2013 was a big year
…depending on who you were. Hundreds of North Carolinians became civil disobedients in Raleigh, even as other indicators, like development activity, show positive signs. Our cities are building on a foundation that was laid years ago. This has led to an explosion of restaurants, brewpubs, cupcakeries, groceries and bicycle shops. Inevitably, artists, filmmakers, musicians and entrepreneurs are finding the Triangle a congenial place to live. In Durham, many hundreds of new housing units are coming online within the urban center. (Here at the INDY, we’ve just moved our office into a downtown Durham building dedicated to small start-up companies.)
It’s hard to escape the conclusion that a tipping point has been reached, and that the urban future of Durham and Raleigh is happening now. And yet, this prosperity comes during a time of austerity and cruelty in Raleigh, and trends that have seen the upward drift of wealth to the few, and grinding stagnation for the rest. In this issue, our writers and editors consider 14 stories that are emblematic of our moment and will be exciting to follow in the new year. David Fellerath
Sundance-bound Cynthia Hill
As we sat down in the offices of the Southern Documentary Fund in downtown Durham, Cynthia Hill had a surprise.
“I brought some cocktails,” Hill announced. “We can’t do anything without cocktails these days. I refuse to.”
Producing a chrome-colored tumbler, Hill poured out a mixture of apple cider and Broadslab Distillery moonshine, patterned after the libation featured in Episode 13 of A Chef’s Life, the cooking series set in eastern North Carolina that Hill directs and which just concluded its debut season on PBS.
Three days earlier, the potent potables flowed freely for a different reason. The Sundance Institute announced its selections for the U.S. and world competitions at next month’s 2014 Sundance Film Festival. Hill’s latest work, Private Violence, was chosen as one of just 16 films in the U.S. Documentary Competition.
While Sundance’s official announcement was cause for revelry, the Durham filmmaker admits she learned of her film’s inclusion about two weeks earlier.
“My home phone rang, which nobody ever calls except telemarketers, and Carolyn Libresco’s name popped up,” Hill recalls. “She’s the programmer at Sundance. I’m like, ‘Holy shit!’”
It was then that the Sundance whirlwind began, starting with its deadline for providing festival deliverables: a 50-word synopsis of the film, a longer summary, bios of the filmmakers, a press kit, publicity stills, a movie poster, etc. Oh, and putting the finishing touches on the doc itself.
But for Hill, that’s easy compared with the film’s long, tortuous production history. Begun in 2006 by Kit Gruelle, a prominent domestic violence victim’s advocate, it was conceived as a historical account of the battered women’s movement. However, financing woes and creative differences among the filmmaking principals over the ensuing three years put the project on the verge of collapse.
That’s when Hill, who was tangentially involved with the film during its early stages, reviewed a sequence involving a battered woman and the race to arrest her abuser before he tracked her down at a Chatham County women’s shelter.
Seeing the film’s potential, Hill approached Gruelle and offered to take charge of the foundering project, but only on the condition that Hill assume total creative and financing control.
This white-knuckle footage now forms the pre-title opening six minutes of Private Violence.
“The important thing for me is for the audience to get thrown into that world and to feel that tension and the anxiety and pressure of what’s going on in that shelter,” Hill says. “That’s probably the best thing I’ve ever filmed.”
Hill shifted the film’s focus to Gruelle and Deanna Walters, a young mother from western North Carolina who was seeking protection from her abusive husband.
“I turned my camera and started focusing on Kit,” Hill says, “because she was what was interesting to me, her role as an advocate and the way she interacts with victims, law enforcement and the legal world.
“Narratively it was just going to be focused on Kit and Deanna. Deanna’s story was going to be the narrative arc of the film, and Kit was going to be the guide through this system and issue.”
The slow road to Sundance became more like a speedway, beginning when Hill received a grant from the Sundance Institute last summer. Then last October, the film was one of seven selected for Good Pitch in Chicago, where she pitched her project in front of hundreds of potential advocates, financiers and other filmmakers.
“The response was amazing, and the number of people who were lined up to give us money and talk about the impact [of the film],” Hill remembers. “It was pretty incredible, and I was like, ‘Man, we’ve really hit a nerve here.’”
That’s when the previously fanciful notion of getting the film into Sundance began to appear more realistic.
“If I do have a chance to get in Sundance,” Hills remembers thinking, “this is probably the best chance I’ve ever had because I think the stars were aligning. Just the timing of finishing, the buzz, the quality of the film and the issue seems important right now.”
The world premiere of Private Violence will be on Jan. 19. Hill says the film will screen four or five more times throughout the festival, which runs Jan. 16–26. Joining her at the premiere will be Gruelle, Walters and Gloria Steinem, who serves as an executive producer for the project.
Although this is Hill’s first documentary feature since 2006’s The Guest Worker, her decade of overall filmmaking experience qualifies her for the “experienced filmmaker” category in a pre-Sundance survey she completed for the festival.
“I checked the box going, ‘God, I don’t know if I really am,’” Hill says. “I guess this will help me feel more like an established filmmaker.”
Does Hill hope Sundance will open even more filmmaking doors in the future?
“I hope to leverage the hell out of this,” she exclaims, sipping her celebratory cocktail. Neil Morris
Growth promises more events in Downtown Raleigh
This past September, the concurrence of several large arts and cultural events in downtown Raleigh gave rise to a new, overarching one: the M.A.I.N. Event, which stands for Music, Art, Innovation and Noise. Comprising 11 distinct events, the M.A.I.N. Event was a multi-organizational branding tool meant to embrace the growth and diversity of downtown Raleigh.
And, indeed, the events do speak to a diverse constituency reflective of the city’s growth. In September, the Hopscotch Music Festival, SPARKcon and the International Bluegrass Music Association’s World of Bluegrass convention shared a heading with the African-American Cultural Festival, the Ray Price Capital City Bikefest and Triangle Entrepreneurship Week.
“I think everyone’s pretty simpatico,” Hopscotch director Greg Lowenhagen says of the array of September events. “We all have a vested interest in the future of the city and the growth of the city.”
Plus, the sort of cross-organizational collaboration that led to the M.A.I.N. Event isn’t without precedent. William Lewis, the executive director of PineCone, the Piedmont Council of Traditional Music, says his organization has long depended on working with other groups in the community. “We just have three little offices in downtown Raleigh,” he says. “So our campus our canvas, I guess is out in the community.”
This year, PineCone worked with the International Bluegrass Music Association, based in Nashville, Tenn., to organize the World of Bluegrass Festival downtown. For Lewis, the festival was in perfect alignment with his organization’s goals. “We saw it as a good opportunity to get a broader perspective and also to shout it a little bit louder how important this music is to our region, to our city, to our state and beyond,” he says. Plus, the city was willing to help. An organizing committee of 50 people formed from more than 20 different public- and private-sector organizations volunteered to plan a corresponding, free street festival as a complement to the World of Bluegrass.
Hopscotch, as a for-profit business, is ineligible for public funding, but it benefits from the city’s infrastructure and the availability of City Plaza. “We’ve been welcomed with open arms, for the most part,” Lowenhagen says. (INDY music editor Grayson Currin is the festival’s co-director.)
But Hopscotch alsoand especiallybenefits from the attention paid to downtown Raleigh, as new music festivals have popped up statewide since 2010. A little more than a month after the first Hopscotch, Asheville hosted the inaugural Moogfest, a world-class event featuring predominantly electronic artists formed in partnership between instrument manufacturer Moog Music Inc. and concert promotions giant AC Entertainment. In 2012, the companies split, spawning two different festivals: AC Entertainment’s Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit, which debuted in October, and a reimagined Moogfest, which debuts in April.
But, as in Raleigh, Lowenhagen says, this growth of music festivalsand cultural events in generalis more complementary than competitive. “Overall, the feeling is that it’s all good for the state of North Carolina,” he says. “Lord knows with the national press we’ve been getting on the political side, our support of the arts and the support of live music from Wilmington all the way through Raleigh, down to Charlotte, up to Asheville is a good thing, and we’ll take as much as we can get of it.” Bryan C. Reed
Good Times at the Carolina Theatre
Carolina Theatre CEO Bob Nocek has good reason to smile this holiday season. After a spate of good news about the finances of the theater, Nocek is looking to the future. For one thing, the theater is set to offer weekday matinee film screenings, starting Jan. 10, an unmistakable sign of downtown Durham’s residential vitality.
He’s got a bigger, if more nebulous vision, which he’s happy to share with anyone who asks. The theater sits off Morgan Street, and the stretch between Mangum Street and Corporation is downtown’s most bleak expanse of asphalt and concrete, glass and steel. Nocek thinks he’s got a solution: turn the theater’s administrative offices, which sit right at street level, into a pub.
“Space is a little bit limited, but if we could serve a little light food, there are hundreds of people working across the street.”
Other ideas pour forth: “We’re really starting to look beyond our walls,” he continues, citing upcoming off-site shows at Hayti and Motorco. He also talks about creating a storefront somewhere downtown, “a unique film screening room. Almost like a pop-up movie theater.”
It’s notable that Nocek’s in a position to dream a bit. For years, the Carolina, which is a nonprofit operator contracted with the city, has been dogged by concerns about its finances, particularly in the wake of the 2008 opening of Durham Performing Arts Center, the 2,700-seat behemoth a few blocks away. A four-month closure in 2011 due to badly needed renovations compounded the revenue challenges, so much that the theater went to the city in search of money to close the gap. The request was denied.
But one could faintly hear the fanfare of trumpets earlier this month when the Carolina Theatre announced its first profitable year since 2008. The $69,000 surplus helped knock the theater’s deficit down to $266,000. The improved performance comes from a variety of factors, Nocek says, ranging from an increase in the number of self-promoted showsthe Star Seriesfrom about 25 shows annually to 60, and increased rental and concessions revenue. Notably, movie ticket revenues are up 50 percent since the cinema reopened in 2011.
Nocek came to the Carolina as vice president and chief operating officer in 2009, assuming the top job a year later in 2010. He began his career in daily journalism and then moved to managing venues in Wilkes-Barre, Penn. There he developed a particular affinity for booking comedy acts such as Bob Newhart, Don Rickles, Ellen DeGeneres and Jon Stewart, a trend that has continued in Durham, with such recent visitors as Craig Ferguson, Lily Tomlin and Sandra Bernhard.
“I want to book the biggest acts we can, but I also want to bring in people who are just coming upeven if we know they’ll just sell two or three hundred tickets the first time, and build up a relationship with them for the future.”
Nocek says he doubts there was ever a serious possibility that the city wouldn’t renew the operating agreement. “Nobody expressed doubts to me directly at that significant a level, but I know there were concerns,” Nocek says.
“Honestly, when you have a deficit getting to be three or four hundred thousand dollars, you know, ‘What’s our future going to be?’ They were asking that question.”
Consultant Duncan Webb was brought in to review the theater’s operations and concluded the theater was well run. “Once the city had someone else tell them we were in good shape, that’s when they felt comfortable,” Nocek says.
The renewal of the theater’s contract with the city should happen within weeks, he says.
“We’ve essentially agreed on all the terms internally,” Nocek says. “There’s really no holdup at this point.” David Fellerath
Merge (slowly) turns 25
Merge Records loves birthdays. Every fifth summer since they launched as an humble way to put out records their friends made, the start-up-turned-indie-rock lodestar has commemorated its own survival with a fleet of compilations, box sets, books and fan-camp-like festivals.
In 2014, they’ll mark their silver jubilee, an event they actually began rolling out this October. So far, they’ve announced a road race from Chapel Hill to Durham (where the label started and where it now has its headquarters), a seven-inch subscription series (Merge’s second format, following a pair of debut cassettes in 1989) and the start of a reissue run that will put many early or simply essential works by Merge bands back in circulation with bonus materials (up first, Lambchop’s exquisite Nixon). They’ve yet to release dates for the concomitant festival or an Arcade Fire stop in the Triangle, but they’ve at least alluded to the former. Expect sweltering July days spent in various venues, with reunions that stretch deep into the label’s back catalog. Grayson Haver Currin
Out of bounds: Cross-form cooperation
Shawn Galvin sighs just a bit when asked what’s on the schedule for New Music Raleigh in 2014. “Not much yet,” he says.
Instead, Galvin explains the resource-taxing nature of what New Music Raleighthe nebulous neoclassical organization he co-founded with his wife, Karenaccomplished in 2013. In May, they produced a rock-club concert where the unrecorded songs of Beck Hansen went from sheet music to live performances, led by The Old Ceremony frontman Django Haskins. And in late November, they served as the backbone for a wide team of collaborators in the premiere of All Souls, an hour-long piece by Duke composer John Supko that combined excerpts from a Dutch novel with operatic vocals and music that veered from stately brooding to triumphant almost-pop. These large-scale, trans-network concerts require time and meetings, money and travel. So for next year, Galvin is drafting a set of short works that a smaller iteration of the group might play without six months of lead timea more portable, still exploratory chamber group.
But what New Music Raleigh doesn’t have planned for next year matters much less than the cross-curricular template they helped establish this year. When they delivered All Souls at Raleigh’s Contemporary Art Museum, a packed house sat and stood sandwiched between walls of art and around a large centerpiece cut from particleboard. The configuration worked as a metaphor for the group’s intentions to push beyond usual bounds of stylistic expectation, offering a challenge of sorts for other artists, whatever the form, in the area: How can your work connect to what’s around it? How can your own endeavors poweror be poweredby those working right beside you?
New Music Raleigh isn’t the only group making such inroads locally: Durham hip-hop group The Beast has become a collaborative magnet, while a scene of local improvisers has sparked similar activity across niches of jazz, classical and rock ‘n’ roll. Jazz band Peter Lamb & the Wolves has been stretching its retro image with circus performers and a motley crew of co-conspirators. These joint ventures offer more than a rock show; they offer an experience and, most important, a spark meant to incite new ideas. It’s exactly the sort of thing to hope for in even larger quantities. Grayson Haver Currin
Despite obits, indie book and music retailers thrive
Rebecca Evans and Jan Dickey scan the shelves at Letters, a new independent bookstore in downtown Durham.
“This is one of the best selections of fiction I’ve seen,” Evans says. “It’s curated.”
That’s exactly what Letters owner Land Arnold needs to hear. He opened the bookstore’s doors for the first time just hours before Evans and Dickey arrived. He beams.
Letters joins So and So Books in Raleigh in its 2013 literary debuts. Raleigh’s Sorry State Records and Carrboro’s Vinyl Perk also opened for music-lovers this year. If this sounds like it’s bucking a retail trend, then you haven’t been following that trend closely enough: The niche of smaller, well-targeted stores is opening into a wider future.
Once upon a time, independent bookstores and record shops dotted the landscape like the truffula trees in Seuss’ The Lorax. Then came the big-box stores to stomp them out. Many of the few survivors fell to online retailers. Nonetheless, where there are discerning readers and listeners, there’s a healthy market for retailers who know the area’s literary and musical tastes because they help drive them.
This has kept some longstanding favorites in business. Last summer, there was a wide sigh of relief among Triangle readers when Quail Ridge Books’ beloved, retiring founder Nancy Olson found a buyer for her store. And, after four decades on Hillsborough Street, Schoolkids is moving across N.C. State’s campusand possibly expanding its business model to include a barin January.
Arnold should know what the Triangle reads: He sold his share of Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, which he helped open in 2009, to start Letters. Before getting Flyleaf off the ground, Arnold worked at McIntyre’s Books in Fearrington Village. “This is actually less risky than Flyleaf, which was a really big space,” he says.
So and So, which is even smaller than Letters, opened in the spring in a 300-square-foot space at the front of the architecture firm on Person Street. Owners Charles Wilkes and Chris Tonelli have day jobs, so the architects ring up sales during some of the store’s hours.
“It’s enabled us to make this a slower, more pilot-program thing as opposed to ‘Let’s take out more loans and take on debt to get this thing going,’” Tonelli says. “It’s more of an experiment than a gamble.”
Their start-up cost was $3,000 for shelving and an opening-day inventory of a little more than 200 handpicked titles.
“We’ve just been getting to the point where we’re turning some books spine-out,” Tonelli says.
Blocks away on Morgan Street, Sorry State Records can tell a similar tale. Daniel Lupton started the Sorry State label in 2005 to release one record: Direct Control’s Nuclear Tomorrow. That music production has a physical location now. Since his October opening, Lupton can hardly keep the record bins full.
“I figured out the amount of money I needed to make every day to keep the doors open,” he says, “and there have been very few days that I’ve been under that.”
Lupton’s record descriptions have added value, too. “I think there are people who read my web store like a music blog instead of a retail site,” he says.
Sorry State fits the mold of small stores with pockets of expertiselocally, much like Carrboro’s All Day Records or Durham’s Bull City Records, and nationally like San Francisco’s weirdo emporium, Aquarius Records. Carrboro’s new Vinyl Perk, though, moves in a different direction by serving up pour-over coffee with the music. Proprietor Jay Reeves opened the shop in October, and as his happy customers have discovered, it’s really a living room with a cash register and a certificate of occupancy. Chris Vitiello
Slow-growth music venues
The close of 2012 seemed an especially perilous time for Triangle rock clubs.
Both Volume 11 Tavern and the DIVEbar, two Raleigh rooms devoted to all sounds heavy and loud, announced that they would close after New Year’s Eve finales. Tess Mangum Ocaña, the booking agent who had pushed Carrboro’s The ArtsCenter to a point of national prominence, lost her job. And Casbah, the intimate new room on Durham’s Main Street, dumped the booking agent that essentially built the club’s programming from nil.
But 2013 ends on a much more positive note, at least for the area venues willing to take the relatively slow road. Many of these changes mean that where and how you experience music in 2014 might be very different. After more than four decades of serving as a beacon for touring bands, Cat’s Cradle made what long seemed to be a logical move. In November, they opened the Cat’s Cradle Back Room, a small annex that serves whiskey and should house many of the shows that the Cradle presents in rooms such as the nearby Local 506 or Kings in Raleigh. After years of talk that the Cradle would have to move location in the coming years, owner Frank Heath instead reasserted his club’s status as a cultural anchor in Carrboro. And in Raleigh, the former owners of DIVEbar used the momentum they’d established over the course of nine years on Glenwood Avenue to uproot their entire organization to the building that used to house Volume 11. Since a breathing-room-only opening night, their calendar has offered several doses of hard rock and heavy metal per week.
Meanwhile, the upstairs rock club Kings Barcade and subterranean bar Neptune’s Parlour completed the third phase of their Martin Street cultural hub by opening Garland, a street-level eatery focusing on surprising ethnic fare. Similarly, after three years of developing its rock club identity, Durham’s Motorco finally forged ahead with its plans to develop a restaurant addition within their space. The step-wise, steady process of both enterprises parallels recent news concerning the long-running Shakori Hills GrassRoots Music Festival in Chatham County: In mid-December, after a 10-year mission from festival organizers to buy their 75-acre parcel, they closed the deal by gathering funds from 30 investors and Shakori Hills supporters. The purchase not only allows the event some stability, it also gives the organization a chance to expand its mission of community outreach and education.
“The property is not going anywhere at this point, and that’s a real relief,” says Puryear. “That will allow us to grow.”
Not all the news, of course, has been good: Glenn Boothe put Local 506 up for sale in August, though he is willing to keep the club open while he searches for a suitable new owner. A month before, Durham’s Broad Street Cafe closed without much noticed. Following early attempts at being a proper rock club, the restaurant had shifted its programming largely to a dinner-and-drinks crowd. Five years ago, its sudden absence would’ve been more acutely felt, but Durham’s explosion of venues in the interim mitigated the loss.
But the sting was a bit worse when, only three months later, the Casbah announced that it would be closing, too. The room went through three booking agents (including the relocated Ocaña) in as many years, making it the equivalent of a major-league sports franchise with expectations no coaches could meet. Early next year, the space will become a bar with shuffleboard and video gamesa slightly less risky adventure than a rock club, to be sure.
The success and failures of these venues seem forever cyclical, a point driven home by the upcoming swap of Sadlack’s Heroes and the Berkeley Cafe. After more than 30 years of being situated across from the N.C. State Belltower, Sadlack’s will take its leave of Hillsborough Street at the end of the year. They’ll take their menu and their music two miles into downtown Raleigh, where they’ll take the space and name of the Berkeley, another Raleigh institution. They’ll open in early January, perhaps starting or ending a long trek of music venue musical chairs. Grayson Haver Currin
Admission tax attacks nonprofits
This year, the North Carolina legislature cut income tax lavishly at the top end. Those who make more than $60,000 will see their top marginal rate of 7.75 percent cut to the same 5.75 percent everyone will be paying by 2015.
This cut in the income tax blows a massive hole in the budget, which will be filled by an aggressive expansion of the sales tax, which places the greatest burden on people of lower means.
Starting in 2014, the sales tax will be extended to ticketed entertainment. In Wake County, this will mean a 6.75 percent levy on movie tickets, live theater, live music, college and pro sports and more. (Chatham County’s sales tax is 6.75, as well, while in Durham and Orange County, it’ll be 7.5 percent.)
But nonprofits operating at lower price points are going to be the hardest hit. We canvassed a few, and the news isn’t good. The Carolina Theatre, for example, will raise its evening adult movie ticket price to $10 on Jan. 1, and $8 for matinees and seniors/students/military, according to CEO Bob Nocek. “There’s a threshold at which the cost dissuades people from buying tickets, and we’ll remain sensitive to that,” Nocek said in an email. “The changes have the potential to be especially damaging to arts nonprofits, who already operate on slim margins.”
Joesph Haj, artistic director of PlayMakers Rep, says the Legislature disregards the value of arts nonprofits. “This admissions tax is a genie that will never be put back in the bottle,” he says. “And by applying it, the legislature sends the clear message that the non-for-profit performing arts are just another business.” Art Menius of Carrboro’s The ArtsCenter goes further: “This is not just an anti-business tax; it is an anti-business tax aimed at nonprofit presenters.”
“It’s unfortunate that those in power in North Carolina have chosen to burden its residents and its businesses with widespread tax increases,” Nocek says, “and it’s particularly deceitful to have done so under the banner of reducing taxes.” David Fellerath
Last days of college sport?
In a time of austerity, college sports are richer than ever.
In the histories of civilizations in decline, one often sees an irrational increase in useless spending, on bread and circuses, monuments to rulers about to be toppled and lavish offerings to the deities. So it is, apparently, with college campuses. Earlier this fall, the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy issued a report that recommended cutting about 80 percent of the 4,000 or so courses now available on the Chapel Hill campus. This came after a summer in which the state Legislature cut a further $115 million in permanent funding to the UNC system, while increasing out-of-state tuition, which comes on the back of more than $235 million in economic-crisis-blamed cuts to the system since 2008.
One might think that, in this time of belt tightening and austerity, trims to the college sports programs might be in order. However, earlier this month, the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, in cooperation with USA Today, unveiled a very useful online database that charts the dramatically escalating spending on athletes and non-athletes at America’s public universities. In 2011, for example, UNC’s athletic department spent $185,037 per scholarship football player, a 46 percent increase from 2005. This is more than six times the amount that the school spends on full-time, enrolled non-athletes.
Although some may argue that the athletic department is entitled to spend its money as it sees fit, most athletic programs require direct and indirect subsidies. If transfers from the general fund can’t cover gaps, as has been the case in Chapel Hill and elsewhere, there’s another source: increasing student fees, which is how UNC-Charlotte (UNCC) is able to fund its new $45 million football stadium. UNCC’s addition of a mediocre football team added $6 million in annual operating expenses. Student fees will hit $200 next year; the school’s 20,000 undergraduates thus will provide an annual subsidy of about $4 million.
Although Duke, as a private institution, does not have to report financial information, it’s clear that the football arms race has infected west Durham as well. A year ago, Duke announced a $3.25 billion capital campaign. In the athletics goody bag: a $100 million overhaul of Wallace Wade Stadium, a facility that this year saw an average crowd of 26,062 watch a 10–3 Chick-fil-A Bowl-bound team.
Meanwhile, in Chapel Hill, disgruntled, increasingly straitened faculty members issue plaintive appeals from the Athletic Reform Group, which advocates for “institutional openness, educational responsibility, and consistency in the University’s mission.”
Between cuts in funding from the Art Pope-backed Legislature, and recommended cuts in curriculum by the Art Pope-backed John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, one might think that the Popists have it in for Chapel Hill. Not at all! The largest feature of Kenan Stadium’s luxury suites known as the Blue Zone (aka the House That Butch Davis Built), is a 29,000-square-foot “Student-Athlete [sic] Academic Support Center,” made possible by a $3 million gift from the John William Pope Foundation.
How will we react next year to systemic pressures that are “unsustainable,” to use a word employed by Knight Commission co-chairman William “Brit” Kirwan. In 2014, it will be interesting to see if faculty reformers gain any traction, or if former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon’s pending lawsuit against the NCAA blows up the business model. In the meantime, the bread and circuses should be exciting. When in Rome, do as the Vandals do … David Fellerath
Durham gets cooperative again
First came Downtown. Then arrived Old North Durham. Now we predict the Bull City’s Next Hip Neighborhood is … The West End.
Not only is the area emblematic of Durham’s diversitythe Taiba Middle Eastern Market, Ar-Razzaq Islamic Center, Tabernacle of Joy and Immaculate Conception Catholic Church sit within the same two blocksbut also its DIY spirit, via The Cookery.
Expect that entrepreneurial spirit to accelerate with Durham Central Market. The new, locally owned cooperative grocery is slated to open at Kent and West Chapel Hill streets in late 2014 or early 2015, according to project manager Don Moffitt, who is also a Durham City councilman.
Self-Help Ventures, the nonprofit development arm of Self-Help Credit Union, will own the 10,000-square-foot building and Durham Central Market will lease it. Financing challenges had delayed the $2.5 million project, which was originally slated to be built on North Mangum Street. The 2008 recession upended the credit markets, making it difficult for small businesses to get loans.
“The difference between this [West Chapel Hill Street] location and any other in downtown is Self-Help’s interest in development,” Moffitt says. “No other property owner offered us anything in terms of support.”
Durham Central Market’s cooperative model is similar to that of Weaver Street Market, which has members and investors. Anyone can shop at the market, but members, who pay a one-time fee of $100, have a stake in the business through voting rights, plus they receive product discounts. Investors can buy shares in the market, with rates of return up to 5 percent.
Durham Central Market will also have ties to Weaver Street’s commissary, which provides meat, seafood, poultry, baked goods and some prepared foods. “We’ll tap their baking expertise,” Moffitt says. “That’s considerable.”
The West End neighborhood is also economically diverse, ranging from restored historic homes on Burch Avenue to working-class apartments and small houses on west and south of the market.
It’s important not only to Moffitt but to Self-Help that the neighborhood economically benefit from the market.
However, the market’s prices will be higher than those at Food Lion, a supermarket chain with a store less than a mile away. “We want to provide affordable foods,” Moffitt says. “It’s difficult given the reality of food distribution. There are only a handful of food distributors, and they are designed to serve a large multi-store operations that buy their complete inventory from them. These distributors aren’t set up to buy 10 of this and two of those. Even in the natural foods world, there are only a couple of food distributors now.
“We can provide jobs and a gathering place,” Moffitt says. “And we’re working on food access and food for all.” Lisa Sorg
Learn more at www.durhamcentralmarket.org.
A food ‘Hood rises
Once home to desolate storefronts and a handful of struggling shops, the area that bridges the established Oakwood and Mordecai neighborhoods near downtown Raleigh transitioned during 2013 into the thriving business destination many always believed it would become.
It even attained its own destination name: North Person.
Several new businesses have opened in the low-key district in recent months, including a new Niall Hanley pubThe Station Bar, located in a former gas station on Person Streetin November. This week, assuming all permits are finalized, the long-awaited second location of Wine Authorities will open around the corner in the Person Street Plaza on East Franklin Street.
At least three additional openings are anticipated for early 2014, including the previously announced Person Street Neighborhood Bar at the plaza. John Holmes of Hobby Properties, which manages the plaza, confirms that a new restaurant will be announced in coming days.
The third new venture will be a “speakeasy cantina” set to debut in March on Person Street next to PieBird, which has enjoyed steady growth since it opened in 2011. The long-vacant location served as a pop-up ice cream shop for a few months during the summer.
“We had been looking at spaces in the neighborhood for a long time and we jumped when we learned this was available,” says Lily Ballance, who will operate the as-yet-unnamed bar with her husband, David Ballance. The Ballances signed the lease three weeks ago.
The couple was formerly involved with Calavera Empanadas and Tequila on South Blount Street near City Market. Since the new site is not large enough for a kitchen, Ballance plans to collaborate with PieBird owner Sheila Duncan to provide empanadas and other nibbles.
“I grew up in Mexico City and want to try to re-create the feel of the great neighborhood bars there,” says Ballance, who currently works at Five Star, an Asian restaurant in the warehouse district. North Person “is so cozy and great. The people are so friendly and supportive. There’s a buzz starting and we really feel like it’s the place to be.”
A decade ago, before he settled on Durham for the first Wine Authorities store, Craig Heffley considered launching his business in the North Person area.
“I have a friend who lives in Oakwood, and I always through it would be a great place for a wine store,” Heffley says. A year ago, when he was scouting locations for a second store, he drove by Person Street Plaza and saw a sign seeking tenants. “I stopped the car and called right away,” he says. “We’re thrilled that the emphasis is on small, independent operations that serve the community.”
Niall Hanley agrees. “Our goal is to cater to the neighbors,” says Hanley, who created a large patio at The Station with freestanding outdoor fireplaces to offer the neighborhood a communal living room. His chef, Scott Jankovictz, worked at the now-closed Market Restaurant. “I think you will see a scene being developed here that will be strongly controlled by the neighborhood, which is fine with us. That’s what builds longevity.”
At least one North Person start-up already has gained national attention. Slingshot Coffee, which sells hand-bottled, cold-brewed iced-coffee beverages, has gone from off-hours production in the former Market Restaurant location on Blount Street (now home to the very popular Stanbury restaurant) to its own space within Oak City Cycling on East Franklin. Its products have been singled out for praise by Southern Living and Imbibe magazines and included in upscale holiday gift guides promoted by Real Simple, Gear Patrol, Time Out New York and Provisions, the online retailer affiliated with Food52, a respected cooking resource.
After working around the clock for months, owner Jenny Bonchak finally gave notice at her day job last week.
“I’m still the only employee, althoughI do have some help with local deliveries and in-store tastings,” says Bonchak. “I will be going full-time in January and I couldn’t be more excited to take this next step.” Jill Warren Lucas
Studio and guitar shop, in one
In February, Brian Haran’s commute will get considerably shorter.
At least five times each week for the last year, he’s driven from Durhamwhere he and his wife, Renee, own a hometo the small Alamance County town of Graham. From a small storefront along the town’s central roundabout, he’s run both the guitar sales-and-repair shop Fret Sounds and a second side room venture, Pinebox Recording Studio. He’s been in that location since 2009. But on Feb. 1, he’ll reopen Fret Sounds on Durham’s Main Street, in the recently revived building that housed the Durham Sun nearly a century ago.
Haran will shift the regular hours to a shortened afternoon schedule and by appointment only, a move that will make it easier for him to make records in a separate studio whose location he’s still negotiating. In 2012, he produced new music by Nashville guitarist William Tyler, Durham songwriter Hiss Golden Messenger, folk heiress Alice Gerrard, Seattle multi-instrumentalist and Akron/Family instigator Miles Cooper Seaton and Greensboro garage rock gem Jonny Alright. It was a busy year, he notes, but he’s hoping that output will only increase with his move toward the Triangle, especially given Durham’s lack of stable studios relative to its number of bands. He’s even hoping to develop a mobile recording approach, so that he can work with groups in whatever space they find most conducive to their own creativity.
“My favorite thing as a producer is a songwriter who has a pile of ideas but doesn’t know what to do with them,” says Haran. “I like to hear the ideas and build the record from what they want from it.”
Haran, a veteran of area bands Filthybird and Ama Divers, is interested in integrating both the shop and the studio into the city itself. In advance of the big move, for instance, he’ll host three consecutive two-hour guitar tech workshops at The Pinhook to teach people, in part, how to do his job themselves.
“So many people come to me and say, ‘It just doesn’t play good,’” he says. “I want to break that barrier down. It’s really not that complicated.” Grayson Haver Currin
God rest ye Merry Gentrification
During the last decade, the cities, towns and communities of the Triangle have charted on more best-of lists than anyone aside from municipal officials up for re-election might care to collect: best place to work and best place to live, best place to be inventive and best place to be single, best place to hear music and, only last week, best place to own a home.
There is warranted concern, though, that these accolades help to shape a bubble that will one day burst. That is, when every downtown is full and every potentially cheap spot upgraded until the rent prohibits any risk, the superlative adjective that begins such lists might turn on itself.
These issues are already at our doorstep: In Durham, for instance, a promising new theater space just ran its last production in order to make way for a possible demolition crew. In Raleigh, some members of the residential haven Boylan Heights took their complaints that a community art gallery’s regular, low-impact street closings were disrupting the neighborhood to the City Council and the daily newspaper. Chapel Hill’s Franklin Street has survived the towering GreenBridge project, while Raleigh’s Hillsborough Street will soon lose an institutional music venue, Sadlack’s, to the construction of a big building associated with N.C. State for the second time in three years.
These concerns call upon questions of race, class, age and equality. They present differing visions for the future of the region and the meaning of home. And they are among the most pressing questions concerning the continued vitality and growth of the Triangle. In 2014, we’ll explore this topic in depth, especially in the relationship between growth and the creativity communities that, at least in part, have helped to power it. Grayson Haver Currin