Blacklion's final roar (free version)
Plus: Wells Fargo gets strict on office attendance; Details on new CMS south Charlotte middle school; Nonprofit brings STEAM to girls; Davidson swimmers offer clever free throw distraction
Good morning! Today is Friday, February 3, 2023. You’re reading The Charlotte Ledger, an e-newsletter with local business-y news and insights for Charlotte, N.C.
The inside story on what led longtime Charlotte retailer Bob Emory to open the Blacklion home furnishings store, which became one of the city’s most beloved retail establishments, lasting 27 years. And we tell readers where Blacklion’s vendors are heading next. (Hint: They’re not going too far.)
News of an internal memo that Wells Fargo employees received this week mandating that they adhere to the policy that they report to the office at least three days a week — or face consequences.
The details of CMS plans to build a new middle school in south Charlotte, alongside a massive housing development with more than 900 new homes. We tell you where the school is going and fill you in on plans to change who goes to a nearby K-8 school.
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As Blacklion closes its final store, Bob Emory reflects on how he built and grew the shopping destination; 80% of vendors headed to new store at Carolina Place Mall
When Bob (shown) and Nita Emory were trying to come up with a name for their yet-to-open home furnishings store in 1995, they asked an Irish friend to list all the towns between his home and his mother’s home in Ireland. One town was called Blacklion — which the Emorys agreed would be perfect for their new business.
by Cristina Bolling
As customers streamed into the Blacklion last weekend for what would likely be their final trip to the 27-year-old Pineville home décor shopping institution, a guy with “Bob” on his nametag helped navigate carts through the door and strolled the aisles, answering radio calls to help load and unload items.
Customers smiled at him, and he smiled back. What they didn’t know was that he was Bob Emory, the man who had created the store, and who along with his ex-wife, Nita, built it in to a home retail brand that would become a destination shopping experience replicated across Charlotte and beyond.
Blacklion opened in 1996 as a new concept for the Charlotte market — an expansive space filled with stalls where individual retailers could sell new wares in a comfy, yet luxurious setting. It grew to have a big name and presence in Charlotte, and for years there were several Blacklions across the region and in cities from Atlanta to Boston.
The Pineville store, which closes for good on Sunday, was the first, and now, will go out as the last. Plans had called for it to close Jan. 31, but the final day was extended slightly to give shoppers a few more days to help vendors clear out inventory.
Emory sold the 5.3 acre Blacklion property and 68,000 s.f. building in May for $7.9M to real estate developer MPV Properties, which plans to transform it into a medical office complex. It sits directly across Park Road from the Atrium Health Pineville hospital, near the intersection with Pineville-Matthews Road.
About a mile away, plans are in the works to open a new business that will pick up where Blacklion is leaving off.
Southern Lion will open this summer in the former Sears store at Carolina Place Mall, and approximately 80% of Blacklion’s vendors are relocating there, along with Blacklion’s longtime manager, Maureen Rudolph.
At the helm of Southern Lion is owner and founder Sonja Nichols, a longtime Charlotte leader whose business and philanthropy experience include serving as president of civic groups the Women’s Impact Fund and Good Friends Charlotte and sitting on the current UNC system Board of Governors.
Last fall, Bob and Nita Emory’s daughter, Elisabeth, opened a new Blacklion store on Motor Row in Chicago — a store that’s a traditional type of home furnishings store and not one that includes vendor booths.
Last Saturday, Emory, 69, sat down with The Ledger for a look back at how Blacklion started, what he learned over the years and how he feels about approaching retirement.
Wells Fargo tells employees to come to the office 3 days a week or face ‘consequences’
Wells Fargo appears to be cracking down on employees who aren’t adhering to the company’s 3-day-a-week in-the-office requirement it put into place in March 2022.
An internal memo sent to corporate employees this week that was obtained by The Ledger notified workers that their attendance in the office is being tracked and that they could face disciplinary action if they violate the policy.
The memo, written by human resources director Bei Ling and chief operating officer Scott Powell, said that it wanted to “reiterate the company’s in-office expectation and the consequences for non-adherence.” It said that it expected employees in the office 3 days a week but that if employees needed occasional flexibility, they should talk to their manager. It continued:
Related Ledger article:
Plans revealed for new CMS middle school alongside new massive housing development in south Charlotte
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools officials have been saying for months that they had identified land in south Charlotte to build a new middle school, and this week, those plans became clear.
In the flurry of rezoning petitions earlier this week, CMS and developer Childress Klein disclosed plans to build a “mixed-use residential community with large walkable open space” in the Rea Farms area off Providence Road that would include a new CMS middle school as well as 682 apartments, 211 townhomes and 24 single-family houses.
The development would be built on mostly vacant land along Tom Short Road with access from Golf Links Drive west of Providence Road.
Plans for the new school show that CMS plans to build a 3-story building, a track, a baseball field and a softball field.
Who will go there? CMS has
Charity Spotlight: Charlotte non-profit provides STEAM experiences for girls in underserved communities across 26 states
One of the ways Project Scientist builds STEAM confidence in young girls is by leading them through hands-on activities created by Project Scientist and an advisory board made up of women professionals in various STEAM careers. (Photo courtesy of Project Scientist)
Since 2011, Project Scientist has been on a mission to open young girls' minds to who and what a scientist can be.
Project Scientist, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded in Charlotte, builds confidence in girls ages 4 to 18 by providing experiences and education in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) to grow their skills and leadership abilities.
STEAM fields like engineering, computer science, technology and architecture have limited female representation, said Shana Benford, who serves as the chief program and impact officer and head of DEIB (diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging).
Over the past 10 years, Project Scientist has grown from six students in Charlotte to over 20,000 students across 26 states. About 85% of these students live in marginalized and underserved communities that have limited opportunities for girls to build STEAM confidence.
“They are the next architect, the next engineer, so we’re really helping them to feel confident in their own STEAM abilities and know that they have a place in STEAM careers,” said Jacki Lane, who lives in Charlotte and serves as Project Scientist’s program manager.
Project Scientist offers 4-week sessions throughout the fall and spring that are both virtual and in-person, depending on the location. The organization also has a 6-week summer STEM club and a scholars program, which connects the students to “superstar” career professionals and past college-aged participants who return as volunteers called “rising stars.”
The curriculum is created with the help of Project Scientist’s scientific advisory board, which is a group of women in various STEM careers and leadership roles. Each session includes different hands-on activities revolving around a theme.
This spring, the four themes are microbiology, geology, sustainability and climate change. Activities include swabbing surfaces to grow and kill germs, learning about plate tectonics and building earthquake-proof building models.
Programs in Charlotte: Project Scientist currently has 45 girls enrolled in three after-school programs with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Libraries at the Allegra Westbrooks, Independence and Sugar Creek locations. Girls meet at one of the locations and are led through an activity over Zoom with a trained Project Scientist teacher with the help of an in-person facilitator.
Devonshire Elementary in Charlotte has an in-person program in Spanish with 22 students, Hidden Valley Elementary has an in-person program with 17 students, and last fall, Charlotte Bilingual Preschool offered programs.
One session costs about $500 per girl, Benford said, but Project Scientist ensures that money is not a barrier.
The non-profit works with funding partners like Trane Technologies in Davidson and Lowe’s in uptown, which host programs at their offices or donate funds to cover the cost for girls to attend. Duke Energy Innovation Center at Optimist Hall has invited students for a field trip to learn about the future of innovation.
“The most important piece is just that they're enjoying science,” Lane said. “We're not in school, so we're not going to test you on the vocabulary at the end of it. It's just a time to use your critical thinking and creative problem solving and enjoy diving into science with girls that share the same passions and interests.” —LB
Have you nominated someone for a Charlotte Ledger 40 Over 40 award? If not, what are you waiting for?
Who’s the most inspiring 40+ person you know? Well, take that name, and put them in the running for one of Charlotte’s top community awards — the Charlotte Ledger 40 Over 40 Awards, presented by U.S. Bank.
The nomination process is free, easy and open to anyone. Torn on who to nominate? You can put multiple people up for the honor! And mark your calendars: We’re planning an energetic in-person ’80s-themed party on April 27, 2023, at the Charlotte Museum of History to celebrate the winners.
Nominations close at midnight on Feb. 10, so get your nomination in today!
You might be interested in these Charlotte events
Events submitted by readers to The Ledger’s events board:
SATURDAY: Super Saturday at ImaginOn: The Joe & Joan Martin Center, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. at ImaginOn: The Joe & Joan Martin Center, 301 E. 7th St. Once a month, Children’s Theatre of Charlotte and the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library celebrate their partnership by offering a free Super Saturday to their patrons. In addition to regular activities, please join the library for a 10:30 a.m. family storytime and 2 p.m. Story Explorers program themed around Allie Kazan and the Magic Mansion and join the theatre for special backstage tour between shows. (Sign-up on sight, 30 minutes before tour-time.) Themed crafts are also provided, while supplies last.
SATURDAY, FEB. 11: Women Mean Business: An Entrepreneur Empowerment Series: Black History Month Edition, sponsored by the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, 11 a.m.-12 p.m. on Zoom. Are you a female entrepreneur, a woman interested in turning a passion into a lucrative income, or interested in ways to level up your business? Meet and learn from top women business owners in Charlotte and experts in the business industry helping women succeed in business. Gain expert advice, tips, and resources to take your business to the next level. This series is for all women business owners eager to expand their businesses, women interested in starting a business, and career-driven women looking to improve their skillset before entirely leaping into entrepreneurship. Registration is required by 10 a.m. on Fri., Feb. 10. Details here.
Workplace deaths rise: The number of workplace deaths in North Carolina rose 28% in 2022, to 63. Construction workers accounted for ⅓ of the fatalities, mostly from falls. (Business North Carolina)
Beyoncé concert: Beyoncé announced a tour that includes a stop at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte on Aug. 9. To have a shot at a ticket for the Charlotte concert, buyers should register for “Verified Fan” status through Live Nation or through Citi, Verizon or the singer’s fan club by Feb. 16. (Today)
New Carowinds section takes shape: Carowinds’ new flight-themed Aeronautica Landing section of the park is set to open in mid-spring with five new “family-friendly” rides plus bumper cars. It will also have a craft beer bar with a patio. The new section replaces the Crossroads area and is between the Afterburn and Copperhead Strike roller coasters. (Biz Journal, subscriber-only)
Charges against synagogue leader: The former president of Charlotte’s Temple Beth El, the state’s largest synagogue, is facing six charges of sexual exploitation of a minor, according to arrest warrants. The warrants say Evan Roy Wilkoff possessed and distributed videos depicting children engaged in sex acts. (Observer)
RIP groundhog prognosticator: Discovery Place Nature says it has no plans to replace Queen Charlotte, the city’s long-standing groundhog weather predictor who attempted to see her shadow every Feb. 2 since 2015. She died last summer. “We do not have plans for anointing a new Queen Charlotte,” a museum spokeswoman said. (Observer)
Objections to express buses: Some parents say they worry about a move by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to switch to express bus stops for magnet school students, because they say the plan will reduce diversity within the schools and force working and poorer families to pull out of magnets. CMS says it will reduce ride times and costs. (Observer, subscriber-only)
School bill moves forward: A bill that would limit discussions of sexuality in elementary school classrooms and give parents a greater ability to review instructional materials is advancing in the N.C. General Assembly. Republicans say it enhances parents’ rights while Democrats say it would place a burden on schools and be harmful to LGBTQ students. The bill passed an N.C. Senate education committee on Wednesday. (News & Observer)
Loves me some internet: Davidson Speedos
Seven members of Davidson College’s men’s swim team, wearing only their black Speedos to the college’s home game against Virginia Commonwealth University on Tuesday, gyrated their hips to distract opposing players shooting free throws:
Programming note: Ledger managing editor Cristina Bolling appears as a guest on “Off the Record” on WTVI/PBS Charlotte tonight at 8 p.m. You can watch online here.
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Executive editor: Tony Mecia; Managing editor: Cristina Bolling; Staff writer: Lindsey Banks; Contributing editor: Tim Whitmire, CXN Advisory; Contributing photographer/videographer: Kevin Young, The 5 and 2 Project