Carrboro Commons

Most Carrboro apartments have no sprinklers

Posted on October 12th, 2007 in Uncategorized by jock

By Kate Newnam
Carrboro Commons Editor

Week after week, the Carrboro Fire-Rescue Department takes the time to go out into the community and stress the importance of fire safety and prevention. And week after week, the information goes in one ear and out the other of many of the people they are trying to educate.

“We go out there, and most (people) don’t take it serious because they think it won’t happen to them,” said Carrboro Fire Chief Travis Crabtree.


Little is left of the 14 units of Building G destroyed by fire Sept 30.
Kate Newnam photo

Yet it did happen to the residents of the G building of Colonial Village at Highland Hills. Early in the morning of Sept. 30, tenants awoke to their apartment building quickly being consumed by flames and smoke.

“G-2, they were woken by a neighbor banging on their door and said the time was 1:38 then,” said Crabtree. “We didn’t even get (the call and) dispatched until 1:59.”

By the time the fire department received the call at 1: 59 — 21 minutes after the blaze was first discovered — four units of the building were already aflame. Firefighters arrived on the scene only four minutes after getting the call. Crabtree said, “That was all in the a.m. so luckily there was no traffic or lights to slow us down. So that’s about as good as we can do.”

Why had it taken so long for the fire department to get the call?

“I think the residents were in such shock that it was actually happening that time just got away from them,” Crabtree said.

When the fire was finally contained, an entire building lay in ruins, one woman was dead, and two residents were sent to the hospital after jumping to safety from their apartment.

In the aftermath of such a devastating event, the importance of fire safety precautions is fresh in the minds of Carrboro residents and those who protect them. The absence of a sprinkler system in the Highland Hills building has led many apartment dwellers to check up on the safety measures in place in their own buildings and develop their own fire plan. Crabtree’s advice to the public: don’t assume protection is there.

Heartworks Studio artists prepare for annual tour

Posted on October 12th, 2007 in Uncategorized by jock

Sculptor Mike Roig paints a horse sculpture made out of recycled steel with a lacquer sealant. Many of Roig’s pieces will be on sale to the public during the OCAG Open Studio Tours.
Marianna King photo

By Marianna King
Carrboro Commons Writer

Clay Carmichael and Mike Roig’s home is Heartworks Studio. It’s easy to find, located at 100 Hillsborough Rd., directly off Main Street. Roig’s directions include “looking for the house with all the sculpture in the front yard.” The couple shares a welcoming house, whimsical yard and a few roaming “art cats.” Their creative passion, however, is manifested in utterly unique ways.

Roig, a sculptor whose medium of choice is recycled steel, dominates the backyard. His welding and cutting tools spill out of a rustic barn and his creations perforate the flower beds. Carmichael, who jokes that she has “the clean job,” writes and illustrates children’s books in her studio off the kitchen.

The couple, who has been married for almost seven years, is gearing up for a busy few weeks. Both will be participating in the 13th annual Orange County Artists Guild Open Studio Tour which takes place Nov. 3-4 and Nov. 10-11.

“It will be nice for people to get to see two studios at once,” said Carmichael. “The tours can be quite exhausting with about 70 artists participating.”

Jones Ferry Road land remains untouched, for now

Posted on October 12th, 2007 in Uncategorized by jock

By Elyse Archer
By Carrboro Commons Writer

Residents of Carrboro’s Barnes Street are breathing a sigh of relief. Their fight to stop the building of The Shoppes at Jones Ferry has paid off, at least for now.


B.J. Johnston, a Barnes Street resident, says he is glad that there is no immediate threat to his neighborhood.
Elyse Archer photo

Northwest Property Group, the developers for the shopping center, have made no further moves to purchase the land after backing out of their proposal at the Sept. 25 Carrboro Board of Aldermen meeting, said Carrboro land use planner James Thomas.

The proposal for the shopping center, which would have been built on the corner of Barnes Street and Jones Ferry Road, included a 52,250 square foot Harris Teeter, as well as two other buildings totaling over 25,000 square feet in size, according to Carrboro Board of Aldermen meeting agendas.

The proposal was approved at the Sept. 25 board meeting, but Northwest Property Group declined to follow through with the plan due to heavy restrictions on the entrances that would be permitted into and out of the shopping center. Many of the restrictions imposed by the board arose out of Barnes Street residents’ concerns about the impact the new shops would have on the traffic flow on their street. An entrance was proposed that would connect directly to Barnes Street, which led many residents to worry about the impact that the increased traffic would have on their neighborhood, Thomas said.

B.J. Johnston, 26, a Barnes Street resident, expressed relief that the shopping center, as of now, will not be built.

“The traffic flow there is already pretty heavy,” he said. “I have to wait forever to get out to Jones Ferry, and if a big Harris Teeter was built there I can only imagine how much worse it would get.”

Similar concerns expressed by other residents prompted the board to add a stipulation to the proposal, stating that the entrance on to Barnes Street would be for emergency vehicles only, Thomas said.

Surplus Sid’s braces for Halloween onslaught

Posted on October 12th, 2007 in Uncategorized by jock

Barry Keith, better known as Sid, wheels out some of his costumes to display on the sidewalk in front of his store. Every business day Keith packs his store to the brim before locking the doors at closing time, then frees up space the next morning by releasing a few items onto the sidewalk.
Gregg Found photo

By Gregg Found
Carrboro Commons Writer

Halloween costume devotee and master designer Barry Keith – better known as Sid, owner of Surplus Sid’s costume store – said he only goes as one thing every Halloween.

“People ask me, ‘Sid, what are you going to be for Halloween?’” Keith said, chuckling at how often he gets the question, “And I go, ‘Exhausted, thank you very much.’”

Keith is facing the crunch now more than any time of year as students, children and adventurous adults cram into his store in search of a Halloween costume before the enormous Oct. 31 celebration.

Though the rush on Surplus Sid’s inventory comes on like a tidal wave every year, it’s nothing new to Keith, who opened the store in 1988.

“What I have learned over 20 years is that Halloween has become the one totally self-indulgent holiday,” Keith said before showing off his Predator slime skeleton costume. “You can be Jack Sparrow for the day, or you can be the guy out on Street Fighter.”

He’s used to the influx of customers, but some early birds alleviate his October burden. They start costume shopping as early as July, Keith said, or just improve on what they used the year before.

“They’ll come in 2006 and then come back and say, ‘I’m going to add this to it in 2007, and then in 2008 I’m going to build upon it,’” he said.

Still, he counts on a costume rush every year and makes sure to beef up for it.

Keith hires off-duty police officers for the busiest days in October to work the front door both in order to prevent theft and to regulate the flow of people so that he doesn’t violate fire code regulations.

Local women pound pavement

Posted on October 12th, 2007 in Uncategorized by jock

By Laura Davenport
Carrboro Commons Writer

Every Thursday evening, runners from all over the Carrboro and Chapel Hill areas meet for an organized run and training session. Both passionate runners and novices meet to jog the streets of Carrboro and spend some quality time with others who share their zest for exercise. Aside from the love of running, all the participants share another common ground: they are all women.

The Ladies Only Run is sponsored by shoe brand New Balance, which is working with Fleet Feet Sports. Fleet Feet, located in Carrboro’s Carr Mill Mall, specializes in shoes and other athletic apparel. The ladies train for two races a year, also sponsored by Fleet Feet and New Balance.


Amanda Bushman, center, explains the route to runners in front of Fleet Feet. Bushman heads up the group of the more leisurely runners.
Laura Davenport photo

The Ladies Only Run started four years ago with only about 40 participants. According to Rona Van Willigen, one of the trainers associated with the program, the Ladies Only Run now attracts about 205 women of all ages and skill level. They meet each week in two locations, and are divided into three skill levels. The faster group, led by Van Willigen, meets in the parking lot behind the Armadillo Grill. The more leisurely runners are led by Amanda Bushman, and meet in front of Fleet Feet in the Carr Mill Mall parking lot. Women begin coming around 6:10 to stretch and warm up at their own pace, and the run begins promptly at 6:30.

The beginners’ group is for participants who have little or no running experience, and starts off with an easier routine to allow them to work their way up to around two miles. The intermediate runners have a goal set at around three miles, and the advanced runners usually do over six miles for their weekly group training. Van Willigen says that she encourages participants to walk if they need to, just so they complete their distance goal. All three skill levels complete designated routes throughout Carrboro.

While the participants are grouped on skill level, the goal of the program is to focus on distance and not speed, so each group has a wide range of speeds. “Our goal is to challenge the participant at whatever level they are at,” says Van Willigen. “For some, it will be to walk or jog three miles, for others it will be to do track workout for the first time.” For new participants or those who do not wish to keep pace with the group, small maps of the routes are handed out during warm-ups and stretching.

Homer’s Car Wash passes 20-year mark

Posted on October 12th, 2007 in Uncategorized by jock

Homer Marlboro waits patiently by Weaver Street for anyone who might need a car wash, as he has been doing for about twenty years.
Cody Braun photo

By Cody Braun
Carrboro Commons Writer

Almost every day of the week, rain or shine, Homer Marlboro is sitting in his old lawn chair facing West Weaver Street, a Newport cigarette dangling from his fingers, waiting to wash some cars.

His shirt reads “Homer’s Car Wash since 1987,” and that’s the truth; he says he’s been washing cars in Carrboro for over 20 years. “I’m out here every day,” he says. “People would be sad if I wasn’t here.”

He currently works out of the empty parking area near Carrboro Family Vision at 200 West Weaver Street, with just a few rags and spray bottles that he brings with him every day.

Twenty years in business has made Homer somewhat of a local celebrity. As people walk past on Weaver Street, almost every single one stops and greets Homer by name. Homer just nods solemnly at them, and they grin and walk on. “Everybody know me,” says Homer. “They just know who I am.”

Homer’s business is not fast-paced, and that’s how he likes it. “I wash about three cars a day,” he says. “Lots of cars.” After twenty years, Homer has indeed washed lots of cars.

A man of few words, Homer sums up his childhood in one sentence; “Well, just got to living in Chatham,” he says, taking a long drag of his cigarette and looking off into the distance.

Though he was raised in Chatham County, he moved to Carrboro just over twenty years ago, and says he has loved every minute of it. He says that Carrboro has changed in many ways, but is quick to add “I like it pretty good. Yep, it’s pretty nice.”

He started his car wash almost immediately after he moved to Carrboro. “I was working at the police station in Chatham, goin’ round checkin’ doors,” says Homer. But Homer says he didn’t like any of his previous work as much as he likes washing cars on his own.

Homer says he appreciates the people, businesses and services of Carrboro greatly. “I go to school on Wednesday nights at this church,” he says. “Learning how to read, learning how to count…”

Homer says that almost all of his customers are Carrboro residents and that “people here always come back.” After 20 years in business, he says he has a good base of customers.

Homer, who lives alone in Carrboro, says he has also built up a large group of friends in Carrboro, from church and from the car wash. “While, sometimes we go shoot pool…” he says. He says he has also gotten very attached to several other Carrboro businesses in his long time in the area. “I go to Country Kitchen,” he says. “Yep, Country Kitchen. It’s pretty nice.”

When Homer is washing a car, he looks genuinely happy. He scrubs a silver Accord with a rag and rinses it with an old hose. “Real busy today,” he says. He clearly loves what he does, and says that it is nice to have been in one place so long that everybody knows his name.

After he washes a car, he settles back down into his lawn chair, next to the hand-painted red and white sign that reads “Homer’s Car Wash,” lights another cigarette and waits for more cars to wash.

Radio Pa’lante: Latino high school radio is on the air

Posted on October 2nd, 2007 in Uncategorized by jock

by Cody Braun
Carrboro Commons Writer

Felipe Labrada, right, shows Christina Rivera how to operate the sound equipment at WCOM 103.5, where Pa’lante creates their program. At top left is Jaime Mancilla, who helps out with the show.
Cody Braun photo

At the Radio Pa’lante picnic, children and dogs wander underfoot as a handful of adults move back and forth from an overflowing table and the aromatic kitchen. Fittingly enough, the greetings, farewells and conversations that fill the air are spoken nearly evenly in Spanish and English.

“Our mission is two-fold,” says Laura Wenzel, director and founder of the Radio Pa’lante program, “to promote harmony in Orange County among the existing communities and the Latino immigrant community and improve graduation rates among Latino immigrants.”

Pa’lante broadcasts every Friday from 5 to 6 p.m. from the WCOM 103.5 radio station on North Greensboro Street in Carrboro. The name Pa’lante is a contraction of the Spanish phrase “para adelante,” which means “let’s roll.”

Wenzel says that, like most of the choices made about the program, the name was the decision of the high school students who run the show. “It’s a youth-directed program, our work is determined by the ideas and needs of the youth,” she says.

The program, which began in June 2005, is intended to aid Latino immigrants in settling in the area.

“I think people get a lot of information about the Triangle and the events here,” says Byron Rodriguez, an East Chapel Hill High School student who has been working with the program for about two months.

“I hope a lot of other teenagers listen to the show,” says Rodriguez.