Elementary Schoolers “Shop with a Cop”

‘Tis the season of giving; and some local law enforcement got into the holiday spirit earlier this month with some elementary school children in the community.

Morris Grove Elementary School Principal Amy Rickard says she was approached by Carrboro Police to see if students would be interested in a field trip – a trip to the store to “Shop with a Cop.”

“We had 19 students who were able to go on the field trip,” she says. “And five different police department organizations – the Carrboro Police Department, Chapel Hill Police, Orange County Sheriff’s Department, Campus Police, and the Hospital Police.”

Rickard says the list of children chosen to participate was determined by the school’s social worker, and that the children went shopping with the off-duty officers at the Walmart in Hillsborough.

“The Chapel Hill Optimist Club donated a $75 gift card for every child,” she says. “We spent a little more than an hour at the Walmart, and they got to shop with their cop.”

Rickard adds that seeing the smiles on the children’s faces was a wonderful moment and the effects lingered around the school.

“They were very excited. Most of them (went) around (for days) wearing their police badges that they gave them,” she says.

Rickard calls the experience one of the best field trips that she’s ever been on.

She says there were no rules about the purchases the children could make and many of them bought items for their siblings – in addition to an item or two for themselves.


‘Black Thursday’ Backlash Sparks Big-Box Boycott

Though many big-box stores are gearing up for 24 or even 48 hours of non-stop sales this holiday weekend, some are fighting the new trend of shopping on Thanksgiving.

Retailers such as Target, Walmart, Kohl’s and Best Buy are opening their doors on Thursday in hopes of extending the Black Friday shopping binge, but that move has sparked a backlash from some who argue it’s unfair to force employees to sacrifice their holidays for sales.

A Facebook page dedicated to boycotting ‘Black Thursday’ has garnered more than 112,000 likes, and spawned the twitter hashtag #boycottblackthursday.

A growing number of retail chains seem to be getting the message.

This year, Costco, Publix, Sam’s Club, Barnes and Noble, Nordstrom and the Home Depot have all agreed to stay closed on Thanksgiving, along with DSW, Bed Bath and Beyond, Jo-Ann Fabrics, Pier 1 Imports, Burlington Coat Factory, Lowe’s, Gamestop and others.

Some supporters of the ‘Black Thursday’ boycott say they will continue the effort throughout December by prioritizing holiday spending at stores that stay closed on Thursday.

Via Boycott Black Thursday, here’s the list of  retailers who will be closed on Thanksgiving:

DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse
Pier 1 Imports
Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores
BJ’s Wholesale Club
Crate and Barrel
Barnes & Noble
American Girl
The Home Depot
Lowe’s Home Improvement
Sur La Table
Bed Bath & Beyond
Sam’s Club

Opening on Thanksgiving:
Walmart 6pm
Target 6pm
Sears 6pm
Toys ”R” Us 5pm
Best Buy 6pm
Big Lots
Shoe Carnival
Kmart 6am
Michaels Stores 4pm
Belk 6pm
Kohl’s 6pm
JCPenney 5pm
Stage 4pm
Goody’s 4pm
Peebles 4pm
Ulta 6pm
Bon-Ton 6pm
RadioShack (store openings vary by location)
Dick’s Sporting Goods


Record Crowds Over Weekend, But Spending Declined

NEW YORK — The National Retail Federation says people have been spending less on holiday shopping than they did last year.

The trade group says a record 141 million people likely shopped in stores and online from Thanksgiving Day to Sunday.

Last year, 137 million people shopped during the four day stretch. But spending is expected to fall for the first time ever since the group began tracking in 2006.

It says over the four days this year, spending fell an estimated 2.9 percent.


Thursday, Black Thursday

The apartment search is done and I’m now officially a Durhamite!

So what do Durham folks do?

I hear they drink beer, for one. And they root for Duke. And of course—how can I forget?—they spend Thanksgiving at the Southpoint Mall!

Well, when in Rome…

I pull into the parking lot around 10:30 p.m. It’s crowded, but not that crowded—you’ll see worse mall traffic on any Saturday in December.

I’ve been following the shopping-on-Thanksgiving debate on Facebook for two weeks now. I’m on the fence about it. Sure the stores are big ol’ meanies who make employees work on holidays, but it’s our own fault for showing up; workers want to spend Thanksgiving with family, but they also want the overtime, and besides, why are we even trying to speak on behalf of every Macy’s employee anyway? Who are we, the Macy’s Lorax? But at the same time we should care about the workers, because the opposite path is just as problematic. “Workers should just suck it up—life’s not fair,” said several of my Facebook friends…as if that automatically means we should give up, embrace the unfairness, and stop ever fighting for change. Uh, also no.

I love crazy cultural phenomena, so I wanted to see the Thanksgiving shopping crush for myself.  But I didn’t want to be part of the problem. So, a compromise: I’ll go to the mall, but not until after 10:00, when any theoretical Thanksgiving family dinners would’ve been long over anyway. And—most importantly!—I won’t buy anything. Not a thing. I am merely a casual observer.

(Besides, I had to work on Thursday too. So dagnabbit, I’m entitled.)

So here I am, walking into Macy’s at 10:30. It’s only the second time in my life I’ve ever been in a store on Black Friday. (Yes, it’s technically still Thursday. But if everyone else in the mall is calling it Black Friday, then so will I.) The other time was two years ago, when my friend Jeff agreed to accompany me to Southpoint so I could see Black Friday for myself firsthand. We started across the street, stood in line at Old Navy for half an hour until midnight—they still held off until midnight!—and got through Best Buy and the mall itself by the time 4:00 rolled around. It was nuts. At Belk we headed for the jewelry counter—I actually needed a new watch—and passed a shoe section that looked like a tornado had hit it. Boxes lay strewn about on the floor, unpaired shoes scattered on the ground, sheets of wrinkled, torn, balled-up paper being kicked up by anyone who walked by.

Ironically the shoes that caused all the ruckus were called “Rampage.” True story.

Rampage 1

If their slogan isn’t “They’re all the rage,” then something is very wrong with the world.

But that was two years ago.

This night was much more subdued.

And that’s by design, of course. While we’re bickering over holiday shopping hours, let’s remember why stores started opening earlier on Black Friday in the first place: too many high-profile deaths caused by folks trampling each other at 6 a.m. to get to the hottest toy, the latest doodad, the biggest sale.

None of that now. Now it’s become mundane.

Which isn’t to say there’s no craziness. The first thing I notice, first in Macy’s and then in every other store, is the disarray. Much more so than usual. Clothes hastily rifled through, then left in a big ball. Boxes knocked over and left on the floor. Nothing hung where it’s supposed to be. Piles of abandoned clothes in every fitting room.

(Yes, I did get as far as a fitting room. There was this one shirt—but no. I never tried it on. I literally couldn’t. Try as I might, for whatever reason, I couldn’t fit my head through the neck hole. I’m blaming the shirt, but it’s possible my ego’s just that far through the roof.)

But other than the greater-than-usual disarray, it feels like a regular busy day. Nobody fighting, nobody angry, nobody pushing past each other to get to the last item on the shelf. In fact quite the opposite: people are casual, relaxed, smiling. Even slow. (EXTREMELY slow, in fact. Why oh why do people insist on stopping right in the middle of the only available pathway from one part of a store to another? Sheesh.)

Same goes for the employees—many of them, at least. “It’s 11:30,” says one in JC Penney’s. “I’m not in work mode. I’m in chill mode.”

(“You think that’s bad,” says another. “I was up making dinner at 7 this morning.” Score one for Team We’re Exploiting People.)

I’m also struck by the other little detail that makes it feel like an ordinary day: even at midnight on Thanksgiving, most of the stores are actually open. All the press goes to the big retailers, Walmart and Target and mall anchors like Macy’s and Penney’s, but it’s not just the anchors anymore. Payless Shoe Source was open too. And American Eagle. Even the fro-yo place by Sears. (And it was doing business too. Who the hell stops for fro-yo at midnight on Thanksgiving? Was there no pie?) As recently as two years ago, it really was mostly just the anchors. Now, not so much. It’s not just that stores are opening earlier—more stores are opening as well. The insidious creep of shopping on Thanksgiving extends not just to time but also to place.

(Even the kiosk that sells those Christian-themed arrow shirts is open. Which got me thinking: is Black Friday the most sacrilegious day of the year? Or is it Halloween? I might be forgetting one, but I’m thinking it’s got to be one or the other.)

It’s after midnight and I’m almost all the way through the mall. Nordstrom’s is closed—they’re still resisting the Black Friday tide—so I’ve only got one big store left.


I head up the escalator to the shoe section. Sure enough, Rampage is on sale yet again. They’ve got five, six long tables set up, each one piled high with boxes and boxes of Rampage, just waiting to be torn apart by frenzied shoppers.

But even here, it’s just a typical busy day. No frenzy. No chaos. Just the same level of disarray I saw everywhere else.

Rampage 2

Then again, they did have caution tape up around the jewelry counter and a Durham police officer standing guard by the shoes. Maybe I just missed it.

So how was my Black Friday experience? Humdrum. And maybe that’s good. The creep of Thanksgiving Day shopping means more and more people are having to work on holidays, and of course it also means we’re turning yet another once-sacred day into a materialistic feeding frenzy. But then again, it also means less concentrated chaos and possibly less danger—and let’s face it, Thanksgiving has always been a materialistic feeding frenzy. Now it’s just about products rather than food.

As for the experience, though, it’s definitely been dulled. And again, maybe that’s okay. The first time I ever went out on Thanksgiving was the year our extended family stopped getting together, so my immediate family decided to see a movie instead. The movie was “Bean,” the theater was so packed it was standing-room only, and halfway through the movie a guy standing behind us got faint and passed out right on top of my mother.

We never did see a movie on Thanksgiving again.

Was this trip to the mall as memorable as that trip to the theater? Nope. And thank goodness for that.

Now. Anyone else have this random craving for fro-yo?


University Mall Construction Nearing Completion

CHAPEL HILL – You’ll soon have new shopping options as University Mall is undergoing construction with new stores coming in before the year’s end.

General manager of University Mall, Peter DeLeon, says the construction on William Travis jewelry should be finished in a month and work on Harris Teeter is moving forward.

“Now that the rain has eased up, Harris Teeter’s construction is well underway,” DeLeon says. “They are working hard on the outside and will start moving their efforts to get the complete renovation done by the early fall.”

DeLeon says traffic at University Mall has been on par for what summer retailers expect.

“With school out and people taking vacations, it tends to slow down a bit,” DeLeon says. “That’s when many of our retailers regroup and re-energize and start gearing up for August.”

University Mall has also seen added attention over the past eight weeks with its summer concert series, with Jim Quick and the Coastline finishing the event Thursday night.

“It was our best attended show of the entire season,” DeLeon says. “You could not have asked for a better finale than the absolutely wonderful weather and the crowd that evening.”

University Mall’s summer concert series first started three years ago.


UMall To Add TrySports This Fall

CHAPEL HILL – The landscape at University Mall is once again changing with the addition of TrySports this fall.

“It kind of follows suit with what our whole strategy is for the center, which is really bringing the best of class regional and local operators,” UMall’s General Manager, Peter DeLeon says. “TrySports is just like that.”

TrySports offers gear and advice for swimming, running, and biking. DeLeon says the company offers two main services called Perfect Fit and Perfect Ride to make sure your purchase is just right for you.

TrySports will be taking 11,000 square feet on the east end of the mall, and DeLeon says this addition continues a recent big push for the mall.

“We have Harris Teeter finishing up a multi-million dollar expansion that should be completed in October, which will make it one of its flagship model stores,” DeLeon says. “We’ve got the momenteum of getting Glee Kids, Cynthia’s Tailor Shop, (and) William Travis Jewelers. TrySports is just another example of having, another great operator in the center.”


Necessary Border Crossing

This column was always supposed to be about how and where we spend our money.  Many times I’ve expanded my definition to talk about how public money is spent and the choices made by people paid with public money.  This edition of $avvy $pender, though, is back to the more personal kind of spending, in this case, my own.

This past weekend I was all set up to pack my son’s things to take to a summer program.  I had the staging area set complete with suitcase, the packing list, the permanent marker and clothes and sunscreen and towels strewn about. The Leffler Command Center was up and running!  

Smoothly efficient, I was, and not a little smug with my planning.  

That ended as I got to the bottom of the list where I had glossed over things like towels and sheets knowing we had some to send.  Glaring at me was the following: “a light blanket”.   

I didn’t particularly want to take one from his bed to send, and anyway, those aren’t exactly light and thin for packing.  Okay, I thought, it’s Saturday afternoon, we can run out and get a light cotton blanket.  

No problem, right?  Right, unless I want to shop in the town where I live.  No problem unless I want my sales tax to go to the coffers of the town where I live.  

Now I’m sure many of you will send me the name of an amazingly lovely store (or two) that sells gorgeous blankets.  I’m sure it/they do/does but think about where this blanket is headed: to accompany a 10-year old boy to join several other 10-year old boys.  That’s not the place to send an elegant coverlet. 

Nor did I want logo’d fleece.  Not because of the logo but because fleece is frequently polyester and polyester doesn’t breathe and it’s for a summer program in the South.  

So, I don’t want to run to one of Chapel Hill’s chic boutiques and I don’t want to run to a UNC booster/souvenir store.  I also don’t have time to make several stops just in case I find one.  Where do I go?  Sadly, fellow taxpayers, I went to Durham.  And so did my money.  

What is so wrong with having enough of a range of retail establishments in our town that we don’t have to (a.) use more gas while (b.) adding to the income of another city and county?

There’s clearly something wrong with it that I don’t understand.  And while I don’t understand it, I probably will end up paying higher taxes.  And while I don’t understand it, town services may decline.  Someone, please explain to me why it seems sustainability applies only to Chapel Hill’s beautiful natural world and not also to keeping the town a vibrant and dynamic place.  

Next summer, when I’ve forgotten something on that list (and I will, because I’m aging!), please let there be some leadership in this town that allows for a mixed environment that serves the interests and needs of all its residents. 

I’m not the first to tell the story of running to Durham to spend money.  The exciting food scene there is also a draw to many of my friends.  Please leave a comment below or write to me at Donnabeth@Chapelboro.com to tell me how you think town leaders should do the impossible: attempt to please everyone!


The Grocery Gavotte

Forget the government’s new pie-shaped food guide; I’m still living by the pyramid. Well, mine is more of a triangle and it doesn’t represent food groups in the way nutritionists hope it does.
Mine is a triangle that moves between Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Harris Teeter and back again. There are some side trips: Farmers’ Markets, The Meat House and Cliffs, some lovely bakeries, to Southern Season for extra-special goodies, to Costco for less-costly sparkling water by the case. But mostly, I tour my main triangle because someone in my family wants a yogurt only sold at Whole Foods. Someone else will perish without Trader Joe’s Corn Salsa (that would be me!), staples and pantry basics frequently come from Harris Teeter in the way I’ve always patronized a traditional grocery store. 
Part of me balks at this because I feel like a gerbil on a wheel, never completing a task. Part of me longs for the one-stop shopping that was the only option when I was a child at the table. It has become sort of like the first piece of dirty clothing in the newly-empty laundry basket or the first used fork in the dishwasher: a never-ending source of house-management drudgery. In fact, it’s become a joke in our home: 
Me: “I’m off to __________, do you need anything?”
Spouse or Child: “Not until after you get back.”
Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha
Forget about annoying, the price of gas is enough to limit these trips. Please, if you’re going to comment that I should be walking or biking to do the shopping, I’ll send you my knee surgeon’s number!
Do you feel as if you always have to stop somewhere ELSE to get something ELSE? Or am I approaching this wrong? I long to be the type who can grow most, can the rest, needing only to pick up farm fresh eggs but, if you know me, you are still cackling at the thought.
I’m hoping one of you will write in with the perfectly obvious, easily executed solution. But let’s just say you don’t. Then the only course for me to take to ease the grumbling (again, stop cackling, all ye who know me!), is a bit of attitude adjustment. 
I could go all wholesome on this: We must feed our bodies daily, therefore we must restock frequently for all that is fresh. I believe that, truly I do, but when the heat coming off the parking lot feels like 8,000°, I need more encouragement than simple good sense. 
Searching for something to rally my dispirited approach, I recalled being a college student in Paris for the very first time, filled with pleasure about making many stops to gather provisions. What fun it was to practice the language while touring shops filled with food so good it still inhabits my dreams! Back then I didn’t mind the time it took, nor the sheer number of errands. It was part of the experience and one I found quite delightful. It wasn’t drudgery; it was gastrotourism.
That blissful approach may not be realistic in a life filled with more responsibility than simply savoring my surroundings, but it can help me feel less like feeding me and my family is just a grind (no meat joke intended). 
Thus, my (upcoming) summer solstice resolution (why follow the crowd and make decrees only in January?) is to savor the practice and enjoy the gathering (if not the hunting). I will do my best to say hello while thinking “bonjour” and be grateful for the plethora of fine emporiums in our midst. 
Warning: Watch for follow-ups on this plan. The first time someone at Whole Foods bashes into me with a cart at the fish counter, or looks askance at my clear lack of understanding of the differences among 8 types of almond milk, my open, peaceful, grateful, grind-free state-of-mind might just grind to a halt. 

My plea above was offered in earnest. If you have a successful approach to this life-maintenance conundrum, please do share it with all of us by commenting below. Or, if you prefer, email me directly at Donnabeth@Chapelboro.com