End of an Era for Southern Season

Former owner Michael Barefoot ’73 opened A Southern Season in 1975 as a coffee roastery in Eastgate Shopping Center. (News & Observer photo)

After 44 years as a destination for shoppers looking for unusual food, beverages and gifts, Chapel Hill’s Southern Season store has closed.

“Southern Season is an incredible business, and I firmly believe that the concept is part of the future of retail,” Eric Brinsfield, owner of Calvert Retail, the store’s most recent corporate parent, said in a November statement announcing the closure. “However, it requires a more robust organization and more capital than I can provide as a small-business owner. I have made the difficult decision to close the Chapel Hill retail store and focus on our online business from our facility in Graham.”

A notice filed with the state Department of Commerce at the time of the announcement said 70 Southern Season employees would be laid off by Jan. 12.

Gift baskets and Southern Season packaged food items will continue to be available online, the company said. The Weathervane restaurant at Southern Season had closed by the time of the announcement.

Former owner Michael Barefoot ’73 opened A Southern Season in 1975 as a coffee roastery in Eastgate Shopping Center. Three years later, having added specialty foods to the inventory, he moved to the space now occupied by Trader Joe’s and added the Weathervane. Later, he opened a mail-order business for the store. In 2003, he expanded again, moving to what was then University Mall, and he added cooking classes.

In August 2011, Barefoot sold the company to a group headed by Clay Hamner, then director of UNC’s Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at Kenan-Flagler Business School. At the time, Barefoot said the aftereffects of the 2008 recession made him think about retiring and about offers that Hamner had made over the years to buy the business. Hamner said then that he envisioned expanding the company.

The culinary retailer was sold for $3.5 million at auction to Calvert Retail, a Delaware kitchenwares company, in August 2016 after filing in June for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The sale followed years of expansion into markets outside North Carolina, including Charleston, S.C., in September 2013 and Richmond, Va., in July 2014. Those two stores on the scale of the Chapel Hill location proved too big to support; Richmond closed in April 2016, Charleston that June.

New Owners Save The Lumina

When word spreads in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off that the title character playing hooky from school is seriously ill, “Save Ferris” signs start popping up and people start raising money to help. When word went out last summer that The Lumina Theater in Southern Village was in jeopardy of closing, a group of local investors stepped up.

Just before Thanksgiving, the new ownership was announced for The Lumina theater. (Grant Halverson ’93)

The company’s name? Save Ferris LLC.

D.R. Bryan, who opened the independent movie theater in 2000 with partner John Fugo, in July announced it would close on Labor Day, citing declining attendance drained off by Netflix and other streaming entertainment. After some Southern Village residents said they might want to take over, Bryan extended the Lumina’s run until after New Year’s and gave the group until Nov. 15 to decide. Just before Thanksgiving, the new ownership was announced.

“We love The Lumina and are proud and excited to take this local landmark forward,” said Aaron Westrick, a board member of the new company and Southern Village resident. “The community has rallied around The Lumina Theater, and we are going to lead them on their journey.”

“We plan to create a movie experience that is fun, affordable and accessible,” said Tony Smith, whom the group hired as the theater’s executive director.

Smith said The Lumina will keep its five theaters, offering first-run films shown in an all-digital format, with more special programming and events and activities for community groups.

“Our goal is to move beyond the days of just selling movie tickets,” Westrick said. “We surveyed over 1,200 Lumina fans about how we could provide a highly customized theater experience, and we listened.”

The theater also will get an updated lobby and new seating. Plans call for online ticketing and reserved seating. The theater is offering a membership program with various perks to help support the efforts.

620 Market St. |


Passport Motors closed in November, but the former owner and some staff have joined Chapel Hill Tire, a block away at 502 W. Franklin St. Jim Youngman, who had worked at Passport for over 30 years and owned it the past 25, said that the automotive shop’s building at 600 W. Franklin had been sold and that the new owner did not renew the lease.    Mellow Mushroom, 310 W. Franklin, closed in November after its rent went up and it decided not to renew the lease. That shop opened in 2012 after a previous Mellow Mushroom on East Franklin Street, near what is now University Place mall, closed in 2005.    After years of legal wrangling among the landowner and the operators of University Inn over leases, a settlement led to its closing in November. It had operated at the southeast corner of Fordham Boulevard and Ephesus Church Road since the mid-1960s. Plans for the property — in Chapel Hill’s recently designated Blue Hill District that is undergoing extensive redevelopment — had not been announced.    A company that uses apps to help employees manage their health and health care while saving employers money on health care expenses is bringing a new operations center to 419 W. Franklin St. Well Dot Inc. announced in November it would move into the property that most recently housed Carolina Ale House and before that auto dealerships since the 1940s. The firm’s new facility will serve as the primary center for its clinical and health experts and will house software developers, data analysts and corporate personnel. Well Dot — which has been based in Chapel Hill and Massachusetts, with offices in New York and Minneapolis — will bring 400 jobs and eventually spread into the building at 501 W. Franklin that is home to the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau.

— Keith King ’82


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