Monday, July 31, 2006

Bargain furniture shopping recommendations

Readers have several suggestions on good places to find furniture bargains in the Charlotte area.

In response to Sunday’s column on the subject, here are some highlights:

--Two people called to say downtown Pineville is great for antiquing and has more stores than the other spot I mentioned, downtown Waxhaw.

--A reader from Mint Hill called to give a shout-out to Consignment 1st, which has several locations around the region. The inventory shifts almost daily, with new furniture and housewares rotating in. “That is my favorite store. If I was just starting out, I’d go there first,” she said.

I can also attest from personal experience that it’s a convenient place to sell your own furniture on consignment.

-- Chris Caesar of southeast Charlotte wrote to share other consignment store recommendations: “I have a wonderful interior decorator who... guided me to several consignment stores including The Classic Attic and the Pompous Peasant (behind Park Road Shopping Center) when I was looking for good quality, less expensive furniture. He also recommended Antique Kingdom on Central Ave., near Kings Drive. These stores are wonderful for anyone looking for quality at a bargain or anyone who likes to shop.”

Thursday, July 27, 2006

More great local food

Here’s another tip about local dining from Bill Norton, who works at local public relations/advertising firm Corder Philips Wilson:

“After living here for three years and hearing repeated accolades about the Penguin (1921 Commonwealth Ave. 704-375-6959), I finally got there with the family for lunch last Sunday. The intimacy and character of the place were great, and the burgers were fantastic. A full house and very diverse crowd, too.

Funny thing I noticed – they didn't bother asking how I wanted the burger cooked. You can't get a medium-pink burger any more in these days of e-coli paranoia, but somehow their burgers (which weren't pink either) still come out with plenty of flavor, a lesson that a lot more expensive restaurants could learn.”

Norton has a colleague who also recommends burger joint South 21 – find it at 3101 E. Independence Blvd., 3631 South Blvd., 6116 Brookshire Blvd. and 6920 N. Tryon St., all in Charlotte.

I’m still on the hunt for recommendations outside Mecklenburg if you’ve got any.


Here are two from way outside Mecklenburg I’ll be spotlighting in my column on Saturday. They recently made it onto the “Great American Food Tour” compiled by (affiliated with Conde Nast Traveler) – and might be worth squeezing in on a road trip.

In the Palmetto state, the tour highlights the Old Post Office restaurant on Edisto, a 54-square-mile island southwest of Charleston. “Grits come with every meal, but our favorite is as an accompaniment to spicy grilled shrimp and frothy mousseline, a hollandaise sauce with whipped egg whites,” the site says.

And in the Tar Heel state, the tour praises ham biscuits from Sonny’s Grill, a beloved spot in Blowing Rock, a mountain town 90 miles from Charlotte. “In this three-table, eight-stool eatery you will find one of the most delicious quick bites of the South,” says the Concierge site.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Restaurants with local flavor

Want to eat at a place with lots of local character? Start at Pike's Old Fashioned Soda Shop at 1930 Camden Road in Charlotte's South End.

It has an old-fashioned soda fountain, thick milkshakes, and yummy grilled pimento cheese sandwiches (get one on whole wheat to appease your guilt). It was featured in the 2001 movie "Shallow Hal," which the Farrelly brothers filmed in Charlotte with Gwyneth Paltrow and Jack Black.

It's just down the street from another local treasure, Price's Chicken Coop (1614 Camden Road), where you pull up to buy the best fried chicken in town, served in a cardboard box.

For more restaurant suggestions around the region from our Living Here magazine, click here. Or, you can check out restaurant writer Helen Schwab's dining guide in our Friday E&T section. We're in the process of compiling a new restaurant list for the 2006-7 Living Here, which publishes Sept. 24 (it'll be included in newspapers that day, and you can click here if you want to pre-order a pile of extra copies for a business or club). If you have recommendations of other favorite local eateries, e-mail me.

Monday, July 24, 2006

More tips for getting settled

More thoughts from readers on how to find a hairdresser - and more - when you’re new to town:

Reader Linda Allen, a seven-year Charlotte resident, e-mailed with a good tip: If you see someone with a hairstyle you like, you could always ask her where she got it done.

“After many years of long hair and finally thinking I would cut it, I have asked strangers who I think have great haircuts where they get their hair cut. One day I asked a woman and she said 'France.' We both laughed. She did have a very natural-looking haircut, but I know I will not be going to France any day soon!”

Deborah e-mailed to point out that many of the local Web sites my previous column mentioned are aimed at people with young children. “Are there any groups in the area for newcomers who are older – or without children?” she asked.

Yes – if you’re looking for general newcomer resources, you can go to and select for the N.C./Charlotte region. There, you’ll find a listing of newcomers clubs, many of which are not age-specific (and one specifically mentions empty nesters).

Friday, July 21, 2006

Finding a hairdresser - and more - when you're new to town

Here’s a question several newcomers have asked: How do you find a hairdresser when you move here?

We women know we’re not just looking for someone who can make our hair look good. We also need someone we’ll enjoy talking with while they snip and style. It’s sometimes elusive - I have a friend who’s been commuting to Winston-Salem for a year to see her old stylist.

It’s hard to ask around when you don’t know many people. And you’re often looking for more than just a hairdresser, like Sibylle Moggi, who e-mailed after moving to Charlotte from New York: “I don’t know anybody well enough to ask their opinions on where can I find a good gynecologist, dermatologist, spa, hair cutter, and I won’t even go to a pedicure place ‘off the streets.’”

Hints from my colleague Emily Benton of’s Girl About Town blog:

--AngiesList ( and can search for local services.

--Google your neighborhood’s name and see if your homeowner’s association (or one nearby) has a message board.

--For gynecological/medical advice, try,,

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A networking tip for young adults

Young adults looking for a way to network in the Charlotte region might want to consider the Jaycees - especially if you're a recent arrival.

I dropped by the membership meeting of the Charlotte chapter Tuesday night to meet newcomers and caught the guest speaker, an attorney who gave advice on preparing wills – something the 21-to-40-aged group had clearly not yet thought much about, given their avid note-taking.

They were a small group (I was told attendance was unusually low, not surprising considering midsummer vacation season), but also highly active. Listing their upcoming activities took a good 20 minutes – they talked of family night at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, Center City Alive After Five, and a scavenger hunt and dine-in dinner parties to raise money for charity.

The name stands for “Junior Chamber of Commerce,” and the group focuses on leadership training, community service and socializing. The Charlotte chapter is 75 years old (there are also chapters in Gastonia, Hickory, Lake Norman and Monroe). The group’s creed mentions faith in God, economic justice and service to humanity, among other principles. More info:

Monday, July 17, 2006

Quick lesson on Rosenwald schools

From the 1910s to the 1930s, more than 5,300 schools for African Americans were built across the South, and about 800 of them are in North Carolina – more than any other state.

Their history brought a packed house to the Levine Museum of the New South on Sunday. Speakers included Peter Ascoli, grandson of Julius Rosenwald, the philanthropist who launched the partnerships that built the schools; George Wallace and Herm Zeigler, who collaborated on the renovation of the Billingsville Rosenwald School, which is now in use as a community center in the Grier Heights neighborhood; and novelist Dori Sanders (“Clover”), whose father was a principal at a Rosenwald School near Rock Hill.

“My formal education is spotty,” Sanders told the crowd, “but thanks to a man by the name of Julius Rosenwald, my reading is deep.”

Sanders lives on a peach farm in South Carolina, and brought bags of peaches to sell at the museum - the crowd eagerly snapped them up.

For more on the history of the schools and to find the locations for schools in the Charlotte region, see and

Friday, July 14, 2006

Fun local shopping spots

Locally-owned stores are too rare in the region, but there are plenty of treasures if you’re willing to look.

One of the best spots within Charlotte to do that is on East Boulevard, where you’ll see unique restaurants and stores including children’s shop Looby Loo, perennial favorite gift shop Paper Skyscraper, and colorful jewelry-and-art spot Maddi’s Gallery.

This week I stopped by to check out newcomer Sticki Rice, at 1222 East Boulevard. Owner Amy Jenkins has lived and traveled around Asia and has assembled room after room of Asian-inspired furnishings, decor and gifts. I picked up a yummy-smelling lime-papaya scented candle.

Other good places to find unique stores around the region include downtown Mooresville, the antique shops of Waxhaw, and the Plaza-Midwood neighborhood. That’s not a comprehensive list – email me with your favorite spots.


Here’s an easy way to do some good: Show up at Dixie’s Tavern on Seventh Street in uptown on July 22. A new charity called Guys with Ties is organizing a concert to raise money for Misty Meadows Mitey Riders, which provides therapeutic horseback riding to children with mental and physical impairments. The headliner is Dave Matthews Band tribute group Two Step. Tickets are $10 in advance, $20 at the door, available at

As for those guys with ties, they’re businessmen with the goal of benefiting small charities that need help pulling off big events. To join or help with this or other events: e-mail

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Food suggestions

In response to a somewhat food-centric column this week, readers have offered some mouthwatering responses.

Monday, I wrote about how a New York transplant recommended Katz New York, across from the Arboretum shopping center, as a good place for authentic deli food. (There must be a lot of deli fans out there, since owner Lee Katz called to report a boost in business the day it ran).

Reader Mike Gonzalez of north Charlotte added his own suggestion: “You need not go any further than Benny's NY Deli at Weddington Plantation Market. You won't believe the size of the triple-decker sandwiches, colossal burgers, the desserts (Cheesecake, of course, Boston Creme Pie, Red Velvet Cake, etc.), the pancakes (as big as Frisbees), and the omelettes (6 eggs) among other things. Darn, I'm getting hungry. Later.”

That made me hungry too. I haven’t had a chance to check the place out personally, but I can tell you it’s at 3036 Weddington Road in Matthews across from the Siskey YMCA, 704-814-0414.

Got any more deli suggestions? Please e-mail me.

I also wrote about watermelons, which have spawned a lot of treasured Southern traditions. Gloria Sadler, 78, of Cornelius called to let me know her family of seven used to have watermelon fights and seed-spitting contests. Her husband’s father raised watermelons in a patch off Tuckaseegee Road in Charlotte and sold them from a wagon in uptown.

And another called to let me know that the practice of church-sponsored watermelon cuttings hasn’t died, even though no church has publicized one in the Observer since 1993. Craig Avenue Tabernacle ARP Church, at 3936 Craig Ave., is having one this Sunday.

And, of course, watermelon fans shouldn’t forget the Pageland, S.C. Watermelon Festival, which runs July 21-23 in the town 40 miles from Charlotte – it comes with a parade, bands, merchandise and more. See

Monday, July 10, 2006

New Charlotte, Old Charlotte

This past weekend was a great time to learn about both new Charlotte and old Charlotte.

Saturday was the meeting of the Ballantyne Breakfast Club, a forum that meets in the south Charlotte community every two months. I went to meet newcomers – and there were plenty of great ones in attendance. I also got the opportunity to hear a lot of south Charlotte parents vent their frustration to new Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools superintendent Peter Gorman about school overcrowding and assignment issues.

Sunday, historian Tom Hanchett of the Levine Museum of the New South gave a presentation on the history of Myers Park to a packed room of more than 75 people in the Duke Mansion – a gratifying turnout on a summer weekend afternoon. “Who says that history is dead in Charlotte?” said organizer Pat Martin.

There, attendees highlighted the tension between the careful planning that made Myers Park the beautiful tree-lined neighborhood it is today and the infill housing that threatens to disrupt it.

Both events raised issues that newcomers can influence and play a role in solving.

I’d like to get outside Mecklenburg more often to hear about newcomers’ impact on, or impressions of, surrounding communities. Know of an event I should visit? Please e-mail me.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Confusing roads: a follow-up

In just a few weeks into my new job writing about newcomers, by far the most common topic newcomers have raised is Charlotte's changing road names.

Here's a sampling of some of the trouble spots readers mentioned in respons to last weekend's column about them:

--Billy Graham Parkway to Woodlawn to Runnymede. “The name changes were so confusing for my parents, they promptly became lost.” Karen Belciglio, south Charlotte

--Old Lancaster Highway to South Polk to North Polk to South Boulevard. “What on earth could be the reason for so many changes?” Deborah Moore Clark, Ballantyne

--Reames Road to W.T. Harris Boulevard. “I feel sorry for those who don’t regularly travel in Charlotte. This is a most confusing place.” Robert Cuminale, south Charlotte

--South Tryon Street, York Road, and Highway 49 South. “I never can remember which of the three names is on the street signs at intersections.” Susan Saunders, southwest Charlotte

A quick reminder: The column runs Saturdays in New Home, Sundays in Arts and Living, and Mondays in the Your Week section. If you have any ideas for items, send them my way!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Hands-on Activity: Follow-up

Apparently, a fair number of people who are looking for a way to get involved took my suggestion of signing up for Hands on Charlotte.

The nonprofit's executive director, Bob Young, contacted me to tell me that 56 people signed up for the group last week following the column we ran about the organization - the same number as in a typical month. And, he added, summer is usually the slow season.

To recap, those who join the group attend a brief orientation, and then they can sign up to help a range of charities at whatever time window is convenient by using the group's Web site,

As it happens, I participated in my second Hands on Charlotte volunteer event on Saturday, sprucing up the landscaping in front of the Hospitality House near Presbyterian Hospital. The facility provides lodging for families of patients at the hospital.

Attention, smokers: If you've ever tossed a butt out of your window while driving along Hawthorne Lane, odds are good I'm the one who picked it up during Saturday's duties. I collected several good-sized handfuls, and gained newfound sympathy for those responsible for tending roadside landscaping everywhere. Please, use an ashtray.


In honor of July 4th, some tidbits about Carolinas connections to the holiday if you click here.


One more tidbit: The roundup of free outdoor concerts around the region has been updated and includes additional events in Matthews and Albemarle. Click here for details.