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Blog: Short Orders
'It’s a different experience you won’t find anywhere else.' Music, coffee greet shoppers at Trader Joe's opening in Greensboro.

GREENSBORO — It’s not every day the opening of a grocery store becomes a party.

But that’s what happened Thursday during the much-anticipated debut of Trader Joe’s at Brassfield Shopping Center.

“I’ve always heard good things about Trader Joe’s ... so I thought I’d just come and see it and do some shopping,” said Elizabeth Thomas of Greensboro.

And Thomas wasn’t alone. About 300 people waited for the doors to open while students from the Western Guilford Stinger Jazz Band performed. Free maple-flavored coffee helped the waiting shoppers endure the morning chill.

When the doors finally opened around 9 a.m., shoppers got the red-carpet experience. Employees, dressed in colorful Hawaiian shirts, clapped as the first customers filed through the doors while some danced as the jazz students covered Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4.”

Many shoppers said they had been waiting anxiously for the moment, having driven to stores in Winston-Salem and elsewhere to get their Trader Joe’s fix.

“I take a cooler every time I go to Wilmington to visit my son, and I always stop at Trader Joe’s on the way home,” Greensboro’s Mary Byrnes said.

The grocery chain has a reputation for low prices on a unique selection of items. Care for pumpkin-seed salsa? How about some sheep’s milk feta cheese?

Store manager Anthony Benson explained that about 80% of Trader Joe’s products are under a proprietary label rather than have shelf space — and costs — dictated by major labels.

“That enables us to strip out a lot of layered costs with distribution and advertising,” Benson said. “You’re not going to find Doritos or Oreos or Pepperidge Farm.”

The store is small — only about 13,000 square feet. But shoppers had plenty of room as they filled the wide aisles perusing cereals, produce and frozen entrees.

Trader Joe’s has a simple, old-fashioned ambiance with wooden shelves and stacks of prepackaged bulk goods devoted to nuts, dried fruits and candy.

An entire wall is devoted to the chain’s legendary line of affordable wines.

Signs handwritten in chalk advertised seasonal specials, mostly pumpkin in nature.

Murals on the walls depicted Greensboro landmarks.

Those who came Thursday were on a mission.

“Their availability of kosher meats is really important to me,” explained Corie Hampton, who usually drives to the Winston-Salem store twice a month.

For Kris Barnes, it was the cheese.

“They have such a good variety. And a much better price,” Barnes said.

And for Christopher Hill, it was for the relaxed island ambiance — as much a company staple as the eclectic products.

“It’s a different experience you won’t find anywhere else,” Hill said.

Despite rumors of the city getting a Trader Joe’s as far back as 2014, it seemed as if it would never happen.

The California company, founded in 1958, was rumored to be interested in a proposed development near Friendly Center. But interest waned after residents near the property protested the project.

City Council members continued to court the company, but to no avail.

In 2017, Trader Joe’s said it was no longer interested in Greensboro. For many, it was like a dagger to the heart.

Hope — and rumors — were rekindled last spring when renovations began on a space between Gold’s Gym and Stein Mart in the Brassfield Shopping Center on Battleground Avenue.

The company made it official last month — their 10th store in North Carolina — sending the hearts of many residents aflutter.

“We just looked for a great location in a great neighborhood,” Benson explained. “When this one came along, we were able to hop on it.”

Michele Gordon, who got in line after dropping her son off at school, couldn’t be more pleased.

“It’s great that we finally have one and I don’t have to drive to Winston or Chapel Hill,” Gordon said.

Susan Edwards 'carried the family’s commitment to improving the lives of others to another level,' her sister Rep. Pricey Harrison says

GREENSBORO — Family and friends will gather Monday at St. Pius X Catholic Church to pay tribute to a member of one of the city’s most prominent families.

They will remember Susan Jarrell Edwards as an engaging woman with a passion for horses, for the arts and for aiding those less fortunate, be they two-legged or four.

“She carried the family’s commitment to improving the lives of others to another level in an understated way, not for credit,” said her sister, state Rep. Pricey Harrison.

Edwards, 58, died Oct. 2 at home on her horse farm in the Ocala area of northern Florida.

Dave Staub, Edwards’ longtime partner, was in Greensboro and had not been able to reach her. He asked a neighbor to check, Harrison said.

The neighbor found her collapsed in the shower, in several inches of water. An autopsy determined she died from drowning, Harrison said.

Edwards was the great-granddaughter of Julian Price, who made his fortune by developing Jefferson Standard Life Insurance Co., now Lincoln Financial Group.

She was the granddaughter of the philanthropist and Jefferson Standard executive Joseph M. Bryan, and the daughter of philanthropist Kay Bryan Edwards and Roy Tolbert Edwards.

Family names grace several Greensboro locales: Bryan Boulevard, Bryan Park, the Kathleen Clay Edwards branch of the Greensboro library and its Price Park, and the Kathleen Price Bryan Family YMCA, to name a few.

Susan Edwards moved to Florida several years ago but kept her house in Greensboro’s Fisher Park neighborhood.

Her unexpected death has left family and friends in shock and grief.

“With all things and people, she made the ordinary special and the special spectacular,” Staub wrote in Edwards’ newspaper obituary.

It’s a line Harrison loved.

“She had a real zeal and zest for life,” said Harrison, one of Edwards’ seven siblings. “She lived by my grandmother’s admonition that if there’s a silence in the room, it’s your fault.”

She was referring to Kathleen Price Bryan.

Edwards’ obituary told of her passion for animals. Her beloved horse, Gonzo, was the center of her world for many years. He is now buried on the Florida farm.

According to her obituary, Edwards was “an outstanding cook, an enthusiastic reader, and an avid learner of all things interesting.”

“Her flair and talkative manner were ever present in her multifaceted world, whether devising new recipes or competing on course with her equine friends,” it said, adding that her “energetic and expansive volunteering knew no bounds. She was always the first in and the last to leave.”

She had a small charitable foundation, the SJE Foundation.

“Her warmth and infinite generosity through her foundation work supported the arts and social justice,” her obituary read.

It asks that memorial contributions go to a favorite charity or to Fairfield Presbyterian Church in Florida for its various shoebox projects to help and spread joy to people in need. A memorial service will be held at that church on Nov. 13.

Longtime Greensboro friend Mebane Ham found a common bond with Edwards through the love of arts and animals. Edwards had served on the board of GreenHill art gallery and was active at UNCG’s Weatherspoon Art Museum.

Ham shared a story illustrating Edwards’ care for animals. In the wee hours of a morning, Ham found an injured duckling on the road. She was driving her father to an out-of-town medical appointment and had to leave. So she wrapped the duckling in a towel and put it on the roadside.

“Who’s the friend I call? It was Susan Edwards, who would get up at that time of the morning and go out and try to find this baby duck to get it to a vet,” Ham said. “That’s the kind of friend and person she was.”

Harrison holds dear her memories of visiting the White House with Edwards, to see Pope Francis during his 2015 visit.

She said she is also grateful she got to watch Edwards compete with her horse, Fred, at an August 2017 horse show in Blowing Rock.

After the funeral Mass at St. Pius at 11 a.m. Monday and a reception, Edwards’ family will privately bring her ashes to the Julian Price Mausoleum at Greenhill Cemetery. Her urn will sit next to those of her mother and her sister, Melanie Taylor, who died of a brain tumor in 2011.

To honor her family’s love for artistry, the urn that holds Edwards’ ashes was made by Seagrove potter Ben Owen III.

An interesting article in today's newspaper

Captured: Man wanted in case that led to K-9 officer’s death during chase arrested in Massachusetts. Page A4

Judges asked to block use of current map of N.C. congressional districts for 2020 elections

RALEIGH — Evidence is so strong that Republicans carved North Carolina’s congressional districts for a specific — and illegal — partisan advantage that those lines must be barred now from use, an attorney representing voters told judges on Thursday.

A panel of three Superior Court judges listened but didn’t immediately rule on the request by the Democratic and unaffiliated voters to prevent the 2020 elections from being administered under the map approved by GOP state legislators in 2016. The voters who sued to challenge the law say the General Assembly should get the opportunity to draw a replacement map that’s finalized by mid-December for use in the March 3 primary.

The lawsuit alleges that Republicans hold 10 of the state’s 13 congressional seats thanks to a deliberate effort to shift lines so that Democrats were largely packed into three districts and spread out elsewhere.

“North Carolina voters deserve better than these gerrymandered maps,” said Stanton Jones, the attorney representing the voters. “They deserve better than being treated like pawns in some cynical partisan chess match.”

The voters’ requested injunction, if granted, would come before any trial or resolution of the partisan gerrymandering lawsuit filed Sept. 27. But the lawsuit’s legal arguments largely mirror another legal case that led these same state judges last month to strike down dozens of state legislative districts as violating the North Carolina Constitution.

Attorneys representing the Republican legislative leaders who were sued and three Republican members of Congress told the judges that it’s too late to make congressional map changes. Candidate filing begins Dec. 2 and campaigning has already started in some districts. By contrast, it took nearly a year for the legislative district litigation case to result in a ruling, said Katherine McKnight, an attorney for the GOP state legislators.

“As we sit here today we are five weeks away from the beginning of candidate qualifying,” McKnight said. “The court is in no position today to grant them the relief they seek.”

But facts about the 2016 congressional map already have been gathered in separate litigation challenging the congressional lines in federal court, plaintiffs’ attorney Elisabeth Theodore told the judges. That case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which decided 5-4 in June that federal courts would not get involved in partisan redistricting claims. The justices left the door open for state courts to intervene.

During the 2016 remap, Republicans put in writing that partisan data and election results could be used in fashioning the districts, with a goal of retaining 10 of the seats in the state’s congressional delegation. The GOP’s hired mapmaker, Thomas Hofeller, “admitted in sworn testimony that he carried out this goal,” Theodore said. Hofeller, who has since died, featured prominently in the legislative redistricting case, too.

“Everyone ... knows that North Carolina’s congressional plan is an extreme partisan gerrymander that predetermines the elections and guarantees 10 seats for the Republicans and three seats for the Democrats,” Theodore said. “This is so plain that the legislative defendants do not even bother to dispute it in their opposition briefs.”

McKnight countered that there are no undisputed facts in the current lawsuit because evidence hasn’t yet been collected for it.

The State Board of Elections says it needs a replacement map in its hands by Dec. 15 to keep the current election schedule on time. The judges otherwise could delay the primary, potentially pushing it back to the runoff date in the spring.

Paul Cox, a lawyer with the N.C. Department of Justice who represented the elections board Thursday, told the judges that an injunction would be appropriate. Cox said the September ruling striking down legislative districts is so similar to details of the current case that administering congressional elections under the current map “might violate the constitutional rights of North Carolina voters.”

The judges on Thursday allowed three Republican members of Congress — U.S. Reps. Virginia Foxx, Richard Hudson and Ted Budd — to join the lawsuit as defendants. The House members oppose the proposed injunction.

Goodwill and Google join efforts to retrain job seekers as digital agility becomes a must for both employees and employers

GREENSBORO — Having trouble keeping up with all things digital?

Fearful you might not be able to keep up?

You’re not alone.

Companies and job seekers alike are navigating the ever-changing digital landscape. And North Carolina is particularly vulnerable, said Melinda Bernard, digital skills coordinator for Goodwill Industries of Central North Carolina.

“North Carolina was listed as one of the states most vulnerable to the impact created by automation,” Bernard said, citing a study released early this year by the Brookings Institution.

Bernard oversees Goodwill’s new Digital Skills Center at 3519 N. Elm St., designed to help job seekers become more digital savvy to get jobs or move into better positions.

Jomaira Ortiz, digital skills program specialist at Goodwill Industries International, said “while the Triad’s economy has historically been tied to textiles, furniture and tobacco, new growth industries are rapidly emerging, including distribution, logistics, biotechnology, aviation and aerospace.

“Simply put, this equates opportunity,” she said.

But to take advantage of those opportunities, workers will need more digital skills.

And even looking for those jobs requires computer skills.

Kelly Hammonds of Jamestown went to the Digital Skills Center planning to just update her resume.

Hammonds, who has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Livingstone College, had worked for a couple of Fortune 500 companies in New York before returning to North Carolina to help her aging grandparents in 2005.

After her grandmother died in 2017, she started looking for work.

The 48-year-old found she had a lot of catching up to do just searching for a job she wanted.

“The application process changed 100%,” Hammonds said. “I was still going into companies asking for a paper application.”

Working with Bernard, Hammonds not only brushed up her existing skills, but she also learned how to create a new email account, how to use Google Drive, how to handle telephone and video interviews and what types of questions to expect.

She said it opened up a lot of doors in her job search, including narrowing down positions she was interested in.

“I’ve been turning down jobs,” said Hammonds, who started her job as a driver for Amazon last week. “It is so awesome. I didn’t even know that they had this type of program — and it’s free.”

Hammonds’ experience is part of the Goodwill Digital Career Accelerator, a $10 million, three-year initiative funded by a grant from Google.

The program aims to help more than 1 million people nationwide enhance and expand their digital skills and increase digital awareness.

Company perspective

Job seekers aren’t the only ones navigating how to ride the wave of technology.

Government, education and company leaders also are trying to figure out how to use it and incorporate it into their workflow.

Success comes from a mindset of adaptability, inclusivity, collaboration, diversity and old-fashioned communication skills, according to a panel assembled by Triad Goodwill for its TechKnow Summit on Thursday. The symposium was sponsored by Goodwill at the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering.

“It is incredibly difficult to keep up,” said Kevin Lawe, who works in the IT group at Lincoln Financial Group. “We rapidly, probably in the last four years now, really embraced kind of a digital approach. … And that was truly needed to change the mindset from our … pen and paper mentality that we had in the organization.”

Among the results was making the company’s services easier to access on customers’ cellphones.

Jim Brady, president of Brady Family of Companies, traced how his company went from selling and servicing Trane air conditioning units to providing “smart building” technology, which allows companies to monitor and reduce energy use.

“We can manage buildings in downtown Greensboro, or Australia or Dubai from afar because all we need is an internet connection to take those disparate systems, bring them back to our command center in Greensboro and monitor how well they’re tracking as far as the energy efficiency,” Brady said.

The company has partnered with SAS to enhance its technical capabilities.

“We have to have partnerships because we can’t do it all ourselves,” Brady said.

The company also has completed a project with the N.C. Department of Transportation to retrofit 14,000 light fixtures into LED lighting and tie them to a computer monitoring system to determine when and where lights are out on state highways. Brady said it will save the state $52 million over the life of the 15-year project.

“You’ve got to have an agile leadership team,” Brady said. “You’ve got to be able to try new things and you’ve got to be willing to fail fast,” he said, referring to the ability to learn from company mistakes and move forward.

Gary Graham of Graham Personnel Services said his company’s internal staff is about 30 people. He has an expert who teaches his employees how to use the company’s software.

“We’re not large enough to invest in an innovation center yet, so our team’s having to adapt daily to the new software and to the technology that we’re bringing in, and it’s working well,” he said.And, although older employees often are having to adapt to new technology, the reverse also is true.

“Some of the younger generations coming through are expecting everything to be on their mobile phone, because that’s the generation that they’ve grown up in — everything is right there at their fingertips,” said Doug McMillian of Cone Health. “It would be nice if it was, but we’re not there yet. So, you have to also almost down train them because they’re a little bit more advanced.”