We probably say this every year, but a lot happened in 2023. Not just at the local level — changes to city council wards, worker strikes, policing strategies, affordable housing options, arts and cultural organizations and food establishments — but also at the state and national level. State maps changed, conservatives visited Greensboro and a horde of new state laws were enacted, including changes to voter ID rules. TCB underwent massive changes too. Gale Melcher celebrated her first full year with us while organizationally, we brought in more grant funding than ever before. So here’s to 2023, a year with plenty of ups and downs that will likely reverberate through the next year.
- Gale Melcher
Late last year, TCB got a generous grant from the NC Local News Lab Fund to hire a city council reporting for Greensboro and Winston-Salem. Gale Melcher of Wilmington answered the call and began reporting in January. She started with a banger: a Jan. 16 piece about Greensboro’s Pallet Homes program that got more than 100,000 pageviews. She has since contributed more than 130 articles to Triad City Beat, and her grant was renewed for 2024.
- William Penn Jr.
William Penn, Jr. was selected as Winston-Salem’s police chief in January, following the departure of former Chief Catrina Thompson. Born and raised in the city, Penn started his career with WSPD in 1997 and worked through the ranks to assistant police chief before he was selected as chief. Penn was one of four final contenders for the position.
Greensboro-based musician Justin Harrington, otherwise known as Demeanor, had a great year this year as he dropped two singles, “ALL FOR ME” and “Hello” in January and December, respectively. Coming off of his trip to South Africa last year where he shot a season of “Underground Everywhere,” a documentary series in which artists collaborate and make a new album from scratch, Harrington was then approached by folk artist Jake Blount to rap on Blount’s new album, The New Faith. The album was featured on NPR’s Tiny Desk with Harrington contributing to the performance.
- Allen Joines
Allen Joines wants to be the mayor of Winston-Salem — again. The longtime city leader announced in March that he is seeking his seventh term in office. First elected in 2001, Joines faces challengers JoAnne Allen and Frankie Gist in the Democratic primary election this coming March. Preceding his tenure as mayor, Joines worked in the Winston-Salem city manager’s office from 1971-2000.
- Nikki Glaser
Comedian Nikki Glaser performed at Greensboro’s Tanger Center in March. She told TCB: “I would say I am at the perfect level of fame because I am at the level where famous people know who I am. You always want the approval of your peers, so when people you admire know who you are, that’s a good level of fame. Like Martin Short knows who I am. Jerry Seinfeld is a fan, though I have never met him. Like Stephen Stills. That’s my level of fame.”
- Anime Aggies
In March, TCB profiled the NC A&T State University student group, the Anime Aggies, a devout group of anime fans at the HBCU. The group, which formed in 2021, was formed as a space for “people to come and talk about anime,” according to founder Rose Jackson.
- Nasanto Crenshaw
This year has been a busy one for the Crenshaw family. In Aug. 21, 2022, the family lost Nasanto Crenshaw, a 17-year-old Black boy who was shot and killed by police after a traffic stop near Super G Mart in Greensboro. In March of this year, Crenshaw’s mother Wakita Doriety filed a wrongful death civil lawsuit against Officer Matthew Sletten with the Greensboro Police Department and the city of Greensboro, stating that her son’s constitutional rights were violated. A few weeks later, Guilford County District Attorney Avery Crump declined to prosecute Sletten while the GPD asked for the body-camera footage from the incident to be released to the public. In April, the footage was released, leaving many questions unanswered about the way the police handled the situation. In July, US District Court Judge Catherine Eagles granted Office Sletten’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. A month later, the family appealed Judge Eagles’ decision. The case is ongoing in the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit as of the end of November.
- Lanceford Williams
In March, the downtown Greensboro community mourned the loss of Lanceford Williams, an unhoused man who frequented the area. Williams, who was known as a bright light in the community, was shot and killed on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
- Dustin Jones
Former Greensboro Fired Captain — correction — Fire Captain Dustin Jones was dismissed in May for “misuse of social media and disrespectful treatment of others.” Jones made multiple racist, transphobic and homophobic posts on Facebook, violating the fire department’s social media policy. When fired for his remarks, Jones claimed that his First Amendment rights had been violated. Jones’ supporters showed up to a city council meeting in June to protest his firing, while dozens more rallied in the chambers to denounce him and show their support for the LGBTQIA+ community. Jones was not reinstated. In City Manager Taiwo Jaiyeoba’s response to Jones’ appeal letter, Jaiyeoba told Jones that the net effect of his posts was to “dehumanize, delegitimize, disparage and disrespect those who are different than you. Organizational culture is defined in large part by what behaviors are tolerated. We simply cannot tolerate this kind of behavior from a leader of this organization.” In a statement to TCB, Mayor Nancy Vaughan said that she supported Jaiyeoba’s decision to uphold Jones’ termination.
- Drag queens
Despite ongoing hateful rhetoric by the conservative right — including failed bills that would have criminalized drag performances in public — drag queens remained steadfast in their commitment to equality, representation and freedom of expression this year. In May, TCB sat down with Brenda and Ivy Carter who talked about resistance to anti-drag and anti-LGBTQ+ hate. In June, during Pride month, Brenda’s mural at the Bearded Goat was vandalized just a few weeks after Proud Boys showed up at a private drag event in Winston-Salem. The mural was restored shortly afterwards.
- Proud Boys
In June, about a dozen Proud Boys showed up at a private drag event at Radar Brewing in Winston-Salem. The event was hosted by drag queens Anna Yacht and CC Labrie. Due to the aggressors impeding foot traffic, police were called to the scene and the Proud Boys left the premises about an hour and a half later.
- Joe Lopez
In August, US District Judge Loretta Biggs denied a request by former Greensboro police officer Matthew Hamilton and his attorneys to dismiss a civil lawsuit filed by Joe Lopez on behalf of his son, Joseph Lopez, who was shot and killed by Hamilton in 2021. The denial was a small victory for Lopez, who has been fighting for justice for what happened to his son two years ago. The case is ongoing as of the end of October.
- Mary Haglund
In August, TCB spoke with filmmakers Zap McConnell and Cat Rider about their forthcoming documentary, How to Feed an Artist, which takes an in-depth look at Winston-Salem restaurateur Mary Haglund’s relationship with artists and service-industry workers. Haglund is the former owner of Mary’s Gourmet Diner. The film is set to be released in 2026.
- Dan Dos Santos
In August, Greensboro artist Dan Dos Santos fulfilled one of his biggest childhood dreams: painting works for Marvel. The illustrator, who is known worldwide for his paintings for the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Biggs and covers for Brandon Sanderson’s novels, took on his biggest project yet when he agreed to paint 137 original works for Marvel’s latest Masterpieces trading card set. His painting of Spider-Man sold for $50,000 at public sale.
- James Upchurch
In August, former Guilford County Commissioner James Upchurch faced public scrutiny after he announced during a board meeting that he would spend $40,000 of the county budget to install “In God We Trust” signs on 10 county buildings. Upchurch, who was voted into office in 2020, originally ran and was elected as a Democrat but switched parties in 2021. The motion for the signs failed 6-2. In October, Democrat Brandon Gray was sworn in to represent District 6 after Upchurch vacated the seat. In a county announcement, Upchurch mentioned that he had “accepted an opportunity in another state.”
- Christopher Woodall
By the end of summer in August, former TCB Senior Editor Jordan Green filed a report about Christopher Woodall of Winston-Salem, an avowed white nationalist who openly supports Russia, is a member of the US Army Reserves, recently served in the NC Army National Guard and worked for a the Guilford County Sheriff’s office as a detention officer. For Raw Story, Green Wrote: “Woodall’s extremist resume, by his own account, includes involvement with the Ku Klux Klan and National Socialist Movement, the latter being a violent neo-Nazi group whose membership peaked in the mid-2000s. In 2021, Woodall indicated in text messages that he was an active member of a chapter of the chapter of American Guard — a group aligned with the Proud Boys but with more pronounced white nationalist leanings — for the western half of North Carolina. And recently, he organized what he described to online acquaintances as a ‘white nationalist training group.’”
- Kalvin Michael Smith
The body of Winston-Salem man Kalvin Michael Smith was found in a car in September by Winston-Salem police. Smith served 20 years in prison for the brutal beating of Jill Marker at the Silk Plant Forest store in 1995, but the police investigation leading to the conviction was widely undermined through successive reviews by the Winston-Salem Journal, a citizens committee and former Assistant FBI Director Chris Swecker. Smith maintained his innocence throughout his incarceration and afterwards — he served his entire sentence and was released in 2016. He was 52 years old.
- Kenwyn Caranna
In September, News & Record reporter Kenwyn Caranna had her notebook seized by Juvenile Court Judge Ashley Watkins-Simms in what looks to be an illegal play on a reporter’s work. Writing for the Assembly, reporters Michael Hewlett and Jeffrey Billman said, “Watlington-Simms also appears to have run afoul of two state laws. One bars judges from ‘banning, prohibiting, or restricting the publication or broadcast of any report concerning… any evidence, testimony, argument, ruling, verdict, decision, judgment, or other matter occurring in open court in any hearing, trial, or other proceeding.’ The other shields journalists from having to disclose ‘any confidential or non-confidential information, document, or item obtained or prepared while acting as a journalist,’ including their notes.”
- Marcus Smith and the Smith family
On Sept. 30, the Smith family gathered at the Interactive Resource Center in Greensboro to honor the death of Marcus Deon Smith, who was hogtied and killed by police in Greensboro in 2018. The gathering had been a long time coming, with many community members joining the event in which a commemorative plaque was revealed on the property.
The plaque was a result of the long civil lawsuit that the Smith family had levied against the city of Greensboro in the aftermath of Smith’s death. “This can be a place that people can come to understand Greensboro,” said Flint Taylor, one of the attorney’s for the Smith family who flew in from Chicago to attend the event.
- Nick Offerman
Actor and raconteur Nick Offerman made a stand at the Tanger Center in October. A storyteller at heart, Offerman regaled TCB reporter Autumn Karen in quips, anecdotes, and dulcet tones. “It’s funny that when they go, well ‘I’m sure you’re tired of having people say how your work meant something to them,’” he said. “It hasn’t even occurred to me to be unappreciative of it.”
- Pat Pate
In June, Winston-Salem City Manager Lee Garrity stepped down after 17 years of holding the position, leaving room for new leadership. After months of deliberation, city councilmembers selected Pat Pate for the job in July. Pate is the former city manager of Manassas, Virginia. Several councilmembers and community leaders expressed displeasure at Pate’s selection over the city’s own Patrice Toney, a longtime civil servant and assistant city manager. Pate was sworn in this November.
- Fatima Wardy
In November, Fatima Wardy was announced as RiverRun’s first BIPOC filmmaking fellow.The fellowship is an initiative to “uplift the work of Black, Indigenous and other filmmakers of color,” according to RiverRun. As part of the fellowship, Wardy will curate films by filmmakers of color for the 2024 RiverRun festival that will take place from April 18-27 next year.
- Queen Bees
In November, TCB caught up with three Greensboro musicians: Kate Musselwhite Tobey, Molly McGinn and Anna Luisa Daigneault who have come together to form a triforce known as the Queen Bees. The trio first got together in 2022 during the NC Folk Festival for the Not Your Average Folk competition. Then, they reconvened this year and made it to the finals of this year’s competition for their song, “Let the Queen Bee.” Now, the three are working on an EP set to be released next year.
- Guilford County Schools cafeteria workers
In November, TCB reported a strike by Guilford County Schools’ cafeteria workers that lasted two days. Despite near freezing temperatures, hundreds of nutritional workers for the school district walked out of their jobs to demand higher wages. Many of them hadn’t gotten pay increases in years while the rest of school staff got increases due to state funding. After two days, school district leaders met with the strike organizers and agreed to an updated pay plan.“I’m overall pleased and I think the group is too,” said organizer Kelly Shepherd.
- Kerri Mubaarak
In December, TCB caught up with Kerri Mubaarak, Elsewhere’s new executive director. In an interview, Mubaarak talked about the living museum’s renewed vision after the organization closed for three months earlier this year. The new mission includes artist residencies, which have been one of the cornerstone’s of the organization, as well as an emphasis on new revenue streams. “[W]e’re still here, and we’re doing fine,” Mubaarak said.
- Greensboro police officers
The Greensboro Police Department has had to do a lot of damage control this year as multiple officers — four to be exact — were charged and subsequently fired for sex crimes this year. Police officers also shot and killed two people in the city this year. TCB also reported that in the last five years, the city has spent more than $4 million across six civil lawsuits to defend officers who have been accused of using excessive force, which in some instances left victims dead.
In January, TCB published two articles chronicling the changes at Dom’s, Winston-Salem’s sole vegan restaurant. The first article focused on owner Brian Ricciardi’s reasons for scaling back both Dom’s and Radici, a vegan restaurant in Greensboro. In the piece, Ricciardi blamed employees for being inconsistent and asking for too much pay. He also stated that his commitment to his vision resulted in him closing both locations in 2022. He reopened Dom’s at the end of 2022 and ran it by himself as a take-out only business. But then, employees reached out to TCB telling a different story. In the follow-up piece, former employees told TCB that Ricciardi was an absent owner who didn’t pay his employees fairly. As of December, Dom’s is permanently closed.
- Barber Park Bike Shop
In January, TCB highlighted a community effort based in Greensboro’s Barber Park to fix old bikes to help increase mobility around the city. In addition to fixing bikes, the location has a bike library in which community members can rent bikes.
- Willie Davis Drive and Cleveland Avenue apartments
In February, the city of Winston-Salem notified residents living in two city-owned buildings that they would have to move out indefinitely so the city could complete a “full assessment of the building.” According to the city, both apartment complexes are more than 50 years old and the city-owned buildings have not undergone significant repairs or updates in about three decades. However, the issue of finding housing within their price range was of grave concern to residents, many of whom are low-income elderly residents. In May, city councilmembers decided to spend up to $750,000 to renovate both buildings and conferred 1-year leases to the tenants, who will be charged their current rental rate for the remainder of their leases.
- Saint Louis Saveurs
In February, TCB visited the new Senegalese restaurant, Saint Louis Saveurs in Greensboro. In addition to some American classics like cheesesteaks and burgers, the menu highlights popular West African items like djolof rice, fataya and yassa.
- Winston-Salem skatepark
City leaders approved the purchase of new skatepark equipment for the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds in February. In September, TCB interviewed skateboarder Sturgill Horn, who worked with city staff to redesign the park. Horn now enjoys the park much more with modern equipment in place. Among the new pieces is a china bank — a steep slab with ledges.
- NataBelles Desserts
In March, when TCB visited NataBelles Desserts in the back of Marketplace Mall in Winston-Salem, the line snaked through the shopping center. Originally started in 2018 by Shanata McMillian Shepard, the business features sweet-potato pound cake and sweet-potato brownies, an invention by Shepard. “We’re excited; this will be the home of the original,” Shepard said.
In April, TCB visited one of the newest bars on Trade Street in Winston-Salem — Hel’s — shortly after it opened its doors. Owned and operated by longtime downtown fixtures Allison Cambra and Morgan Masencup, the business focuses on creating a welcoming and safe atmosphere for women and queer folks to drink and unwind. “We’re here for you to just be authentic and be genuine and you know… treat others the way that you want to be treated,” Cambra said.
- Slappy’s Chicken
When Slappy’s, Winston-Salem’s beloved fried chicken joint closed its doors in 2021, the people of the city fell into a deep despair. But in April, the business reopened bringing back its popular dipped chicken and Statesville hot thighs, along with its mac-and-cheese topped with a Cheez-Its crust. And the people rejoiced.
- Happy Hill
In April, two historic shotgun houses located in Happy Hill, Winston-Salem’s oldest Black neighborhood, were sold to Triad Cultural Arts. Both houses were sold for a total of $1 and will be rehabilitated by the nonprofit, community-based, cultural arts organization. Triad Cultural Arts had been pursuing the acquisition of the shotgun houses since 2017 in order to protect and preserve them. In October, Winston-Salem city councilmembers gave Habitat for Humanity of Forsyth County nearly $2.16 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding to construct 13 houses in Happy Hill on vacant lots currently owned by the Housing Authority of Winston-Salem.
- State Street Social District
Greensboro’s new social district along State Street started welcoming roaming alcohol consumption on April 1. People can sip and stroll from 12-9 p.m. seven days a week within the district’s boundaries. Heading toward North Elm Street, the boundaries of the social district lie just before Georgia Street past State St. Jewelers. In the other direction, the social district extends just past Bull City Ciderworks and ends before North Church Street. Business owners along the strip have noticed more customers since the social district went into effect, including Eclectic by Nature, the metaphysical gift shop owned by proprietress Tavane Taylor that also houses two felines. One of the cats, Merlin, now tolerates an influx of shoppers wandering through the store. Merlin declined TCB’s request for comment on the new district but obliged to pose for a photo.
- The Experiential School of Greensboro
In May, TCB published an investigative report about the inner workings of the Experiential School of Greensboro, a public charter school that focuses on social justice and experiential learning. Despite its mission, several parents who spoke to TCB mentioned patterns of unjustified punishment against their children, along with mismanagement by the school’s director and board of directors. In July, the school’s director, Tinisha Shaw, left the school.
- Crystal Towers
The 11-story highrise overlooking downtown Winston-Salem has had quite a year. The building, which houses elderly and disabled low-income residents, has had a history of disrepair. Mainly, the building’s two consistently inoperative elevators made it impossible for residents to live comfortable and safe lives. After years of protest and outrage from resident activists, the Housing Authority of Winston-Salem, the building’s owner, started renovating the building this year, beginning with the lobby, laundry and elevators. Asbestos was removed from the lobby floors in May, and the laundry facilities were centralized to the ground floor to prevent leaks that had been damaging the elevators. Elevator replacement work began in September and has not concluded yet.
- Mike’s Vegan Cookout
In May, Mike Roach and his wife India Dillard celebrated the opening of their first brick-and-mortar location for Mike’s Vegan Cookout, renamed Mike’s Vegan Grill, in Greensboro. The location sits off of Gate City Blvd. and was formerly housed by Ghassan’s Mediterranean Eats. Mike’s, which started as a food truck in 2019, has gained popularity in the city for being one of the only all-vegan food options around. In November, Roach announced on social media that they would soon be opening a brick-and-mortar in Charlotte.
Greensboro’s new bartender-owned cocktail bar, Neighbors, opened near downtown in May, bringing with it an attention to craft and delicious late-night eats. “I think that in Greensboro there hasn’t really been an in-between like us,” says co-owner Ryan Hill. “There are dive bars, but also places that are more high-end where you’re seated by hostess…. We wanted to do something in the middle.”
- Coffee shops in Greensboro
In addition to the influx of restaurants to downtown Greensboro in the latter half of the year (see #46), the first half saw the opening of several new coffee shops in the city. Examples include Home Grounds, which opened in May, Awoo Coffee, which opened in June, Arrowhead Coffee, which opened in July and Melrose Coffee which opened in November.
- Clark Campbell Transportation Center
In June, Winston-Salem Transit Authority staff brought “complaints and concerns” to city hall that appeared to directly relate to the unhoused community, many of whom utilize the building’s restrooms and waiting areas. WSTA’s General Manager Donna Woodson noted an increase in loitering, long-term stay, use of illegal substances, restroom facility abuse and verbal and physical altercations. In October, new rules were proposed and went into effect in December. Woodson said that there are people who spend “numerous” hours there. “They’re not performing any transit-related type of service,” Woodson added, noting that there is daily “abuse” of that. Patrons must now pass through a metal detector to enter the building, and one of the new policies states that people without a valid bus ticket or a transfer can spend a maximum of 90 minutes at the transportation center.
- Triad Stage
In June, Greensboro’s Triad Stage announced its closure after 20 years in business. The long-running arts organization had undergone significant changes and turmoil in the past few years, including a controversy in which one of its founders and artistic director at the time, Preston Lane, was accused of sexual harassment and assault. In the aftermath, the organization worked hard to restructure itself and made efforts to rebuild trust with the community. But in the end, financial difficulties caused the organization to shut down. In December, it was announced that a group of investors had bought Triad Stage and intend to revive and reimagine the business, according to DGI President Zack Matheny.
- Nomad Wine Works
In June, TCB visited Nomad Wine Works, the first urban winery in the Triad. While the location officially opened in December 2022, the business took off this year thanks to High Point’s new social district which kicked off in March of last year. Owners Aaron Sizemore and Dave Armstrong explained that an urban winery is different from the other wineries in the area that are attached to vineyards. Instead, they source grapes from around the country to make their wines.
Plans for the construction of a Lidl at the corner of South Elm Street and West Gate City Boulevard in East Greensboro stalled in July due to chemical contamination. In October, City Manager Taiwo Jaiyeoba listed the site as an area that could be eligible for remediation. The city received $11 million from the state designated for remediation projects at Bingham Park and various sites downtown.
- New restaurants in downtown Greensboro
In the second half of the year, downtown Greensboro celebrated the opening of several new restaurants including Pangaea, Yokai and Inka Grill. Pangaea, which opened in August, is located at 230 S. Elm St. and boasts an international menu while Yokai, which opened in September, acts as an Asian-fusion pub. Inka Grill also opened in September at 214 S. Elm St. and brought Peruvian cuisine downtown.
- North Star LGBTQ+ Center
In September, the volunteer-run North Star LGBTQ+ Center in Winston-Salem celebrated its 10th anniversary. In an interview with TCB, board chair Cindia Gonzalez said that staff “hear from a lot of people that it feels like coming home.”
- Village of Summerfield Farms
Developer David Couch enlisted the aid of the NC Legislature to develop nearly 1,000 acres in the town of Summerfield. But before they could enact a new law allowing for this unprecedented development, Villages of Summerfield Farms, Summerfield Town Council held an emergency meeting in September allowing for Couch’s plan to go forward. After the election, the parties are now trying to negotiate a development agreement, according to the News & Record.
- Ava’s Cuisine
In September, Alexis Hefney celebrated the opening of her business, Ava’s Cuisine — named after her daughter — in the old Iron Hen location in Greensboro. In an interview with TCB, Hefney talked about her passion for soul food and how she had been running a food business for four years after graduating from UNCG with a biology degree. “A lot of those recipes are like chemistry,” Hefney says. “Food is like chemistry because you have to add a lot of seasoning, water to make it right. A lot of it ends up being off the top of my head.”
- The Green Bean
In September, TCB reported on a staff walkout at the downtown Greensboro coffee shop, the Green Bean. Interviews with former staff revealed a pattern of absent ownership and pay issues.
In social media posts, staff revealed conversations that they had with then-owner Amy Foresman, in which she said she never promised the employees a “living wage.” In November, the coffee shop reopened under the leadership of Foresman’s son, Caleb and his wife Lilou. The two told TCB that Amy Foresman was no longer involved in the business in any way.
- The Silver Moon Salon
After a lengthy process, TCB columnist James Douglas finally bought the Silver Moon Saloon, a tiny barroom in downtown Winston-Salem this September, “And now, Silver Moon Saloon, this dirty little beloved bar that has served cheap beer and heavy shots for the past 20 years is now under new ownership, which is me. And I’m absolutely petrified,” he wrote.
- Winston Lake Golf Course
In October, Winston-Salem city councilmembers approved the listing of Winston Lake Golf Course on the National Register of Historic Places. The historic golf course opened in 1956 for Black golfers in Forsyth County who were once restricted to the city-owned Reynolds Park Golf Course and private country clubs, where Black caddies were permitted to play only when courses were shut down or not in use. According to city documents, a little more than $1.7 million was designated for improvements to the golf course during summer 2022. The total scope of work will include, but is not limited to, redesigning bunkers, tee box renovation and replacement, designing drainage and irrigation systems renovations, tree removal, fairway improvements and other miscellaneous improvements to the course.
- Greensboro’s downtown parks
In October, TCB investigated updated rules for Greensboro’s Center City and LeBauer Parks, which appeared to target the city’s unhoused community who often utilize the parks’ public restrooms and seating areas. The parks are owned by the city while Greensboro Downtown Parks, Inc. — a nonprofit organization that has a public-private partnership with the city — is tasked with managing the parks. The most recent rule changes state that camping gear such as tents and lanterns is prohibited in the parks now. More rules ban the use of hammocks, storage of personal belongings and charitable distribution by local groups.
In October, TCB published its first story about the ongoing controversy at UNCG in Greensboro, in which faculty and students allege that university administration is partaking in an unprecedented and unnecessary academic program review process. In December, TCB published a follow-up piece in which the relationship between the consulting firm rpk Consulting, which UNCG has hired for the process. In the December piece, TCB noted how rpk has worked with other universities and university systems to slash academic programs and spoke to faculty at other universities affected by the subsequent changes. The academic program review process is ongoing at UNCG and is slated to continue until February of next year.
- Dragon’s Hoard
In November, TCB caught up with the owners of Dragon’s Hoard in Greensboro, a new gaming and geek shop that allows local creatives to sell their wares. “We want the store to be welcoming to all people,” said co-owner Zack Fisher.
Bitters Social House on State Street in Greensboro had been open for about three months when TCB visited the location in November. The business, owned by Jocelyn Moon, is located in an old two-story house and welcomes customers with its cozy vibe. In addition to being a cocktail bar, Bitters also sells a variety of NC-based cocktail goods like bitters, tonics, syrups and shrubs.
- 1013 Battleground Avenue lot
In December, a group of five investors under the name Hand Grecade LLC, met with Westerwood neighbors and let them know that they had purchased the lot located at 1030 Battleground Ave. The location, which sits at the entrance to downtown Greensboro, has long stood vacant after a gas station closed its business more than a decade ago. During the meeting, the investors asked neighbors what they’d like to see on the property. Some pointed to an ice cream shop while others opted for a bar or restaurant. According to one of the owners, the timeline for renovating the space and opening a new business on the site would be around fall 2024.
- Winston-Salem Cup Museum closes
In December, the Winston-Salem Cup Museum opened its doors for the last time. As reported by the Winston-Salem Journal, Will Spencer and his wife, Christy, opened the museum 18 years ago as a NASCAR championship series museum. But for years, the museum had been embroiled in “a lengthy battle with ITG Brands, a Greensboro-based tobacco manufacturing company,” according to the Journal. At dispute was which group — the Spencers or ITG — owns the rights to the museum’s Winston-branded NASCAR collection.
- Investments, gifts and grants
After getting its first grant late last year, TCB has gotten in the game by applying for several more. To date, we’ve raised nearly $75,000 in investments, gifts and grants from the NC Local News Lab Fund, New Media Ventures and the Google News Initiative, with more to come in 2024.
- Pallet shelters in Greensboro
Last year, Greensboro city leaders approved the $535,014 purchase of 30 Pallet shelters to keep unhoused people out of the cold from December until March. The 64-square-foot shelters are capable of housing two residents each and shielded a total of 75 residents from the elements at Pomona Park in a program run by the Interactive Resource Center. In January, TCB reported a rocky start to the program. Restroom and shower facilities were often down according to residents and staff. The ballpark is also four miles away from downtown, where many resources for unhoused people are located. Residents received four bus passes per day, according to multiple residents. This year, the program started in November and is scheduled to run through March.
- Surveillance cameras in Winston-Salem
Winston-Salem’s city leaders added a plethora of unblinking eyes to their police department this year. In January, councilmembers approved a pilot program for Flock Safety cameras, allowing the installation of 25 automated license-plate readers in intersections across all eight wards of the city. The cameras will be connected to the police department’s Real-Time Crime Center. City staff also have a vision to bring cameras to the city’s community centers, parks and municipal buildings and facilities. In September, Winston-Salem city leaders made a $900,000 decision to expand the city’s public-safety security camera platform, adding an estimated 291 cameras to 33 sites around the city. City staff currently manage more than 500 security cameras. In an email to TCB, the city’s Chief Information Officer Tom Kureczka stated that all cameras are expected to be installed by the spring of 2025.
- Homelessness criminalized in Greensboro
In January, Greensboro city leaders declined to extend the social district to Center City Park, an area where many of the city’s unhoused residents congregate. The move would have made it legal to drink alcoholic beverages in the park. In August, a Greensboro police officer posted a notice under a bridge near the Interactive Resource Center, informing those taking refuge there that they were “trespassing” on city property. “Please relocate your belongings or City Operations will remove your belongings,” the poster read, continuing: “You have 7 days.” The ensuing outrage included a letter from the ACLU to city leaders, outlining how this action would “likely violate Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution,” noting that they “strongly urge” the city to “cease issuing these notices and refrain from seizing and destroying the property of unhoused people. In an interview with TCB, City Attorney Chuck Watts stated that the city removes personal objects of people experiencing homelessness because a “public right of way is obstructed.”
- Winston-Salem city council changes meeting times
After more than a decade of meeting at 7 p.m, Winston-Salem’s city council began meeting one hour earlier this February. In previous meetings, city staff had mentioned how employees don’t want to work late into the evening and how other Triad cities meet at earlier times, such as Greensboro which holds city council meetings at 5:30 p.m. When city staff members surveyed citizens, the majority preferred for the meeting times to stay the same. The change drew the ire of several city residents, who claimed it would have a “huge impact on citizen participation in city government.”
- Community land trusts in Greensboro
In March, Greensboro city staff started looking into increasing affordable housing by way of a community land trust in which a nonprofit organization that owns land on behalf of a community acts as a long-term steward. The city has partnered with Grounded Solutions Network to get the trust up and running.
- The Last ACC tournament
The ACC held its men’s basketball tournament in the Greensboro Coliseum for the 29th time — and the last for the foreseeable future. Under conference realignment, and with its HQ relocated from Greensboro to Charlotte, the ACC has guaranteed just two more ACC tournaments in Greensboro over the next 15 years. TCB wrote in March: “We can quantify what the ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament has brought to Greensboro over the years in terms of dollars and cents: hotel rooms, restaurant dinners, tanks of gas, lap dances and souvenirs. This year’s tournament is expected to bring in $13.6 million, according to the Convention and Visitors Bureau. Less tangible is the effect it’s had on the city over the years. Longtime Greensboro residents can remember watching the games on TV in their classrooms and the thrill of seeing their hometown on the national stage, or waiting outside the coliseum after the early-round games scavenging tickets from fans whose teams got knocked out.”
- Guilford County School Board controversy
For much of 2023, the Guilford County School Board was embroiled in a controversy in which Republican school board members accused Democrats of blocking their choice to fill the vacant District 3 seat in April. Last year, after District 3 representative Pat Tillman was elected to county commission, Republicans tried to seat Michael Logan into the vacant seat, but Democrats rejected Logan due to his divisive posts on social media. The remaining Republican school board members then filed a lawsuit in June after the Democratic school board members voted to seat William Goebel instead. In September, Logan was admitted to the board after state legislators passed a bill that allowed Republicans to remove Goebel and seat Logan. Logan filed for re-election in December.
- City workers’ rights
In April, Greensboro city workers rallied at city hall to demand a $20 minimum wage and a civil service board, which would help city workers who have allowed workers cited for termination, suspended or demoted to appeal the decisions. Following the passage of city budgets, city workers in Greensboro were granted $18/hour while those in Winston-Salem were offered $15.45. House Bill 470, a piece of legislation that worked its way through the North Carolina General Assembly, aimed to bring civil service boards to Greensboro and Winston-Salem. Both city councils clashed with the legislation, pushing the narrative that it was a “bad bill” and expressing their displeasure by going as far as passing a resolution opposing the bill. The text was passed into law in August. However, at the last minute, lawmakers changed the text to apply to fire and police personnel only, rather than city workers as a whole.
- TCB email search tool
In May, TCB Webmaster Sam Le Blanc created a widget that scrapes through the Greensboro City Council email database in a more easily searchable format than the city’s portal. The widget lives forever, free, on the TCB site. The tool helped Gale to publish stories (see #69) about city leaders’ plans to enact a countywide 1-percent food tax without voter approval.
- Guilford County’s prepared food tax
In May, TCB uncovered city leaders’ plans to get a county-wide 1-percent prepared-food tax passed in Guilford County without voter approval. Currently, the total of state and county sales tax rates for Guilford County is 6.75 percent. With a prepared-food tax, an extra 1 percent would be tacked on the check for meals served out of local restaurants, and the money reaped would go toward the upkeep of sports, arts, entertainment and tourism facilities. State legislators would need to pass a law allowing the tax to be enforced in Guilford County. Emails obtained from public records requests showed that Coliseum Managing Director Matt Brown and Greensboro Sports Foundation President Richard Beard — who hired lobbyists — led the charge, along with several city officials including Mayor Nancy Vaughan. Vaughan told TCB in a May interview that “at this point, there is no movement” on a prepared food tax. However, by June, Vaughan stood firmly behind the idea of a prepared-food tax, telling TCB, “I think that we would be silly not to consider it, and we have the largest coliseum arena in the state.” She also scheduled a meeting in July to promote the “benefits” of the tax, much to the chagrin of the local business owners invited. As of November, legislative updates from the city show that no bills regarding the implementation of this tax have been placed on the state’s legislative agenda yet.
- Short-term rental regulations in Greensboro
Greensboro city leaders opted to regulate STRs, or short-term rentals, in May. The city estimates that there are more than 600 short-term rentals including AirBNBs and VRBOs in Greensboro. According to the new regulations, STRs will only be permissible in residential dwelling units, and hosts will be required to apply for and secure a zoning permit. For multifamily buildings, no more than one dwelling unit per building or 25 percent of the total units per building — whichever is greater — may be used as a short term rental.
- BEAR and BHRT take off
Winston-Salem and Greensboro are leaning into new models of policing. In Winston-Salem, the city’s BEAR Team, short for Behavioral Evaluation and Response, has been helping residents since May. This team of crisis counselors is housed within the fire department and offers an alternative to law enforcement for 911 calls related to non-violent mental health crises, substance use and domestic disputes. Greensboro’s co-response policing model has been running for nearly three years after starting in December 2020. The Behavioral Health Response Team — or BHRT — pairs mental health professionals with police officers to respond to mental-health related calls for service. In November, city leaders discussed expanding the small team of eight and increasing its funding. Greensboro’s Police Chief John Thompson told TCB that he wants to expand BHRT so they can have a “non-police response to mental-health calls” just like Winston-Salem.
- Pride month in Winston-Salem
In an unforced error on the first day of June in Winston-Salem, the city of Winston-Salem removed a temporary profile photo of the Pride flag it had used on Facebook, just moments after getting a few negative comments in a thread. In an email to TCB, Winston-Salem Director of Marketing and Communications Frank Elliott blamed the reversal on an unnamed rogue employee who updated the profile picture “without authorization” and “prematurely,” which appeared to be somewhat contradictory statements. The next week, the city’s Pride flag was vandalized outside city hall. The flag was replaced, and Wanda Allen-Abraha, the director of the city’s human relations and diversity, equity & inclusion department, stated, “We want to assure the members of the LGBTQIA+ community that we empathize with and are sensitive to their concerns about such incidents.”
- Winston-Salem conducts walk audits
In June, Councilmember Annette Scippio requested walk audits for Reynoldstown and Slater Park, historically Black neighborhoods in the East Ward. By late October, volunteers walked through the neighborhoods to document areas for city staff to fix. “We have quite a few [neighborhoods] in the East Ward,” Scippio told volunteers in October, “that have been historically Black, and they haven’t gotten a lot of attention over the years.” The audits found that the two neighborhoods have narrow, damaged or missing sidewalks, limited lighting and are severely lacking in crosswalks.
- Greensboro city council announces new rules, bans speakers
As a way to curb “disruptive” behavior during city council meetings, in June, Mayor Nancy Vaughan suggested that the city put some new rules in place that noted if speakers or audience members act disruptively, they will be removed from the chambers and banned from in-person participation for a period of time. By July, Vaughan and city councilmembers approved the changes in a 7-1 vote. By October, three members of GSO WHOA, the Working-class and Houseless Organizing Alliance, had been banned. All three organizers have been permitted to contribute to monthly public comment periods via Zoom.
- Downtown Greensboro gets patios
Outdoor dining patios made popular during the pandemic became a permanent fixture in downtown Greensboro in June. Downtown Greensboro Inc. partnered with Modstreet of Durango, Co. to construct 13 permanent outdoor patios. The patios cost a total of $430,700 — covered by $142,700 in city funding and $288,140 from DGI.
- Voter ID
NC voters were asked to show ID at the polls this year for the first time in history, inordinately affecting Black and Brown voters in the state. The measure, enacted by the NC Supreme Court in July after reversing a previous decision, is now facing a lawsuit by the state NAACP, though it may not land in court before the 2024 election.
- Greensboro trolley
Four emerald buses, refurbished to look like old-timey trolleys, rolled onto the streets of Greensboro in July. The project garnered $90,000 in funding during the city’s participatory budgeting process in 2019, along with $1 million in American Rescue Act funding following a city council decision in January. The “Hopper” serves areas along Elm Street, from Union Square all the way up to Fisher Avenue and LoFi park area. Riders can hop on or hop off at 14 unique locations along the route, which winds past Broach Theater, the Civil Rights Museum, the Tanger Center, Center City Park and more. Trolleys roam the route Thursday through Saturday from noon to midnight and Sunday from noon to 10 p.m., arriving at stops every seven minutes.
- Winston-Salem ward changes
Ward boundaries shifted in Winston-Salem in July due to new population numbers as reported in the 2020 Census. According to census data, the city had 229,617 residents in 2010. The city’s population clocked 249,545 in 2020.
- NC GOP Convention in Greensboro
In July, state Republicans held their annual convention in Greensboro, with appearances by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence and Former President Donald Trump — not in the same room, of course. It was, in the words of one local editor, “a real shitshow.”
- TCB goes fortnightly
In August, after nearly 10 years of weekly production, TCB decided to halve its print run, making everybody’s favorite weekly into a fortnightly — which is a fancy way of saying “every two weeks.” Our publisher wrote: “It cuts in half our biggest expense: printing and distribution of our paper, as well as reducing design expenses. By eliminating two or three production days a month, Sayaka and I will have more time to do our jobs. And with the savings in revenue, we can actually publish more stories on our website than before.”
- Medicaid expansion
At long last in September, NC enacted Medicaid expansion, a provision of Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010. Tucked into the budget, it came at a price that includes a secret police force, exemption from public records laws for state legislators and school vouchers, among other atrocities.
- School vouchers
Along with other controversial budget items, the school voucher program passed this September and awards up to $7,213 in taxpayer-funded tuition payments for private schools, regardless of parental income. Legislators say it improves education choices for Black and Brown students, omitting the fact that white people are really good at paperwork.
- Carolina Core football club
- Nightlife violence in the Triad
In September, a brawl involving around 20 people broke out at Winston-Salem’s Thirsty Pallet Bar, and five were injured at Spot Bar and Lounge in Winston-Salem in November. That same month, dozens of shots were fired at Electric Tequila in Greensboro and two people were injured. Fifty-three 911 calls have been made from Electric Tequila in the past year according to reporting by the Greensboro News & Record.
- Guilford County Remembrance Project
After years of working on collecting soil from the approximate lynching site where Eugene Hairston, Guilford County’s sole lynching victim, the Guilford County Remembrance Project celebrated its success and reflected on its mission in September. At a community event attended by city councilmembers and the mayor, the project coordinators talked about the importance of the work and updated the community on the next phase of its project.
Night Blooms in the Apocalypse, the first album by Greensboro-based musician Nightblooms, was released in September. Prior to starting Nightblooms, musician Sam Logan performed in various bands in the Triangle where he started his musical career. He’s been in Greensboro since 2015 and said that the new album is meant to cover dark topics with bright music.
- High Point reparations
In September, the city of High Point made history by becoming the first city in the Triad to accept a plan for reparations. The move came after a commission presented its findings via a 245-page long report about High Point’s racial history as well as solutions to better the quality of life for its residents. Now that city council has accepted the report, the next steps will be for city leaders and city staff to start making efforts to implement the recommendations.
- Israel-Hamas war
On Oct. 7, the world looked on in horror as the militant group Hamas killed approximately 1,200 Israeli civilians and kidnapped 200 more. In the weeks that followed, the Israeli government levied a barrage of unprecedented attacks in Gaza, where more than 15,000 people — most of them women and children — have been killed. In the Triad, hundreds of people took to the streets to protest, calling for a ceasefire and for locally elected officials to speak out against the violence.
- New legislative maps
In October, state legislators passed new district maps for the state House and Senate as well as the US House. The new maps create a distinct Republican advantage, ceding 11 of 14 US House seats to the GOP, as well as strategic advantages in the House and Senate.
- The Southern Wok
In October, the owners of Winston-Salem’s Southern Wok shared their vision for the dumpling business. As a pop-up shop, husband-and-wife duo Josh and Megan Lemon started making dumplings based on Josh’s upbringing and Cantonese background. The two are currently working to take the next step in their business by transferring their new food truck from Virginia to North Carolina.
- Eigen Chocolate
Kevin Drummey and Stephen Knoop showed TCB around their home kitchen in which they make hundreds of bars of chocolate for their business, Eigen Chocolate, in October. The couple, who moved to High Point from Los Angeles in 2021, started making chocolate because of Drummey’s hobby-turned-passion. These days the two can be found at a variety of local farmers markets selling their chocolate bars, drinking chocolate and bon bons.
- Leaf collection
To the dismay of locals, city leaders decided in August that this is Greensboro’s last year of loose leaf collection. Next year, residents must rake their yard waste into biodegradable paper bags in order for them to be taken away. Fifteen bags per household per week will be accepted. In the summer, the city will provide residents with rolling 95-gallon gray carts for leaves and yard waste that will be accepted along with the paper bags. The cart will be collected every week throughout the year on residents’ regular collection day. City leaders cited worker injuries from shoveling up wet leaves and leaves flooding the streets, making it difficult for traffic to get by as reasons for the change. While Winston-Salem struggled with a whirlwind of rainy weather, vehicle breakdowns and leaves falling early last year, better weather and new equipment has made their collections easier this fall.
- Sawdust in Your Pockets book
Wake Technical Community College history instructor Eric Medlin celebrated the publishing of his new book, Sawdust in Your Pockets in October. The book is a historical account of the furniture industry in North Carolina, the first of its kind, according to Medlin. While the book doesn’t focus solely on High Point, much of the city’s history and relationship to furniture is chronicled in the book.
- UNC Table Stakes
In November, TCB staff completed the Knight Foundation’s Table Stakes program out of the Hussmann School of Journalism at UNC-Chapel Hill. The program, designed to help newspapers reinvent themselves for this new media age, has had a transformative effect on us.
- Parking in downtown Winston-Salem
In November, Winston-Salem city staff revealed plans to increase the price of parking downtown and search for a third-party vendor to manage the parking program. Parking currently costs around 25 cents per hour, but that may increase to $1-1.50 in the near future. They are also considering extending the pay time range beyond the typical 8 a.m.-5 p.m. range, perhaps as late as midnight.
- High Point municipal elections
In 2019, a municipal election in High Point placed four young, Black candidates into power. Next thing you know, they’re discussing reparations and becoming the first municipality in the Triad to pass resolutions on reparations. In November one of those councilmembers, Cyril Jefferson, became the new mayor. Britt Moore and Amanda Cook placed at large; Vickie McIver took over for Jefferson in Ward 1; Tyrone Johnson held his seat in Ward 2; Monica Peters remained in Ward 3; Patrick Harmon beat incumbent Wesley Hudson in Ward 4; and Tim Andrew replaced losing mayoral candidate Vic Jones in Ward 5.
- Kuya Bear
In November, TCB caught up with Kuya Bear owner Joseph Olson, who started the Filipino food truck back in 2021 as a pop-up. Now, Olson runs the business full time and travels to different locations throughout the Triad and oftentimes, beyond. “I was also raised more American than Filipino so I feel like I can bridge the gap between the cultures,” Olson told TCB. “I feel like I have the knowledge to expose more people to Filipino culture.”
- New NC Laws
On Dec. 1, a slate of more than a dozen new laws went into effect in NC. Among them are the abolition of pistol permits in NC, taking the onus of background checks away from NC sheriffs departments and putting them on gun sellers; an abortion bill outlawing the procedure after 12 weeks; the Parents Bill of Rights that makes life dangerous for trans kids; a law outlawing the discussion of critical race theory in schools and other government buildings; and one than makes it a felony to aim a laser pointer at a cop.
- High-speed rail
As part of President Biden’s Infrastructure Bill, $1.9 billion was announced in funding for for high-speed rail in NC in December, connecting Asheville to Wilmington and Raleigh to Richmond. In the Triad, a network of commuter rails will connect Greensboro, High Point and Winston-Salem.
- Fentanyl poisonings
In December, TCB interviewed Guilford County families who lost loved ones to the deadly drug fentanyl, which has been infiltrating other street drugs. According to the North Carolina Division of Public Health, Guilford County recorded 188 fentanyl poisonings in 2021. That same year, 3,117 people died statewide. In 2022, 3,354 fentanyl-positive deaths were recorded. While families hoped a 2019 death-by-distribution law could be used to apprehend the drug dealers who sold the fatal doses to their children, members of law enforcement say that they prefer to pursue trafficking charges on dealers to stop the flow of drugs at the source. Additionally, death-by-distribution is difficult to prove, but the law was updated on Dec. 1 and may make it easier for law enforcement to utilize the law. Amy Lamb, whose 18-year-old son Thomas was poisoned by fentanyl last year after taking what he thought was Xanax, told TCB, “I would prefer to just focus on preventing somebody else from using [drugs] altogether, because I can’t bring my son back, and no amount of punishment is gonna bring him back.”
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