Valued? Not this Ukrop's customer … 

Street Talk

Valued Customer? Apparently NotRetooled T-D Sections Will Tackle RichmondTreeda Leaves The AirwavesJust and Work Join Forces Students Get Break From McDonald's

Valued Customer? Apparently Not

On a recent Saturday morning, Carsey Abbott stood in line at the Carytown Ukrop's to buy some eggs and biscuits.

Nothing strange about that. Abbott, 48, is a regular around Carytown. He's lived nearby for years. He works at Ellwood Thompson's Natural Market, where for four years he's opened the store in the mornings, received shipments and cut checks to vendors.

But on Feb. 10 Abbott's neighborhood ties didn't mean a thing.

After walking his dog, Abbott drove the four blocks from his house to the Carytown Kroger, where he bought soda, beer and pork chops, and then went to Ukrop's.

He was wearing his dog-walking clothes — green jeans and a red sweatshirt. And he acknowledges that his Afro may have been a bit wild that morning.

At 8 a.m. the Ukrop's store already was busy, recalls Abbott. As he waited in line, he noticed a store manager and a few employees chasing a young woman and man out of the store. Moments later, says Abbott, the workers returned.

Abbott thought little of it. He left Ukrop's with his items and a receipt for $3.70. But as he neared his car, Abbott was stopped by a city police officer who asked him for an ID card.

Abbott was baffled. He didn't have an ID on him. "I didn't know you needed an ID to buy breakfast at Ukrop's," he says he told the officer.

Abbott says the officer told him the store manager had asked him to stop Abbott. The cop told him he was suspected of shoplifting and of threatening Ukrop's employees, he adds. Abbott suggested that the officer call Ellwood Thompson's or his wife to verify his identity. The policeman didn't seem interested, Abbott says.

The store manager, Gary McLamb, arrived. Even when the manager realized Abbott hadn't stolen anything, Abbott says, McLamb accused Abbott of being a "spotter" for the two people Abbott had seen McLamb chasing — both of whom had been black.

"The only thing they weren't saying was all three of us were black," says Abbott.

After being questioned in front of the store for 20 minutes, says Abbott, he was allowed to leave.

But not before McLamb banned him from Ukrop's.

When Abbot got home, his wife, who is white, was appalled at her husband's story. She went to the store to demand that McLamb apologize to her husband. But, she says, she got nowhere.

Then Abbott's boss, Wade Carmichael, got involved.

"With my years at Ukrop's, I thought I could help," says Carmichael, general manager at Ellwood Thompson's, who spent 22 years at Ukrop's and was an assistant manager at the Carytown store. Carmichael sent an e-mail to Ukrop's management urging them to apologize; he noted that Abbott has been an exemplary employee.

Abbott says he spoke several times with Ukrop's security officer, Denise Klugh. In those talks, he says, he was asked to describe his exact movements through the store. (Klugh declines to discuss the matter with Style Weekly.)

Ukrop's corporate attorney, Brian Jackson, says the company's security personnel are checking into the matter. But he says the company doesn't yet know enough about the incident to comment.

Abbott is asking for three things: a lift on the ban; an apology; and a face-to-face meeting with McLamb — so McLamb knows, Abbott says, who Abbott is if he shops at Ukrop's again.

On Thursday, Abbott says, Klugh called him to say the ban would not be imposed. But so far, no apology or other reply has been given.

"I was doing my routine and I was ambushed," says Abbott. "And in my own neighborhood. I won't stand for that."

Brandon Walters

Retooled T-D Sections Will Tackle Richmond

Unlike residents in the counties, Richmond readers of the Times-Dispatch have been long deprived of their own zoned edition, an extra section of the newspaper dedicated to a specific geographic area.

No longer! On March 14, the T-D will launch its retooled "Plus" section as "Your Section," a redesigned, tabloid-size, weekly insert. And along with continuing its editions aimed at the counties and the Petersburg area, the paper will add one for Richmond.

Zoned editions are an attempt by many large daily newspapers to forestall slipping circulation, stave off competition from small, community weeklies, and grab bits and pieces of revenue from advertisers who can't afford to run in the entire daily.

Why Richmond? Why now?

"We have wanted to fill the hole in the doughnut with a zoned edition for a long time," says Louse Seals, managing editor of the Times-Dispatch. A number of readership studies, panels and focus groups reaffirmed the need for one, she says.

The studies also convinced T-D execs to realign the boundaries of some of the zoned editions and include coverage of the counties of New Kent, Goochland and Powhatan.

But for all the targeting, there will be an effort to coordinate coverage, too.

"We have heard from our readers that they really want issues explained from the metro perspective, not just from the perspective of one locality," Seals says. So most weeks, the zoned editions will carry the same cover story, examining a news topic on a regionwide basis.

The zoned editions will also allow editors to include coverage that can only be touched on in the core of the newspaper, such as local government issues, Seals says.

Now that the paper has killed the Tab, a by-readers-for-readers insert, the zoned editions will include a "Your Page" to share reader contributions of such items as photos of clowns and winning Little League teams.

"I think the main thing is that we are trying to meet some changing reader expectations and desires," Seals says, "and this will be a work in process as we get feedback."

Indeed. The zoned sections originally were to be called "The Edge." Luckily for everyone, that name was dropped.

Jason Roop

Treeda Leaves The Airwaves

After 25 years in Richmond broadcasting, Treeda Smith is putting away her microphone and heading into a career in nonprofit development.

Smith, who leaves her job as community service director at WWBT-TV 12 this week, will take her well-recognized voice from the microphone to the telephone, as director of the annual fund at the Massey Cancer Center.

For now, the station will try to spread Smith's duties among various department heads and other employees.

Smith spent nearly 20 years on the airwaves at WRVQ 94.5-FM as reporter and then news director. She was host for a call-in, public-affairs talk show, and toward the end of her time there, filled in on the air at Channel 12.

"Both jobs really put me into the community," Smith says, so her new gig won't be a stretch. "I am always happiest knowing that there are so many wonderful people in this community who do so many very nice things."

"I think Treeda's passion for the community is evident in everything she does," says Paula Hersh, marketing director for Channel 12.

At 12, Smith served as the station's liaison to a number of community organizations and events, such as the Maymont Park Foundation, the Richmond Children's Museum and the Richmond Boys Choir. She also helped launch and manage the online version of the 12 About Town Anytime community calendar.

Smith begins her new job at Massey in April and hopes to dedicate her work to her youngest brother, who died from cancer three years ago, as well as to the late Carol Kass, a veteran movie reviewer in Richmond newspapers, who was also claimed by cancer. Smith considers Kass a mentor.

"And so, in perhaps some small way," Smith says, "I think certainly that this job will give me an opportunity to not only do something good for them in their memory, but it's also another way of giving to the community."


Just and Work Join Forces

When former president of The Martin Agency Don Just returned to Richmond from Manteo, N.C., in 1996, he used his buddy Cabell Harris' Work Inc. office to grow a new ad agency of his own. He called it Just Partners.

Today, with an office in Shockoe Bottom and millions of dollars in accounts, Just is a long way from the little Monument Avenue office he once shared with Harris.

Meanwhile, Work Inc. has hit its own growth spurt. National names like Miller Lite and the National Football League, among others, call on Work's ad team for branding help.

So why not combine the two businesses? That's precisely what Harris and Just have done.

"We wanted the extra creative strength," Harris says. He projects the new firm will soon have an estimated billing of $50 million. The combined company will be called Work Inc.; Just Partners will be its holding company.

The newly expanded Work Inc. soon will move from its new offices in the Scribner building at 10 S. 3rd St. and move, temporarily, into the Just Partners space in Shockoe Bottom.

In October, the combined 37-employee company will move into the Turning Basin project still under construction near the Canal Walk.

All Work employees were asked to join the new company, Harris says, but two decided to pursue other career options.

"In 1996 when Don was building a business, I was building a brand," Harris says. "Together, we'll have a tremendous amount of fire."

Work has just been awarded the Gettysburg National Battlefield Foundation account, Just says. The agency will be responsible for all the park's advertising and marketing.

What's the company doing first for the battlefield foundation?

"Bringing the war to an end," Harris says with a laugh.


Students Get Break From McDonald's

Just four years after opening a campus McDonald's to public fanfare, Virginia Commonwealth University has pulled the plug on its contract with the super-sized fast-food chain.

But not without a price.

The McDonald's at the VCU Student Commons has suffered a history of minor setbacks since it opened in August 1997. After the restaurant had been open just four months, the university removed three exterior signs and the 12-foot yellow arches that had been at the restaurant's entrance. Students had complained they were too garish.

In November 1999 the student-led Union for Student Rights was formed to lobby against the restaurant. The group held that McDonald's is not a healthy choice and it doesn't meet students' needs, and it posted flyers around campus reading "McVCU No More!" Students gathered 1,300 signatures to petition the university to end its 20-year contract of McDonald's competition-free operation.

It seems the students will finally get their wish. The on-campus McDonald's is set to close May 15.

But the deal doesn't come cheap. The university must pay the burger giant $400,000.

Calling the deal a "negotiated agreement" and not a buyout, university spokeswoman Melissa Jones contends that the $400,000 is well spent. McDonald's paid double that in improvements to the site, says Jones, and under the deal VCU gets to keep most of the expensive food service equipment.

So far, no word on what might take the place of the mini-McDonald's.

Jones says a new university-run dining plan will be announced in a few months.

"It actually works out pretty well for VCU," says Jones, adding: "It's part of the strategic plan to give students greater input."


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