Southern Gentlemen (TM)

NOTE: Southern Gentleman and Southern Gentlemen are registered trademarks of the South. All rights reserved. Use, duplication or disclosure restricted by their good breeding and whether their mothers would approve.

I’m a native to Orange County.  Well, to be honest, my mom cringes that I have to put down the City of Medicine as my birthplace, since I was birthed at then-named Durham General.  But I didn’t realize how rare a species I was until a good friend asked as an icebreaker while presenting at a Chamber event, how many other folks were not bred or dead, but born Tar Heels. 

We were the only ones
Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.  We’re a transient community, part of a region that supports an NHL team, and pretty close to a municipality known as the Containment Area for Relocated Yankees.  But don’t let that deter you – a Southern Gentleman™ can make himself quite at home in the Southern part of heaven
But what is a Southern Gentleman™?  Well, I know what I’m looking for – but maybe someone else should define our audience.  Taking cues from a couple of sources – here and here (the second one referencing the disadvantageous gender ratio at Carolina) – there are a few characteristics that mark all Southern Gentlemen™:  dress (the apparel), decorum (the etiquette), dancing, and not to mention the drinking that might be a catalyst for the dancing. 
So, again back to my axiom that looking the part is half the battle, where can you dress like a Southern Gentleman™ in Chapel Hill?  Turns out Chapel Hill birthed one of the most notable designers, who is also a member of that rarest of breeds: Orange County natives.  So head downtown to the flagship for Southern Gentlemen™, Julian’s.  Head there for upscale game gear and handsome haberdashery.  He did outfit the Hornets and the Heels, true, but Mr. Julian can still outfit the less athletic among us. 
Another great place to for the Southern Gentleman™ to shop is O’Neill’s.  Mr. O’Neill and his son (and my classmate) John Michael are Southern Gentlemen™ themselves and have helped outfit the men of my family for many years, including saving the day on several special occasions [read: last minute Christmas gifts and my dad’s tux for my sister’s wedding]. 
As long as you’re at University Mall, stop in for a Southern Gentleman™ staple: the bowtie.  If you’re going to get one for your guy, get it at Cameron’s: $5 from every purchase of a tie there goes to support the pediatric oncology department at UNC.  He’s not sure how to wear one?  Watch the experts tie one on


Aaron Nelson-bow tie
My boss Aaron Nelson wearing
one of Cameron’s bow ties. 

Even more than a Southern Gentleman™’s dress, I think most folks think of a guy’s decorum.  So, if someone needs a little coaching to convince the opposite sex that he wasn’t born in a barn, where does he go?  I got some great tips from the etiquette dinner hosted at Carolina Club by my alumni association, but I think if men:

…they’ll be in good shape to start resembling a Southern Gentleman™. However, I believe that every male should aim to possess impeccable manners, no matter where their geographic location (or trademark).
But even though Southern Gentlemen™ may possess politeness and poise, they do like to cut loose and cut a rug, more often than not. The dance of choice for the Southern Gentleman™ is the shag (think Phoebe Cates, NOT Austin Powers). Though I learned the dance from my big brother on the beach, you can practice at some great local events – like the annual Sweet Carolina Concert Series and Fridays on the Front Porch.  But if you’re a serious shagger, you can join the Eno Beach Shag Club at the Time Out Sports Bar (thanks for the tip, Deborah!)


Me dancing with Southern Gentleman™
and Orange County native B.J. Perlmutt

But maybe you’ve got two left feet or you’re not a big fan of Chairmen of the Board (NOTE: If this is the case, sorry, you’re probably not a Southern Gentleman™), but there are lots of other great places in Orange County to learn how to boogie:

  • The Arts Center: Molly recommends Bollywood and Bhangra!
  • The Carrboro Century Center: My friend Sarah really wants us to try contra dancing.
  • Seymour and Central Orange Senior Centers: For the Southern Gentleman™ that’s been around the block a time or two.  The Central Orange Center was host to a program called “Music and Mint Juleps,” according to the most recent copy of Senior Times!
  • The Depot: The west end of Hillsborough has come alive and The Depot is host to ballroom dancing classes, among other opportunities to whirl around. 

However, even the most experienced shaggers might be coaxed on the dance floor a little bit sooner, with some liquid courage.  But where can you get a really good, I mean, really good cocktail?  You only have to park your car once to visit four locales with amazing drinks (just remember to hail a cab on your way home). 

  • The Crunkleton: Wearing their signature bow ties, these bartenders have incredible service and can even teach you how to make your own classic cocktail. 
  • Crook’s: At this iconic restaurant, their mint juleps come in the frozen form, but my latest obsession is their jalapeño margarita (see below). 
  • Pecadillo: Their signature is the negroni (not exactly Southern, I know, but they’ll make it with your favorite brand of bourbon). 
  • Lantern: They have a champagne cocktail named after Smithfield native Ava Gardner.  Enough said. 


jalapeno martini
The jalapeño margarita at Crook’s Corner.

I will confess to liking the phrase “American by birth, Southern by the grace of God.”  But even if you haven’t been blessed to have been born in the South, Chapel Hill has plenty to offer the seasoned or sophomoric Southern Gentleman™. 
And if you’ve got the dress, decorum, dancing, and drinking down, then you’ll be a perfect fit in the Southern part of heaven.  …Also, you should give me a call…

Bad For Business

Today, North Carolinians go to the polls to vote in a primary election.  You may never have voted in a primary before, or maybe never voted in any election, or maybe you don’t claim any political party.  But  today all North Carolinians need to go to the polls – Democrat, Republican, and unaffiliated – and come to the polls and vote against Amendment One.
North Carolina’s proposed Amendment One is bad for business.
It will interfere with employers’ ability to recruit talent and their right to provide competitive benefits to their employees.  
It also signals to employers, employees, and entrepreneurs that North Carolina is not welcoming to the diverse, creative workforce that we need to compete in the global economy.  
We should not do anything at this time that diminishes any individual or any corporation’s interest in locating or remaining in North Carolina. 
But don’t take my word for it. Bank of America exec Cathy Bessant says “Amendment One has the potential to have a disastrous effect on our ability to attract talent and keep talent” in North Carolina.
Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers says twenty years from now we’ll look back at this “amendment the same way we think about Jim Crow laws that were passed in this state” so many years ago.
Or executives at the AICPA who relocated five years ago, hired 500 employees, and now say they wouldn’t have considered North Carolina had this had been the law. 
This amendment will tarnish our state’s reputation and affect everything from employee benefits to economic development.
So on behalf of myself and my family, and on behalf of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, I hope that you’ll join me, today, in voting against Amendment One.  Polls are open until 7:30.

Twas the Local Season? And a 2020 update

     If you’re among the many who believe Christmas decorations need to come down by in a timely fashion, I hope you will permit me this late-January look back at this Christmas past.

     This edition of $avvy $pender got underway in mid-December at a Christmas party when a fellow guest mentioned she and her friends “made a pact to shop only locally this year.”  Not too long after that I was in Kitchenworks and I overheard a customer say she knew she could get her new bundt pan at Walmart but preferred to spend her money locally.  

     I hadn’t forgotten either of those comments when I was in Flyleaf Books mid-January and the staffer helping me mentioned she had many customers declare much the same during the shopping season.  The third time being the charm and all that, I asked Flyleaf employee (and the eye behind the jewelry and other accessories now available there) Sally Stollmack to tell me more.

     Sally shared several anecdotes of holiday shoppers telling her they planned to go out of their way to buy local this year.  And she says it started as early as Black Friday. 

     Flyleaf Owner and General Manager Jamie Fiocco wrote that Flyleaf’s December sales were up 39% over the year before.  She sent the following as to reasons why:  “I think [the increase] was so dramatic for a couple of reasons: it was our second full holiday season so we have grown our customer base and inventory and also we picked up even more customers from the Borders closing in Chapel Hill this
Fall. And to add to what Sally said; Yes, I do feel folks in Chapel Hill really DO get the buy local message, and we are very appreciative of that

     Cameron’s owner Bridget Pemberton-Smith told me she has seen that sentiment growing and even had a customer mention she’d rather spend a bit more to keep the money local.  But she also is aware that many people will go in search of something cheaper.  

     And Aaron Nelson,  President and CEO of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce emailed that “ I have not had any retailer tell me that they thought that this shopping season felt like folks were making an extra effort to buy local. I know several folks who make a personal pledge to buy all of their holiday gifts locally.”

     Where we shop does matter to our local economy.  Chapel Hill Economic Development Officer Dwight Bassett pointed me to a 2011 study from the Maine Center for Economic Policy that found approximately $58 for every $100 spent at a locally owned business contributes to the local economy compared with $33 out of every $100 spent at national chains

     So about now I’m guessing all of you scientifically-minded folks have thought about how  my research is less than reliable given that I spoke with people in stores that are local and therefore wouldn’t hear the other side of the story.  I also did not stand outside Southpoint Mall asking people their zip codes.  So I realize that shared above is a collection of anecdotes more than anything else but I’m wondering if it’s a trend.  

     Please comment below if you did or didn’t shop locally this past December and tell us why. Or write to me at

Update on a previous column:  I last wrote about my evolution into a believer in the 2020 Comprehensive Plan process.  Further kudos to the leaders for the following outreach programs, designed to include more voices:  This past weekend the 2020 team met with more than 100 immigrants from Burma. Town Outreach Coordinator Faith Thompson led the session an interpreter.  The input from that session will be shared at the next 2020 meeting on Feb. 23.  

Another outreach program gets underway this Thursday and is designed to involve more young adults in the process.  The town has named them “Tavern Talks” so I’ll let you guess where they will meet!  Or, click here for specifics.

'Tis the Season!

Yes, it ‘tis the season and watching harried people move about trying to do everything that they have on the list proves it, but it’s another season too. This is also recognition season and I’m glad that it is. One of the indicators of a vibrant community in my mind is a place that takes time out to say thank you to people who deserve acknowledgment.
On Tuesday evening, December 13th at the University Mall, The Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce took to the Mall stage for the annual “Salute to Community Heroes” program. As they put it in the evening’s program, they wanted to “recognize the men and women who make this community a safe, happy and health place to live, work and play.” Following the opening remarks from Chamber president Aaron Nelson, Nancy Kitterman of University Mall, and Justin Purdy on behalf of program sponsor Time Warner Cable Business Class, we heard musical selections from the United Voices of Praise.
Chris Barnes of First Citizens Bank served as the Master of Ceremony and he called each award recipient forward to receive his or her plaque from Nelson and Chair Board Chair Mark Pons of Chapel Hill Tire Car Care Center. The first group of awards included:
  • The UNC Public Safety Officer of the Year, Sergeant Brian Wilson;
  • The Orange County EMS Employees of the Year, Paramedic Brook James and Paramedic Erin Ray;
  • The Chapel Hill Police Officer of the Year, Officer Stephen Slagle;
  • The Carrboro Police Officer of the Year, Sergeant Joseph Thomas
  • The Chapel Hill Fire Fighter of the Year, Master Firefighter Heather Robinson;
  • The Carrboro Fire Fighter of the Year, Fire Captain Carl Freeman.
Next, Mr. Nate Davis received acknowledgment as the “2011 Cal Horton Service Award” recipient and then special community award winners received plaques. Mary Andrews of “Our Children’s Place received the “Jim Gibson Volunteer of the Year Award;” Bruce Runberg was the “Town and Gown Award” recipient; Drew Melvin of St. Thomas More Church received the “Irene Briggaman Lifetime Achievement Award;” and Jay Miller of the Arts Center was the “2011 Citizen of the Year.”

What made this a really special evening was that there were plenty of people there to celebrate the achievements of those who protect us and those who volunteer in our community. Yes, we enjoyed great refreshments and the mall looked extra beautiful, but it was people who cared that made you know this was an important evening.
On Wednesday, January 14 at the Hargraves Center, many of the same people gathered to observe the presentation of the “2011 Cal Horton Service Award” to Nate Davis. Town Manager Roger Stancil recounted the numerous contributions during the Center’s supervisor’s 37 years of service to Chapel Hill’s Parks and Recreation Department, and then relatives, friends, and co-workers recounted their personal tributes. Friends like Fred Battle, another Town legend, told of the early days at Parks and Rec with no budget, but a full program of services to help mold the youth of Chapel Hill. Each speaker added another piece of the story of Nate Davis as a selfless servant to all. The fact that his fellow Town employees nominated him and other Town employees selected him from 11 other deserving nominees spoke volumes.
Clearly, relatives, friends, and co-workers presented plenty of evidence that Nate represents the best ideals of public service in all that he does day after day, and how he has done it year after year makes him especially deserving. The cash and plaque that accompanies the gift is great as an acknowledgment, but the lives that Nate touched over the years made our community a better place. As was stated, when some say Chapel Hill, they think of Nate Davis, and when others say Nate Davis, they think Chapel Hill.
‘Tis the season for sure, and honoring those who serve us and volunteer to make this a better place to live should always be in season.

Good Things about Chapelboro Business

Have you had a chance to think about the questions posed in 2020 Business?
A few of them focused on the good things about doing business in Chapelboro. For this week, let’s make the question read: “When it comes to doing business in Chapelboro, for what are you especially thankful?”
The first thing that comes to my mind is the generosity of Chapelboro businesses – their willingness to help each other, individual community members and the community as a whole.  And this week, I’m particularly thankful to all the businesses who are generously helping the effort to Blanket Orange County
Seven businesses are giving their time, space and energy by serving as official drop off locations for new or gently used blankets to be given to the homeless in Orange County.  They are: 
· Chapel  Hill – Carrboro YMCA
In addition:
· A Southern Season is leading its own internal mini-drive – passing out information and setting up a collection box for employees.
· Homewatch Caregivers of the Triangle  donated 40 brand new blankets on behalf of clients, employees and friends
·  State Farm Insurance passed the word to their clients and friends:   “Please share a new or gently used blanket – feel free to drop off at my office and I’ll (Pam Herndon) get the blankets to Blanket Orange County.”
·  Susan Reda Productions volunteered to help with marketing and public relations.
·  Giddy Organics volunteered to handle social media.
A wonderful demonstration of generosity by these businesses – all working together to collect 300 blankets by December 2 for the homeless in Orange County.
For more information, visit the   Blanket Orange County website.
What about you…when it comes to doing business in Chapelboro, for what are you especially thankful?”
P.S. Even though “2020 Business” referenced a meeting that has now passed, it’s not too late to respond to those questions. See bottom of 2020 Business  for more details.
P.P.S.  On a different note…regarding not just one but two recent trips to games over at Duke…the usher at the top of the steps said,  “Welcome to Duke“.

P.P.S.  In case you are looking for signs to welcome Duke fans, you can get them at: SignsforGameDay.Biz.

Aaron Nelson on Lessons from Mom

What lessons did you learn from your mother that have helped you in your business or career? 

As part of the Lessons from Mom series, I’d like to share an excerpt from  a Business Class interview with Aaron Nelson, Executive Director of The Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, during which he answered that same question.

Aaron said there were many lessons – one of them – respect for others. It was important to her and she stressed the importance to Aaron and his sister – that independent of a person’s sex or race or sexual orientation or country of origin or religion – that each person deserves respect.

Aaron said that from that also came a real sense of responsibility to community. He said:

“Mom always told us that you can never spend too much time working on good projects that will help the community. If you have the flexibility in your schedule or the resources to apply to those things – you ought to. Not just that you should, but that you ought to. She implied that there is a responsibility on her children and the people who she cared about to play a role in the community and not to leave tasks that were important to the community to others to do.….but that we should endeavor to do them ourselves.

“She taught me about honesty and sensitivity to other people, respect for other people and their opinion and about hard work. To work hard for the things we believe in, to stand up for what you believe in even though it may be unpopular.”

Listen Here:

Wonderful lessons passed from Aaron’s mother, to Aaron and now to us…valuable lessons for business and life.

What about you? What lessons did you learn from your Mom that have helped you in your business or career?