February SouthPark 2023

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It takes a special type of couple who can live and work together (without driving each other up the wall). But while most people appreciate a little separation between the two worlds, other relationships thrive when building something together.

In the past, we’ve profiled Douglas and Kaitlyn Rose of Team Rose Bread (February 2021). Working out of a converted carport in their south Charlotte home, the couple and their four children have built a booming bakery business. They started the bread shop to be more present in the lives of their four children, who help bake, fill orders and greet customers at the Matthews Farmer’s Market, where you’ll find them certain Saturdays.

In that same issue, we wrote about Lisa and John Leake, who work together managing 100 Days of Real Food, a blog and cookbook series that spun out of Lisa’s 2014 bestselling book by the same name. And perhaps the most celebrated local couple building a flourishing business together are Greg and Subrina Collier, the powerhouse duo behind Leah & Louise, The Yolk (reopening in South End later this year) and a slate of new concepts coming to Camp North End.

In this issue, we profile five Charlotte couples who have found success following their shared passions. Striking the right balance between work and family is the most important — and the most challenging — aspect, according to the couples in our story. That’s something we can all relate to, but knowing when to turn off “work” is especially hard for these enthusiastic entrepreneurs.

They seem to have discovered the magic formula — and our city is a more interesting place because of them. Read the story on page 63.


1, 2 & 3 - Postcards from Alexandria, Va., our travel story on page 87, during last spring’s cherry-blossom season.

4 & 5 - Love is in the air this month: Chloe and George Camisa were among the first couples to get married at The Ruth in Wesley Heights (page 34).

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26 | wine

Sommelier Anthony Wesley launches a wine school for beginners and beyond.

30 | interiors

House of Drennan creates a dining room ideal for entertaining for almost-empty nesters.

34 | weddings

Chloe Leshner and George Camisa tie the knot at The Ruth.

40 | sports

North Carolina-based HBCU Gameday fills a void in athletics coverage.

44 | around town

What’s new and coming soon in Charlotte

46 | happenings

February calendar of events


53 | gardening

Three tips for creating a lawn by design

57 | simple life

Reflections on a beloved friend’s passing — and growing older

61| bookshelf

Notable new releases

93 | swirl

Parties, galas and events around Charlotte

96 | gallery

SouthPark’s newest champion


Resident Culture Brewing’s Phillip and Amanda McLamb, photograph by Richard Israel

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63 | Labor of love by Sharon Smith photographs by Richard Israel

Five Charlotte couples build their lives around a shared passion.

74 | Love through the ages by Sharon Smith

Legendary loves in Charlotte from the past 100 years

78 | Day out in Concord by Page Leggett photographs by Justin Driscoll

Art, antiques and a little bit of Brooklyn: Discovering a different side of the former mill town

87 | Spring fling by Cathy Martin

Weekend away: Chasing cherry blossoms in Alexandria, Va.

Alyssa and Andrew Wilen of Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen
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Alyssa Kennedy Art Director alyssamagazines@gmail.com

Miranda Glyder Graphic Designer Whitley Adkins Style Editor

Contributing Editor David Mildenberg

Contributing Writers

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Contributing Photographers

Daniel Coston, Justin Driscoll, Richard Israel

Contributing Illustrator Gerry O’Neill


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Cindy Poovey Account Executive 704-497-2220 cindy@southparkmagazine.com

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Jack Andrews, Frank Daniels III, Lee Dirks, David Woronoff in memoriam Frank Daniels Jr.

David Woronoff President david@thepilot.com

Published by Old North State Magazines LLC. ©Copyright 2023. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited. Volume 27, Issue 2
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people, places, things


Charlotte artist Evelyn Henson teamed with Houston childrenswear brand Ann + Reeves Kids on an adorable pooch-themed collection just in time for Valentine’s Day. The “Puppy Love” line featuring Henson’s watercolor renderings includes smocked dresses, bubbles, shorts and more. Henson, whose business has exploded since she started selling paintings on Etsy in 2013, is known for her iconic confetti hearts mural in South End. The Columbus, Ga., native previously collaborated with Hallmark, Pottery Barn, LeighDeux and numerous other brands. Her colorful, cheery designs can be found on calendars, prints, mugs, even wallpaper. The collection is available online at annreeveskids.com. Prices range from $58-$65. SP

southparkmagazine.com | 25

What’s in a label?

When people leave reviews for the McNinch House, one of Charlotte’s most beloved and respected restaurants, they often mention the wine director, Anthony “Wes” Wesley and his “unmatched selections.” In the 21 years he’s been at the AAA Four Diamond restaurant, Wesley has curated an award-winning program that’s regularly recognized by Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator. Now he’s making his expertise available to the public with the launch of the New School for Wine.

“For years, a lot of my guests have been telling me, ‘You’re teaching us so much about wines from different regions, you should teach classes.’ I also like to give the background of wines when I make a suggestion and talk about the winemaker so that when you look at the glass, you see the story behind the wine and it makes you appreciate it more. My classes will talk about all of that.”

Wesley says there will be beginner and intermediate classes that will cover everything from how to read a label to pairings and proper storage.

Wesley learned about wine on the job when he unexpectedly discovered a second career path after moving from New York City to Charlotte in 1987. A Liberia native and graduate of Rutgers University, Wesley relocated here to work in private banking but also took a temporary job as a maitre d’ at The Lamplighter, one of Charlotte’s first fine-dining restaurants, and quickly grew to love the environment.

“I used to host lunch and then dinner, and I started to really

enjoy it — it blew me away,” he says. “When I started working there, they were shooting Matlock, and Andy Griffith came in. Lots of notables came in and at the same time I started to develop an interest in wine. I wasn’t even a big drinker — I didn’t even drink wine.”

The restaurant sent him to classes at New York’s Windows on the World, and over the years he grew to love the stories behind the wine as much as the taste. He developed his own approach to pairing different selections with food.

“When I’m pairing food with wine at a restaurant, I have to taste the food first, so I do it the reverse of most food critics. I taste the food and the sauces, and in my mind I think what wine it might go with. What determines the wine is the sauces.”

Pairings will be a key focus of the classes. “We’ll teach you how to read a wine label, what to look for on the label, the difference between Old World and New World vintage — what it means, why it matters, all those little things.”

Intermediate-level classes will focus on the different wine-producing regions. The classes will be held at The Market at 7th Street, but Wesley is also open to conducting in-home classes for book clubs and other groups, as well as corporate events.

“I enjoy wines, and I see people have a passion for wines. And I like to bring knowledge to them, because there aren’t a lot of places to learn more about wine and they won’t always be in the restaurant … This makes it easier. The more they know, the more they will like wine.”

26 | SOUTHPARK blvd. | wine


Local shops, restaurants and sommeliers offering wine classes:

The New School for Wine hosts classes Saturdays at 11 a.m. (Winetalk 101) and Mondays at 5 p.m. (Winetalk 202). Classes cost $25; register at newschoolforwine.com

Arthur’s Wine Shop has themed wine classes on Sundays from 6 - 7:30 p.m. February offerings include Tour of Italy and Pacific Northwest. Classes are $30. arthursofcharlotte.com

Harper’s SouthPark hosts Walter’s Wine School, a casual wine tasting with a sommelier every other Wednesday evening. The cost is $25 and includes food pairings. Reservations recommended at resy.com

DTR SouthPark offers private group tastings with sommelier Marc Aisenstark for four to 20 people starting at $100 per person. Email manager@dilworthtr.com for reservations

Foxcroft Wine Co. offers monthly tastings for wine club members. foxcroftwine.com SP

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Traditional and pretty


Interior designer Rebecca Bridges’ clients had recently moved into a new home on the outskirts of Rock Hill, S.C., and were eager to make it their own. The couple, whose youngest child was about to leave for college, love to entertain, so they brought in Bridges to focus on the formal areas of the circa-1990s home.

“[The homeowner] definitely wanted traditional but still comfortable,” says Bridges, founder and lead decorator at Rock Hill-based House of Drennan. Working with the homeowners’ existing table and sideboard, Bridges refreshed the space with a bold

octagonal-patterned wallpaper by Schumacher, a distinctive chandelier from Visual Comfort and draperies from Martha & Ash, a company local to Rock Hill and Camden, S.C.

“The homeowner already had a piece from local artist Katie MacGregor, and she wanted to bring in the color through there,” Bridges says. The designer shared pictures of the mood board and space with the artist, and MacGregor created a custom abstract painting for the room.

Bridges, a former teacher and homemaker, pivoted to design over the last decade and started House

30 | SOUTHPARK blvd. | interiors
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Wallpaper: Schumacher

Chandelier: Visual Comfort

Mirror: Carvers’ Guild

Drapery panels: Martha & Ash

Art: Katie MacGregor Art

Ceiling paint: Sherwin Williams

Window Pane in high gloss

of Drennan in 2018. “I was looking for an outlet,” she says. “I missed working and doing something creative.” Her mother, Kathy Raines (House of Drennan’s client services specialist), was an early inspiration. “She has a wonderful eye — her home is beautiful,” Bridges says. “I always say she taught me everything that I know.”

While most of her clients are in York County, Bridges’ work often brings her to Charlotte, too, with previous and current projects from Dilworth to Ballantyne.

For this project, she was able to blend her love of antiques and traditional design with color and modern accents.

“The homeowner just wanted traditional and pretty, a place that she was proud of and she could easily welcome guests.” SP


Using leftover wallpaper from the dining room, Bridges created an adorable “doggie den” for the homeowners’ King Charles spaniel in a small alcove under the stairs.

“That was a first for me!” the designer says. The wood and iron gate matches the home’s entry gate.

32 | SOUTHPARK blvd. | interiors
Home and community information, including pricing, included features, terms, availability and amenities, are subject to change, prior sale or withdrawal at any time without notice or obligation. Drawings, photographs, renderings, video, scale models, square footages, floor plans, elevations, features, colors and sizes are approximate for presentation purposes only and may vary from the homes as built. Home prices refer to the base price of the house and do not include options or premiums, unless otherwise indicated for a specific home. Nothing on our website should be construed as legal, accounting or tax advice. Sotheby’s International Realty® and the Sotheby’s International Realty logo are registered service marks used with permission. Each office is independently owned and operated. Equal Housing Opportunity. Only Two Penthouses Remaining Located in one of Charlotte’s most prominent neighborhoods, The Regent at Eastover offers a luxurious experience for the most discerning buyers. Elegance and modernity abound 32 residences that live like single-family homes—featuring private elevators, high ceilings and expansive terraces. A collection of 32 residences starting from $1.753M with a completion in Summer 2023. The Luxury of Low Maintenance Living SALES GALLERY 119 Cherokee Road 704.285.0621 | TheRegentatEastover.com RESERVE YOUR PRIVATE APPOINTMENT TODAY LUXURY LIVING in the HEART of HISTORIC CHARLOTTE

Chloe & George

NOVEMBER 19, 2022

Chloe (Leshner) Camisa was feeling pretty stressed out in the months leading up to her November 2022 wedding — and with good reason. This was not your typical bride-to-be butterflies; this was something bigger: The couple’s chosen venue, The Ruth, was still under construction. “I was pretty nervous,” the 29-year-old says.

George Camisa, her now-husband, was too. “The biggest thing that scared us was hearing about product shortages and shipping delays,” George says. “They kept telling us it would be done on time, but then we’d go by and look at it and it looked far from finished. It was just an empty, old warehouse.”

Their fears dissolved when The Ruth opened in September. The newlyweds were only the 12th couple to be married at the new Wesley Heights space from Beau Monde Venues. They booked it in December 2021 based on a mood board, a great rate and a promise that construction would be complete on time.

“We’ve been to a lot of weddings in Charlotte and wanted something that wasn’t one of the typical places,” Chloe says. “The mood board just had this cool boho, garden vibe. It seemed like it would be simple and elegant.”

George moved to the Queen City in 2017 to work with Pulte Homes, and Chloe arrived in 2019 to take a job as a reporter for WCNC-TV. Each of them originally planned

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Venue: The Ruth

Catering: Roots Catering

Coordinator: Madison Moseley Events

Florist: Heirloom Floral

Hair/Makeup: Collective Beauty

Dress: Wona Concept from Anjolique Bridal

Grooms jacket: MR PORTER

Band: The Parks Brothers

Videographer: Stay Visual Productions

to stay in Charlotte for only a few years. “But we both fell in love with Charlotte — and then each other,” Chloe says. The two met through mutual friends, one of whom ended up marrying them.

“We weren’t going to go the religious route, so we wanted somebody who knew us both well. I loved the idea of Hunter [Saenz], because he was instrumental in us getting together,” Chloe says. Saenz, who met Chloe when both worked at the same TV station, began the ceremony with some levity, joking, “Who better to marry a Jew and a Catholic than a gay?”

The ceremony took place outside in late November — another risky choice — but the chilly temperatures didn’t dampen the affair.

The bride wore a stunning beaded sleeveless dress from Anjolique Bridal in Cornelius, but she wasn’t sure it would arrive in time for the big day. The dress was a Ukrainian brand, and a few weeks after Chloe placed her order, Russia invaded the eastern European nation. The company was forced to halt production and move operations to Poland, Chloe says. In the end, her dress arrived earlier than expected. “There was a little Ukrainian flag sewn in, and that became my something blue.”

That was just one of many special details at the wedding. The couple had cocktail napkins designed with their beloved rescue pup, Otto, on them that read, “Drinks on me, Love, Otto.” A friend brought the Rottweiler mix dressed in a specialty tux

36 | SOUTHPARK blvd. | weddings
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to Romare Bearden Park for a quick photo shoot before the ceremony.

Despite all the uncertainty leading up to the big day, Chloe says it was everything she’d hoped for. “It was truly my vision come to life,” she says.

“It was the best night of my life,” George adds. “I didn’t expect it to be that awesome and fun. If it was up to me, I would get married in the backyard with

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Campus culture


In 2015, Charlotte filmmaker Wali Pitt stumbled upon HBCU Gameday, a website covering sports at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, while researching an impressive running back at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro. By 2016, Pitt joined the HBCU Gameday team, bringing his cinematography and website knowledge to the company.

Steven Gaither, a North Carolina native and graduate of Winston-Salem State University, launched HBCU Gameday in 2012 to provide comprehensive sports reporting for the more than 100 HBCUs in the United States. Before that, fans relied on niche publications and Black newspapers for updates that were typically unavailable digitally.

As more people wanted to consume content online, Gaither saw his chance to bridge the gap in HBCU sports coverage. He bought the website domain, covered the games he could travel to, and wrote about what was going on nationally. Tolly Carr joined HBCU

Gameday in 2014 as general manager, adding his expertise in broadcasting and video to the team.

“Steven was creating some really engaging content in the blog and social-media spaces, and we knew the next step was creating an enterprise website that could one day stand side by side with the ESPNs and Bleacher Reports,” Pitt says. “We also started to combine Steve’s content with news and updates directly from the schools’ athletic departments to create a website where you could get both accurate up-to-date information as well as more nuanced reporting.”

This month, they’re gearing up for the next big event: The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournament in Baltimore, Md., is Feb. 21-25. CIAA is headquartered in Charlotte and until 2020, hosted the annual event in the Queen City. This year, the event features 12 schools, including Johnson C. Smith University and several other North Carolina HBCUs.

“All of our core members have deep roots within the conference and the tournament itself,” Pitt says. “Plus, it’s sort of like a family

40 | SOUTHPARK blvd. | sports
Charlotte filmmaker Wali Pitt
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reunion for us. It’s one of the few times we (Carr, Gaither and Pitt), get to work side by side instead of being spread out over the map covering games. The CIAA tournament is a pillar of HBCU sports, and it’s something that’s important for us to shine our light on.”

Typically, the team works full time on HBCU Gameday from their respective cities: Gaither in Troutman, N.C., where he grew up; Carr in Atlanta, Ga.; and Pitt in Charlotte. Each manages a specific area of the business and depends on freelance videographers in Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and Texas. “We try to surround ourselves with other people who are not just dedicated to their craft but using their craft to uplift HBCU sports and programs, as a whole,” Pitt says.

Carr, Gaither and Pitt have connected fans to something they affectionately call the HBCU Universe. “There was no ‘HBCU Universe’ before HBCU Gameday came around,” Pitt says. “Up until 2015, HBCU Gameday was one of the few places you could find it all, and it was current.”

The HBCU Gameday website features roughly 150 articles a month about athletes and the schools’ athletic programs. Each story includes a video, which can also be viewed on HBCU Gameday’s YouTube Channel. Stories cover topics ranging from campus culture, bands, cheerleaders and game-day atmosphere.

HBCU Gameday’s coverage extends beyond sports. The platform produces three shows on aspireTV. Jahliel Thurman, a graduate of Virginia State University, hosts “HBCU 101,” interviewing HBCU alumni, college presidents and celebrities about how they reached their level of success. Eight episodes of “HBCU 101” are released each spring and fall.

Pitt produces and Carr hosts “Fast Break” during college basketball season from January through March, and “No Huddle” during football season. Pitt uses his background in cinematography to bring in-depth stories to fans in documentary-style films.

“It’s a combination of highlights, post-game interviews and a little bit more of a deeper dive into the culture,” Pitt says. “We want our platform to feel like all of the events that happen on a game day. We want you to think you can smell the grill when you come to our site.” SP

southparkmagazine.com | 43 blvd. | sports

New and coming soon

 The Pizza Peel in Matthews has closed, and Flying Biscuit Cafe will open in its place in early 2023.

 Steak 48 was named one of the top 100 Most Beloved Restaurants in America on Open Table.

 Miami-based The Salty, a doughnut and coffee shop, opened at Dimensional Place in South End.

 Open Rice opened at Metropolitan in the space previously occupied by Vivace. It’s the Asian-food concept’s second location; the first is in Blakeney.

 Ear-piercing boutique Rowan opened at SouthPark Mall. Piercings are performed by licensed nurses, and all earrings are hypoallergenic.

 Charlotte FIT South opened at 10106 Johnston Rd., Ste. C. It’s the second Charlotte FIT fitness studio from owner and master trainer Taylor Calamese. SP

44 | SOUTHPARK blvd.
| around town
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Les Misérables at Belk Theater

Through Feb. 5

The timeless adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel, set in early 19th-century France, returns to Charlotte for two weeks only. Tickets start at $29.50. blumenthalarts.org

Jackie Gendel: Women and Dog and Roscoe Hall: Speak into Existence at SOCO Gallery

Through March 1

This pair of solo exhibitions features Houston artist Gendel’s new paintings on canvas and linen in the main gallery and Hall’s layered paintings in the SOCO annex. Hall, an Alabama chef who was featured in season 18 of Top Chef, incorporates unconventional materials such as coffee and cotton in his works, which examine the Black experience in America. socogallery.com

I Heart Rail Trail: Lights

Feb. 3-19

Experience illuminated installations by local artists while exploring South End’s 3.5mile rail trail. Follow @railtrailclt on Instagram for updates. Free. charlotterailtrail.org

Queen City Brewers Festival

Feb. 11 | 1 - 4 p.m.

The annual beer festival moves to the

Grady Cole Center, with tastings from about 40 breweries and food samples. The event benefits Project Life Movement, a Charlotte nonprofit that matches stem-cell and bone-marrow donors to patients. Tickets are $60 plus fees. qcbrewfest.com

Cupid’s Cup 5K & 1-mile Walk

Feb. 11

Walk or run through the heart of Dilworth and help raise money to support Atrium Health’s cardiac-rehabilitation programs. Registration fee is $35. raceroster.com/ events/2023/58479/cupids-cup-5k

Adam Sandler Live at Spectrum Center

Feb. 18 l 7:30 p.m.

The Happy Gilmore and Waterboy comedian brings his standup act to the Cable Box as part of his extended fall tour. Recommended for ages 16 and up. Tickets start at $39. ticketmaster.com

Big Head Todd and the Monsters at The Underground at the Fillmore

Feb. 24 | 8 p.m.

Relive the ’90s with the Colorado alt-rock band best known for songs like “Bittersweet” and “It’s Alright.” Tickets start at $30. livenation.com

African American Heritage Festival

Feb. 25

Celebrate the Queen City’s Black history at Charlotte Museum of History. The focus of this year’s event is regional HBCUs. Expect performances and workshops, vendors, tours of the Alexander Homesite and a keynote address by North Carolina Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green. Admission is free. charlottemuseum.org

Charlotte FC vs. New England Revolution

Feb. 25 | 7:30 p.m.

Looking to build on the success of its inaugural season, Charlotte Football Club opens the 34-game 2023 regular season at home. Upper-level tickets start at $15; prices are subject to change. charlottefootballclub.com

Scan the QR code on your mobile device to view our online events calendar — updated weekly — at southparkmagazine.com.

blvd. | calendar
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY JAKI SHELTON GREEN North Carolina Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green will be the keynote speaker at Charlotte Museum of History’s African American Heritage Festival.


Fashion Reimagined: Themes and Variations 1760-Now at Mint Museum


The Mint’s current exhibition chronicles four centuries of fashion, from 18th-century English men’s suits to contemporary pieces from Nigerian-born filmmaker, author and designer Wale Oyejide for Ikire Jones, which were recently acquired by the museum.

The show honors the 50th anniversary of the founding of the museum’s fashion collection, which was started by the Mint Museum Auxiliary.

“They were literally rescuing historic fashions from their grandmothers’ closets,” said Annie Carlano, senior curator of craft, design and fashion, at a preview of the exhibition. “They are women who recognized the importance of fashion as art and the incredible craftsmanship that goes into everything from the weaving of the fashions to the actual garment construction itself.”

Halston, Coco Chanel, Oscar de la Renta, Miuccia Prada, Gianni Versace, Anna Sui and Geoffrey Beene are just a few of the designers on view — all of the garments are part of the Mint’s permanent collection.

The styles are organized not chronologically but by three themes: minimalism, pattern and decoration, and the body reimagined. There’s also an interactive space where you can envision yourself in historic garments, and two films that show the labor-intensive process by which men and women in 18th-century England got dressed.

Fashion Reimagined runs through July 2. Join Carlano for a curator-led tour at 6 p.m. on March 1.

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SP PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY MINT MUSEUM UPTOWN, IRIS VAN HERPEN (DUTCH, 1984-). LABYRINTHINE DRESS, SPRING 2020, SILK ORGANZA. MUSEUM PURCHASE: FUNDS PROVIDED BY ANN AND MICHAEL TARWATER. A TrAdiTion of Knowledge And TrusT 6700 Fairview Road, Charlotte, NC 28210 gay.dillashaw@allentate.com GAY DILLASHAW 704-564-9393 SIGN UP FOR OUR WEEKLY NEWSLETTER southparkmagazine.com/newsletters What’s new around town and extras in your inbox.

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Explore landscapes through the brushstrokes of Pablo Picasso in this first-of-its-kind museum exhibition.

Picasso Landscapes: Out of Bounds is generously presented in Charlotte by Bank of America, the City of Charlotte, Duke Energy, Mecklenburg County, M.A. Rogers, Ann and Michael Tarwater, North Carolina Arts Council, and Moore & Van Allen. Additional generous support is provided by: Leigh-ann and Martin Sprock; Robin and Bill Branstrom, Sally Cooper, Laura and Mike Grace, Marshelette and Milton Prime; Posey and Mark Mealy; Chandra and Jimmie Johnson; Marty and Weston Andress, Mary and Walt Beaver, Betsy and Alfred Brand; toni and Alfred Kendrick, Beth and Drew Quartapella, Rocky and Curtis Trenkelbach, Charlotte and John Wickham; Mary Lou and Jim Babb, and Jo Ann and Joddy Peer. The Mint Museum is supported, in part, by the Infusion Fund and its generous donors. Picasso Landscapes: Out of Bounds is organized by the American Federation of Arts with guest curator Laurance Madeline. The exhibition is generously supported by Monique Schoen Warshaw. Additional support has been provided by Lee White Galvis, Clare E. McKeon, and Stephanie R. La Nasa. Support for the accompanying publication provided by Furthermore: a program of the J.M. Kaplan Fund. IMAGE: Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973). View of Notre-Dame, Paris, April 13, 1945, oil on canvas. Private Collection, courtesy of Chalk & Vermilion, LLC. © 2023 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


| 500 South Tryon

Charlotte, NC 28202 | 704.337.2000 | mintmuseum.org | @themintmuseum

the Arts
Mint Museum Uptown at
Center for

Rethink your lawn


This is the time of year when we reevaluate and plan. For gardeners, these dark dreary days of winter are spent poring over plant catalogs, planning spring projects and dreaming of what could be.

Maybe you are planning a new garden bed. But what about your lawn? Most people spend more time, money and effort on their lawns than on all of their other plants combined. By now, we are aware of the ecological implications of a perfect lawn, whether it be exhaust from lawn equipment or runoff from the fertilizers and chemicals required to maintain that perfect green hue. Then comes summer, when most lawns are off-color and crunchy. Perhaps this is also the time of year when we should rethink the need for the sprawling lawns many of us have. Maybe there are other, more imaginative and ecologically sound options.

When meeting with new clients, I generally ask them whether they have a lawn by default or a lawn by design. A lawn by default

happens when you don’t know what else to do with your space, or it’s what the neighbors do, or it’s what the homeowners association recommends. None of those are particularly good reasons for having a yard full of turf. A lawn by design is one that fulfills a purpose yet leaves room for a creative and beautiful garden. A lawn by design may include areas for children and pets to romp and play, an impromptu sports field, or an extra entertaining area where tables and chairs can be placed for special events. All of these are valid reasons for having turf.

When evaluating your lawn, determine where those areas are and exactly how much dedicated space you’ll need. Then begin to imagine what the remaining lawn could become. Think about reclaiming your lawn space for other activities, about viewing it as negative space to balance lush planting beds, and about using it for wide paths in areas of lighter foot traffic in lieu of paving or stepping stones.

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This front yard, left, was unusable. The client desired a front garden with a seating area where she could relax with a glass of wine and a book or greet neighbors. The hill is now tamed with staggered stone steps that lead to a seating area surrounded by a pond with a waterfall. The remaining lawn now functions as negative space between garden beds. PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY JAY SIFFORD
Your Smile... is Our Passion! Priscilla’s Smile by Dr Steven Ghim 704-935-2700 | drstevenghim.com


I am a big believer in having multiple outdoor seating areas. Why not reclaim part of your front yard for seating? In many neighborhoods, large front porches no longer exist. What better way to meet and greet neighbors than to have an inviting seating area in the front yard? Land has become so valuable, it’s a shame not to use it to your advantage. A simple garden bench immersed in a new planting bed will do the trick, or you can go big and create a space with multiple chairs, perfect for sharing a glass of beer or wine with neighbors. I have had clients tell me they never knew any of their neighbors until we crafted a front-yard seating area for them to enjoy.


You may be one of those gardeners that just can’t help buying one more plant. Lush planting beds can be beautiful, but too much of a good thing can work against the original purpose. In this case, turf can function as negative space to balance those exuberant and

full beds. It is especially effective to run larger ornamental grasses up next to a well-maintained turf lawn. The resulting juxtaposition can be sublime.


In all but the most highly traveled areas of your yard, turf can be used to create winding pathways between planting beds. Using lawn in this way can help slow down and absorb water runoff, making it more environmentally friendly than concrete or asphalt. Whereas the standard width of a sidewalk is 4 or 5 feet, think about going wider, perhaps 8 or even 10 feet, with a turf path. Doing so will allow you to create pleasing curves that will pull the eye through the space. When the eye goes to something pleasant, the body will certainly follow. SP

Jay Sifford is a Charlotte-based landscape designer who specializes in contemporary, Asian and transitional gardens. His work has been featured in Southern Living, Country Gardens and Fine Gardening, as well as Houzz and several books. siffordgardendesign.com

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Ornamental fountain grass is juxtaposed with mown turf in a sublime lakeside garden. This lawn functions as both negative space and wide pathways upon which to navigate the garden.
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Where does the light go?


In an early time, according to the late Irish bard and spiritual thinker John O’Donohue, medieval mystics loved to pose the beguiling question: Where does the light go when the candle is blown out?

I couldn’t help but think of this conundrum one recent Saturday morning as I sat in a pew of First Presbyterian Church in downtown Atlanta, having taken a red-eye flight from Los Angeles to attend a dear friend’s funeral service.

Celetta Randolph Jones — Randy, as she was affectionately known by hundreds, if not thousands of people — was one of my oldest and closest friends. She walked into my life in 1977 at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution two days after I arrived at the nation’s oldest Sunday magazine. Editor Andy Sparks believed we needed to meet because we were both single and students of American history, and Randy knew the city like the back of her most elegant hand.

I’d just turned 24, a wide-eyed bumpkin from North Carolina. Randy was almost 30, the sophisticated media officer of The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation. I think perhaps Editor Sparks believed sparks might fly between us, which they did. Just not the kind he envisioned.

We discovered instead a friendship for the ages. During my nearly seven years in Atlanta, Randy became my frequent dinner companion during which no subject was out of bounds — God,

politics, my literary ambitions and her string of colorful boyfriends who could never keep up with her.

By the time my career carried me off to New England, Randy had started her own public-relations firm and was quickly becoming a megastar representing the likes of Coca-Cola, British Airways and dozens of other A-list regional and international clients. Despite the distance, our friendship only deepened and grew. When my daughter, Maggie, was born in 1989, Randy, who never married, was delighted to become my daughter’s godmother. She came to New England and North Carolina many times for holidays and family occasions, and I never failed to stay with her whenever I passed through Atlanta. She truly was one of the great lights — and gifts — of my life.

It was lovely to learn from her adoring brothers’ words of remembrance that “Aunt Randy” actually had a dozen or more godchildren she faithfully lavished attention and wisdom upon over the decades, even after a freakish illness destroyed her immune system and forced her to sell her thriving company. She moved to a high-rise apartment in Atlanta’s Four Seasons Hotel, where she became a tireless fundraiser for Emory University Hospital, The Woodruff Arts Center, her church and many other charities. According to brother Harry, everyone in the building, from the hotel doorman to her neighbor, Charles Barkley, considered Randy

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their best friend. Her generosity to friends and strangers alike knew no bounds.

I saw Randy a month or so before she passed away. She was frail but mentally vibrant and connected to people as ever, wanting to hear about my latest book project and her goddaughter’s life in LA. We sat together for almost two hours. When I got up to go and bent to kiss her cheek, she remarked, with her wonderful, sultry, deep Georgia accent, “We have traveled pretty far together, haven’t we?”

“And we’re not done,” I replied. “You helped light the way.”

She patted my hand. “Don’t worry. That light will never go out.”

I think she knew we would never see each other again in this world, but had no doubt whatsoever about the next.

So where does the light go when the flame is blown out? I’ll leave that debate to the medieval mystics and take my friend Randy at her word that the light will never go out.

The passing of one you love, however, inevitably calls up thoughts of your own brief mortality. This month, with not a lot of fanfare, I reach my Biblically proscribed three-score years and ten, a phrase popularized by Psalm 90, which was read at Randy’s service. Seventy was considered a ripe old life in ancient times.

Fortunately, I have two best buddies — Patrick and Joe — who are also reaching 70 around the same time: Joe in January, Patrick in March. At our regular luncheons of the Stuffed Potato Philosophy & Adventure Club, we often talk about how pleased we are to be “older” dudes who are still working at jobs we love and appreciating life more than ever. True, body parts don’t work as fluidly as they once did, but it’s amazing what we never worry about anymore, including death, taxes, career ups and downs, and the inevitability of growing older. This spring, Patrick and I plan to celebrate 58 years of playing golf together in America and Britain by setting off for a final roving match across Ireland, Scotland and England for perpetual bragging rights. Our legs may grow weary but, I assure you, not our spirits.

A recent study shows that we are not alone, revealing that the vast majority of older Americans are as happy — and busy — as they have ever been. As anti-ageism activist Ashton Applewhite recently pointed out in her outstanding TED Talk, older people tend to become more optimistic as they age, worry far less than younger folks, and really only have two things to be concerned about — that someday the people you love will die, and that parts of your body will eventually quit working. Fear of death doesn’t even make the list. Remaining open to new adventures and connected to people turns out to be a path for a long and meaningful life. Applewhite calls it the U-curve of happiness.

Was it simply the hand of sweet synchronicity that I happened to hear her inspiring TED Talk on the radio during the long drive home to North Carolina following Randy’s memorial service, or maybe something only a mystic could explain?

I’ll probably never know. But in the meantime, I’ll happily follow the flame wherever it leads next. SP

Jim Dodson is a New York Times bestselling author in Greensboro.

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February books


I Have Some Questions for You by Rebecca Makkai

A successful film professor and podcaster, Bodie Kane is content to forget her past — the family tragedy that marred her adolescence, her four largely miserable years at a New Hampshire boarding school and the 1995 murder of a classmate, Thalia Keith. Though the circumstances surrounding Thalia’s death and the conviction of the school’s athletic trainer, Omar Evans, are the subject of intense fascination online, Bodie prefers — needs — to let sleeping dogs lie. But when The Granby School invites her back to teach a two-week course, Bodie finds herself inexorably drawn to the case and its increasingly apparent flaws. In their rush to convict Omar, did the school and the police overlook other suspects? Is the real killer still out there? As she falls down the very rabbit hole she was so determined to avoid, Bodie begins to wonder if she wasn’t as much of an outsider at Granby as she’d thought — if, perhaps, back in 1995, she knew something that might have held the key to solving the case.

Murder Your Employer: The McMasters Guide to Homicide by Rupert Holmes

Who hasn’t wondered for a split second what the world would be like if a person who is the object of your affliction ceased to exist? But then you’ve probably never heard of The McMasters Conservatory, dedicated to the consummate execution of the homicidal arts. To gain admission, a student must have an ethical reason for erasing someone who deeply deserves a fate no worse (nor better) than death. The campus of this “Poison Ivy League” college — its location unknown to even those who study there — is where you might find yourself the practice target of a classmate ... and where one’s mandatory graduation thesis is getting away with the perfect murder of someone whose death will make the world a much better place to live.

The Angel Maker by Alex North

Growing up in a beautiful house in the English countryside, Katie Shaw lived a charmed life. At the cusp of graduation, she had big dreams, a devoted boyfriend, and a little brother she protected fiercely — until the day a violent stranger changed the fate of her family forever. Years later, still unable to live down the guilt surrounding what happened to her brother, Chris, and now with a child of her own to protect, Katie struggles to separate real threats from the imagined. Then she gets the phone call: Chris has gone missing and needs his big sister once more. Meanwhile, a distinguished professor of fate and free will has been brutally murdered just hours after firing his staff. All the leads point back to two old cases: the gruesome attack on teenager Christopher Shaw, and the despicable crimes of a notorious serial killer who, legend had it, could see the future.

Stone Blind by Natalie Haynes

The only mortal in a family of gods, Medusa is the youngest of the Gorgon sisters. Unlike her siblings, Medusa grows older, experiences change and feels weakness. Her mortal lifespan gives her an urgency that her family will never know. When the sea god Poseidon assaults Medusa in Athene’s temple, the goddess is enraged. Furious by the violation of her sacred space, Athene takes revenge on the young woman. Punished for Poseidon’s actions, Medusa is forever transformed. Writhing snakes replace her hair, and her gaze will turn any living creature to stone. Cursed with the power to destroy all she loves with one look, Medusa condemns herself to a life of solitude — until Perseus embarks upon a fateful quest to fetch the head of a Gorgon. SP

Sally Brewster is the proprietor of Park Road Books. 4139 Park Rd., parkroadbooks.com.

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on a foundation of integrity and trust, Cottingham Chalk has a long history of serving the Charlotte community. From the beginning, our focus has been on the people. Now, in our second generation of leadership, we are a family business more than ever. And when you hire a Cottingham Chalk broker, you can rest assured that you have the entire company in your corner.

These Charlotte couples fell in love and started a culinary (or in one case, beer) business together, building a life around their shared passion. So what’s their secret sauce? Each couple shares their recipe on making it work behind the counter and at home — and yes, it involves a careful balance of the right ingredients, just like their favorite dishes.

Sharon Smith photographs by Richard Israel

decade, the business has expanded from cooking classes to include corporate catering and family meals, summer camps and more.

Andrew and Alyssa Wilen opened Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen in 2013. Over the last

Alyssa and Andrew Wilen


Alyssa and Andrew met at a young professionals’ happy hour at the rooftop of Plaza Midwood’s Whiskey Warehouse. Andrew says he knew instantly when he saw her that Alyssa was the one. The concept for Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen, which the couple launched in 2013, sprouted from their two skill sets. At the time, Andrew was planning events and Alyssa was leading a restaurant kitchen. They recognized a lack of cooking classes in Charlotte, coupled with a strong desire for guests to interact through food-based events.

“We are always together! And we love it,” Alyssa says. “Initially, I thought we had to draw distinct lines of separation between work and personal,” she says, but then realized they are more comfortable not doing that. It’s common for conversations to bounce back and forth between work and their two children, Aubrey, born in 2019, and Arlo, in 2021. And like all working parents, their schedules — navigating pickups, drop-offs and work events — are always in flux.

“The best part is that you feel fully supported and comfortable going through some of the tough situations,” Alyssa says. “But also, the person you want to share the great news with is right there next to you ... accomplishing it with you! I think all of these things push you together to do better. … I think the toughest part is you’re fully exposed and there’s no hiding from each other, especially when you own your business and you wear many hats.”

“I love sharing our day together,” Andrew adds. “All of the stories, frustrations, success and funny moments are either happening to us at the same time or ones we easily understand together. We’ve gotten really good at mixing our conversations for the day between ourselves, kids and the business. We also know each other so well and can often speak for the other person on answers. Though please, do not ask me anything more than basic cooking questions.”

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Qian Zhang started The Dumpling Lady as a food truck in 2015.

“Her food is great, and people loved it, so it grew organically,” says John Nisbet, her husband and business partner. Nisbet left a demanding career to join the company full time in 2019.

Qian Zhang and John Nisbet


Starting a business centered around Sichuan cuisine was not initially on the menu for John and Qian. They met in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province in southwestern China, while John was attending Sichuan University. Qian is from the area and was immersed in running an English school that she had started.

Qian learned traditional Sichuan cooking from her grandmother. She honed her cooking skills with family and with John during their time together in China. When John moved back to the United States to pursue his MBA and landed a job in Charlotte, Qian made the decision to sell her school and move to the Queen City in 2015. Soon after, they married.

“Qian wanted to bring a little piece of her home with her, and food has always been her way of sharing a bit of her culture and showing her love,” John says. The Dumpling Lady started as a roaming food truck and now has a permanent food stall in Optimist Hall. Expansions to South End and uptown are in the works.

Balancing work and family can be challenging, and having a reliable staff is key. “We just make it happen,” John says. “There definitely was not a balance in the beginning, and I’m not sure how much of one there is now. We have a 2-year-old little girl and another one on the way, so that makes us step back from the business more and give our team more opportunities. We couldn’t do anything without them.”

Trust is essential. “We love each other, and we are building something from nothing,” John says. “That’s awesome. At the same time, we live and work with each other 24/7. For work things (which never really turn off), she has her areas that she runs, and I have mine. I don’t really question her, and vice versa.”

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Amanda and Phillip strike a balance by carving out different roles at Resident Culture; she’s chief executive officer, while he leads operations.

The original brewery in Plaza Midwood operates out of a warehouse on Central Avenue that was previously home to a business owned by Phillip’s dad.

Amanda and Phillip McLamb


Amanda and Phillip met in New York City through friends. While Phillip says he was into Amanda early on, it wasn’t until he helped her move that sparks started to fly. “I ended up realizing how much I liked this wonderful person who had spent his day lugging boxes around for his friend,” she says. Charlotte, Phillip’s hometown, was a natural fit for putting down roots and raising their children, Piper and Isla. They opened Resident Culture Brewing on Central Avenue in 2017 and expanded with a second location in South End in January 2022.

“The best part about working together is that I have long been in love with my partner for the person that he is and the way he loves and supports the people in his personal life,” Amanda says. “Getting to see him in his professional space and sharing … a vision together — even when we don’t align perfectly — it has given me a greater depth of love and appreciation for his brain and the way his mind works. We’re also very different in some of the ways we operate, and they hugely complement each other.”

The hardest part, Amanda says, is learning how to turn “work” off when they leave the office. “We are still the final point of contact for emergencies and issues that come up, so one of us (and usually both of us) will have to step in to problem-solve in real time.”

“It is challenging for sure because our minds are always thinking about the business, how we can be better and how we can grow smartly and efficiently,” Phillip adds. “That being said, Piper and Isla are more important to us than anything else, so we make time for them regardless of how much the business pulls us in one direction or another. We want them to know that it is possible to have a healthy balance between work and family.” He says working together helps their marriage, too. “Getting to see Amanda lead our business with empathy and compassion has only strengthened my love for her.”

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The Espaillats are pictured at Sabor Latin Street Grill, which has locations across the Charlotte area. Dalton focuses on his work as CEO of Raydal Hospitality Group, while Miriam leads community engagement.

Miriam and Dalton Espaillat


Miram and Dalton are two UNC Charlotte grads who came to the Queen City initially in pursuit of different paths, but a desire to share their love of Latin culture and food won out. Miriam was born in El Salvador, grew up in Queens in New York City, and met Dalton soon after moving to Charlotte in 2006. He was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to Statesville as a teenager. This year, they’ll celebrate 15 years of marriage and have two boys, ages 9 and 14.

While Miriam earned a master’s degree in social work and Dalton set his sights on using his engineering degree to build a construction business, they pivoted toward hospitality after seeing opportunity in Charlotte. They leaned on Miriam’s small-business experience in working with her family’s longtime bodega in Queens. Dalton says they both worked other jobs while starting their first restaurant. They wanted to create a business that would build on their immigrant experience and help them put down roots, he says. Today, Raydal operates multiple locations of Sabor Latin Street Grill, La Caseta and Three Amigos Mexican Kitchen & Cantina.

Striking a balance is a delicate dance, according to Miriam. “We have learned throughout the years that we both have different sets of skills, passions and that our differences complement each other. It is not always easy to find balance … We seek help from professionals — including mental health, pastoral care, friends and family because we realize we can not do it all alone. We are fortunate to have a strong support system,” she says. The couple makes vacations and mini-getaways a priority for their family life.

Working together keeps them in tune with the business and helps them provide mutual feedback and support, especially when tough situations arise. “It’s always great when we are able to complete projects together, because it reminds us of how hands-on we have been in building our business together,” Miriam says.

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There are intrinsic sacrifices in the hospitality business, Jon Dressler says. “Sacrifice of time, holidays, special occasions, weekends and privacy. When the kids were younger, we made sure that one or both of us was always present in our kids’ lives, every day. We always made sure to hire competent people, pay them above industry standard and ensure that they had the tools to succeed.”

Kim and Jon Dressler


The Dresslers met more than 20 years ago on his first day in Charlotte. They both worked for an upscale steakhouse: Kim as the catering and sales manager, Jon as assistant manager. They joke that Kim is a “type A” planner and a note taker; Jon wings it — with notes written down in his head.

“I always knew when I was young that I wanted to own my own business,” Jon says. “After 15 years in the restaurant industry, I approached Kim with the hairbrained idea to open a restaurant. Kim’s reply was: ‘Is it your life’s passion to open a restaurant?’ I responded with: ‘No, it is my life’s passion to sit on the sofa and play golf. However, I have yet to win the lottery, so I might as well try what I know and love — restaurants!’” Today, their hospitality business includes two Dressler’s locations, Dogwood: A Southern Table, Fin & Fino and The Porter’s House.

“Jon and I came to an understanding early on — he would have to call me the ‘boss,’ and I would be there to assist,” Kim says. “Twenty years later, it works! When we opened Dressler’s at Birkdale Village in 2003, I tried to work a few nights to help out, but having someone put your kids to bed three to four nights a week was hard.” Eventually, Kim ceded control of the operations to Jon while she stayed involved in other aspects of the business, including designing their new restaurants.

“The best part of working together is the shared struggles and triumphs,” Kim says. “It has also allowed us to teach our children great life lessons regarding humility, service to others, passion for what you do, empathy, sympathy, responsibility, how to win with dignity and lose with grace.” SP

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Love through the ages


Times may change, but the sentiment behind true love is timeless. This month, with help from librarians at Charlotte Mecklenburg Library’s Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room, we sifted through the archives to find love stories about prominent Queen City couples of their time. Their love bloomed and endured through wartime and Jim Crow, through distance and daily challenges. The politely expressed passion in their love letters, humor in their anniversary traditions and deep affection may just rekindle (or ignite!) that warm, funny feeling you have toward your own chosen person.



The love between Gerson Stroud and Daisy Mae Spears is the stuff of legends in Charlotte — so compelling, in fact, that Oprah Winfrey invited the Strouds to be on her show to share their secret to a long-lasting marriage. To the audience’s delight, the couple revealed that on every anniversary, they recreated a wedding photo with Gerson in his Army uniform and Daisy in her white dress. It was a wedding the couple pulled together quickly. “Gerson had graduated from college and had training to go overseas. We decided that we would get married when he would have his first furlough. So this wedding was gotten together in one week,” Daisy said in an interview many years later.

Their story began at Second Ward High School in the 1930s. The couple married during the height of World War II at Seventh Street Presbyterian Church in 1944. Due to Jim Crow laws in the South that legalized segregation, the Strouds were forced to sit on their luggage next to the train engine as they traveled to Virginia for their honeymoon that night.

“Well on a Southern train, first thing they put all the black people next to the engine, where all the smoke and the soot and everything could blow on you. So, if you can imagine sitting in one position, sitting on the suitcase: we rode on the suitcase. And that’s what happened on the night of the wedding,” Daisy described in an

interview which is cataloged in the Carolina Room’s archival collection. Five days later, Gerson left for the War and did not return home to his new bride until December 1945.

Both worked in the school system, with Gerson spending more than 30 years with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools before retiring in 1981. Daisy Mae retired one year later as an elementary-school teacher. Throughout their lives, the Strouds received many awards and honors for their community leadership. In 2010, Daisy received a lifetime achievement award at the annual UNCF-Maya Angelou Women Who Lead Luncheon. Daisy passed away at the age of 92 in 2014; Gerson died in 2006.

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World War II love letters between Ruth Kilgo and Ray Hall give us a glimpse into their daily life, military service and great love. By the time they were discharged, Kilgo rose in rank to lieutenant junior grade, and Hall rose to second lieutenant. In one letter from Ray to Ruth, he laments not being back in Charlotte to help her with his mother’s move. He writes about the antics of his fellow soldiers, catches up on the gossip back home and, as you’ll see below, drops several lines about his romantic intentions with Ruth.

1800 Office

19 Jan 1944


… Number 298 came on the late afternoon delivery. It was so sweet and “wife-y” in tone. … Dearest, dearest loveable darling, you are the most precious girl in all the world to me. Helping mom move is one of the nicest things that you have ever done for me. I know how she is, she trys to do everything in one day. Sweetheart, I know what hard work moving is. … I only wish I could have been there, if only for the end of the day in order that I might have “given you a good, hot bath, rubbed you down with alcohol, powdered you and fed you a big bowl of hot soup, then tucked you into bed. I’d have knelt by your bedside and kissed you tenderly and tenderly until you fell asleep.” Oh, my only lover, I thrill at the faint footsteps of millions of happy little thoughts of our tomorrows together. Living with you will be pure and supreme happiness. I welcome the overcast days that future years will confront us with if only they will be shared with you … Thank you again and again, Ruth, for being just damned wonderful. …

I’ll just stuff you with love like a turkey and have you without “dressing” for my every repast.

Love, and lots of it,



Mary Brevard Alexander and Billy Shaw Howell grew up in Charlotte and exchanged daily love letters when travel created distance in their courtship. In these excerpts, Vard, as she was called by friends and family, writes to Billy about how much she misses him on a trip to St. Augustine, Fla., with her family. There’s a lighthearted teasing about his commitment as she picks up the pen throughout different dayparts, sometimes starting a letter at night and finishing it in the morning. The Howells were married in 1922.

17 Jan 22 Billy,

Of course I have no business writing twice in one day, but I miss you so I want to say good-night. … All I can say is now I love you better than everything and every body in the world. … If we had gobs of money this would be an ideal place for a honey moon except we can’t be waiting until next winter for ours, can we dear?

Goodnight, precious Vard

18 Jan 22 Billy,

I’m so utterly worn out tonight I can hardly push the ole pen, and so blue and homesick for you that I have no business attempting it, but I may not get a chance in the morning and perhaps you would be disappointed if I didn’t get the usual daily to you and it would kill me to disappoint you, so here goes. … I dream about you at night. Mother swears I snuggled my head down on her shoulder twice last night — Just so I don’t start talking in my sleep! If I have you, please say so! Forgive me, darlin’ but tonight fear has me — fear that when I get back, you won’t love me. … Billy, darlin’, I believe you’ll always love me just as I will always love you. Forgive me for letting the devil whisper.

Meanwhile, this is a kiss in passing - loveVard SP

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Groundwork Common

DAY OUT IN Concord


Let’s assume you already know about Charlotte Motor Speedway (which is actually in Concord) and Concord Mills shopping mall. Those attractions bring throngs of people to the county seat of Cabarrus County. But there are other, less-crowded diversions in this former mill town about 40 minutes northeast of uptown Charlotte. And the childhood home of Scott and Seth Avett, NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace, and former first lady of New York Silda Wall Spitzer is — surprise! — definitely worth a visit.

My friend, Lynsley Smith, and I headed up Interstate 85 early on a recent Saturday morning, having no idea it would be dark before we headed home. We started our day at Groundwork Common coffee shop (410 Church St. N.) which we passed thrice before finally finding it.

It’s in a building — a former convenience store, maybe? — that couldn’t be more nondescript. And the parking lot was packed. The interior reminded Lynsley, a former Manhattanite, of Brooklyn; the cafe, home to Verb Coffee Roasters, indeed appeared to be a hipster hangout during our visit.

I ordered the maple syrup-infused winter latte, which came with an artsy foam design and a sprig of rosemary. Lynsley approved of her regular drip coffee — but wished she’d opted for a specialty coffee once she saw mine. For breakfast, she got The Sweet and Salty (peanut butter, pumpkin seeds and toasted coconut on Verdant sourdough toast drizzled with Cloister honey), and I got the Bacon, Egg and Cheese (the twist here is that it’s Queen Charlotte’s pimento cheese). Both were delicious.

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Goldberry Books

Gingham, colored yarn and madras — and later, towels and sheets — were manufactured at Gibson Mill before it closed in 2003. The 17,000-square-foot Gibson Mill Market food hall will eventually be home to 12 local vendors and a full-service restaurant. Among the vendors now open are Cara’s Cookie Co., bottom left, High Branch Brewing and Luck Factory Games, opposite page.


Thus fortified and caffeinated, we made our way to the nearby Depot at Gibson Mill (325 McGill Ave. NW), which the website declares is the South’s largest antique mall. I have no reason to doubt: The former Cannon Mills textile plant is massive (88,000 square feet) and is home to over 750 booths brimming with antiques, art, china, silver, jewelry, vintage clothing, home accessories, books, bric-a-brac. Prepare to get lost once or twice — and to discover some treasures you didn’t know you needed.

There’s no way to take in all this shopping site in one visit. Fortunately, since you may be here for hours, the recently opened Gibson Mill Food Hall is just across the parking lot. Already home to Cara’s Cookie Co., Defined Coffee, High Branch Brewing, Johnny Rogers BBQ & Burgers and Taco Street, more food stalls — all local purveyors — will be added in the next few months.

Bring the family! The lower level of this 17,000-square-foot market is home to Luck Factory Games, which maintains a library of more than 1,000 board games.

We decided it wasn’t really a day trip without a little day drinking, so we settled in at the Market Bar, where Brian Dooley mixed our cocktails — a Cherry Paloma (tequila, grapefruit, cherry, lime and soda) and Blood Orange Mule (bourbon, lime, blood orange syrup, ginger ale, mint). He was good company and full of information about the city he’d recently moved to.

On the topic of adult beverages, Concord is also home to several craft breweries: Cabarrus Brewing is also located at Gibson Mill; Southern Strain Beer Company is nearby, in downtown.

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Luck Factory Games Luck Factory Games High Branch Brewing
82 | SOUTHPARK Taco Street Market Bar
Market Bar Defined Coffee


Next, we headed to ClearWater Arts Center & Studios (223 Crowell Dr. NW). It didn’t appear to be open (drop-in hours are Wednesdays through Fridays from noon to 5 p.m.), but we knocked, anyway. And we were glad we did. Francene Greene, one of the artists with an on-site studio, welcomed us and gave us a tour of the space, including her studio/maker space, Creative Sanctum. Here, she facilitates creative workshops of all kinds. ClearWater was hosting the annual juried exhibition for the Cabarrus Art Guild, and it would not be the only art we got to experience on our trip.

Our next stop was downtown Concord, which seems practically unchanged from an earlier era. Buildings here have not been torn down and replaced; they’ve been restored and repurposed.

First up: Goldberry Books (12 Union St. S), a family-owned, indie bookstore that, on this December day, was bustling. While the shop opened in 2020, it has the feeling of a place that’s been around for generations. It’s a gem.

Next door is another coffee shop (is there a better pairing than books and coffee?) that’s positively charming. Press & Porter Coffee & Pourhouse (8 Union St. S) offers — in addition to coffee drinks — sweet and savory baked goods, wine, local beer and kombucha on tap.

Opposite: Offerings from Gibson Mill Market include tacos, coffee and cocktails. This page: Goldberry Books opened in 2020 but feels like it’s been around forever.

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Goldberry Books


Just across the street from the coffee shop and bookstore was one of our greatest finds: the Cabarrus Arts Council. It turns out Concord, population 107,697, has both an arts council and an arts guild. The arts council is housed in the city’s former courthouse, which was built in 1876 and listed in 1974 on the National Register of Historic Places.

During our visit, the Council featured Clay, an exhibition of work by highly skilled potters from throughout North Carolina, in the main-level gallery space. Lynsley and I both found Ronan Kyle Peterson’s colorful, curvaceous, polka-dotted work irresistible and came away with vessels created by the Chapel Hill-based potter.

The second floor of the historic Art Council houses the 227-seat Davis Theatre, where Jim Avett, father of Scott and Seth of The Avett Brothers fame, was performing a holiday show. The evening promised “traditional holiday songs, beloved gospel favorites and plenty of stories from his life on the farm.” Pity we had to head back to Charlotte.

The Davis Theatre’s lineup for 2023 includes the bluegrass trio Damn Tall Buildings; mountain-music band The Steel Wheels; and Latin pop artist Alex Cuba. Shows start at 8 p.m., but doors open an hour before, so you can enjoy the galleries and the wine and (local) craft-beer garden on the front lawn.

Davis Theatre
The Avett Brothers mural in historic downtown Concord


We reluctantly pulled ourselves away from the pottery show and headed for our second meal of the day, an early supper at Havana Carolina (tucked in the back of 11 Union St. S), a casual Cuban restaurant and bar we’d both heard about.

We shared the Tesoros Cubanos, the Cuban version of a pupu platter. This appetizer sampler was loaded with chunks of fried pork, fried ham-and-cheese croquetas, plantains filled with ropa vieja (shredded beef and veggies), empanadas, half a tamale, and fried yucca with a robust cilantro and garlic mojo dipping sauce.

Lynsley ordered the stellar Masas de Cerdo Fritas (braised and fried chunks of pork with sauteed onions), and I got the classic Cubano sandwich made with pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard. (Cubans love pork like Southerners love fried chicken.) I only wish we’d had time for flan, tres leches cake or churros and a Café Havana (sweetened, condensed milk, Cuban coffee, milk foam and chocolate).

Alas, we didn’t realize how hard we’d fall for a city that’s best known for its racetrack and enormous outlet mall. As we discovered, there is so much more to Concord than its biggest attractions would have you believe. SP

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Havana Carolina Havana Carolina


Wake-Up Call

Sheshould have known better. Peace and quiet were nearly impossible to come by with this bunch. They knew that after a long walk and an exhausting kiteboarding lesson, she’d be down for the count. But it’s OK. Dad will help her get back at them. Unless, of course, it was his idea all along.

Discover seasonal offers on vacation rentals & more at CrystalCoastNC.org

Spring fling

Each spring, cherry-blossom mania takes over the nation’s capital, and the fever spreads across the Potomac to Alexandria, Va. In March and April, when the trees are in full bloom, red-brick sidewalks are strewn with the billowy pink petals, and quaint shops peddle cherry-blossom-themed soaps, candles, sweets, even pet toys. The Washington area is fun to visit any time of year — but the flower-filled parks and streetscapes make spring perhaps the loveliest season.

With an allure rivaling D.C.’s oldest neighborhoods like Georgetown and Dupont Circle, Old Town Alexandria oozes charm, from its cobblestone streets to the picturesque waterfront. Metro service, guided bicycle tours and bike rentals, and a water taxi connecting Alexandria to The Wharf, Georgetown and the National Harbor — including a seasonal Cherry Blossom tour — makes it an optimal base to explore the region.

The city’s convenient (and free) King Street Trolley makes getting around Old Town a cinch. But Alexandria is a pedestrian paradise — to get the most out of your visit, lace up your walking shoes and start exploring. Use our suggested itinerary as a guide for planning your own trip.

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Whether arriving by car (a 6-hour drive from Charlotte) or by plane (a 1.5-hour direct flight), chances are you’ll need a pick-me-up after traveling. Turkish Coffee Lady at the corner of King and Patrick streets provides the caffeine jolt needed to jump-start your weekend. The shop serves specialty coffees and teas on gleaming silver trays, along with sweet treats such as baklava (pistachio, walnut or chocolate), Turkish delight and more. Co-founder Gizem Şalcıgil White is well-known locally as an ambassador for Turkish culture, and her staff will walk you through the selections if you’re not sure what to order.

After fueling up, stroll down to Alexandria’s waterfront, where an annual public art series provides Instagram-worthy installations. In March, a thought-provoking installation by Jamaican-born, New Yorkbased artist Nina Cooke John is set to debut, inspired by ships uncovered on the city’s waterfront in 2015 and 2018.


If the weather’s nice, grab dinner and drinks at BARCA Pier. Built on a commercial shipping pier — the bar is a repurposed shipping container — the waterfront restaurant serves Mediterranean-inspired tapas in a clean, modern space. (The adjacent BARCA Wine Bar provides a more intimate, all-weather setting.) Relax with a glass of stone fruit sangria and enjoy small plates with bright, zesty flavors, like the Brussels sprouts (red harissa, garum, pickled peppers, walnuts and mint) and the beef tenderloin (salsa verde, spring onions, asparagus).

Old Town is home to dozens of restaurants and cocktail bars. Stretch your legs after dinner and stroll up King Street to Brabo, a cozy brasserie adjacent to the Lorien Hotel, for a nightcap before resting up for the weekend’s adventures.

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Start the day with coffee and croissants at Mae’s Market and Café. The gourmet grocery, deli and bakery opened in summer 2021, serving breakfast (quiche, frittata, French toast casserole) and lunch (soups, salads and sandwiches).

After breakfast, stroll around the historic district of Old Town — much of the Colonial architecture is intact and the area is filled with charming boutiques. You will find a smattering of chain retail shops — Sephora, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream — but most stores here are homegrown or outposts of D.C.-born brands. Among the antique and vintage shops is Red Barn Mercantile, a home boutique chock full of pillows, rugs and decorative items for the home, plus gourmet kitchen wares, cocktail supplies, children’s toys and more. A few doors down, beyond the clever window displays at Penny Post you’ll find a modern stationery shop brimming with greeting cards, jigsaw puzzles, journals and more. Readers will find a small but well-curated selection at Old Town Books, a corner bookstore a few blocks from the waterfront. Browse sustainable and vegan goods at Mason & Greens, including kitchen wares, beauty items, teas and spices.

History buffs might want to spend an hour or two at the historic Carlyle House, an 18th-century house museum and private garden. The stone Georgian mansion was originally home to British merchant John Carlyle; tours are offered daily.


Grab a quick, healthy lunch at Toastique, a D.C.-born gourmet toast and juice bar, then hop on the Cherry Blossom Water Taxi to The Wharf or Georgetown. The ferries run from early afternoon

into the evening — be sure to make reservations in advance.

Upon returning to Alexandria, stop by Dolci Gelati for an afternoon pick-me-up: coffee and gelato made with an authentic family recipe blended with local ingredients. Don’t miss the cherry blossom gelato, available for a limited time in spring.


For pre-dinner cocktails, Old Hat Bar is a no-frills gastropub serving surprisingly sophisticated cocktails — from classics (French 75, Old Fashioned) to whimsical concoctions like the Who Doesn’t Love Ryan Reynolds? (gin, dry vermouth, lemon, honey and jalapeno) — in a friendly pub atmosphere.

From the bar, it’s a short walk to Kismet Modern Indian, sibling to Karma Modern Indian in downtown D.C. During the pandemic, co-owner Sachin Mahajan noticed a vacant building and saw an opportunity to fill a void in Alexandria. The restaurant opened in 2021.

If you only have one dinner in Alexandria, make it Kismet. The vibe is upscale modern and service is polished and professional — staff members are quick to make suggestions or explain the menu.

Chef Ajay Kumar’s fresh takes on traditional Indian dishes sing with flavor. Start with an Evening Chill cocktail (vodka, Fernet Branca, honey, lemon and pomegranate) and the tandoori shrimp appetizer with a spicy, flavorful mango salad. Don’t skip the naan, pillowy and warm with your choice of garlic or olives (optional). Entrees may seem familiar (chicken tikka masala, grilled lamb chops) but are infused with local ingredients and flavors. Don’t sleep on the vegetarian kofta — cauliflower and spinach dumplings served with a hearty tomato sauce and cumin rice.

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For breakfast, Cafe du Soleil is a daytime cafe with an unassuming exterior and a cozy, warm vibe. Sweet and savory crepes are on the menu, along with croque madame and croque monsieur.

Afterward, visit Torpedo Factory Art Center, a mix of studios, shops and galleries housed in a former munitions plant. Painters, jewelry-makers, potters and printmakers are sprawled across three floors — many are eager to share their process and discuss their work.

Before heading home, stop by the Made in Virginia store on King Street to pick up souvenirs for friends or family. In spring, you’ll find cherry-blossom-themed candles, soaps, jewelry and more from Virginia-based makers and artisans. Year round, the store sells everything from kitchen wares to gourmet foods, T-shirts to small-batch beauty products.

BONUS: If time permits, visit the estate and gardens of Mount Vernon, the home of George and Martha Washington, located 8 miles south of Alexandria.


I spent my time in Alexandria happily ensconced in a king suite at the Lorien Hotel & Spa, with a small balcony overlooking the courtyard with twinkling lights below. The Lorien is conveniently located within walking distance of Old Town’s shops, restaurants and waterfront, and close to the Metro stop for easy access to the capital. Other options in Old Town include the Alexandrian Hotel, part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, and, for a sleek nautical vibe, the waterfront Hotel Indigo. SP

travel | weekend away
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92 | SOUTHPARK Visit Our Showroom at 1141 Hawthorne Lane, Charlotte, NC 28205 704.344.1875 | Mike@WindowAndDoorPros.com WindowAndDoorPros.com Established 1996 For 25 years Window & Door Pros has been serving Charlotte builders and homeowners with the finest selection of windows, doors, and architectural products.
Bobby Wildermuth, robertbobbyart.com



Bella Notte benefiting Opera Carolina October 21, 2022


Dan Lyles and James Meena

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A monthly guide to Charlotte’s parties and galas PHOTOS ONLINE
This black-tie gala opened the season of Opera Carolina with a night of fine dining, dancing and performances by company singers.
Liz Faison, Liz Hilliard, Samantha McCall and Regine Bechtler Michael Marsicano and Rev. Leslie Marsicano Jennifer Carpenter and Seth Avett Bill and Pauline Chinnis Joy and Hunter Widener Pam Stowe Radmila and Daryl Hollnagel Lauren and Andrei Bolshakov Bill and Emily Oliver Michlene and Stephen Healy Pontea and Dale Dixon Julie Bernard, Jerry and Midge Barron Michael Marsicano, Ann Caulkins, Claudio Ferri and Laura Wellmann Charles and Mary Bowman


A monthly guide to Charlotte’s parties and galas

Al Fresco Fall Dinner

benefiting Wing Haven

October 22, 2022

Wing Haven welcomed patrons to the garden for dinner under the stars. Guests enjoyed a gourmet meal and bid on several pieces of artwork up for auction.

Ties & Tales Gala

benefiting Humane Society of Charlotte

October 15, 2022

Patrons and pooches dressed up for this signature fundraising event at the Westin Hotel, which raised more than $360,000 for the Humane Society of Charlotte.

Suzanne and Harold Wilkerson, Susan Evans Andrea Sprott and Kathy Bragg Erin and Garrett Nelson Laura Vinroot Poole and Nancy Lowry Jim and Susan Holloway Gates Spilman, Coco Killian and Susan Rankin Emmanuel Botzolakis and Liya Beyderman Betsey Rebello, Kristine Wahr, Lydia Skardon and Beth Haenni Keith Alyea, Val Morino, Elizabeth Moore and Felipe Gonzalez Edmiston Elizabeth Rostan and Hilary Coman PHOTOGRAPHS BY DANIEL COSTON Robin Gershon and Tom Fisher Zach Diehl Peter and Emily Van Garderen Scott Alexander and Jennifer Krupa Dr. Stacy Kennery, Janice Quintana and Winnye Wilks Andrea Funk and Tracey Roode Prescott and Jill Rogers Ruth and Trevor Runberg, Barrett and Walker Ranson Randy and Nina Theiss Patricia Tobin and Kurt Waldthausen


A monthly guide to Charlotte’s parties and galas

Jack and Jill of America, Charlotte Chapter

65th Anniversary Celebration

October 23, 2022

This luncheon at Grand Bohemian Hotel celebrated 65 years of leadership training and character building for local children.

Charlotte Woman of the Year

Anniversary luncheon

October 18, 2022

Crisis Assistance Ministry recognized Linda Lockman-Brooks with its Charlotte Woman of the Year award at the Duke Mansion. Surrounded by family and friends, Lockman-Brooks was honored for her civic and business contributions to the Charlotte community.

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Janelle Collins and Randii Smith Cheryl Brayboy and Rickye McKoy-Mitchell Carin Ross Johnson, Nakisha Davis amd Nelvia Bullock Hloye Couram and Jeanine Craft Anthony Trotman Mia Benoit, Danielle Miller and Andrea Covington
Nichelle Levy, Mayor Vi Lyles and Tarcia Flemming Nyesha Weaver and Karmen Mills Cathy Bell and Tiffany Griffin Joan Lorden, Sis Kaplan and Carol Hardison Ruth Shaw, Linda Lockman-Brooks, Kandi Deitemeyer and Weston Andress Angela Cureton, Carol Hardison and Jesse Cureton Tanya Stewart Blackmon, Tiffani Greene and Jill Flynn Linda Lockman-Brooks, baby Madison, Morgan Thompson and Wil Brooks Valecia McDowell, Dianne English and Martha Alexander


If “SouthPark” was the prompt for a word-association game, players might choose words like “shopping,” “restaurants,” “upscale” or “mall.” All good choices, but none conjures up a distinct image of what is solely special about the dining and retail destination that’s also one of Charlotte’s major office and residential hubs.

That’s the rub — and that’s where the newly-created SouthPark Community Partners comes in. The economic-development nonprofit manages SouthPark’s municipal service district, which the city council approved last year to generate extra tax dollars that go back into SouthPark. Big picture, SouthPark Community Partners will promote and build SouthPark’s identity. From Arthur’s to Steak 48 and Gucci to Girl Tribe, there’s a lot to like within its 1-mile core. Now it’s time for cohesive messaging.

Executive director Adam Rhew calls it a dream job in his hometown. He’s a natural storyteller, with a journalism background and marketing experience at Center City Partners. Comments from our recent Q&A are lightly edited. You’re building this from the ground up. What are your main goals this year?

I spent most of my first 90 days doing a ton of listening, making sure I have a good understanding of how stakeholders want us to spend our time and resources. The work is ambitious:

developing and launching a new brand and marketing strategy, creating events that enhance the SouthPark experience, and partnering on a vision plan that will shape future investment. And then there’s the work of building the organization itself. What types of projects can we expect SCP to shape and promote?

Our work is about deepening people’s connections to SouthPark. That takes lots of shapes — from making it easier and more pleasant to get around to creating emotional resonance.

We’ll champion simple projects, like safer crosswalks, and more complex initiatives that will require us to make bold, innovative moves. Completing The Loop, a 3-mile walking trail, is a priority. It’s a great example of the kind of public-private partnership that an organization like ours is designed to champion. You grew up in the SouthPark area and worked for Center City Partners previously. Tell us more about you.

My grandparents bought a home in Beverly Woods when they moved to Charlotte in 1964, and that’s the same house where my parents raised my sister and me, so this area is special. My wife, Gillian, and I have three boys — a 7-year-old and twins who just turned 3 — and I’m always amazed when I stop to think about the transformation SouthPark has experienced across four generations of my family. SP

96 | SOUTHPARK | gallery
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