Celebrate Living Wage Employers With “Buycott” Tuesday

UPDATE: Due to inclement weather, Tuesday’s “buycott” has been postponed to Thursday, May 26, at 6:30 pm.

Congress won’t raise the minimum wage, the General Assembly won’t raise the minimum wage, and the General Assembly won’t allow local governments to raise it either.

But until that changes, there are things we can do locally – like supporting businesses who pay their employees a living wage of their own accord.

The organization Orange County Living Wage has certified 58 businesses, nonprofits and municipal organizations as “living wage employers,” employers that pay all their employees $12.75 per hour (or $11.25 plus health benefits). Together, those businesses have raised their employees’ wages a combined $500,000 in order to qualify for certification. (The Town of Chapel Hill became the 58th employer on the list; in order to qualify, the town raised the wages of 110 employees by a combined total of $140,000.)

Get the full list of certified businesses here. (The $12.75-per-hour figure is a function of the cost of housing in Orange County.)

In order to celebrate the half-million-dollar milestone, and to reward a local business for making the living-wage commitment, Orange County Living Wage is holding a “buycott” – the opposite of a boycott – on Tuesday, May 3, beginning at 7 pm at Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe on West Franklin Street. The “buycott” will feature live music in the courtyard at 431 West Franklin.

Orange County Living Wage chair Susan Romaine and Vimala’s owner Vimala Rajendran spoke with Aaron Keck on WCHL.


Get more info about the living wage initiative online at OrangeCountyLivingWage.org.


Nominate A Business Of The Year

Would you like to see your favorite local business recognized? The Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce is seeking nominations this week for their annual Business of the Year awards.

The nomination period is open through Friday; finalists will be announced at the Chamber’s annual meeting on Thursday, January 29.

“We have categories for large, mid-size and small businesses, and also the non-profit of the year,” says Chamber vice president Kristen Smith.

Last year’s winners were Sweeps in the small-business category, Vimala’s Curryblossom Café in the mid-size category, ARCA in the large-business category, and the Orange County Rape Crisis Center in the nonprofit category. Also recognized last year were three individuals – Mark Chilton, Irene Briggaman, and Gordon Merklein – for their community service work.

To submit nominations for this year, click here. Winners will be announced at a special event later this spring.


July 8 Is “Martha’s Day” In Fight Against Domestic Violence

You’re invited to Vimala’s Curryblossom Café on Tuesday, July 8, from 6-9 pm to raise funds and awareness for the fight against domestic violence.

Organized by Laura Morrison of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, “Martha’s Day” is now an annual event held in memory of Morrison’s mother, Martha Pearson, who was killed by her husband in 1995 at the age of 42. Morrison was only nine.

“Martha’s Day is my small way of celebrating my mom – her life and her courage – on her birthday (July 8), while also pushing our community to come together to confront domestic violence,” says Morrison.

Last year’s inaugural Martha’s Day event drew about 300 attendees and raised $5,000; this year, Morrison says, she’s hoping for an even larger turnout. Proceeds raised will go to benefit the Compass Center for Women and Families.

“Martha’s Day is an opportunity for our community to engage in meaningful dialogue to end domestic violence and celebrate the lives of domestic violence victims and survivors,” says  Morrison. “People often think domestic violence doesn’t happen in our community, but data from the Chapel Hill Police Department shows that police officers spent a minimum of 648 hours and $11,000 responding to 335 domestic violence calls in 2013. Domestic violence does happen in our community, and Martha’s Day addresses that violence head on.”

Morrison joined Aaron Keck earlier this month on the WCHL Afternoon News to talk about the event.

Tickets for this year’s Martha’s Day event are $35, which includes dinner from Vimala’s and a built-in donation to the Compass Center. There will be live music and a raffle as well.

Martha’s Day is presented by Molly Maid of Chapel Hill and the Ms. Molly Foundation, and the event is sponsored by Vimala’s Curryblossom Café, Cake LLC, Enitech IT Solutions, A Better Image Printing, DSI Comedy, Chapel Hill Tire Car Care Center, and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro YMCA.

For more information, visit CompassCtr.org or contact Morrison at marthasdayevent@gmail.com. You can donate online as well at www.compassctr.org/marthasdayOnline donors should write “Martha’s Day” in the “In Honor” section of the online donation form.


Chilton, OCRCC Among Honorees At Chamber Mtg

CHAPEL HILL – About 400 political and business leaders gathered at the Friday Center on Thursday for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting, to honor outstanding local businesses, nonprofits, and individuals.

Meg McGurk of the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership set the tone in her keynote address. “Downtown has reached a tipping point,” she told the attendees. “The private sector is investing in downtown on unprecedented levels, the public sector has taken a new pride in engaging in our downtown…(and) you are the ones that are making that change happen.”

The highlight of the annual meeting was the awarding of the Chamber’s annual Business of the Year honors:

• The Micro-Enterprise Business of the Year award went to Sweeps, a company that matches UNC students with locals in need of moving, cleaning, tutoring, and other odd jobs.

Vimala’s Curryblossom Café beat out 140 West Franklin and the newly expanded PTA Thrift Shop for the Mid-Size Business of the Year award.

• The Large Business of the Year honor went to ARCA, an international manufacturer and distributer with global headquarters in Mebane.

• The Orange County Rape Crisis Center won the Chamber’s Nonprofit of the Year award.

And the Chamber also recognized three individuals as well. Longtime volunteer Irene Briggaman won the Ambassador of the Year award; UNC Executive Director of Real Estate Gordon Merklein won the Duke Energy Citizenship and Service award for his work not only with UNC, but also with various local service organizations. And outgoing Chamber board chair Paige Zinn recognized former Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton with the Chamber’s award for Leadership in Public-Private Partnership.

“Mark has demonstrated that you can support economic and community development without forswearing your interest in the environment and social justice,” Zinn said of Chilton.

Attendees at the meeting included state government officials, the three mayors of Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Hillsborough, and all but one member of the Orange County Board of Commissioners.


Will They Run Again? CH Town Council Candidates Post-Election

CHAPEL HILL – Two incumbents and two challengers emerged victorious Tuesday night in the race for the Chapel Hill Town Council. Loren Hintz, who came in sixth place, joined Gary Kahn, who finished last, and many other Council candidates at Vimala’s Curryblossom Café to watch the poll results roll in.

“Well, I am disappointed that I didn’t win,” Hintz said, who received with 8.48 percent of the votes.

After he graciously congratulated his colleagues, he added, “I had hopes [that I would win]. I have enjoyed a lot of people telling me that I should run in two years. I also talked to a lot of people who supported me. I appreciate that.”

Out of a field on nine candidates, incumbents Sally Greene and Ed Harrison were re-elected, and George Cianciolo and Maria Palmer claimed the two open seats.

As past Chair of the Transportation Board and involvement with numerous other boards, Hintz has been active in Town politics. He said he hoped the Council would continue its efforts in youth outreach and also work to maintain the environmental protection provisions in the Town’s Land Use Management Ordinance (LUMO).

As to whether he would run again, Hintz said said this, “I don’t know. It would depend upon how many incumbents run for reelection. That’s probably the biggest issue because it makes a big difference.”

Kahn, a Southern Village resident, was frank about his disappointment over the loss.

“I will no longer be involved with Chapel Hill politics. I’m officially resigning from it. I am going to be a part of the 98 percent that couldn’t care less about Chapel Hill. I am becoming a part of that percentage.”

Kahn received 1.27 percent of the votes.

“I’d like to thank the [246] people who voted for me. I probably know at least six of them. Too bad that I didn’t get the financial support that I wanted,” Kahn said.


Greene, Harrison Re-Elected; Palmer, Cianciolo Claim CH Council Seats

CHAPEL HILL – Incumbents Sally Greene and Mayor Pro-Tem Ed Harrison retained their seats on the Chapel Hill Town Council, with newcomers Maria Palmer and George Cianciolo taking the two open seats on election night.

Greene received the highest number of votes with approximately 19.4 percent, followed closely by Cianciolo and Harrison. Palmer finished in fourth place with 16.1 percent of the votes.

“I am ready for another four years of hard work for the Town of Chapel Hill,” said Greene, who fittingly wore green.

The incumbents were expected to win, with a tighter race projected between Palmer and fellow challengers Loren Hintz and Amy Ryan.

Nine candidates competed for four opens seats this election season.

Greene was joined by Chapel Hill Mayor Kleinschmidt, who was reelected for a third term Tuesday night, and other Town council hopefuls at Vimala’s Curryblossom Café.

Harrison humbly thanked those who voted for him to take on a fourth term on the council.

“Obviously I feel that there must be satisfaction with an incumbent [if they are reelected],” Harrison said. “I treasure the work of the council a lot more than campaigning for council, so I am looking forward to continuing to work and starting work on new things. We have more issues coming at us all the time.”

Cianciolo, who served as Co-Chair of the Chapel Hill 2020 Comprehensive Plan Committee, was widely considered the frontrunner among challengers. He said as a council member, he hoped to boost the economic activity in Chapel Hill.

“There are several areas that lend themselves to development,” Cianciolo said. “Particularly in our gateways in the northern side near I-40 and Eubanks Rd. and in our eastern side at the Blue Cross/Blue Shield site. That would be one way that we can increase revenue. I think we need to recruit new businesses, too.”

Palmer, an experienced educator and pastor, was a relative newcomer to town politics, but said her activism has prepared her well for her new role as council member. She was overwhelmed with joy when her victory was solidified and hugged members of her campaign party.

“I think everything has prepared me for this,” Palmer said. “My experience around town in education, with the faith community, with volunteering, and the other different groups has let me know what happens here in Chapel Hill. I am very excited to be able to serve Chapel Hill on the Town Council with the fine members of the Town Council.”


Vimala's Curryblossom Cafe: Feeding Bodies and Souls in Chapel Hill

Indian food = My greatest weakness. I’m a sucker for any protein with the word “vindaloo” next to it, and Lord knows I have never turned down the carb-y magic that is naan. I’m also a huge sucker for a quality educational program — documentaries, DIY videos on youtube, a lecture on pitmasters and barbecue — whatevs. Combine food and offbeat educational subjects, and well, you have my version of nirvana. With this in mind, it makes good sense that I’m totally enthralled by Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe, located in the Courtyard complex on West Franklin Street.  

The short story: Vimala’s was born out of a highly popular community dinner series operated by Executive Chef Vimala Rajendran. Through community investors, Vimala raised the funds to open a bricks and mortar location in 2010.

This young restaurant boasts a long list of accomplishments. It was recently voted Best New Restaurant in Orange/Chatham County in the Independent’s 2011 poll, and it was a finalist in several categories including Best Chef in Orange/Chatham County; Best Vegetarian Restaurant in Orange/Chatham County; & Best Indian Restaurant in the Triangle.

Vimala’s passion for feeding her community extends beyond her work in the kitchen. On weekends and some evenings, she turns her restaurant space into a DIY classroom with the help of Carrboro Greenspace leader and Vimala’s staffer Andrea Wood. Carrboro Greenspace hosts classes on subjects ranging from Wild Fermentation workshops (learn the process for making miso, yogurt and kombucha!) to Fabric Re-purposing workshops. Today I received an intriguing list of upcoming Carrboro Greenspace classes taking place at Vimala’s sustainable community hub. I mean restaurant. 

Take a minute and check out the upcoming classes listed below, details also available on Vimala’s online calendar of events. Anything here catch your eye? What other types of food-centric programming would you like to see in Chapel Hill? Leave a comment now!

Clothing & Fabric Repair/Re-purposing Workshop
with textile artist, Amelia Roberts

When: Sunday June 26th, 2-5pm
Where: Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe (in the Courtyard), 431 W. Franklin St, Chapel Hill

The focus of this workshop is to offer techniques for making common repairs to clothing and linens. With these skills we can avoid waste and keep clothing longer by repairing common things like holes in socks and knit shirts. We’ll also learn to hem and to make some very simple alterations. We may discuss techniques for re-purposing clothing as well, or “downgrading” it to a different function. We will teach you how to:
• Darn a sock
• Repair a seam
• Repair a hem
• Repair a zipper, as well as be able to tell when the zipper needs to be replaced
• Patch denim
• Hem pants
• Replace a button and an eye-hook.
• Tighten or loosen a seam
• Repair the binding on a blanket
Suggested donation: $30-40. Space is limited to 15 people. Reserve your space by emailing carrborogreenspace@gmail.com
Please bring things that need repairs and we can get you oriented. We will also bring samples to demonstrate techniques on and to practice with.

Wild Fermentation Workshop
with Rob Jones, Liane Salgado & Andrea Wood

When: Sunday July 10th 2-5pm
Where: Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe (in the Courtyard), 431 W. Franklin St, Chapel Hill

Make Kimchi, Sour Dough & Sauerkraut to take home. Learn the process for Miso, Amazake, Dosa/Idli, Buttermilk, Yogurt/Lebneh, Vinegar & Kombucha (Take home a mother to start your own tea at home). Tastings of Miso, Dosa/Idli, Kimchi, Sauerkraut, Kombucha and other fermented products.
Suggested Donation $35-40. Please bring 2-3 quart size water tight containers – glass is recommended.
Space limited to 15 students. Reserve your space by emailing carrborogreenspace@gmail.com

Cheese Making Workshop
with Laurel Shulman of Hillsborough Cheese Co.

When: Sunday August 7th, 2-5pm
Where: Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe (in the Courtyard), 431 W. Franklin St, Chapel Hill

Learn the general process of cheese making and history of traditional methods in relation to culture and environment. Make farmer’s cheese and paneer, stretch mozzarella and take these skills home to try with family and friends. Making your own cheese is a great way to cut down on packaging and have fun; We’ll also cover some local sources for milk (goat & cow). Suggested donation: $35-40. Space is limited to 15 people. Reserve your space by emailing carrborogreenspace@gmail.com