Monthly Archives: December 2009

Top Ten Richmond Stories of 2009

Rachel DePompa – bio | email   

Back from vacation and ready to work. Well, for three days. Then I’m off on vacation again! In the meantime, our Henrico County reporter Andy Jenks was asked to name the top 10 stories of 2009. A difficult task I think he aced. His top stories covered our entire viewing area, so I’ve decided to ride his coattails and post the top stories for the city this year. My criteria was simple… the story must have happened in the city’s borders and must be a talker!  Here goes….

10. Burglar Shot and Killed in Union Hill: This one hits criteria number two right away. A Virginia Union student shoots and kills a man breaking into his girlfriends car. Eric Driver is eventually charged with murder and instantly sparks a gun debate over whether or not you have the right to protect personal property. His case goes to trial in February.

9. CenterStage/Miller and Rhoades Open: Two Richmond landmarks are open again. Miller and Rhoades is now a hotel and condos. The project was years in the making and has sparked the revitalization of Broad Street. CenterStage soon followed. Also years in the making, it will be interesting to see what the venue does for arts in the River City.  

8. Storm Water Utility Fee: They said no new taxes… but this new utility fee certainly has become one. Homeowners on average pay about 45 dollars a year. Businesses on the other hand face stiffer charges. We’ve seen some bills in the thousands. The fee is designed to help pay for future storm water projects. Now, there are rumblings that the City Council may revisit this idea.

7. The City’s Budget: The good news.. no layoffs this year at City Hall. The bad news… we’re now 10 million in the hole. The stimulus money got us through, but now some tough choices are ahead at City Hall. This story will carry over into 2010….

6. Shockoe Bottom Development Strikes Out: A baseball stadium in the Bottom? There were no grey areas here. You were either for or against this idea. And the naysayers won out, and the Bottom lost a big chance to grow. Or did the Bottom win because it can choose its own identity? I suspect this healthy debate will rage on for years to come.  

5. GRTC Deadly Accident: A woman walking to work is mowed down by a GRTC bus. She was in the cross walk and had a walk light. The driver was eventually convicted of reckless driving. A sad story that turned tabloid when a local media outlet decided to run a graphic and unnecessary picture of the accident. You can read my thoughts about that in prior blog posts. 

 4. Vacant Properties and Richmond Slumlords: In a down economy, you expect to see some blight and down trodden areas. But, the attention vacant properties are getting this year deserves a nomination. Lets see??? We have Oliver Lawrence going to jail and then having to serve part of his sentence in one of his rundown properties. You have my Don Lacey investigation: a former Henrico County cop and real estate agent accused of bilking dozens of Richmonders out of millions. His vacant properties line Richmond’s East End. And then there’s the new legislation being considered by City Council to give people tax breaks for building on vacant lots or for fixing up old homes. And don’t forget the new slumlord website which calls out bad property owners.

3. Wilder Out/Jones In: This story technically happened in late 2008 with the election, but Jones didn’t take office until January. Anyways, Jones jump to the helm of this city is a complete 180 from what we had just one year ago. Though, it makes my job a little more boring, I’m sure residents are grateful for the calm at City Hall. The City Council and the Mayor actually get along. We’ve had no knock down/drag out fights. If there’s a disagreement, it appears to be worked out rather than stonewalled or fought in the media spotlight. All I have to say is this… What a difference a year makes?!?!

2. Squirrels Crack Richmond: (Baseball is back) After a year without a team, it was  nice to have some good news to report. And this new ownership group has really gotten people excited about baseball again. Even if you don’t like the team name or the logo, you were probably interested in knowing what it was going to be. My twitter page went NUTS the day the team decided on a logo. Let’s just see if that enthusiasm continues to opening day.

1. #Ukropalyse: No other story gave me such a headache this year! 🙂 (that’s why it gets my number one vote!) Also, no other story generated more emails to my inbox, twitter messages and secret phone calls and anonymous sources. With more than 3,000 employees in the area and a shopper in every household, people wanted every bit of information they could get on this Richmond icon. Six months of rumors became news headlines. And just before the New Year, we have the end of an era. Ukrop’s sold its stores to Royal Ahold.

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Filed under Baseball, Blogging, Budget, CenterStage, City Hall, City Hall Talk, Doug Wilder, Dwight Jones, Election, Martin's Food Markets, Ukrop's

#Ukropalyse Is Over!

Rachel DePompa – bio | email   

It’s over! What am I going to write about now??? 🙂 A big thank you goes out to all my readers and viewers and twitter friends. You have been a tremendous help. Your tips and constant interest reminded me every day how important this story is to many of you. I wanted to stay on top of it and this week was the culmination of some hard work and long hours. It was not an easy decision to run with the Ahold story on Wednesday. As a station, we were out there on a limb. No one else was even reporting the story. But I was confidant in my sources and I knew many hard-working people in Central Virginia (especially Ukrop’s 3,000-plus employees) wanted to know what was going on.

The Details:

Ahold is based in the Netherlands and is a world-wide conglomerate, but industry insiders tell me that doesn’t mean you’ll get a corporate feel in the stores. Giant-Carlisle is the actual group moving in to Central Virginia. It’s a division of Ahold USA. The company is based in Pennsylvania and has 152 stores in the Mid-Atlantic. The Giant stores this division operates are ONLY in Pennsylvania. (Another division of Ahold runs the Giants in Fredericksburg and many years ago had a store in Richmond) Giant-Carlisle ONLY operates Martin’s Food Markets south of the Mason Dixon Line. There are 9 Martin’s in Virginia. The first opened in 1984 in Winchester; Front Royal soon followed. Today there are also stores in Staunton, Harrisonburg, Waynesboro and Culpeper. We are traveling to the Martin’s in Waynesboro today so look for my report tonight at 5:30. We’ll compare and contrast Ukrop’s and Martin’s. I’m on vacation next week, but I’ll try to update you along the way.

Not Quite Finished Yet:

 There’s still much more to be written about this sale. Ukrop’s was an institution. It was very much a “Richmond” company. It was a chain with values that stuck to their guns. Please send me your story ideas and let me know how the loss of this home-grown company is affecting you.

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Filed under Martin's Food Markets, Ukrop's

Ukrop’s Sale Speculation Grows

Rachel DePompa – bio | email    

Breaking Update: Sources tell us high level Ukrop’s managers have been called to a meeting tomorrow (Thursday) morning. We do not know if this meeting is tied to a possible sale. 

#Ukropalyse:  (For the Twitter peeps) The sale saga has been going on for 6 months now. It was first reported by trade publication Food World in July. At the time, numerous publications (citing un-named sources) reported that there were three interested buyers: Harris Teeter, Supervalu and Ahold.  Industry sources tell me Ahold is back on the radar.   

Ahold: The company is based in Amsterdam in the Netherlands. It was founded in 1887 and is a supermarket giant. (pun intended! Ahold runs Giant Foods in Northern, Virginia, D.C. and Maryland. It also operates Martins, and Shop and Stop in New England.) According to trade publication SuperMarket News Ahold’s US company is the 8th largest retailer for 2009. Ahold has more than 200,000 associates worldwide, with stores in 11 countries. And, the most interesting bit of information I’ve run across is that the company announced just last month it’s getting ready for expansion and acquisition. The CEO John Rishton said, “The changes will also allow [Ahold] to devote more time to growth opportunities in existing and new markets.”    

I talked to an Ahold spokesperson by phone today and he was well aware of all the chatter. He would only say, “It’s our policy never to comment on market speculation.” Ukrop’s CEO Bobby Ukrop has never publicly acknowledged the sale and his company spokesperson did  not return any of my phone calls. In a letter to his employes in July Bobby Ukrop dismissed the original reports as rumor. He said, “Please know that if anything changes with our company’s direction, you and our customers will hear it from me and not from the rumor mill, blogs or anonymous sources.”   

I caught up with David Urban this week. He’s a marketing professor at VCU. He says Ahold is, “a really good company. It’s an interesting company because it’s been engaged in a pretty aggressive growth strategy.” He went on to say, “It’s a company that has been a technological leader. It is a company that puts a lot of emphasis on value for the consumers.”  

That’s all I have for now… stay tuned!  

 
 

    

 

   

 
 

  

 

 

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Filed under Richmond, Ukrop's

Ukrop’s Update and Marty Jewell’s DUI Conviction

Rachel DePompa – bio | email 

#Ukropalyse:

I always try to pass on to you any Ukrop’s nuggets I run across. Today an interesting one popped up in my email. I don’t really think it has anything to do with the sale rumors, but since so many of you are interested in what happens with the company, I figured I should let you know. It appears the auction of the former Ukrop’s building in Roanoke has been postponed. Here’s a link to the story.

Marty Jewell:

As for today’s water cooler talk in Richmond…. Marty Jewell pleads no contest to driving drunk in Richmond. We

Marty Jewell on City Council

learned today he had a blood alcohol level of .11, which is over the legal limit of .08 but below the .15 that requires mandatory jail time.  Jewell did spend the night in jail when he was arrested. He was given 90 days today with all of it suspended if he stays out of trouble for 3 years. He has to pay a $250 fine and to pay for VASAP classes, which is a state-run alcohol treatment program. Jewell’s license was suspended for one year but he is allowed to drive to and from work. It looks like he got the proper sentence for a first time DUI misdemeanor… but I’m curious what you think of the matter. Let me know.

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Filed under City Council, City Hall Talk, Ukrop's

Is Richmond a Tough Nut to Crack?

Rachel DePompa – bio | email

The squirrels logo has landed and it’s drawing people out of the woodwork! I posted a twitter picture of the logo and within two hours more than a thousand people had viewed it. 250 more posted comments on my twitter page with their thoughts. I’ve got to hand it to the new owners…they are marketing geniuses! The Richmond Braves never got this much attention except for when they decided to leave. These owners get packed press conferences, front page headlines and top news stories. Also, the crowds at these press conferences are not just media members and they continue to grow. They opened the new baseball team store an hour after the announcement and it was jammed with customers. Flying Squirrel hats and shirts were flying off the shelves. I will say, the majority of the comments I got about the new logo were negative. Then again, in years of reporting experience, the nay-sayers are always louder than the supporters. 

The new team logo!

 

 You can vote on our online poll here. Tell us what you think of the name. And you’ll get another chance at a name soon when the “name the mascot contest” starts December 14th. 

Some of the comments I got on twitter: 

@shortpumppreppy  Kinda cool actually 

@Joe_Stanley There are no words for how ridiculous this entire idea is. 

@heyart “Flying Squirrels” has grown on me. It screams Minor League. The kids will love this. 

@Nicholkola if mighty mouse had an arch nemesis, it would be the Richmond flying squirrel. 

@thomasmcdonald I will be getting a Squirrels hat ASAP! 

@katiebailey  Considering the team name, I think it’s silly, but decent. 

@Nicholkola Seriously? it’s like mighty mouse, squirrel style. 

@eddiRVA Angry badger?

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Filed under Baseball