Kickstart Something New for Muddy Dog

When I first started buying locally roasted coffee, the first local roaster I got into was Muddy Dog Roasting Company in nearby Morrisville, NC. They are a smaller, family owned and operated roaster that sells direct to the public out of their small shop. Recently, they announced a new Kickstarter project to help them finish their planned expansion into vacant adjacent space that they’ve already purchased. The new space will house their roasting and packaging equipment, while the new space will offer a customer training area and a small cafe. Check out the Kickstarter page and seriously consider contributing to the project. Even if you don’t buy their coffee yourself (though you really should), if you’re a coffee lover and you like to support local businesses, this is a great way to show your support and help a viable business (they’ve been around since 2006) continue to grow in this community.

The End Started in North Carolina

Like many other Millenials / GenYers, when I think about the downfall of the music industry, I think of Napster, Kazaa, Limewire and BitTorrent. And certainly those peer-to-peer file sharing innovations played a major role. But dig deeper and there’s a case to be made that the downfall began in our own backyard. In fact, Stephen Witt, in a longform piece for The New Yorker, makes that very case. I especially enjoyed this characterization of early-nineties life in Shelby, North Carolina:

Glover and Dockery soon became friends. They lived in the same town, Shelby, and Glover started giving Dockery a ride to work. They liked the same music. They made the same money. Most important, they were both fascinated by computers, an unusual interest for two working-class Carolinians in the early nineties—the average Shelbyite was more likely to own a hunting rifle than a PC.

In all seriousness, I had no idea that a small chunk of the ridiculous amounts of money I was spending on music in the nineties was coming back to the North Carolina economy. Had I known that there was a literal hit factory in Kings Mountain, NC, I might have tried to spend my summers working there.

Raleigh in the Snow

Matt Robinson (@metroscenes) has been taking pictures in and around Raleigh and posting them on Raleigh Skyline for a few years – I can’t believe I’m only just now linking to him. Anyway, he captured some great shots of downtown from many different vantage points during our recent bouts of winter weather, and the results are incredible. He even added drone photography to his repertoire, specifically for the snow photos.

Romance Killers

When I saw that Second Empire made OpenTable’s 2015 list of the 100 “most romantic” restaurants in America, I cringed a bit. Not because I don’t think the restaurant is worthy, but because I felt bad for anyone who was there this past New Year’s Eve hoping for a romantic evening. I happened to be there with ten or so of my closest friends, and thanks to us, the room we were in wasn’t quite so romantic for anyone who was dining with us. Anyway, sorry folks.

Super Locally Focused

We’re about 20 minutes from kick-off and no lie I just got a phone call from JB that goes a little something like this:

Hey, I had to take a break from the Russell Wilson love-fest …

So, it’s that kind of day for him. All Russell, All the Time is good for NC State shirt wearing Seahawks bandwagon fans but it’s a nightmare for anyone else in the Carolinas. And it’s especially tough for Tarheel fans who must have had a heavy dose of night tremors after witnessing the deja vu two yard Hail Mary play from Wilson a couple of weeks ago in the NFC Championship game.

But it’s okay, non-PackOfBadgers North Carolinians1, there’s still plenty of home state pride to be rooting for at Super Bowl XLIX. First of all, this is the first Super Bowl stadium and field to be lit by super awesome, energy efficient, super bright LED lights. And you know who’s lighting it up? That’s right, Durham’s own Cree.

Also over in Durham is SportsMedia Technology, a company that, according to the Triangle Business Journal, “develops and implements the graphics presentations and video enhancement technologies that help you understand the big game.”. The article is a nice, quick read and takes a look at preparation for the big game through the company’s eyes (hint: Sunday is the big day for the teams, but for a company like SMT, Saturday is the most important).

That’s all I’ve got for now. If you happen to know more local connections in this year’s Super Bowl, hit us up @itsworthnoting on Twitter and we’ll update the post.

Go ‘Hawks!

The Sisterhood of the Burgeoning Restaurants

The Triangle food scene has exploded in recent years and people are taking notice near and far. Andrea Weigl is certainly on top of things. Her recent write-up for the News & Observer formed a narrative around the recent spate of female entrepreneur chefs and blazed a trail for a subsequent piece coming from the New York Times by Kim Severson.

First, a bit of level-setting primer from Weigl:

But the capital has a growing crew of women running successful downtown drinking and eating establishments. Some owned their own places long before Christensen was named best chef in the Southeast last spring by the James Beard Foundation; others, inspired by her success, took the leap.

To, perhaps, a little more depth from Severson:

The North Carolina food sisterhood stretches out beyond restaurants, too, into pig farming, flour milling and pickling. Women run the state’s pre-eminent pasture-raised meat and organic produce distribution businesses and preside over its farmers’ markets. They influence food policy and lead the state’s academic food studies. And each fall, the state hosts the nation’s only retreat for women in the meat business.

I especially love the pork chop analogy that Severson uses to open up her piece to highlight the more-the-merrier atmosphere the permeates all of this growth.

Both articles are short and well worth a read. Weigl does a great job of highlighting some of the new hotspots while giving a little bit of background for the ladies behind them. Severson digs deeper into the complete farm-to-table phenomenon while also highlighting the strong female influence at each stop along the chain. The positive socio-economic impact is significant, but most importantly to me, the food is great and I’m just happy to be around to enjoy the spoils.

Fiber Optimism

A few weeks ago, my Internet Service Provider sent me a letter informing me that the special price I was paying for 50 megabit per second download speed was about to expire. Not to worry, the letter went on, because even though I would be paying $30 per month more for service unless I downgraded, I was still saving $9/month … off the regular price1 of service. What a gift.

This morning, Google officially unveiled plans to bring their fiber-optic gigabit internet service to the Raleigh-Durham metropolitan area, as well as a few other cities. The announcement comes just shy of one year after announcing their selection of Raleigh-Durham as a target city, proving that as exciting as the news is, change is not going to happen quickly. In other words, I’m stuck with my scumbag of an ISP for a while yet, but I can at least be optimistic about the future of this first world problem2. And I don’t have to put all of my eggs3 in the Google basket, as AT&T and Frontier are making moves in the area as well.

It goes without saying that this is great for the area and it certainly can’t hurt our chances for continued growth. The build-out will be slow, but the reward should be great. It’s easy to overstate, but I think there is substance here – this has the potential to impact and transform the Triangle in many positive ways. Be excited, Triangle, this is a big win for Tobacco Road.

Photo Credit: Google Fiber

  1. Good luck finding the “regular” price of their service anywhere on their website or even if you call and talk to a representative.
  2. Indeed it is a first-world problem, but it’s worth noting here that the US is way way way behind in broadband speeds.
  3. Hatching personal information and browsing habits.

Quite A Year

It’s been a banner year for Raleigh chef and entrepreneur Ashley Christensen. Along with her James Beard Foundation award, she can now add Triangle Business Journal Businessperson of the Year to her mantle:

While her businesses are small in revenue when compared to previous Businessperson of the Year honorees, like Red Hat leader Jim Whitehurst, ChannelAdvisor CEO Scot Wingo, or Adam Abram’s Franklin Holdings, Christensen’s impact as an economic engine for the region has been growing.

Poole’s Diner is my favorite Raleigh restaurant and I’ve enjoyed every visit to Joule, Chuck’s and Beasley’s1. Christensen’s efforts have been a boon for economic activity in downtown Raleigh and I can’t wait to see what she has in store for us with her future ventures.

  1. I haven’t been to Fox Liquor Lounge yet, but I hear it’s pretty all right.

When the Lights Go Up in Suburbia

When I was younger I enjoyed an annual trip to Walnut Creek amphitheater to check out the Celebration of Lights. In the years since that stopped being a thing1, though, I never really replaced it with any similar such luminary tradition. My wife loves lights, though, and I started to really feel the presence of that void so we made it a point this year to find light displays around the area to enjoy together and with our young daughter.

Thankfully, a few years ago Budweiser Miller LIte helped ignite a DIYer revolution with their commercial featuring a Mason, Ohio home with a light display synced to Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s “Wizard of Winter”. Coupled with the viral, word of mouth power of the Internet, it is incredibly easy to find similarly captivating DIYer displays around town. This area also has several farm-inspired venues that feature fun activities for the whole family along with expansive light displays.

I’ll keep a running list here of the places we visit, along with a few notes/comments about each display. WRAL has a great page with a map highlighting area neighborhood displays. Gas is way down at the pump, so there’s never been a better time to hop in the car and go light display hunting. Just plan out your route so you can burn that gas as efficiently as possible!

Happyland Christmas Lights, Apex: The display is impressive, with a unique band of characters. The subtle placement of some of the characters also makes for a fun time of discovery and surprise. The music broadcast didn’t seem to be working when we drove by, so that put a slight damper on things, but the display itself is well worth visiting.

Abbey Lane, Raleigh: Abby Lane, just down Morgan’s Way was our second stop on the first night of our self-paced Christmas Lights tour. The music was rocking and the lights were bright, in your face, and like the other displays we’ve seen, quite impressive. This is the first stop where we noticed the projection of Santa in the window – if you have kids old enough to get some excitement out of seeing Santa in the window, you might want to try to spot the projection and steer their eyes toward it. Expect to get “trapped” in a line of cars, but just relax and enjoy the show and it’ll be all good. The primary music and lights experience is available on FM 90.3, but there’s also a secondary/side show of the Peanuts’ Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown playing on a secondary station (look for the sign toward the front-left side of the property if you’re looking at the house). This was our favorite display until last night when we checked out …

Lowe Family Christmas Lights, Cary: We loved this house because, of the houses we’ve checked out so far, it was the only one that was seemingly not afraid of empty space. The display has plenty of lights, but the timed animations have a greater impact because the entire display allows for brief moments of complete darkness, a characteristic that was hard to find among the other always-on displays that we’ve seen so far. The time of night (and possibly relative obscurity) helped as well. When we pulled up there were only 3 cars around us and each car was able to position itself for optimal viewing without interfering with neighborhood traffic. There were other houses without light displays with more cars in front, possibly a couple of neighborhood house parties proving more popular than the light display on this night. Great music, almost perfect light display animations, and great viewing angles made this our favorite so far!

Hill Ridge Farms ‘Festival of Lights’, Youngsville: We only recently discovered Hill Ridge Farms, but they’ve been offering up seasonal, farm-inspired amusements for many years now. Admission is $10 per person (4 and under are free), which includes a hayride and access to the farm park’s many kid-friendly amusements like a maze, tube slide, and more. There are fire pits placed throughout the property for warming up or making s’mores (supplies available for purchase). I wasn’t particularly interested in the “included hayride” until I learned that’s the primary (and only) way to take in their light display – and it was actually a lot of fun! A nice highlight is a patriotic “we support our troops” stop toward the end of the Festival of Lights hayride tour, with ‘God Bless America’ playing in the background. There’s an optional train ride for $3 per ticket – the train ride was nice, great for kids, but you don’t see much on the ride. My wife remarked that it’s almost more fun to watch the train ride around the track than it is actually riding it.

  1. While researching information for this post, I learned that some of the lights from the defunct Walnut Creek display live on at Meadow Lights in Benson, NC.