Anger at the vape shop over new tobacco law

Plus: South Charlotte elementary schools discuss pairing; BJ's closing at Midtown; Truist logo analysis; No Super Bowl parlays as N.C. casino sports gambling is delayed

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Retailers confused as federal law restricted sales to those under 21 with no notice; Stunned 18- to 20-year-olds cursing clerks over e-cigarette rejections

Tobacco retailers in the Charlotte area were caught off guard late last month, when the federal Food and Drug Administration announced it would immediately start enforcing a law banning sales of tobacco to people under 21.

Although the law might be welcome news in the fight against underage smoking and vaping, retailers have had to scramble to retrain their clerks, update their sales software and order new signs telling customers about the switch. Adding to the confusion, the N.C. Department of Public Safety announced it would continue to enforce state law, which bans tobacco sales only to customers under 18.

“The FDA did not do good job of realizing what it took operationally to make this happen,” says Andy Ellen, president of the N.C. Retail Merchants Association. He said new regulations are typically phased in over 60 or 90 days, not six days and not on the day after Christmas: “It’s a really difficult week to put something in place with no notice.”

And if you think retailers were caught off-guard, well, so were those between the ages of 18 and 20 — who until three weeks ago had no problem walking in and buying Juuls or other forms of e-cigarettes.

Saif Salim, owner of Matthews Tobacco and Vape on Monroe Road, told The Ledger he figures the new ban is costing him $500 a day in sales. He thinks it’s ridiculous that former customers can own a gun, serve in the military and buy a house — but they can’t buy e-cigarettes.

Those customers usually take the news poorly: “They just get mad. They say, ‘F— this sh—’ and walk out of here.”

At Matthews Tobacco and Vape on Monroe Road, owner Saif Salim often encounters frustrated 18- to 20-year-olds who can no longer buy tobacco products. He says the new ban is costing him $500 a day in sales.

Matty Lambert, an employee at High Life Smoke Shop in Plaza-Midwood, told WBTV last week that young customers aren’t always understanding that they suddenly can’t buy tobacco products: “This store is wild. They’ve told me to ... words I can’t say. They’ve cursed at me, they’ve told me they’ll see me in hell.”

Overall, teen smoking of traditional cigarettes has fallen big time in recent years, although use of e-cigarettes seems to be increasing. About 12% of North Carolina high school students smoke and about 21% use e-cigarettes, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

Cigar use among youth is up, too:

(LSU quarterback Joe Burrow is 23 years old.)

Another pairing of CMS elementary schools? Providence Spring and McKee Road parents talk overcrowding

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools paired elementary schools last year as part of an effort to increase socioeconomic diversity. Now, they may be considering using the same strategy to relieve overcrowding.

Parents from McKee Road and Providence Spring elementaries in southeast Charlotte have been invited to a meeting Thursday to discuss ways to relieve Providence Spring overcrowding, including a possible merger.

With 966 students, Providence Spring is way overcapacity, with no room for more mobile classrooms. McKee Road has about 584 students and no trailers. A merger would combine the schools and distribute students across both campuses, with grades K-2 at one and grades 3-5 at another.

Pairing the schools would give CMS a way to temporarily relieve overcrowding without spending millions to build a new school and without redrawing boundaries, a move that is almost always fraught with emotion and anger. The schools are 1.6 miles apart, near Providence Road north of I-485.

CMS created similar pairings at Cotswold-Billingsville, Nathaniel Alexander-Morehead STEM and Dilworth-Sedgefield in 2018. While those mergers helped CMS achieve greater socioeconomic diversity, Providence Spring and McKee Road both have small numbers of economically disadvantaged students: 1.9% at McKee and 0% at Providence Spring, according to a 2018-2019 CMS report. Both schools also have top test scores, earning A’s on the most recent NC School Report Card.

Providence Spring PTA President Lauren Shouvlin said the PTA asked for the meeting because parents wanted a chance to give feedback after hearing about the idea. “We have a very distinct culture and learning environment that really works,” she said. “If kids have to adjust to a new school and culture after second grade, there is concern that will disrupt their learning.”

She acknowledged, however, that there isn’t an easy solution: “I’m at a loss of what they should do. We are hoping parents will show up at the meeting and have ideas.”

The meeting is Thursday at 6 p.m. at Providence Spring. — Michelle Crouch

5 other things Truist’s new logo resembles

Six months after unveiling the name “Truist” to tepid approval, the Charlotte bank formerly known as BB&T and SunTrust released its logo this week.

It’s a big moment when companies release a logo. They spent a bunch of money getting it right, because it’s the visual representation that customers will associate with the company for years.

You’ll recall that when it released the name “Truist” to a skeptical public, the bank was sued days later by Truliant Federal Credit Union, which said it had already staked a claim to the name of financial institutions starting with “T-R-U.” The case is ongoing.

Truist, in announcing the logo, called it a “bold new look and feel with a signature color and modern monogram logo.” The company’s chief digital officer said it “speaks to the importance of human touch and dynamic technology in delivering trusted solutions to our clients, and is a powerful depiction of our commitment to building the future of finance.” Indeed.

Now that we have a logo to work with, let’s try to stay ahead of the news by predicting just who might take offense:

1. Yahoo!

We all know that banks love to be thought of as tech companies — why not imitate the logo of one of the original tech giants?

2. Novant Health:

Not seeing it? Well, what if we take the Truist symbol and put it next to the hidden “H” or the two dots in the Novant Health logo (which has been rotated 90 degrees):


3. An EMV chip:

The EMV chip is the chip in your credit card that enhances its security. It connotes high-tech as well as keeping your personal information safe. EMV is owned by EMVCo., a consortium of payment networks including Visa and Mastercard.

4. Industrial & Commercial Bank of China:

The sixth-largest bank in the U.S., meet the logo of the largest bank in China. That would be a twist: a Chinese company accusing a U.S. company of appropriating intellectual property. (Hat tip: @jolesf on Twitter)

5. The estate of the artist formerly known as Prince:

Favors the color purple? Check.

Bold and innovative? Check.

Inscrutable symbol? Check.

Maybe Truist will come out OK and avoid getting sued over its new logo. We’ll see.

In any event, the new look seemed to get a better reception than the Truist name did in the summer, according to a wildly unscientific poll on Twitter:

Sprucing up Park Road’s iconic sign

Park Road Shopping Center is refurbishing its historic sign above Michaels on Woodlawn Road. The red sign with white script was unveiled at the shopping center’s opening in 1956: “Anchored by Colonial grocery store, the center offered shoppers a complimentary five pound bag of sugar on opening day while a drawing was held to win one of three brand new 1957 Fords.”

Today’s supporting sponsor is The Charlotte Ledger’s 40 Over 40 awards: Because mid-life doesn’t have to be a crisis. Nominate today.

In brief

  • Farewell to BJ’s: BJ’s Wholesale Club plans to close its only Charlotte location, at Midtown, by Feb. 1, according to a statement from the company: “We expect to close one club in Charlotte, N.C. and one in Geneva, NY by February 1, 2020. We are committed to supporting our Team Members through this transition. Team members will be eligible to apply for positions at other BJ’s locations and will be eligible for severance.” It also has stores in Pineville, Concord and Mooresville. (Spectrum News in New York)

  • Sports gambling delay: Harrah’s Cherokee Casino is hoping for a February opening for North Carolina’s first sports book. The state passed a law allowing the Eastern Bank of Cherokee Indians to add sports gambling to the tribe’s two casinos in Cherokee and Murphy. The company had hoped to open sports gambling by the end of football season, but it hit delays working out federal and state regulatory approvals. “It looks like we will be late into February at the earliest,” a spokesman told The Ledger.

  • BofA earnings: Bank of America’s 4Q profit fell 4%, to $7B, but beat analyst expectations. “In a steadily growing economy marked by solid client activity, our teammates produced another strong quarter and year,” CEO Brian Moynihan said. (CNBC)

  • UNCC goes big on data: UNC Charlotte is opening the state’s first school of data science this fall. The field is “a medley of computer science, statistics and an application to some real-life domain, [such as] healthcare, finance or the social sciences.” (Observer)

  • And UNCC tops in computer science: At a real estate conference last week, Charlotte assistant city manager Tracy Dodson said that UNC Charlotte led the UNC system with 748 students who completed computer science degrees in 2017-18. N.C. State had 673, UNC Chapel Hill had 344 and UNC Greensboro had 341. She was citing UNC system data. (Business North Carolina)

  • From Ballantyne to Plaza-Midwood: A boutique consignment store called Nouveaux has moved from Ballantyne Village to Plaza-Midwood, “a neighborhood with a very different vibe.” The “Louis Vuitton handbag offerings flew off shelves, faster than they had in Ballantyne.” (Observer)

  • Development growing: Beacon Partners could double the size of its LoSo Station development at Scaleybark and South Boulevard. The office and retail portions of the development by the light rail stop “could now total more than 1 million square feet.” Crescent Communities also said it is developing 344 apartments and retail in a six-story building at the site, to be called Novel LoSo Station (Biz Journal, subscriber-only)

  • Housing sales up, prices rise: The number of houses sold in the Charlotte area rose by 6% in 2019 compared with a year earlier. The median sales price rose 7%, to $255,000. The median sales price in Mecklenburg County was $270,000. (Observer)

  • Start-up cash: Charlotte start-ups raised more than $279M in 28 deals in 2019, nearly $200M more than in 2018. The bulk of the increase was led by AvidXchange, which raised $150M in the 4Q. (Charlotte Inno)

  • Wells profits plunge, changes ahead: Wells Fargo’s profits plunged 53% in the 4Q, as it took a $1.5B charge related to its scandal-related costs. CEO Charles Scharf said: “We made some terrible mistakes and haven’t effectively addressed our shortcomings.” He said the company would “roll out a new organizational structure.” (Wall Street Journal, subscriber-only)

  • New podcast: Former WCNC investigative reporter Stuart Watson is launching a new weekly podcast called ManListening that aims to explore the question: “What happens when one man stops talking and starts listening?” It features “stories of strong women who bounce back.” The first episode dropped last week.

Cheap getaways from CLT

  • Charlotte to Baltimore, $52 round-trip on Spirit (nonstop), various dates in January-February.

  • Charlotte to Montreal, $190 round-trip on United (one-stop), various dates in January-February.

  • Charlotte to Madrid, $570 round-trip on Delta (one-stop), various dates in February-May.

  • Charlotte to Newark, $52 round-trip on Spirit (nonstop), Feb. 7-10.

  • Charlotte to Las Vegas, $94 round-trip on American/Frontier (nonstop), Feb. 8-12.

  • Charlotte to Beijing, $392 round-trip on Air Canada (one-stop), March 8-14.

Source: Google Flights. Fares retrieved Wednesday morning. They might have changed by the time you read this.

The face, the heart, the soul of our defense.
January 15, 2020

Programming note: Ledger editor Tony Mecia appears as a guest on 90.7 WFAE at 6:40 a.m. and 8:40 a.m. on Thursdays for a discussion of the week’s local business news in the station’s “BizWorthy” segment. Audio and transcripts are also available online.

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The Charlotte Ledger is an e-newsletter and web site publishing timely, informative, and interesting local business news and analysis Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, except holidays and as noted. We strive for fairness and accuracy and will correct all known errors. The content reflects the independent editorial judgment of The Charlotte Ledger. Any advertising, paid marketing, or sponsored content will be clearly labeled.

The Charlotte Ledger is published by Tony Mecia, an award-winning former Charlotte Observer business reporter and editor. He lives in Charlotte with his wife and three children.