Location map for a proposed dental office next to Chick-fil-A at New Bern Mall.
Times are tough for brick and mortar retail locations, particularly indoor malls. Just look at Vernon Mall in Kinston (hint: it’s vacant).
New Bern Mall (aka Twin Rivers Mall) has been soldiering on, trying to fill remaining vacant out parcels and upgrade its interior tenants over the past several years.
One such attempt was securing a Cracker Barrel. The mall’s owner, Hull Property Group, filled in a drainage pond and completely re-engineered its drainage system along with part of its parking lot in order to make space for a Cracker Barrel.
The Cracker Barrel was to be located in the southeast corner of the mall, next to Chick-fil-A, a restaurant that is so busy it creates its own traffic jams near the mall entrance.
The deal fell through.
Now Hull Property Group is developing a portion of that location as a dental office.
The site plan describes the facility as a shell building, which usually implies that a tenant will be sought after the building is complete. However, Hull Property Group, on its website, announced back in March that Aspen Dental would be opening a location. The announcement was brief and to the point: “Aspen Dental will be coming to the New Bern Mall and will occupy approximately 3,500 sf.”
Floorplan of the proposed dental office at New Bern Mall.
Now, plans for a dental office are coming before the city Departmental Review Committee on Sept. 14. That’s the stage where the site plan gets reviewed and critiqued by various city departments to make sure it passes muster.
A project plan at this stage is no guarantee that the project will actually happen.
The addition of a dental office to the New Bern Mall footprint is not exactly an exciting addition. It’s maybe even less exciting than the Mattress Firm store that opened there several years ago. Certainly it’s nowhere near as exciting as the Buffalo Wild Wings and Starbucks that opened there during the same timeframe, and the renovation of Belk about eight years ago.
Still, given the congested nature of that portion of the New Bern Mall parking lot, a dental office may be a good fit.
New Bern Mall has faced stiff competition for new tenants since the development of New Bern Marketplace farther west on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. That new shopping center landed an enlarged Harris Teeter, Ross, Hobby Lobby, Academy Sports, and, unofficially, several restaurants.
GateHouse Media, owner of the Sun Journal of New Bern as well as newspapers in Kinston, Havelock, Marine Air Station Cherry Point, Camp Lejeune, Trenton, and Jacksonville, is offering buyouts in an attempt to further trim its payroll.
GateHouse is seeking volunteers to accept a buyout package that offers six days pay for each year of employment. The cut takes effect on Sept. 7. Employees must decide by today, Aug. 27.
Between Kinston and New Bern, staff has gone from a total of more than 30 a decade ago, to 11 now, with perhaps more cuts in the offing. The Post is aware of more than a half dozen GateHouse employees who plan to take the buyouts, scattered across New Bern, Kinston, and Jacksonville locations.
If buyout goals are not met, GateHouse will resort to layoffs.
Buyouts leave GateHouse with the flexibility to fill vacated positions with lower-paid workers, however the company has not shown any desire to fill vacant positions. Layoffs force the company to leave affected positions vacant, or reorganize in order to disguise any old positions that must be filled.
Employees who accept the buyouts or, in cases of layoffs, severance packages, are forced to sign agreements barring them from working for competing companies and from saying anything disparaging about GateHouse for at least a year following termination.
That results not only in smaller newspaper newsrooms, but the departure of experienced local journalists who are knowledgeable about the area.
New Bern is already losing its managing editor, Ken Buday, who is being transferred to be in charge of the Globe, the Camp Lejeune base newspaper GateHouse runs under contract with the Department of Defense.
Meanwhile, the Kinston Free Press, which shares resources with the Sun Journal and is under the management of the same editor, Chris Segal, is down to one reporter following the departure of one reporter within recent weeks. That puts additional strain on New Bern’s staff to fill any gaps in Kinston.
GateHouse already announced plans to shutter its regional pressroom, mail room, and call center in Jacksonville, and move some of those operations to its Fayetteville location. That will affect another 40 jobs.
It leaves one to wonder what GateHouse’s long-term strategy is with its local properties. At current rates, newsrooms will reach zero staffing within five years, outpacing declines in print circulation, which could reach zero within a decade.
Growth in online readers (for both the website and an “e-edition” of the print products) has historically not kept pace with declines in print readers.
GateHouse is not alone in its effort to reduce payroll expenses. McClatchy, which owns the News & Observer in Raleigh, the Charlotte Observer, and the Durham Herald-Sun, is laying off nearly 4 percent of its staff.
The North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association, creator and host of the annual NCRLA Chef Showdown presented by Got to be NC Agriculture, announced the 21 chefs selected to compete in its third annual cooking competition.
Among those selected is Antonio Campolio of Persimmons Waterfront Restaurant in New Bern.
The chefs and pastry chefs, all based in North Carolina, advance after cooking up the highest-rated dishes across three regional competitions. The main NCRLA Chef Showdown event takes place on Monday, Aug. 27, at Aria at Founders Hall in the Bank of America Center in Uptown Charlotte, N.C.
Antonio Campolio, NCRLA Chef Showdown 2018 finalist. He is executive chef at Persimmons Waterfront Restaurant in New Bern.
From the Persimmons website: At the age of 12, Chef Campolio began washing dishes at his parents’ restaurant. Beginning at age 18, Chef Campolio worked his way through the world famous Greenbrier Hotel’s Culinary Internship Program, learning valuable skills he still uses daily. After his time at the Greenbrier, Chef Campolio continued his career at 700 Drayton in Savannah, Ga. and later at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, Co. Before coming to Persimmons, Chef Campolio was the Executive Chef at the Marcus Whitman Hotel in Walla Walla, Wa., where he lead the restaurant to numerous national accolades including Restaurant of the Year by the Washington Wine Commission. During his time in Washington, Chef Campolio was invited to cook a meal at the James Beard House (named for the legendary American chef) in New York City, one of the highest honors a chef can receive.
Recently becoming a father, Chef Campolio and his wife, Zeljana, were attracted to New Bern as a great place to raise their son. “We visited and fell in love with the town for our family. Then I went to Persimmons and saw an incredible opportunity to really focus on local, sustainable food year-round. It was a perfect fit.”
In his short time at Persimmons, Chef Campolio has already established relationships with local farmers, ranchers and breweries and says the restaurant will feature bi-seasonal menus to highlight the foods that are fresh and at their peak. He wants Persimmons to be a place for “locals and tourists alike — where they can count on fresh, delicious and local food, whether just getting a beer and appetizer or enjoying lunch or dinner.”
“This year’s slate of contenders includes some of the most innovative and talented chefs in our state. At the showdown, these chefs will use North Carolina ingredients to demonstrate their creativity and shine a light on our incredible hospitality industry. Attendees will get a taste of why North Carolina’s culinary scene is one of the best in the nation,” said NCRLA President and CEO Lynn Minges.
Selected chefs – sorted into two food categories, savory and sweet – are vying for the 2018 “NCRLA Chef of the Year” and “NCRLA Pastry Chef of the Year” awards. Chefs will prepare and serve tasting-sized portions to event attendees. The dishes, judged by five culinary experts, receive scores on presentation, taste, and use of local ingredients from North Carolina.
NCRLA will crown a 2018 “NCRLA Mixologist of the Year,” as six North Carolina distilleries partner with hand-picked bartenders to craft cocktails for guests and judges to enjoy. Distillery and mixologist teams will be announced in the coming weeks.
The Entrepreneur Center of Craven County (TEC3) is holding Duct Tape Marketing™ seminars on Thursday, June 14. Two Sessions will be held at TEC3 at 233 Middle St #310, New Bern. Participants can choose the 9 a.m. – Noon or the 1 – 4 p.m. session. Lunch will be held from Noon to 1 p.m. The price for the seminar is $45 and includes lunch and materials. Current TEC3 members may attend the seminar and lunch at no charge. To register, visit www.cravenbusiness.com.
Leading the seminars will be Dan Kraus, president of Leading Results, who is a Duct Tape Marketing certified consultant. Kraus has more than two decades of experience in sales, marketing and go-to-market strategies, and he has developed a deep portfolio of experiences that he uses to help small businesses profitably grow their businesses.
“The popular Duct Tape Marketing books and marketing system really helps small businesses find affordable and creative ways to find and keep customers. We are really excited to bring marketing veteran Dan Kraus and Duct Tape Marketing approach to New Bern to help our area entrepreneurs,” said Dan Spangler, board chair, TEC3.
The Entrepreneur Center of Craven County (TEC3) is an entrepreneurial development program intended to educate, support, and cultivate new business growth in Craven and surrounding counties. TEC3 is a collaborative partnership between multiple community partners in the eastern region. TEC3 focuses on the expanding the existing entrepreneurial culture and offering co-working, incubator style space with a community resource (one-stop) center. TEC3 is where “start-up” businesses can launch their operations and small business owners interact and collaborate. TEC3 has been generously supported by the following organizations: Craven County, the Craven 100 Alliance, Swiss Bear Development, and others. For more information, go to the organization’s web site at: cravenbusiness.com/TECCC.
The owners of Courts Plus will close their struggling New Bern location on May 31 and focus their resources on the Jacksonville location.
Owners Jan and Tim Stelma made the announcement in a letter to club members.
“May 31, 2018, will be the last day of operations for Courts Plus of New Bem. As you all know, we were forced into bankruptcy almost two years ago and have been working hard to continue operations. Despite the best efforts of all, New Barn continues to suffer financially. My husband and I will continue full operations in Jacksonville and put our efforts there.”
The Stelmas bought the Jacksonville Courts Plus in 1989 and the New Bern club in 1990.
“We do not know what will become of the club or property in New Bern, but we do know we walk away wtth heavy hearts In this very difficult season.”
They said they may offer limited memberships to New Bern club members to use the Jacksonville club.
Located at 2911 Brunswick Ave., Courts Plus is a full-service health club with indoor and outdoor pools. Its troubles coincide with the arrival of Planet Fitness, whose prices undercut other fitness services in New Bern.
Five Guys is noted for its infinitely customizable burgers and overly generous portions of fries. Oh, and unshelled peanuts. Let’s not forget the unshelled peanuts. Photo by Jerry Huddleston
A lot of news on the business front today, some well-sourced but awaiting official confirmation:
New Bern Marketplace, the up-and-coming shopping center between Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Trent Road, may well wind up as a dining destination.
Columbia Development, the developer of the large shopping center, has not updated its tenant list (which already includes a Hobby Lobby, Five Below, Academy Sports, Ross, and, at 100,000 square feet, the Mother of All Harris Teeters), but reliable sources say it will be the location for Olive Garden Italian Restaurant, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, and LongHorn Steakhouse.
All three restaurants are in New Bern’s vicinity (Greenville, Morehead City, Jacksonville), but will be new to New Bern. There is a Five Guys aboard Cherry Point, but not accessible to people who don’t have access to the Marine Corps air base.
Within the massive outdoor mall’s orbit will be a new Sonic Drive-in restaurant (New Bern’s second location) next to Rite Aid, across the MLK from New Bern Marketplace, and a new Paula’s Pizza location off the MLK near New Bern High School.
In other business news:
Captain Ratty’s, the iconic seafood restaurant at Middle and South Front streets in Downtown New Bern, is reportedly up for sale.
BSH, manufacturer of world-class kitchen appliances, is adding a third dishwasher line to its New Bern plant. The new assembly line will be building high-end dishwashers.
A new report shows the uneven spread of high-speed internet technology across rural and urban areas of North Carolina. Courtesy of the North Carolina League of Municipalities
Talk of spreading broadband internet access to the far reaches of North Carolina as an economic development engine and an equalizer in the education divide is as old as dial-up service and squawking modems.
A legislative proposal to overhaul North Carolina’s broadband rules may accelerate the long-sputtering debate over the state’s role in ensuring access to high-speed internet service.
Also pushing the conversation forward is a new report that examines the urgency of improved access for the state’s economic future.
City Laundry, New Bern’s quirky foodie/coffee/wine/beer/live entertainment venue on Pollock Street, is closing on April 30, according to a Facebook post.
Here is the post:
“It has been a wonderful ride, but we will close our doors on April 30th. We want to invite everyone to come say goodbye at any of our upcoming events (we have event pages for all of them). You can call us or message us here for a reservation to any of our last events. 252-876-7007. New Bern has been great to us, we thank you all for your support!”