Critiquing local businesses

I feel very strongly that it is important to support our local businesses. I go out of my way to do this because without them we would be forced to shop at larger, less personable chains where our local dollars are shipped out to their corporate headquarters. Once there the money would be spent on national advertising as well as the development of other big-box stores with their sprawling parking lots and filled with the same, foreign made crap that I could buy in their other stores across the country.

By spending my money in my home town I have learned that the local businesses have a different variety of products, and that the owners are competing for my business. So they are happy to make minor accommodations to keep me as a customer. Furthermore, if I want to know where something came from all I have to do is ask the clerk or owner of the business.

I can think of many more reasons to support our local businesses as well as many more reasons why we should not support the larger chains. But I initially started this thread to ask about using this forum to critique certain local businesses. After all, as much as I prefer to shop locally I will just as quickly go to the next shop if I am not treated well.

Would it be rude of me to endorse certain businesses while at the same time complain about the poor service of other establishments?



We shop almost exclusively in Carrboro and Chapel Hill.  (The mister owns the business next to Whole Foods and is on the board of the Chamber of Commerce.)  It's the right thing to do.  In fact, I can brag right now about pulling off a fairly ambitious home renovation project using all Carrboro contractors with only one exception -- nobody in Carrboro cuts granite. 

As for endorsing or panning certain businesses, I would certainly participate in such a forum.   Let me start by endorsing Tim Peck & Artisans without qualification.  Every one is a perfectionist and a pleasure to have around.  Friendships blossomed.  

I am amazed to find how seldom I need to shop outside Carrboro/Chapel Hill.  Maybe once a month and sometimes less than that. About half our furniture we bought from neighbors during yard sales.

The other week my 6-year-old wanted to decorate t-shirts and I was dreading driving out to mall-land and then remembered I could get t-shirts at the dollar store in Carrboro and fabric markers at the artist's supply store on Franklin Street. 

We should also be discussing how we build a network of good local businesses which promote & practice environmental stewardship, social justice, and local economic vitalization.



The Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce is working on a sutainability initiative.  This could be a national model, or is modeled after a national model.  They're studying hard to get it right.  I'll find out more and report later today. 

A group of graduate students from the UNC School of Social Work developed a prototype for a sustainable business certification program last academic year (Aaron's father was the instructor). That prototype, in conjunction with the Foundation for a Sustainable Future, attracted the attention of folks from the UNC and Duke business schools which are now working to formalize the program. The idea is that businesses will voluntarily submit to an audit of the economic, environmental, and social justice practices in order to get the Chamber seal of sustainability. 

Kind of reminds me of No Child Left Behind. A really nice concept but the devil will be in the details. 


I agree with Terri that the Chamber's sustainability effort is very similar to No Child Left Behind. Both have powerful sounding slogans and were designed to get more mileage from the perception than the reality.


Why not let it get off the ground before dismissing it as merely a perception.
They've been promoting it for a few years now as if it is off-the-ground. It is quite fair to ask, "Where's the beef?"
The students developed the survey last spring; the partnership to take over the accreditation was formed last summer. So they have been at this for less than 1 year. And we haven't heard from anyone who is currently involved, so we don't know present status.

I see - I was referring to the Chamber's much bally-hooed sustainability PR initiative.

Are these students working to serve that project?

Thanks for the clarification, Terri.  As prototypes go, this program just might have legs.  The Chamber was really gung-ho in the beginning.  Then they did appear to get mired in those devilish details.  I'd like to see more of a business model than an academic one -- this might be the hang-up.  Pure speculation on my part -- my source is not forthcoming. 

So I hope I don't come across as preaching that the customer is always right. In fact, I prefer to buy used but will very often buy something new because I do not have the insight and knowledge that the professionals do.

But when I do seek out professional help I expect a little more hand holding than only at the point of sale. Okay, so it wasn't that bad but I did drop $2000 in one shot. When I noticed, and brought to the attention of an employee of the shop, a minor issue with the bike a week later it would have been nice to be told "leave it here, this shouldn't be happening" instead of "well, um, I see that you're busy but..."

Apparently this shop is busy enough to be able to lose customers but in order for us to have local businesses one would think that the customer should leave happy.

I'm just saying. 

I think I would contact the owner of the shop and let them know you felt brushed off. One of the advantages of local business  ...

Jamie, a bike shop ought to provide excellent service.  This is not like a clothing store where the garment either fits or it doesn't.  The clerk who sells me a new top needs no expertise. The specialist who sells you a bike should make sure it's perfect.  Otherwise it's unsafe.

So go ahead and name the offending business.   

A thread to comment on local businesses?  Sure!  Why not!  This could be fun!  (Jamie, I agree with Catherine; just go ahead and name the bike shop if you want to gripe about 'em!) 

A couple of my own contributions:

(1) I'm not sure I've ever seen a service business where the employees look as regularly unhappy as the people who work at Foster's.  Both the one on MLK and the one up in Durham.  I'm not saying they're unpleasant to customers; they're not.  I'm just saying I've been going to both establishments for 10 years now and the folks behind the counter always look at least modestly bored and unhappy.

(2) Al's Garage rocks!  They're a bit pricey but I have found them to be absolutely reliable, which is really something precious in the auto repair business.

(3) The servers at Lantern are world-class.  Truly.  I don't know what sort of special training the owners of that restaurant give their wait staff, but they're doing something very right. 

(4) Haircuts at Moshi Moshi are fun.  Catlin is wicked funny.

(5) When I walk into Fitch Lumber, I feel like I'm walking back in time about 50 years, and not in a good way.  Something about the pictures of the men on the wall and the little pool of ladies clacking away on adding machines and the all-male (and all-white) sales force at the desks and in the aisles just makes it feel like a time machine.  It's not the folks themselves -- they're pleasant and helpful -- it's just something about the feel of the place, at least for me.

Passport Motors has got my absolute loyalty. They fix it right and they do not fix it if it don't need fixen. Many times I have walked away from the place with a lower than expected bill. They prove that an honest mechanic is not necessarily and oxymoron.

The shop is the Clean Machine. Thank you for your support and advice. When I first started this thread I was going to name the shop but I had not because 1) I have had a lot of help there from some employees that really care about what they are doing and 2) I felt guilty because I really do care about our local shops and I didn't want to start bitching.

I do all the maintenance on my bikes but since I bought this bike new I have decided to bring it in and (politely) insist that they remove the broken plastic chain guard.

Having said that there is another bike shop in town that I wanted to share with everyone that I just learned about: Back Alley Bikes ( They've been around for a little while but I just found about about them last week.

They are a small operation of maybe two people who specialize in repairs and maintenance but also have some items to sell. I imagine that as they grow they'll expand what they sell but that's just a guess. The two gentlemen are very helpful and informative.

My wife has a bike she bought at the Clean Machine (actually called something else I think) back in the mid-90s. They still give her free tune-ups, which is part of their package deal.

Performance Bike has been incredibly helpful to me and the other day the guy...can't remember his name...who does most of the repairs spent about half an hour trying to fix my bike. What is amazing is that he had given it a tune-up about a month  before and I just "dropped-in" to ask why something had started acting funky shortly afterwards. That's good service AND good business.


One man with courage makes a majority.

- Andrew Jackson

Ah, now we're getting somewhere.  I often wonder who trains the excellent restaurant servers we have around here -- Acme, Panzanella, Southern Rail, and Akai Hana for starters.  That's just about all of them, and the food is so good. 

For automotive service, Auto Motion (Ronnie Fantazo) just down from Al's Garage is a first-class operation.  Ronnie's calm voice on the phone is like therapy.  This in spite of the fact that I dislike my car intensely.  My sister swears by Al, who counseled her for years to get rid of her car the way a good friend would do.  Then he would fix it.  Again. 

I shop for clothes only where people know my name.  It's not that hard to remember, because I'm fairly extravagant.  Painted Bird in Carr Mill is one of those places.  So is Modern Times in University Mall.  I have a new dressing challenge, and the women in these destinations get excited whenever I find just the right thing.  

Wracking my brain to think of an establishment where I've been offended or gotten bad service lately, I can't come up with any.  My recent renovation project involved a ton of responsiveness, and I got it from everyone.  Maybe that's why I'm such a happy customer. Look for the testimonial in Carrboro Citizen sometime soon.  

Jamie,  thank you so much for your public thank you to our many locally owned businesses who work very hard to serve our community.   Chapel Hill-Carrboro is a very friendly environment for local proprietorships to flourish because of the high level of consumer awareness about their value to the larger community landscape.      

 I just want to point out a few things.   There are many of what you call "larger national chains"  who are good  community citizens.   It is a generalism  not entirely accurate to group the business community into an "us and them"  model.   For example, the Subway stores in this town are national franchises, but owned by local people who live and invest in this community.  They support many local initiatives while still being part of one of those "larger national chains' you mention.  (I used to own several of these stores myself, so that's why I use them as an example.).

 Trader Joes is another "not locally owned, larger chain"   that nonetheless has a commitment to the local communities in which they operate and has already contributed much to our local landscape.   Harris Teeter gives us all an opportunity every day to support the schools of our choice through linking VIC cards to specific schools.   

So "larger chain" and "local investment"   are not necessarily mutually exclusive.  Part of why we welcome all businesses in  our Chamber of Commerce is to bring them to the "local table"  and help them understand  the importance of investing locally in our community.   The more educated they are  about where they do business, and the more integrated  and tied in they are to local happenings,  the more likely they are to support local needs.    

 I want to give particular kudos to a few local businesses I like:  Harrington Bank, Grimball Jewelers, and The Chapel Hill Restaurant Group.  Not only do they give excellent service and a superior product, they also love and embrace this community and work hard to support it with their time and their other resources.     There are many others, but those three I know well and just think they deserve a big thank you. 


I agree with you regarding  larger chains and local investments not being mutually exclusive. I also realize that many larger companies give back a lot to their comm unites. That is wonderful.

But my frustration stems from seeing the same logos in every town, representing the same stores that provide the same crap made from anywhere but the United States in large buildings that are heated OR cooled every day all day and surrounded by 3+ acres of pavement. Okay, I know that Starbucks on Franklin Street does not have the parking lot that I just described. But none-the-less, why is it there? We have at least one coffee bean manufacturer in Durham! I think that we have two to choose from.

And this is where there is a conflict of interest between my economic philosophy and my lifestyle (for lack of better word) philosophy. I am a capitalist. When it comes to anything that you can buy from health insurance to gas to information, to bicycles I am a capitalist. So, why not Starbucks. I don't think that I'll ever have an answer for myself.

One man with courage makes a majority.

- Andrew Jackson

To witness how subversively Disney can make huge piles of money?

One man with courage makes a majority.

- Andrew Jackson

It was a joint venture.

Anyway, I thought the movie was cute.

That they make good movies for young kids. If you have young children (as you do) it doesn't take long to realize that most "kid" movies are more appropriate for teenager's and adults.Wall*E, Horton Hears a Who, Kung Fu Panda (mostly, although still scary at parts). You don't get many options for the occasional movie with kids. 

The fact that they poked fun at Wal-Mart and tried to subtly teach a lesson about taking care of the planet is bad how?

One man with courage makes a majority.

- Andrew Jackson

But I agree with Robert: it's really hard to find good movies for younger kids that don't have really scary villains. Wall*E was great in that it didn't resort to typical scare tactics. The only bad guy was a machine and not made to look particularly menacing.

Kung Fu Panda was a really fun movie, but the villain was a bit much for my 3 year old. 

I love movies and wish I could find more we could watch as a family. Now, my real dream is also to have some that include some racial diversity. Frankly, I've been surprised to find that Disney is actually a bit better at this than some others. 

It is a global market.

So I went into the Clean Machine today just before 4pm. It was quite busy. I guess Mondays are the day to get things done. Anyway I explained the problem with Jeremy, who sold me the bike, and he took care of everything.

I have known for some time now that when I care about something I am very passionate about it. Or, I simply don't care. I have also come to realize that I need to work on not getting so worked up about things that 'don't seem right'.

I look forward to revisiting this thread with more positive shopping experiences to share. 

Great place to grab a bite, relazing and friendly atmosphere. EXCELLENT food made and found locally.

There seems to be enough parking for cars and bikes. But there is only one bike rack. And it is monopolized by bikes that live there. Speaking of which there are Blue Urban Bikes there if you need them. It is popular enough to warrent more bike racks

Johnny's had fresh squezed OJ one day but not today. There are great crepes on Saturday by Jody's . The Tienda up front has produce brought fresh Monday's and Thrusdays from the Raleigh Farmers' Market. As far as I can tell, except for a few beverages,  everything is produced  with-in the Triangle if not the county. (Please correct me if I am wrong)

Plus there is a shoe donation box in the parking lot.

I have never been treated as disrespectfully and unfairly by any business as I was by the Herald-Sun.

 I subscribed to the paper for about 15 years and it was delivered  regularly for that entire time - until the last year or so. It was soon after they were bought by that company from Kentucky (or Tennessee or ?) and the new company cleaned house on many employees by unceremoniously dumping them. (Which, on a side note seemed like chickens coming home to roost because the cranky conservatives who ran the paper previously never saw a business decision they couldn't defend or a complaint against business practices that they couldn't deride). Anyway, we started getting the paper intermittently. We'd call and maybe we 'd get the paper delivered for a few days and then it would stop. We'd call again and maybe get a few scattered days of delivery. We did this about five times and then just gave up. A few months later I went to talk to the head of circulation and asked for a refund for the part of my subscription that they never delivered on (about $75). I was told by the nasty, scolding woman that it was my fault that the papers weren't delivered because I didn't call every day. She said they had no way of knowing if their papers were getting delivered and that I needed to let them know. I informed her that we did just that and that furthermore  nowhere in my subscription agreement did it say that I was repsonsible for administrating delivery and what business could possibly justify blaming the customer when a product or service was not provided as agreed, how pathetic it was that they didn't have any way of knowing if their product was delivered or not, etc., all the while she looks at me like a dog she'd like to kick again. And the entire circulation department is listening to her demented rant. The room had a feeling of gray ugliness. I was astounded. I meant to take them to small claims court to bring a little justice to their abusive practices, but time went by and I never did.

Worst business I've ever dealt with - hands down. There is no way that this was an isolated incident. The cancer in the building was palpable. I feel sorry for anyone working there. Even the twisted witch who runs her small franchise of hell in the circulation department.

I think the communication between circulation departments and delivery personnel can be extremely iffy, and my husband (who was an Omaha World-Herald paperboy decades ago) says it seems that it's gotten a lot worse in certain corners perhaps having to do with computerization and the scarcity of local delivery people (none of ours seem to live in Chapel Hill).

We'd subscribed to the Sunday NYTimes for a while when inexplicably it started to be delivered to our next door neighbor's yard (they weren't subscribers). I checked the bill -- correct street number -- and called every week for about 4 weeks. I always got a pro-forma apology call on Tuesday or Wednesday, half the time asking if we wanted 7-day delivery (no!). It went on for another month, and I told my neighbors they were welcome to read it if they'd just turn it over to us sometime on Sunday. I called every time and finally told the Times I would not pay for any Sunday it wasn't delivered to the correct driveway.

A supervisor called me back and agreed this was all awful, unacceptable, etc. But it still kept showing up next door. I sent back the next bill with a note on it saying I would not pay for mis-delivered papers -- got another supervisor's call, who sounded very apologetic and mystified. I told him if it happened one more Sunday, I was canceling the subscription.

It did, and I did.  I then got a flurry of "please come back" calls and promises to get it right, but I was just as happy to have an excuse to go down to the VisArt/Newsstand -- whose passing I mourn.

For 3-4 more months, my neighbor kept getting the free NYT -- which we shrugged about and shared. Eventually, the delivery stopped but I got one of those Christmas Cards from the delivery person in my mailbox.

I ignored it.



Just paid $12 for 3 cups of angle hair pasta and a can of tomato sauce. It tasted okay but not like $12. It was quiet and clean but I feel I could have made better for less. 

Sure it was Sal's? According to the CHNews, they closed 2 weeks ago, yet another casualty of Federal Realty/owners of Eastgate.

Continue to wonder what the owners/management have as an overall vision for Eastgate.

They have an additional location on MLK Blvd don't they?
Yes, officially it is on Homestead:,+Chapel+Hill,+Orange,+North+Carolina+27516,+United+States&sll=35.953605,-79.072058&sspn=0.007591,0.018003&ie=UTF8&ll=35.953119,-79.063776&spn=0.007591,0.018003&z=16&iwloc=addr
At the same time, it's good to see that part of the town doing so well that they can afford to charge $32/sq ft. Moved recently or will soon: Wentworth & Sloan, Barbeque Joint, Locopops, 3 Cups, Phydeaux, Performance Bike, (Sandwhich maybe?), and others that I've forgotten. Of course, Trader Joe's, like the article says, has also been a big addition to that side of town and Southern Season's massive expansion a few years back hasn't hurt. Seems like a lot of retail is staying away from or leaving the downtown area(s) and heading to those 3 shopping centers. If the towns want to have vibrant downtowns, they're gonna have to work harder to keep some functional retail there other than gift shops and bars. I can *guarantee* that the owners of Sal's won't open a downtown location. It wouldn't fly.
I was interested in opening a business at Eastgate and the landlord their wanted to charge me $42 per square foot. Where are we...New York City?!!!

Jason and Rob at Back Alley Bikes are kind, patient, and informative. Regardless of when I show up they always have a tool in their hand but never hesitate to put it down and discuss my bike issues.

They are also very flexible and accomodating of speciel needs cyclists like msyelf. ;-)

Look like federal had some idea of what they were doing, Carmine's is a localy owned resturant. I walked over there the other day and the place looks great! I was told that they are going to have outside seating and will be a faimly Place! Sal's I never thought had great food and there price's were high! I visited the other location could not find a parking spot and they only can seat 23 people. So I figured I would just call them for a take out order and after 60 min I called back and they said that i never made the order. The last thing that I have to say is has anyone noticed the two different prices and the two different reasons that Sal's owners give in the same paper and then change the price in the second paper. I found that interesting. I am looking forward to the new resturant and can't wait to try it out when it opens. they have a wed sight that  i saw in the window while I was talking with the owner


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