Friday, August 29, 2014

Close-out sale continues for Matthews holiday shop going out of business

There's still time to grab baby's first Christmas ornament at the same Matthews shop where customers can buy a rabbit cookie cutter for Easter and an American red gingham beverage napkin for the Fourth of July.

Connie Kleinberg told the Observer in July she will be closing Matthews Holiday Haus gift shop on North Trade Street after a recent hospitalization.
A close-out sale, touting bargains that cut prices on some merchandise by 30 to 70 percent, continues with no clear end in sight, but Kleinberg said this week she hopes all the store's inventory is out of her store by the beginning of December.

Talking about the shop's closing is difficult for Kleinberg, who kept it going for 17 years. She and her husband, Al, started the business together when they retired to North Carolina from New York.

After a year of "watching the lawn grow," Kleinberg said she sought something to do. "A New York City girl" at heart who "always liked Christmas...and always liked pretty things," Kleinberg decided to open a shop selling Christmastime decor, along with trinkets from every other holiday. 

"It became a very unique place to shop," she said. "It just grew."

Once all the merchandise is off the shelves, Kleinberg plans to sell the building, which still has its original cabinetry, ceilings, floors and walls. 

Decorations for St. Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Easter, Christmas and everyday home decor are still available. 

--Jonathan McFadden

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Charlotte's JJ's Red Hots to hit college campuses

JJ's Red Hots, with locations in Dilworth and Ballantyne, announced on Tuesday a new business partnership that will bring the hotdogs to college campuses.

JJ's is partnering with Chartwells Higher Education, a division of Compass Group North America, to get its food served at higher education institutions. Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton will be the first spot to get the hotdogs, as well as a customized menu and a special FAU DOG designed for the university.

“The high energy of a university setting is right in our sweet spot, because we like to have fun with our brand and we don’t take ourselves too seriously," JJ's owner Jonathan Luther said in a statement.

JJ’s Red Hots was honored in May for making Fast Casual’s list of the year’s top 50 restaurants, the only Charlotte-area brand to receive recognition. It finished 43rd on the publication’s annual “Top 100 Movers & Shakers” list.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Say hello to Food Truck Wednesdays in SouthPark

Fans of the Food Truck Friday gathering in South End now have a mid-week option in SouthPark: Food Truck Wednesday.  Starting June 11, a group of local food trucks -- comprising the SouthPark Eats Alternative -- will serve lunchtime customers "gourmet cuisine on the go" from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
The spot is the parking area of 5960 Fairview Road (in a parking lot behind the office buildings), and this Wednesday, the lineup will include: Chrome Toaster, Comfort Food on Wheels, Cupcake Delirium, Maki Taco, Maryland Crab & Co. and MasterBacon.

Parking is free. For more details, visit the website here or email
On Twitter: @SouthParkEats

*Clarification: a previous version of this post said that the gathering was in a parking lot behind Panera. It's not in the Panera parking lot -- it's behind the office buildings behind Panera on a map (see below) -- and the trucks will be next to a free parking deck. Referencing Panera was just to give you an idea of the vicinity. Don't try to park in the Panera lot. I promise you will not find a spot. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Olde Mecklenburg Brewery prepares for move to $8M facility

The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery has started brewing test batches of its signature beers at a newly renovated facility between South Tryon Street and Yancey Road, just one-tenth of a mile from the brewery’s current home on Southside Drive.

The new facility, with a price tag of nearly $8 million (including the property), will house a 60-barrel brew house -- four times larger than the previous space. Founder John Marrino, who started OMB in 2009, says the new space makes it the largest craft brew house in the state.

The new building will also feature a larger taproom and restaurant, a natural Biergarten (outdoor area) and flexible public/private event space with a total capacity of close to 500 people.

OMB will have a grand-opening party for the public July 19. 

In 2013, Marrino announced plans to buy the 25,000-square-foot former American Crank Shaft warehouse, which sits on 3.5 acres as well as an adjoining wooded 5-acre property. 

OMB adheres to the oldest purity guidelines in the world -- the German “Reinheitsgebot" --  which says there can be only four ingredients in beer: barley or wheat malt, hops, yeast and pure water. 

"The Car Chick" named Women Business Owner of the Year

LeeAnn Shattuck of Women’s Automotive Solutions has been named the 2014 Woman Business Owner of the Year by the Charlotte Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO).
Shattuck and her business partner Michelle Lundy co-own the Fort Mill-based business that helps women -- and men -- navigate the stressful process of buying a car. 
For $500 to $1,000, they help clients determine and find the car they want within their budget. Then Shattuck and Lundy do the dealership visits, price haggling, trade-in negotiating and paperwork scrutiny. 
All their clients have to do is test-drive the vehicle, sign papers and take the keys. 
The annual Woman Business Owner of the Year award is given to a female business owner in the NAWBO community who exemplifies success and strong leadership within her business, her life and her community.  The business must be at least three years old, and the owner must also demonstrate skills in volunteer and civic activities. 
Shattuck -- a finalist in the 2013 Charlotte NAWBO chapter competition -- also is an automotive expert, a performance driver and a host of the internationally syndicated "America's Garage" radio show, which airs locally at 7:30 a.m. Sundays on ESPN radio. 
Shattuck is also an automotive expert, radio and television host, keynote speaker, author and champion race car driver.   She is passionate about educating women about cars and about empowering them to make informed decisions when purchasing, selling and servicing automobiles.
Lundy, who used to run a car dealership, founded Women's Automotive Solutions in 2004. Shattuck left management consulting to join her in 2006. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

DoncasterCharlotte owner celebrates 20 years in business

Local businesswoman Marguerite Rupar is celebrating the 20th anniversary of her wardrobe-consulting business, DoncasterCharlotte, with special events on Tuesday.

She'll host a sample sale at her studio, located at 228 E. Park Ave., and serve appetizers and beverages. Prizes and chair massages will be offered.

Rupar started DoncasterCharlotte in 1994 from her home. She describes her business this way:

"DoncasterCharlotte focuses on the busy professional woman to help her create the perfect wardrobe for her busy life. Each season, the client makes an appointment to come in touch, see and try on the current collection and decide which pieces are right for her. Maybe she needs a power suit, maybe she needs a business casual look or is going on a trip and just needs some fun clothes, we can find it all in the collection and make the most of each piece she purchases. There is lots of personal attention but no pressure! I love giving women a few minutes to relax and have fun while accomplishing a difficult task! DoncasterCharlotte is the best way to find quality clothing for any occasion in just one hour!"

According to its website, the Doncaster concept started in 1931, as the Doncaster Collar and Shirt Company in Rutherfordton, about 70 miles west of Charlotte. With encouragement from the Junior League of Charlotte, the business eventually evolved into direct sales. These Junior League members were the original 'Doncaster consultants', providing personal service and in-home shopping experiences. The idea quickly spread to other parts of the country, according to Doncaster.

Rupar says she started DoncasterCharlotte without knowing much about owning a business. Through on-the-job training, and help from the National Association of Women Business Owners and other mentors, she grew her business.

Rupar says she was able to move her home-based business to a Fourth Ward studio in 2002. In 2007, she moved to a studio on Providence Road that she shared with other Doncaster consultants. Then in January 2014, she moved her business to her current studio location in Dilworth.

Most of her clients followed her through every move, and even referred clients, Rupar says.

While featuring stylish clothes is part of DoncasterCharlotte's appeal, Rupar says it's the easy shopping experience that keeps clients coming back. "The service part of it never changed over the 20 years," she says. "It's the ease of the shopping. They like me, they like the experience, they like the clothes. It's something they come back to all the time, because it's easy."

Learn more about DoncasterCharlotte by emailing Rupar at

Friday, May 30, 2014

The boy, the bow ties and the billionaire

In this earlier blog post, we introduced you to Jake Johnson, a Davidson teen who was a finalist in the "Grow Your Own Business" challenge - giving him the chance to present his business idea to investor Warren Buffett.

Turns out Jake won the competition held earlier this month, impressing Buffett with his business, Beaux Up, a line of bow tie halves in different patterns that can be mixed and matched, using a clip to connect the separates.

You must read this delightful story by reporter Caroline McMillan Portillo about Jake and his sisters, Lachlan and Erin, and how the family's longtime entrepreneurial endeavors prepared Jake for his face-to-face pitch with Buffett.

And watch this video by photographer Jeff Siner featuring the trio talking about their earlier appearance on "Shark Tank" to pitch another business idea so impressive that millionaire Daymond John became a mentor.