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Musings of a Charlotte Transplant

by Jim Donnelly

October 6,2007

When you move to a new town, people always ask you why. I generally tell a pretty quick story about selling my company, tiring of Manhattan, having a heart-to-heart with my wife, and searching a dozen cities around the country. Ultimately, we ended up choosing Charlotte to settle down and raise a family.

A quick summary of our two years includes the founding of Emerson Joseph, a Men’s Grooming Lounge; developing the Home Federal Savings building into The Trust, a boutique luxury condominium; and the recent announcement of Encore, a 20-story luxury condominium that we will build above a restored Carolina Theatre. We are pretty delighted that we have been able to make an actual impression on the city that we call home.

I still have a lot to learn about the Queen City, but I have formed a few opinions. Here are TEN THINGS I THINK ABOUT CHARLOTTE:

One: Charlotte is the best kept secret in the country. There are so many things that keep Charlotte humming. We chose this city over every other city in the country because of the climate, affordability, beauty of the city, and economic opportunity. It seems like Charlotte is insulated from much of the “doom and gloom” that I read about in the newspaper.


Two: Wipe your feet on the Welcome Mat. I am amazed that we were able to create a successful business like Emerson Joseph in such a short period of time. We were welcomed with open arms by both natives and transplants alike. The access we have had to the city’s leaders and original trailblazers has been fantastic. On top of that, some of the city’s most precious properties have been entrusted to our group.

Three: Build it, and they will come. For better or worse, the Home Federal building sat vacant at the corner of 4th and Tryon for over 6 ½ years. The Carolina Theatre sat for 20 years. The Emerson Joseph building was viewed as unleasable. We brought a new approach to each of these projects and unleashed amazing potential that was sitting there waiting to be tapped.

Four: We’re country, AND cool! There is a pool of people that are thirsty for cool things in Charlotte. We just had an open house for one of our condos on Tryon Street. By all measures, it is a pretty contemporary space. Contrary to our fears, the home-grown folks as well as the transplant city slickers welcomed the cool concept. Everyone recognized it as just another part of the ever developing palette of the city.

Five: We’re easy like Sunday morning. There is a great quality of life, traffic is relatively non-existent (especially if your frame of reference is NY or LA), unemployment is low, and no matter where you are, you are close to everything! In the grand scheme of things, there aren’t too many things to complain about.

Six: Great people are around every corner. It helps to own a high-end, men’s grooming lounge, but even outside of that, I constantly run across interesting and powerful folks from all walks of life. I feel like I have met a circle of people that should have taken twenty years to meet, but that seems to be the norm in Charlotte.

Seven: Space for kids and dogs are at a premium. It can’t all be great. Apparently I have to register my child a year before conception in order to get adequate day care in Uptown. And I am still bitter that I received a $50 ticket for letting my harmless boxer run around the Mint Museum fields.

Eight: History for $1000, Alex! I’ve never been to a place where it is so hard to stumble across its history. And the historical things that remain are either on the verge of being torn down or spread around the city in a non-cohesive way.

Nine: NASCAR really is main-stream. Sit in the middle of 250,000 fans on race day and it is hard not to feel the power. Once a year, even I become a race fan.

Ten: We couldn’t be happier. In our two years, the amount of change has been astounding. We hope to be a part of that in the present and the future.

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