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Planning for growth and stability at Johnson & Wales
Plus: Statewide newspaper buys Observer's printing presses; New park in SouthPark; Remembering Charlotte FC player Anton Walkes; NYT looks at Charlotte's investor-owned housing
Today's Charlotte Ledger is sponsored by T.R. Lawing Realty:
Q&A: Richard Mathieu aims to bring leadership stability and innovation to Johnson & Wales’ Charlotte campus with new nursing and wellness programs; ‘we’re going to continue to build on our strength in food’
Richard Mathieu was no stranger to Charlotte’s higher education scene when he was named president of Johnson & Wales University’s Charlotte campus last December, having come from Queens University’s McColl School of Business where he had served for 8 years as dean.
At Johnson & Wales, Mathieu was stepping into a role that had been something of a revolving door in the previous decade, with five presidents serving in the span of seven years and enrollment declining. Johnson & Wales’ flagship campus is in Providence, R.I.
Johnson & Wales’ Charlotte campus began 20 years ago as an effort to put Charlotte on the map as a Southern food town, and Mathieu says the coming years are envisioned to be ones of growth, with the university building on its food and hospitality roots while launching a new nursing program and bringing new wellness and health curriculum to the school.
Mathieu (pronounced Matthew) sat down with Ledger managing editor Cristina Bolling to talk about his vision for Johnson & Wales Charlotte, how the campus is positioning itself to grow in the face of declining enrollments at many small universities nationwide, and whether he’s become more of a foodie since taking the job.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity, but we invite you to listen to the full interview on the Charlotte Ledger podcast: 🎧
Q. What does Johnson & Wales look like right now, in terms of its size, and what its focuses are?
The first and foremost thing to understand about Johnson & Wales is that it’s a comprehensive university with over 8,000 students on two campuses. This campus here in Charlotte has about 1,200 traditional undergraduates. It’s important to know that they are part of a much larger university system with over 125,000 alums throughout the world.
We were recruited to come to Charlotte 20 years ago to help build the culinary arts, to build the hospitality that we see here in Charlotte today, and I think we see lots of evidence that that indeed has taken place. If we look towards the future, we will continue to build off of the culinary arts.
That’s really at the heart of where we’re going to be going in the future — we’re going to continue to build on our strength in food. But we’re going to be launching a nursing program [which is in the final stages of approval from the state of North Carolina]. When we talk about nursing, there’s going to be a nutritional aspect, a food aspect to the program that’ll be a little bit different than others. You’ll see this campus, and Johnson & Wales overall, continue to build off of those — off of food and hospitality and more integrated into the whole holistic health and wellness of people.
Q. Enrollment has declined at Johnson & Wales in recent years, from the 2,000s to the 1,000s. Is the nursing program designed to boost it back up?
Covid hit everyone hard, and I think in particular, for many private institutions, it was a time to reflect and adjust. My whole career has been about growth. I believe that if we offer the right programs and with the right outcomes — and by that, not just helping students get a job, but helping them be launched into careers where they will very quickly move into leadership and management roles — word of mouth spreads and we’ll see growth.
Q. To switch gears, there’s been a lot of leadership change here. The president’s seat has been filled by several different individuals in recent years. What is it like to come into a role where there has been a lot of change?
What I can tell you is that stability is important. I plan to be here to lead us through the next 10 years. What drew me to this is the strong leadership that we have on this campus and in Providence — but I start with this campus. Even though the president may have rotated, we have people like Mark Norman, who is our chief of operations, and Trudi Lacey, who was our athletic director, and Bryan Hull is in charge of campus safety and security. These are people who’ve been here for a long time and really have kept this campus strong and growing.
And then our leadership in Providence — we are one university, and we have strong leadership in our chancellor’s office. We have a strong financial model for the campus, and so all is looking good for stability and growth.
Q. When Johnson and Wales first came to Charlotte, there was a lot of excitement about what it would do for the culinary scene in Charlotte, and you saw restaurants popping up and chefs who were grown here. In terms of what you see as the focus, would you say the primary focus is still food here?
Well, let me begin by saying that the most rewarding part of my job right now is when my wife and I go out and eat, and if I just tell the waiter or waitress that I’m from Johnson & Wales, there is someone in that kitchen, and maybe the owner, that’s from Johnson & Wales. It’s obvious that we have permeated the Charlotte culinary scene.
You want to build off your strength, but we also are known for more than just that. We have a strong business program. In the spring, we had a career fair on campus. We had 92 companies in our gymnasium here on campus, hiring our students. They understand the work ethic of our students, and we’re very proud of that. We prepare our students to work, so they have a strong work ethic and strong skills in their field.
Q. Have you become more of a foodie since you’ve been at Johnson & Wales?
Probably the biggest learning curve I’ve had is learning the whole foodie world and also the intersection with health and wellness and nutrition. That’s been an exciting and fun part of the job.
Related Ledger links:
“Johnson & Wales taps Queens University business school dean as its new president” (Dec. 7, 2022, 🔒)
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How local stocks of note fared last week (through Friday’s close), and year to date:
Start the presses: Upstart statewide newspaper buys The Charlotte Observer’s printing facility, says there’s a future in printed material ‘that people want to read’
The conventional wisdom in media is that print publications are in decline, as more people get news on their phones.
But that’s not the way the North State Journal sees it. The statewide newspaper, often described as having a conservative bent, signaled its confidence in the future of print by buying The Charlotte Observer’s printing facility from the Observer’s parent company, McClatchy Co., in a deal announced last week.
North State said that the facility, located off W.T. Harris Boulevard in University City, will continue printing regional and national newspapers, which could mean that the Observer and the Wall Street Journal will continue being printed there. The company didn’t give specifics, and it didn’t provide a purchase price, either.
In an interview with The Ledger last week, North State Journal’s editor-in-chief, Matt Mercer, said that contrary to popular belief, there are print publications that are growing — which makes buying a printing facility in 2023 a wise move.
“Quality publications that still have demand will continue to be in need,” he said. “That physical copy is something that people still like to have. But you have to have the right mix of content and everything else that people want to read.”
He says North State Journal, founded in 2016, is “adding subscribers every week,” has subscribers in all 100 N.C. counties and has a goal of getting to 10,000 subscribers next year. It mails out the print newspaper weekly, with local supplements in a half-dozen communities. The stated price is $50 a year.
Mercer says North State Journal is a “fact-based publication” with a goal of “bringing the news from Murphy to Manteo.” Asked about the paper’s political leanings, he says the opinion pages are “different than what you read in the News & Observer and Charlotte Observer.”
“Our goal is to get people in the state informed and to learn something, and to talk to one another,” he said. “Competition is a good thing. We hope to bring that to every county and to tell the stories about different places in the state.”
The publication has a newsroom of 16, mostly based in the Triangle. The Charlotte printing facility has about 30 employees. It was built by The Wall Street Journal in 1982 and bought by McClatchy in 2013. Land records show North State Journal’s parent company bought the property for $4.65M in November 2022. The company said the deal to buy the plant’s assets closed this month. —TM
Sharon Towers puts a new park in SouthPark
Anne O. Moffat Park sits on a half-acre site at the corner of Sharon Road and Hazelton Drive in SouthPark. (Photo courtesy of Sharon Towers)
A new park is opening in the SouthPark neighborhood this weekend, owned and maintained by the Sharon Towers retirement community. Anne O. Moffat Park will be the first new green space in SouthPark since 2002, said Ann Marie Ladis, sales and marketing director at Sharon Towers.
The half-acre park, which sits at the corner of Sharon Road and Hazelton Drive (between Fairview and Sharon View roads), includes paved walkways, benches, a fountain centerpiece and a sidewalk mural painted by local artist Laurie Smithwick — all open to the public. It’s the first phase of Sharon Towers’ revitalization project.
“The major purpose of the park is to make sure that Sharon Towers is part of the greater community and not just insulated by itself,” Ladis said. “It was an opportunity to marry the greater community with the individual community of Sharon Towers and to have more of an integration with the [SouthPark] neighborhood as a whole.”
Sharon Towers worked closely with representatives from SouthPark Association of Neighborhoods (SPAN) to design the park in order to contribute something meaningful to the area, Ladis said. Sharon Towers also collaborated with ArtPop Street Gallery and muralist Laurie Smithwick, and used grants from the City of Charlotte Urban Design Center.
“It just is so important to make sure that with all the density that’s being built in the area, that there's some dedicated green space that's available for multi-generations in SouthPark,” Ladis said.
Anne O. Moffat Park was named for a former CEO of Sharon Towers who retired in 2021 after 25 years with the retirement community. Sharon Towers plans to host a grand opening event on Saturday from 9 to 11 a.m. —LB
In case you missed it: Nearly eight months after Charlotte FC defender Anton Walkes was killed in a boating accident, his longtime girlfriend recounts the tragedy and how she and their daughter are coping
From The Ledger’s Fútbol Friday newsletter, writer Carroll Walton caught up with Alexis Sims, who agreed to discuss the terrible day in January when she learned that her longtime boyfriend — Charlotte FC player Anton Walkes — was seriously injured in a boating accident in Miami.
She told us how her life has changed since his death, how she is adjusting and moving forward — and how their 5-year-old daughter is doing.
It’s a gut-wrenching and emotional read but worthy of your time:
You might be interested in these Charlotte events: Potters Market at the Mint, volunteering at Camp Blue Skies
Events submitted by readers to The Ledger’s events board:
SATURDAY: Potters Market at the Mint, 9:15 a.m. - 4 p.m., Mint Museum Randolph. Stock up on pottery from North Carolina’s top ceramic artists at Potters Market at the Mint. Come see high-quality ceramic work, meet the makers, and enjoy live music, pottery demos, a beer garden, and concessions on the lawn of Mint Museum Randolph. $20.
OCT. 7-11: Adult counselors and volunteers for Camp Blue Skies, 9 a.m. - 9 p.m., YMCA Camp Harrison, Boomer, N.C. Camp Blue Skies creates fun-filled, memorable experiences for adults with mild to moderate developmental disabilities. Cabin counselors & day volunteers are needed Oct. 7-11 at YMCA Camp Harrison (90 miles from Charlotte). Training provided. Smiles guaranteed.
Home sales fall: The number of new listings of Mecklenburg homes fell 18% in August, compared with a year earlier, and the median sales price rose 1.4%, to $430,000. The number of closings fell 20%. It’s a continuation of trends of the last few months, with tighter supplies and fewer people moving. (Canopy Realtor Association)
Belk thanks Charlotte with flowers: Belk made two flower walls inside its SouthPark Mall store on Saturday to mark the company’s 135th anniversary of its founding in Charlotte. More than 1,500 bouquets were free for customers to take. (WSOC)
CMS town halls: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is holding five town hall meetings starting Tuesday with Superintendent Crystal Hill. The sessions are at Harding, West Charlotte, North Mecklenburg, East Mecklenburg and South Mecklenburg. Details and sign-up here.
More details coming on Elon law school? Elon University might reveal more of its plans for a law school campus in Charlotte on Tuesday, with a planned news conference to announce the opening of its new “Elon in Charlotte Regional Center” on Tremont Avenue in South End. Elon launched a new sports internship program in Charlotte just a few weeks ago. (Elon News Network)
Ice sales are hot: Sales at Charlotte ice company the Ice Trade have risen by 30%-40% in the last year, as the business taps into the growing market for craft cocktails. (Axios Charlotte)
State budget vote expected: The N.C. House is expected to vote on a state budget this week, as well as on a separate bill allowing four casinos in rural areas and expanding Medicaid. (News & Observer)
Chipotle decision: The Charlotte City Council is expected to approve a rezoning that would allow a Chipotle on a prominent corner on Park Road, at the intersection with East Woodlawn Road.
Investor-owned housing: Following a series of articles in recent years by other publications, The New York Times on Saturday examined purchases of starter homes in Charlotte by investors. The article looked into the Bradfield Farms neighborhood in east Charlotte, near I-485 and Albemarle Road, and found that half of the home sales in 2021 and 2022 went to large investors. “Bradfield Farms, a community of about 1,000 houses on the outskirts of Charlotte, is no longer a place where a young, middle-income couple can easily buy a modest house for less than $200,000. Just a few years ago, it was,” the Times said. More recent figures show investor purchases of homes have cooled. (New York Times, subscriber-only)
County manager wedding photos: Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio was married this weekend to fellow Charlotte Rotary member Phil Volponi. “Never seen a bride radiate such happiness,” bridesmaid Colleen Brannan wrote on Instagram (with 4 photos)
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Executive editor: Tony Mecia; Managing editor: Cristina Bolling; Staff writer: Lindsey Banks; Business manager: Brie Chrisman, BC Creative