout clothes and go out for exercise, the same people I just walked past don't recognize me and don't speak to me. When I go out of context, I become invisible."

Tongues for the feet

Kansas City Star

For some, sneakers are just shoes you wear on your feet. For others, however, sneakers are an obsession.

These are the people who color-coordinate their shoes to match their outfits and keep their kicks so clean they appear to be fresh-from-the-box no matter how many times they wear them. These sole-conscious consumers will feel right at home at Crooked Tongues ( www.crookedtongues.com ).

Featuring bold graphic design and photo-intensive layouts, the British-based Crooked Tongues is every bit as colorful as the subject matter it covers. You can peruse the collections of Web site members in the aptly-named "Shoe Crates" section. These photo galleries feature a wide array of classic and hard-to-find shoes in unique color combinations sneakerphiles are sure to appreciate. Some collections number in the hundreds!

The "What One's Wearing On One's Feet" section is a man-on-the-street photo gallery, where the site's editors interview random people they see out and about wearing neat shoes.

Another highlight of the Crooked Tongues site is its special features section, which has in-depth profiles of legendary products such as the Patrick Ewing's (which were popular in the early '90s) and interviews with revolutionary shoe designers like Tinker Hatfield, who designed the first Air Jordans.

Crooked Tongues is your one-stop resource on the latest and greatest in sneaker trends.

Name your team

Kevin Mulligan
Philadelphia Daily News

CLOSE YOUR EYES a sec and imagine these new teams in the NBA: The New York Nike Knicks. The Chicago Coca-Cola Bulls. Or, the Philadelphia Cream Cheese 76ers?

Don't laugh. As if there's not enough logo/brand marketing on sneakers and elsewhere, NBA execs reportedly are considering allowing advertiser logos on player uniforms - if the price is right. (There's a surprise, eh?)

Dallas owner Mark Cuban (another surprise) said in an e-mail to the Associated Press that "anything that creates new revenue sources is good for both the teams and the players."

The NBA, unlike some leagues, has kept its jerseys clean of logos to date, including the logo of Reebok, the official uniform supplier of the NBA.

Commissioner David Stern told Bloomberg News that he and others could see a day when that changes, but said that the league is not presently soliciting offers.

"At some point in the future, the NBA owners will have a decision to make," Stern said. "In events that are broadcast around the world to 200 countries, there may come a time, in recognition of the exposure that the uniforms get, that there's a value proposition that would cause us to consider changing our policies."

It will be interesting to see where the NBA draws the line. I mean, even Victoria's Secret could make Stern an offer he can't refuse.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Colleges fear illegal shoe sales

The University of Oregon and other schools try to keep exclusive Nike sneakers on their players' feet and off Internet auction sites

The Oregonian

Bill Clever need only look at the two pairs of size 13 Nike sneakers in his office and breathe a sigh of relief. He may just have saved one of the University of Oregon men's basketball players from eBaying away his eligibility.

Earlier this month, someone under the username "k503b" posted a picture of the sneakers -- Nike Zoom LeBron 2 sneakers with green and yellow Oregon colors and logo -- on the Internet auction site eBay. The shoes had been made exclusively for Oregon's men's basketball players.

Although Clever, Oregon's assistant athletic director for compliance, couldn't determine the seller, he feared a player was involved or connected -- a potential violation of NCAA rules prohibiting student-athletes from selling equipment and other items received in college sports. He had the two players with size 13 shoes turn in their sneakers.

Nike has made special shoes exclusively for athletes at select colleges for years. But the increased popularity of auction sites such as eBay has provided an easy way to connect sellers with collectors, who are willing to pay thousands of dollars for limited-edition sneakers -- such as those worn by student-athletes.

The combination makes for a minefield of potential problems that has compliance officers scouring the Web and scratching their heads over how best to protect their team members from accidental -- or intentional -- sales that risk their NCAA eligibility. Nike has little at stake, but incidents provide one more example of how complex the relationship between college athletic departments and sponsors has become.

In Oregon's case, once university officials took possession of the shoes, the unknown eBay seller pulled the auction. Problem solved.

Oregon's not the only school sweating over sales of sneakers, and schools have long had to monitor the unauthorized sales of complimentary game tickets or other such items. But with the basketball season recently ended, a number of sneakers designed by Nike exclusively for college teams has shown up on eBay -- with one version of Nike Air Jordan 13 sneakers produced for the University of North Carolina men's and women's basketball teams fetching as much as $1,275 earlier this month.

North Carolina, which won the NCAA men's title this spring, is looking into that sale for potential violations, said Amy Herman, North Carolina's compliance director.

Nike tries to make sure that on its end, it is doing everything to comply with NCAA rules and support schools in enforcing them, said spokeswoman Joani Komlos. "Our primary goal (is) to continue to supply them with product that we feel will best fill their needs."

As far as compliance officers know, so far no one has done anything wrong. The NCAA also does not believe at this point that a violation has occurred, said Steve Mallonee, NCAA's Division I governance liaison, noting for instance, that the sellers may be misrepresenting what they are selling.

And not all sales -- if legitimate -- would be problematic. For example, a recent sale of a University of Kansas shoe was reputed to belong to Keith Langford, who, as a senior, no longer has to worry about protecting eligibility. (In any case, Kansas officials said Langford was not the seller).

Still, the episodes are reminders for compliance officers to review rules with their student-athletes -- as well as not to underestimate the lure of selling a limited-edition Nike shoe, which can command thousands of dollars.

"Any temptation that we face -- certainly every other institution in the country faces the same issue," Clever said. "Is there a way that we can prevent this 100 percent? No. . . . It's a monitoring nightmare."

Nike has contracts with dozens of schools to provide shoes and predominantly sends shoes that can be bought in any retail store, said Komlos. But the Beaverton-based company occasionally will produce a commemorative or special pair exclusively for a team, she said, such as with Oregon and North Carolina.

Oregon's troubles began in April, when compliance officials came across a listing of the Oregon-exclusive LeBron basketball shoe.

Oregon athletics officials called in their players to bring in their shoes. All 14 pairs were accounted for and the compliance staff met with each student-athlete to explain the NCAA rules, Clever said. The athletes were given their shoes back.

Then, a few weeks later, compliance officers came across a second listing of the shoes. This time, they called in the two players with size 13 shoes. Clever declined to name the two players and said he is continuing to look into the case.

Identifying sellers -- who go by usernames on eBay -- isn't exactly easy. The items' sellers either declined to comment or did not return e-mails from The Oregonian.

In Oregon's case, a former Nike employee may have been involved in the eBay posting, Komlos said. The employee had been fired for unrelated reasons, and she declined to give further details.

North Carolina is looking into the sale, earlier this month, of the size 9.5 shoes, which the seller said, "I cannot tell you how I got them or from who as I want to protect that individual. Yes, it sounds stupid, but sorry."

The men's and women's basketball teams both have the specialty sneakers, said Herman, director of compliance for North Carolina. None of the players on the men's team wears smaller than a size 11, she said.

"We do not believe there is an eligibility issue," she said, although she is continuing to look into the case.

Neither North Carolina nor Oregon is inclined to ask Nike to only send shoes that can be found in retail stores. But if the problem continues, that could change, Clever said.

"If I have to continue to collect shoes and monitor this activity, I would become an advocate" of limiting Nike specially issued shoes, Clever said. "I don't want to spend a lot of time on eBay."

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

order now!

Would a woman this attractive wear an sundress this ugly?

White shoes: Should you or shouldn't you?

By Samantha Critchell
Associated Press

NEW YORK - It's one of the last great fashion debates: Should you or shouldn't you wear white shoes?

For years, the rule dictated that white shoes are unsophisticated or make you look like you're wearing a uniform - as in the movie "Working Girl" back in 1988, when Melanie Griffith paired white sneakers with her cheesy suits before moving up in the world and into dark, stylish heels.

But now that white pants have escaped the confinement of the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day, many tastemakers have gone one step farther: They're wearing white shoes - and not just at the altar or on the tennis court.

Hip-hop stars Usher and Kanye West made white wingtips cool at this year's Grammys, and women all over the country are teetering on heels that look like ivory towers thanks to Paris Hilton and Mischa Barton.

There are still rules, though. In general, the less hosiery the better - think short ankle socks for sneakers and bare ankles for everything else. And don't let your shoes be too overwhelming to the rest of our outfit. Clunky pumps are risky and generally should be avoided unless you know how to navigate the fine line between fashionista and fashion victim.

Other dos and don'ts are more personal:

- Tamara Mellon, president and co-founder of Jimmy Choo, says simple or strappy styles, either a delicate flat or sandal, are best for white: "The most important part of wearing a white shoe is that it blends with your skin and what you are wearing and doesn't end up being the focus of the look in a 'shocking' way."

There's a patent leather white pump in Jimmy Choo's summer collection, which Mellon says is a little bold, but doable because there are lots of cutouts. The danger in wearing white shoes is that they can be overwhelming and distract from the rest of your outfit.

- Accessories designer Kate Spade wears her white jeweled sandals or ballet slippers with white or black cigarette pants or jeans, an "easy and crisp" look for summer.

"I don't know if there are any rules, but I find wearing white shoes in the winter can be tricky." But, she adds, "I do love the idea of a white rubber boot for a slushy winter day."

- Singer Thalia, also the designer of a Kmart fashion collection, likes an all-white look from head to toe. She calls it "the 'in' thing right now."

White shoes "give a retro-glam feel to an outfit," Thalia says. While they're ideal for the summer, Thalia, who was born and raised in Mexico, says white shoes can look sexy any time of year.

- Bruce Pask, fashion director of the men's shopping magazine Cargo, says "white shoes certainly are out there. It looks good with black, but it's a bit of a forward trend and you need confidence to pull it off."

He'd recommend men first try white shoes - from bucks to canvas Converse sneakers to Vans pull-ons - with jeans before tackling dark tailored trousers. Either way, the shirt should be a light color.

Personally, Pask is only a part-time member of the white-shoe club; he'll wear sneakers, but not constructed leather footwear.

- Michael Kors says white shoes are OK for men and women as long as the wearer has kept up on his or her grooming. "They look best with self-tanner and a good pedicure, preferably not red nails."

The fashion designer adds: "You never wear hosiery with white shoes!"

- Victoria's Secret model Ines Rivero, who walks runways around the world in all sorts of footwear, owns three pairs of white shoes for her personal wardrobe. Her favorites are white satin Manolo Blahniks, which she wears with jeans.

Yes, white shoes are mostly for summer, Rivero says, but she spent most of this past winter in a pair of ankle-height white Chanel boots.

- Even though she's a fashionista, Suze Yalof Schwartz, Glamour's executive fashion editor at large, is not as big a fan of the white shoes as her stylish peers: "I'd have to agree with Mom. I think they (white shoes) are fine with a wedding dress or a nurse's uniform, or if you're on the courts playing tennis. I know people might be wearing them elsewhere, but they shouldn't."

She will make exceptions for strappy sandals with silver heels, a thong sandal with just a strip of white leather, a white espadrille with a tan woven heel or spectator styles that mix white with another color.

Her suggested substitute would be to wear sand, tan or brown shoes, which are neutral and can blend into almost any outfit.

- Gordon Thompson, executive vice president and creative director of Cole Haan, says white has become the building block of a summer wardrobe because it's crisp, modern and versatile.

"Everyone's ready to start fresh and white becomes the new neutral a woman will reach for in her closet - replacing brown and even black from the fall and winter."

- Joe Zee, editor in chief of Vitals, is clear on his position: "White shoes? I love them!"

"I like the idea that white shoes should be treated like black shoes. There's such a fashion stigma, but I say, 'What would you wear your black shoes with?' Wear it with white."

one day early, to my suprise

I Googled my own column. A day early. Too cool. No byline, but you know by now that it's me.

Old-school goes new

Jackie Bolin
The Dallsa Morning News

The classics never really go out of style, but sometimes even the most timeless fashion staple can use a makeover. Two stylish brands are lightening up their best sellers for the summer, with color and comfort in mind.

The new Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Slip is an update of those iconic sneakers from back in the day. The unisex canvas shoe has all the qualities of the original – minus the laces. Instead, a worn-in tongue cushions the foot and makes the shoes as easy to slip on as flip-flops.

Everyone from fashionistas to Navy pilots sports Ray-Ban's aviator sunglasses, and after decades of gold and silver frames, there's finally variety. The new styles are just like the originals, except these delicate frames are dipped in summer-ready shades of pink, red and mint green. Perfect for the fashion set – or any pilot with a colorful plane.

Men, look hot without sweating it

Miami Herald

Clean shirt, new shoes
And I don't know where I am goin' to
Silk suit, black tie
I don't need a reason why
They come runnin' just as fast as they can
'Cause every girl crazy 'bout a sharp dressed man
-- ZZ Top

These lyrics may be close to the truth -- that guys can nab gals with their keen fashion sense. But many dudes on this end of the state are less interested in ties than thighs (those would be Shaq's). That's why it's nice to have people like Nick Graham, the creator of Joe Boxer and a new line of men's clothing, nick (it), on hand for some easy, DIY wardrobe tips:

1. A leg-up: Be prepared for when the heat is on -- and we're not talking the beloved b-ball team. The weather's gonna be Hades-esque here in a matter of weeks.

''Khakis are a safe bet,'' says Graham. ''They look good at that 10 a.m. budget review meeting and look even better rolled up in bare feet walking on the beach at 10 p.m. with someone who wants to review you.'' You can't miss with cargoes, either, says Graham. Dress 'em up with a linen blazer, graphic screen print tee and white sneakers, no socks.

2. Blue, period: Is denim ever a don't? Rarely, says Graham. ``Jeans shouldn't be worn when one has to do a lot of cartwheels or gymnastic competitions. They aren't very flexible. Other than that, they're good anytime, except at the prom, but you can always wear them under your tuxedo.''

But seriously . . . ''Jeans look best with some plain white Converse shoes and a sport coat,'' he says.

3. Lighten up: ''Happy and up to date,'' white linen jackets are the ones to covet. Make sure it has two buttons and notched lapels; long set-in sleeves, two front pockets and a curved back vent. ''A great jacket can make a casual outfit look kind of like you mean business, but not so much that you look boring,'' Graham says.

If you opt for an entirely white suit, Graham suggests breaking up the bleached-out ensemble with a complementary hue, say a blue polka-dotted pocket square, navy striped belt and navy loafers or Topsiders. ''It's nouveau preppy,'' he says.

4. The time is stripe: Nick, burning minds want the 411 on the chic summer man's must-have. ''At the very least, one seersucker suit'' should be hanging in your closet, he says. Be it blue, beige or for the adventurous, even pink, worn with a plain or witty T-shirt underneath. ''Seersucker lasts forever and is classic,'' says Graham. ``This is the kind of material that can also look great even after you've fallen into the pool at a trendy South Beach hotel.''

5. In or out? What is the shirt edict nowadays, anyway? ''Untucked is preferable,'' Graham explains. ``It's kind of like the boxers-or-briefs discussion. Tucked is like briefs, untucked is like boxers.''

The whole nick (it) line can be found at JCPenney stores and jcpenney.com.

Getting Out of the Sheetz

C-store retailer to implement card-waving checkout technology

(VisualStore.com) - Sheetz Inc. (Altoona, Pa.) has announced it will implement radio frequency technology in its checkout systems so customers can wave their credit cards to make payments instead of swiping them.

The program, with Visa USA (Foster City, Calif.), will be installed in 310 Sheetz convenience stores throughout the year.

Using Visa Contactless payments, a new feature on Visa cards, cardholders can simply hold their card near a secure reader at checkout. Visa Contactless transactions utilize a capability embedded in the card that contains payment information, which can be processed rapidly and securely over an extremely short distance at the point of sale terminal. It will also eliminate the need for signatures on transactions under $25. All other aspects of the contactless transaction are handled in the same way as a traditional credit or debit payment transaction.

“The whole idea,” said Louie Sheetz, executive vp, marketing, “is to simply add another layer of convenience for our customers.”

In addition to improving the payment process for shoppers, Visa Contactless payments enable Sheetz to process more transactions in less time and thereby improve operating efficiencies. Visa tests show that contactless payments are up to 25 percent faster than cash transactions and enable merchants to track the day’s receipts electronically.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

wall of hair

Music producer Phil Spector is shown in Superior Court judge Monday, May 23, 2005, in Los Angeles. A judge said Monday, he will allow four of 10 incidents of evidence in Spector's murder trial that prosecutors say illustrate the music producer's history of pulling guns on women. Spector is on trial for the Feb. 23, 2003, fatal shooting of B-movie actress Lana Clarkson. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

song of the day | may 24, 2005

Baby Come To Me - Patti Austin/James Ingram Listen

Monday, May 23, 2005

SouthPark names new tenants

Charlotte Business Journal

SouthPark mall has announced two new tenants that will open in the Hecht's wing this fall.

They are Torrid, an apparel retailer targeting young, plus-sized women; and Delia's, also a retailer of young women's clothes and accessories.

SouthPark, which has been remodeling, expanding and adding tenants for several years, is owned by Simon Property Group of Indianapolis.

The company is moving ahead with development of a mixed-use project on its mall property and will soon oversee a sizable expansion at Dillard's, one of the mall's anchor tenants.

Simon Property recently filed a proposal with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission to add 90,000 square feet of retail, restaurants and office space, as well as 150 apartments, on Sharon Road at Morrison Boulevard.

The mixed-use development plans were a part of the contentious rezoning of the property in 2000 that allowed the mall to expand by 140,000 square feet for a total of 1.75 million square feet.

The $100 million makeover has transformed the mall into a luxury retail mecca featuring anchors such as Seattle-based Nordstrom and Dallas-based Neiman Marcus.

The recent proposal by Little Rock, Ark.-based Dillard's Inc. to expand its SouthPark store by 47,500 square feet needs city approval.

Charlotte City Council will review the Dillard's expansion July 18, with a final decision expected Sept. 19.

Opened in 1970, SouthPark tied last year with Concord Mills as the largest area shopping center in the region. Each mall had 1.4 million leasable square feet.

Looking Glass Houses

Juno's blog 5/23/2005

Juno stopped by my blog today and left me a message. I got a chance to check out her site and was fascinated by the great stories she told. I think you might enjoy them as well.

Dillard’s Aims to Sell More House Brands

Little Rock, Ark. - May 23 - Dillard’s Inc. plans to increase profits by selling more house brands and emphasizing the value of its fashion apparel, the department store chain’s president, Alex Dillard, said at its annual meeting on Saturday. The company plans nine new stores for 2005.

With 329 stores in 29 states, mostly in the South and West, Dillard’s is viewed as a logical acquisition target. But Dillard would not address the possibility at the meeting.


A stump from one of the trees cut down as demolition work continues at the old Burlington Industries headquarters building. The building is scheduled to be imploded on Monday. (H. Scott Hoffmann/© News & Record)

News & Record

GREENSBORO - The architects and contractors assumed they were building for the ages.

They created for Burlington Industries a steel and glass edifice that was no copycat corporate headquarters.

It was unique, with crisscrossing steel trusses and 95,000 square feet of special mirror glass that employees could see out but outsiders couldn't see in. The center section stood six stories tall, with the upper four floors suspended from the roof trusses.

"Structural gymnastics" is how architects and engineers describe the designing and construction of challenging structures such as the Burlington Industries Building.

Those involved knew it needed to make a statement for Burlington Industries, at the time the world's largest textile maker. The new headquarters, with those heavy trusses, would symbolize Burlington's strength.

"Burlington Industries was as solid as a rock," said Charles Hicks, who worked for Odell Associates, the Charlotte architectural firm that designed the project. "I expected it to be there 75 years or more."

Instead, 200 pounds of explosives will make the building's center section vanish in seven seconds Monday, just 34 years to the month after it opened.

Demolition crews have already reduced the building to a skeleton, which also sums up Burlington Industries. It emerged from bankruptcy in 2003 and vacated its 430,000-square-foot headquarters last year. During Burlington's best years, the headquarters employed 1,250 people.

"Mayo," a piece of abstract sculpture that decorated the building's plaza and was beloved by employees, now stands in the weeds about 200 yards away from the plaza, which already has been demolished along with the two-story building that wrapped around the six-story tower.

It's a woeful end for a building that caused so much bitterness when proposed in 1968 and generated so much architectural and engineering creativity when built between 1969 and 1971.

It was one of the first North Carolina buildings built with computer help. Hicks said at the time that it took eight computer tries -- the computer took up two rooms -- to achieve the correct framing scheme for the steel trusses.

Whether one liked the architecture or not, the building caught the eye and immediately became a local landmark.

It was not just bigness that defined the headquarters. Attention was given to details.

Designers decided against standard ceiling vents for heating and air conditioning. Too unattractive, they said.

Instead, they hid the vents inside 12,000 light fixtures.

The grounds were cleverly landscaped to make parking lots invisible behind shrubs and berms. It looked as if the building had been placed in the middle of a park. A maintenance crew in golf carts pampered the grassy grounds and attended to many large trees, some original to the site, many added by Odell, which also did the landscaping.

The building, built by Daniel Construction Co., of Greenville, S.C., included a TV studio for making commercials, a cafeteria and product showrooms. A fountain that gushed recycled water greeted visitors at the entrance. The executive wing on the fifth floor had marble bathrooms and fine wood paneling in the halls and offices. President Charlie Myers had a guardrail built in front of a floor-to-ceiling window in his office. He had a phobia that kept him from getting close to large windows high above ground.

The building would win four national architectural awards and one regional award, and a U.S. Steel Corp. publication said in the early 1970s that "art and engineering have come together to produce a strikingly unusual building."

Benjamin Briggs, executive director of Preservation Greensboro, calls the Burlington Industries Building "one of the great buildings of the modern era in North Carolina." He refuses to ride out West Friendly Avenue, not wanting to see the now seedy structure surrounded by weeds and stumps from a tree clearing to make way for the site's next occupant, a shopping center.

Walter Bost of Kannapolis, a retired Odell architect who still does consulting work for the firm, called the demolition "ridiculous" and said "anyone with a creative mind" could have found a way to include the building's central section in the shopping center.

"That building is such an integral part of what the textile industry did for the South," Bost said. "It makes no sense to tear it down. If it were a piece of junk, all right, but it's not a piece of junk."

Some former Burlington workers also feel a sense of disbelief about what's happening.

Bill Beerman, a public relations specialist, started out in Burlington's old headquarters downtown. He watched as it was demolished last year to become the site of First Horizon Park.

Now the end is near for a building that he and others still call "new." It opened in May 1971, the same year the last major implosion took place in Greensboro, the 13-story King Cotton Hotel downtown. D.H. Griffin Co, which will take down the Burlington Industries Building, helped two other contractors using dynamite to fell the hotel in 15 seconds.

"I really enjoyed working in it, with its wide corridors and lots of light," Beerman said of the Burlington Industries Building. "It was great.''

Burlington was on a roll when the building was completed. In 1967, Odell had designed for the company another award winner, a research campus on Interstate 40, now the home of Syngenta. The next year, the company opened the 50-story Burlington House in New York City for its sales and marketing divisions.

Local boosters beamed that Greensboro was home to such a prestigious Fortune 500 company.

But not everyone was happy with what Burlington planned for a horse pasture owned by developer Edward Benjamin at West Friendly Avenue and Hobbs Road.

Residents of Starmount Forest and along Hobbs Road feared a corporate headquarters would harm the area's residential character.

Attorney Sam Johnson, then and now a Hobbs Road resident, drew a rebuke from two insulted City Council members after he questioned the council's motives in voting unanimously to rezone the pasture for the building. The council reversed an earlier Zoning Commission vote denying rezoning.

Johnson, representing himself and 700 petition signers from the Starmount Forest area, called the council's action "absurd on the face of it" and aimed at pleasing the city's "biggest money interests."

He meant Burlington Industries and Benjamin, whose Starmount Co. had developed Starmount Forest and other neighborhoods along with Friendly Center.

For a different reason, downtown supporters also bashed the council. Since 1937, Burlington had occupied a handsome limestone building that occupied a block of North Eugene Street. The home office's 800 employees ate lunch and shopped downtown.

At the new headquarters outside downtown, they would spend their money at Friendly Center, a block to the east. Friendly Center had severely hurt downtown retailing when it opened in 1957.

"How are we going to get other businesses to come downtown when the biggest business is leaving it?" asked James Spearman, president of the Greensboro Merchants Association.

The pasture chosen for the building was part of Edward and Blanche Benjamin's Starmount Farms. A tree-canopied drive ran beside the pasture to the Benjamins' country-innlike house.

Johnson had enjoyed coming home from work and seeing a hired hand for the Benjamins exercising one of the couple's racehorses in the pasture.

Soon, the horses were gone, replaced by bulldozers.

The steel trusses that became the building's most visible feature arrived from a U.S. Steel plant wet with a rust-proof coating that had to be dried quickly. Burlington built a special oven at Carolina Steel Corp.'s plant in Colfax. Carolina Steel then fabricated the trusses so they were a "glove fit" for the building.

Burlington also asked the Odell firm to design a new logo for the company. The architects drew inspiration from the crossed trusses. They were depicted abstractly in the logo.

Compared with the fuss of the late 1960s, protests about the Starmount Co.'s plans for a shopping center at the Burlington site seem muted. A few letters to the News & Record have criticized the demolition. One woman vowed to boycott the shopping center. Some felt anger at the tree cutting.

Starmount Co. President Coolidge Porterfield said the trees didn't fit the center's planned topography. While many were felled, about 20 sizable trees were uprooted, he said, to be replanted later.

As for the building's destruction, Porterfield said, "It was obsolete in terms of what today's standards are."

He said it became too large for a shrinking company. Burlington had so much extra space it rented offices to AT&T. The building also had asbestos, Porterfield said.

Those who protested the building 34 years ago now seem sad it's about to disappear.

Johnson said he never embraced the building's modern design but liked the landscaping. Burlington delivered on its promise to make it classy, and he believes the Starmount Co. will do the same with the shopping center.

"I have had a moderation of my feelings," Johnson said.

The destruction of such a young, celebrated building seems to magnify America's image of a disposable society.

Charles Hicks and Walter Bost will soon watch the demolition of another colossal building they worked on, the 23,000-seat Charlotte Coliseum. To be replaced by a new downtown arena, the coliseum is only 18 years old.

Charles McMurray, the head of Odell's design department when the Burlington Industries Building was built, says a sculptor called him trying to raise $2 million to relocate the building's center section. The sculptor viewed the building as art.

McMurray, now a sculptor himself, thought the idea impractical. He stopped in Greensboro last Sunday to walk the site and say his final goodbyes to a memorable project. He hates to see it go, but times changed for Burlington Industries -- and for its headquarters.

"It served its purpose," he said.

A look at the Burlington Industries headquarters:

Architect: Odell and Associates of Charlotte.

Awards: Won recognition from the South Atlantic Regional Council of the American Institute of Architects; the American Association of Nurserymen Inc.; the Lincoln Foundation of Cleveland; and the American Institute of Steel Construction.

Construction: Started in 1969, finished 1971. The building: A six-story glass tower, supported by crisscrossed steel trusses, measuring 75-by-100 feet and weighing 48,500 pounds. Contributing to the exterior's modern look was 95,000 square feet of special mirrored glass. A fountain greeted visitors at the entrance. "Mayo," a modern abstract sculpture created by Robert Costelloe at the N.C. School of the Arts, was located in the building's plaza.

Employed: At its busiest, 1,250 people.

Size: 430,000 square feet

Inside: The building had wide hallways, high ceilings and lots of light. It contained a TV studio, a company store, a showroom for company products, a photo lab, training centers and a carwash for the company limo. The executive wing had marble bathrooms and fine wood paneling in the halls and offices. Vents for heating and air conditioning were hidden inside 12,000 light fixtures.Site: The site had been a pasture within Ed and Blanche Benjamin's Starmount Farms.

Landscaping: 500 new trees and shrubs were planted on the property. Occupying only 1 acre of the 39-acre site, the building looked like it was surrounded by a park.

Source: News & Record research

wayne & melissa

My friend Wayne Hodgkinson got married to Melissa Board over the weekend in Roanoke. I was unable to attend, but my friend Sonya sent me these pictures of the wedding.

The happy couple as husband & wife

Wayne & Melissa at the reception

Wayne & his sister Pam

Wayne's parents: Mr. & Mrs. Hodgkinson

An amazingly clean survey crew: Wayne & Sonya

My old co-workers Judy and Sonya

The bride and groom's cake

cheesecake @ crabtree

The Cheesecake Factory, Crabtree Valley Mall, Raleigh, North Carolina.

My dessert at The Cheesecake Factory: Craig's Crazy Carrot Cake Cheesecake. Very tasty.

I guess no one's in the dark now about where I had dinner Sunday night and what I had for dessert.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Sole survivors camping at Niketown

"Sneakerheads" wait in line all week for a shot at owning a super-exclusive pair of shoes

By Mary Vorsino, starbulletin.com

They've withstood afternoon sun, chilly rains and inquiring stares from passing motorists on Kalakaua Avenue. Some haven't taken a shower since Monday, when they first took their place in line on the pavement.

But the more than 50 men who have camped -- with tents, sleeping bags and coolers -- outside Niketown in Waikiki for nearly a week say they won't be deterred.

They're in it for the shoes.

At 11:59 tonight, Niketown will sell -- first-come, first-served -- an undisclosed number of exclusive sneakers of which there are only 48 copies in the world. The design is top secret.

They'll do the same with a second type of shoe, of which about 150 copies were made. Officials describe it as a red, "retro" style of 1980s design.

The shoes were designed just for the event, and collectors have come in from around the world to get their hands on a pair.

"Truly, they are sneakerheads," said Nike Hawaii retail marketing and events manager Keala Peters, using the preferred term for the ultra-shoe collectors lined up outside her store.

She said each person in line -- before supplies run out -- will be able to buy only one pair of rare shoes, which will run about $100. Peters expects the line to grow into the hundreds by this morning, even though Nike has done no advertising for the release.

The event is the fifth of its kind at Niketowns in the United States, with similar shoe releases -- drawing similarly dedicated crowds -- held in Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

"If you're a shoe fanatic, you have to be here for this," said 20-year-old Dominique Thomas yesterday, who flew in from Denver to get to the head of the Waikiki line Monday morning.

The crowds at shoe release parties nationwide -- drawn mostly by word-of-mouth -- speak to the growing popularity of sneaker collecting, which most say started in the 1980s with the release of Nike's first sneakers dedicated to basketball player Michael Jordan.

Today, there's a magazine called Sole Collector aimed at "sneakerheads." The publication, with about 40,000 readers, is helping to sponsor the Niketown shoe releases.

The Waikiki shoe release will be one aspect of a sneaker collector's dream party at Niketown from midnight to 2 a.m. The event will feature a Nike shoe collection competition with the grand prize of a one-of-kind sneaker featuring designs by a Hawaii artist.

An auction of six Nike shoes is expected to rake in thousands for charity. Some pairs have gone for as much as $2,000 at past auctions.

Sitting under the shade of a tree in front of the Nike store yesterday, Thomas pointed to his bed for the last five days -- a beat-up green loveseat that Nike employees provided because he didn't bring a tent.

Thomas, who has about 70 Nike sneakers in his collection, said he has been at all four Niketown sneaker release parties -- at the front of every line to boot.

What's so good about being first?

"They give door prizes," he said with a smile.

For most in line, like Thomas, sneakers are a passion.

But for others, sneaker collecting is a quick way to make a big buck: The shoes they'll buy tonight at the release could sell for more than $1,000 on the Internet tomorrow.

Jason Wolf, of Waikiki, who sat at the back of the line yesterday, admits he's a little of both. He's into sneaker collecting, he said, but for tonight's event, "I'm just trying to make money."

Sneakers Try to Live Up to the Nostalgia


IN a brand-crazy world - one in which every piece of clothing, every large appliance, every electronic device bears the symbol of some commercial entity - there is no spot more loaded with branding potential than the adolescent foot.

Observe the sneakers of American teenagers. You will not see a shoe, plain and simple. You will see the muscular Puma cat, the voluptuous Nike swoosh, the three bold Adidas stripes. Sneakers are religious and political talismans to young Americans: they confer respect upon the wearer and testify that he or she belongs to a certain community. Sneakers are heady stuff, and the stakes are high.

So I was excited to learn that Adidas, the world's second-largest sportswear manufacturer, was opening a sleek new emporium on Broadway at the entryway to the SoHo shopping district. New York City had long been dominated by Niketown, a towering cathedral of athletic wear on 57th Street, but I had grown tired of Nike and its pretensions, sitting there on the same block as Tiffany and Chanel.

As a brand, Adidas stimulates a sophisticated palate with its evocations of sports heroes (remember Jimmy Connors, delirious with victory, fists pumped upward, in his Stan Smith Adidas?) and its legacy of 1970's sneakers. Even if Nike is the undisputed heavyweight champion, Adidas is, simply put, more old-school cool. While Nike was gobbling up market share in the 1980's like a deranged Pac-Man, Adidas was celebrated in Run-D.M.C.'s rap hit "My Adidas," in which Run waxed lyrical on the power of his favorite sneaks. There is always a pair of Adidas Superstars in my closet.

The way I saw it, Adidas would come to New York and do battle with Niketown, an upstart, downtown Jedi force toppling the complacent Death Star. But after two visits in the store's first nine days of operation, I am reluctantly forced to report that it is not yet up to the challenge.

First, there is a physical issue: the building makes a big promise. Sheathed in semitransparent glass and six stories high, scaled by glass elevators, it suggests several floors of Adidas products. Alas, upon entering, I found that Adidas occupies just two floors connected by mere escalators. At 29,500 square feet, it is large but no challenge to Niketown's staggering 66,520 square feet.

Minimalist in design, the store and its elements are black and white, relieved by the occasional whimsy: racks modeled after weight-lifting bars; wall hooks you might find in a gym. But the overall feeling is spare. And the minimalist ethos continued when they put out the clothes: there is simply not enough on display. There is no sense of sumptuous variety and endless choice and so no consequent desire to run through the aisles giddily piling your arms high with tracksuits.

Then there is the problem of sex. Athletic clothing is not always readily identifiable as women's or men's. A clerk told me that he had already advised several male customers that they were walking into the changing room with women's apparel.

"And they were like, 'Uh, yeah, I know,' but I knew they didn't know," he said. "They were protecting their masculinity, like."

A clerk at the front of the store instructed me that women's clothes are "generally on the left" and men's clothes are "generally on the right." I found Stella McCartney's workout wear, a collection of beribboned tank tops and slouchy terry coverups on the left, then wandered through women's basketball and women's golf (generally a poorly served area, but here the few clothes were chic and functional) and found myself in women's tennis. I was indulging in the kind of pleasant reverie that can accompany a shopping experience - I would invite John McEnroe to play tennis and wear this cute white and gray Adidas outfit; he would remark on the strength of my new 110-mile-an-hour serve - when I ran smack into a rack of boxy nylon jerseys and enormous baggy shorts that suggested sweating teenage boys. Ick.

So much for "generally" on the left.

My friend Todd, a dancer and trainer, was so puzzled about where to find men's clothes that he simply left, failing even to explore the second floor. There, three stripes of lights illuminate the central space. Unfortunately, rather than conferring a witty sense of sportif design, the lights, beamed through white plastic, give a slightly industrial cast to the place. I was grateful, however, to find several vintage styles of Adidas, as well as the Mi Adidas boutique, where you can order custom-made sneakers. For those who can afford them - they are upward of $160 - they are an attractive solution to the ceaseless cloning process that is American fashion.

Throughout the store, shoes are displayed with their sport, rather than in one single department, which in this case is a mistake. Consumers don't buy running shoes for running, or basketball shoes for basketball. They buy them because they see all the available sneakers lined up on the wall under some very loose categories and pick the coolest ones. The way the Adidas are displayed - a pair or two here, a pair there - dilutes your sense of being dazzled by the array. You want to be able to eat them up with your eyes. Here, you're tantalized, but starving.

The new Adidas outpost is billed as a "performance" store, as opposed to an Adidas "original" store, meaning that it carries the brand's high-tech gear - like the Adidas 1 running shoe, which incorporates a sensor, microprocessor and motor into each shoe - and more avant-garde sportswear like Ms. McCartney's. I had hoped to be dazzled. Prayed to be dazzled. With a little tinkering, like more merchandise and better direction for the shopper, perhaps this outpost will prevail in the future. May the force be with them.

610 Broadway (Houston Street); New York

(212) 529-0081

ATMOSPHERE Stark and spare.

SERVICE Enthusiastic.

KEY LOOKS Tracksuits. Basketball shoes. Refreshingly chic women's golf clothing.

PRICES Similar to most sportswear companies: $65 for Adidas Superstars (35 years old this year); men's basketball sneakers, $100; velour men's tracksuits $125; the Adidas 1 running shoe, $250.

Nike iD Blogger Contest

Nike iD Blogger Contest

In honor of the relaunh of Nike iD, the sneaker customization website, Nike has gathered together some of the web's most influential sneaker bloggers and asked them each to customize a Nike sneaker. The results of their labor is posted on Nike's iD website and visitors are asked to vote on their favorite. 100 copies of the winning design are reproduced for the blogger's loyal readers.
I've got no personal stake in this, but it is cool to see what other sneaker bloggers see as their ideal shoe customization.

check out what 1981 looked like in retail design

Belk, River Ridge Mall, Lynchburg, Virginia, Fragrances department, slated for renovation in 2005-2006. Photographed with camera phone 5/20/2005.

Belk, River Ridge Mall, Lynchburg, Virginia, escalator well, slated for renovation in 2005-2006. Photographed with camera phone 5/20/2005.

Belk, River Ridge Mall, Lynchburg, Virginia, former Men's Suits and Shoes department, slated for renovation in 2005-2006. Photographed with camera phone 5/20/2005.

Check out my camera phone shots of the Belk in Lynchburg! The store is FINALLY getting remodeled after 25 years. 25 YEARS! I remember my parents buying my brother and I a bottle of Polo cologne at that store (when it was Leggett) in 1981. Other than the light fixtures, it's vintage all the way. The camera phone blurs with the light, but it's still a good historic thing to have. The mall cops don't pay attention to a man with a phone at a mall like River Ridge!