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The Curse Of The Original Southpark Mall Wal-Mart

By news, weather

As I posted about two days ago, there was a huge tornado outbreak across southeastern Virginia on Monday. Colonial Heights, although faced with an estimated $2 million in damage, faired much better than Suffolk, with $18 million in damage. The Colonial Heights tornado was confirmed by the National Weather Service as an F1 with winds of up to 112 MPH (The “F” stands for the Fujita Scale, which rates tornadoes on a scale of F0-F6) and the Suffolk tornadoes were mostly F3 intensity, with winds up to 206 MPH. The devastation was widespread down there, but remarkably no one was killed (I reported on Monday that one person was killed, but later found out, along with the news sources, that the death was unrelated to the tornado).

Now I don’t believe things can be cursed, but the Colonial Heights Wal-Mart sure has some bad luck. It’s now a Sam’s Club, but so many things happened to it as a Wal-Mart it’s almost inconceivable. There’s a theory that the place is cursed because someone was killed there in the Garden Center shortly after the place opened in late 1989 or early 1990. Shortly after, the Garden Center was flattened by either downdraft winds from a severe thunderstorm or a weak tornado. In 1993, Virginia’s most intense tornado to date (still), an F4 with winds up to 260 MPH, ripped through the store, killing two employees and a customer. Monday, the F1 tornado took the exact same directional path, 400 feet from the former Wal-Mart (now Sam’s Club). I don’t think there was any major damage to the Sam’s Club, but what is it about that store and Dimmock Square that so many tornadoes have come through? The place is a freaking tornado magnet!

Like I said, I don’t believe in curses, but check out fellow blogger Carrie had to say about the place even before Monday’s events. This is baffling to me. It’s so crazy this place could be hit by tornadoes three times when Virginia barely has measurable tornadoes, much less catastrophic ones like this.

The Curse Of The Original Southpark Wal-Mart

It was a really big deal when the Southpark Mall opened in my hometown. The land on which the mall was being built was privately owned and barren, save for a lawnmower store (guised as a shack), a few swampy plants and maybe a farm animal or two. I have vague memories of my father telling me that the landowner also had a snake farm on this property, but that seems too exotic for Small Town, Virginia. Then again, a snake farm is just the type of feature my small town would boast.

It was highly rumored (amongst the kids at my elementary school) to be the biggest mall in Virginia and possibly even the country. I should say that this is a one story mall with only 4 “major” stores: Dillard’s, Hechts, Sears and JC Penney’s. We even didn’t get a Gap, a mall staple, until 2001 years ago, and it went out of business and in its place a store called Man Alive opened. (ManAlive sells spiky high heeled sneakers and oversized “Lets Get Crunk” t-shirts and is just down the way from the kiosk that sells confederate flag and NASCAR paraphernalia.)

The mall opening was a huge event. There was a search light, balloons, free Chick-Fil-A samples and human mannequins. HumanMannequins! They posed, perfectly still, wearing parachute pants, ruffled skirts and 1988’s finest double breasted suits, for hours on end. The next day in class, no one was talking about the actual mall or the many stores contained within. We were all arguing about whether or not the human mannequins ever blinked. I don’t think they did.

Shortly after the mall opened, they built the World’s Busiest Wal-Mart adjacent to the mall (At least it was rumored to be The World’s Busiest Wal-Mart amongst the kids at my middle school). This meant we didn’t have to travel to the Bradlees in a next town over to get our B-B guns and Fisherprice record players. Unfortunately, this Wal-Mart was cursed.

In either 1989 or 1990, a man walked into the Wal-Mart and shot and killed his ex-wife, a Wal-Mart Employee, in the Garden Section. This was a really big deal because a) a man walked into the Wal-Mart and shot his ex-wife to death in the Garden Section and b) this was only the second or third murder that my home town had ever experienced. The third or fourth happened on Mall property as well. Everyone (my classmates) was talking about the Wal-Mart Garden Center ghost. I shuddered every time I drove by Wal-Mart or drank a Sam’s Choice Cola. But time passed and the Wal-Mart became busier than ever.

Shortly after that fatal shooting, in May 1990, a terrible storm brewed over the Wal-Mart, damaging the very Garden Section where that poor ex-wife was murdered. There was a continuing debate at CHHS as to whether or not it was a tornado or just a very bad storm, but it was confirmed to be an F2 tornado. Thankfully only minor injuries were sustained. Wal-Mart employees worked overtime to cover the gaping roof with a tarp and clean up all the stray kiddy pools and terra cotta shards. Within days, the Wal-Mart was back in business. But that wasn’t the end of it. Bad things come in threes.

On a Saturday afternoon, in August 1993, a huge F4 tornado, (Virginia’s worst tornado, according to the 1994 High School yearbook), plowed through that Wal-Mart and put it on the national news for its casualties (three) and injuries (198). I derived a lot of pleasure from the attention I got when my friends found out my brother was in the mall when it happened and helped people out of the rubble. Plus, just moments before the twister touch-down, my father and I had just driven past the mall on I-95 on our way to Raleigh, North Carolina to visit my aunt. And my mother was on the turnpike bridge and was gusted into another lane, just missing the path of a Mack truck. The tornado nearly leveled the Wal-Mart– along with a MJDesigns craft store, a mattress warehouse and the tree where Pocahontas saved John Smith, to name a few.

And although the second and final tornado didn’t actually happen in the Garden Section, it did blow contents of the Garden Section all over the store and into some people’s heads. Cue Twilight music.

Officials finally accepted that the Wal-Mart was cursed, because they razed the original Wal-Mart and built a new, improved and blood-freeSuper Wal-Mart about a quarter of a mile away in the new Southpark Commons development area. The new Wal-Mart is just down the street from the World’s Largest Arby’s.

Ashley Crossman: Miss Virginia 2008!

By events, news

A big congratulations goes out to Ashley Crossman, winner of Miss Virginia 2008! She’s the sister of one of my friends at VCU, and I had the privilege of designing her an ad for inclusion in the pageant program and other uses. Many of her sponsors were local businesses in her hometown of Montross, Virginia and had no logos for use, so I designed the majority of them. It was a lot of fun creating this and working with her. She’s incredibly nice, very talented, and is beautiful on the inside as well as out. She’s extremely deserving of her win. Here’s the ad I created for her in preparation for the pageant:

Virginia Tech: One Year Later

By news

It’s been a year since the tragic shootings at Virginia Tech that claimed the lives of 32 Hokies. On this solemn day of remembrance, we all offer our thoughts and prayers to the entire Virginia Tech community. We will never, ever forget those who lost their lives. The school has set up a touching tribute to the fallen students and faculty, which includes biographies of the lives of each and every victim individually. Click here to view it. Below are the pictures of the 32 individuals who will never be forgotten:

 

Circuit City + Blockbuster = Circuitbuster?

By business, news, opinion

News has just surfaced in the past couple of days that struggling movie rental company Blockbuster has offered a billion dollars to buy out similarly struggling electronics retailer Circuit City, based here in Richmond.

Blockbuster executives claim it would uniquely position Circuit City, the number two electronics retailer in the United States, to have a more competitive retail concept. How? By pairing electronics and end-user content together, similar to the way the Apple Store does.

But on a personal note, I don’t know how Blockbuster can afford such a deal, seeing how much of a hit they’ve taken in the past few years with rivals such as Netflix undermining their business (although they do have their own service, Blockbuster Online, of which I’m a customer, and it’s better than Netflix if you ask me because you have the option of instant in-store exchange).

In my opinion, bringing these two companies together seems comparable to raising a flag on not just one sinking ship, but two. I’ll be really interested to see what happens if the deal ends up going through.

“Blockbuster Stumbles On Hostile Takeover” – via Business Week

Shares of Blockbuster Inc. plunged to an all-time low Monday after it announced a $1 billion-plus hostile takeover bid for No. 2 electronics retailer Circuit City Inc., earning it a downgrade from a BMO Capital Markets analyst. Shares of the Dallas-based movie rental chain lost 32 cents, or 10.2 percent, to close at $2.81 after falling to a new low of $2.52 earlier in the day. Jeffrey Logsdon said in a note to analysts that he was “uncomfortable” with the deal and said it has the potential to divert management attention and financial resources from its own recovery.

Shares of Blockbuster have lost more than half their value since trading at an annual high of $6.67 a year ago. The company has struggled to compete with online movie operators such as Netflix Inc., and Circuit City management has questioned whether Blockbuster can finance the deal. Logsdon lowered Blockbuster to “Market Perform” from “Outperform” and cut his nine- to 15-month price target to $3 from $5. The analyst said the buyout creates a “two-front war” as the company struggles with its own financial problems. He further criticized the deal, saying it would take nine to 12 months to close and another year after before any financial benefit is realized. Furthermore, Blockbuster will likely have to use equity to pay for the deal, which will further push the stock downward, he said. “We find it difficult to imagine that fighting what amounts to a two-front war will ultimately enhance value for (Blockbuster) shareholders,” Logsdon said.

On Monday, Blockbuster announced that it would go straight to shareholders and pay between $6 and $8 per share in cash for Circuit City after saying the struggling retailer had not responded to repeated offers. The deal values Circuit City between $1.01 billion and $1.35 billion, based on its 168.4 million outstanding shares as of Dec. 31. The offer adds a 25 percent to 67 percent premium on Circuit City shares, based on their $4.79 closing price on Feb. 15, the last trading day before Blockbuster made its offer. Shares of Circuit City, based in Richmond, Va., soared $1.07, or 27.4 percent, to close at $4.97.

Lifehouse Concert

By events, music

I went to the Lifehouse concert downtown at The National with my friends Monica, Sarah, and Katelin Monday night. Genius here forgot to charge his camera. I realized it was completely dead when I got there, but this is me we’re talking about. I’m not at all surprised. It’s a daily occurrence. Either way, I snapped a few decent pictures with the iPhone.

The concert was incredible. Matt Nathanson and Honey Honey opened up for them. Honey Honey was pretty good, but Matt Nathanson was awesome. I had only heard one song of his before the show (“Car Crash”) and expected him to be pretty low-key and rather acoustic. That was definitely not the case. He rocked out. I’m talking hardcore. Lifehouse was terrific of course. Even more so than I expected, though. Here’s a few very vibrant (they put on a pretty cool light show, too) pictures from the concert:

Celebrating Easter

By Uncategorized

It’s today that we celebrate that Christ, who died for all of our sins, rose again. Take the time today to remember and celebrate all He has done for all of us and in your own life personally. But it really is something to be joyful about. I know it’ll be a party at RCC this morning at the services (and when I say party, I mean that they really get into it, even more so today than usual, and it’s very impacting and powerful)! Happy Easter, everyone!

2008 Deep Run Marathon Dance Opening & Closing Videos

By Uncategorized

I finally figured out how to compress these videos for YouTube and still have them look relatively decent. I made them for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Deep Run Marathon Dance and had a ton of fun doing it! Can’t wait for next year.

Opening Video (shown at the opening ceremony to dancers to get them pumped up for the 27 hours ahead):


Closing Video (includes charity interviews, dance footage (cut out for YouTube time restraints), and a dramatic grand total at the end):

VCU Police Are Seriously A Joke

By Uncategorized

VCU Police made complete fools out of themselves tonight with me, Allie, and Katelin. We were walking back to our cars in a VCU lot when all of a sudden three VCU cops on bikes roll up to my car and surround me. It was two men and one woman. They violated several of my rights and made complete idiots out of themselves. It was seriously like something off of Reno 911! (The woman cop almost kind of looked like the one from the show) It would almost be funny how ridiculous they were if it didn’t insult me so much the way they treated us. Here’s how the conversation went down:

POLICEMAN 1: “How are you this evening, sir? How much you had to drink tonight?”

ME: “Uh, nothing at all?”

POLICEMAN 1: “Why don’t you go ahead and step out of the car, sir. You were walking a little funny back there.” (I was walking a little funny? I was walking the way I always walk, and if you really want to investigate a real problem, go across the street to the hundreds of people at the Hyperlink waiting to get in the door and check them out because it definitely smelled like pot and everyone was running around and making a racket)

POLICEWOMAN: “There’s three of them, let me take one.”

POLICEMAN 2: “Shut up, I can handle this.” (I’m seriously not making this stuff up)

POLICEWOMAN: “Somebody’s been drinking, this place reeks of alcohol.”

ME: “Um, no, I haven’t had anything at all…”

POLICEWOMAN: “Yeah? What’s that under your seat?” (She points to an empty soft drink can wedged under my front seat, I pull it out, and she actually has the nerve to question it further)

ME: “I just need to clean out my car, I left that in there…”

POLICEWOMAN: “What did you have in that can and why is it empty?”

ME: “Root beer? It’s a soft drink can…” (She looks at it all suspiciously)

POLICEMAN 1: “Okay I’m gonna check your eyes out here real quick.” (He pulls out a pen and tells me to follow it with my eyes without moving my head) “What do you wear contacts for?” (You’ve got to be kidding me; what a stupid question… what do you think contacts are for?)

ME: “Farsightedness?” (I look at him in with that “Did you really just ask me that question, you idiot?” look)

POLICEMAN 2: “So do you have astigmatism or something?” (Oh come on)

ME: “Yes?”

POLICEMAN 1: “So has your passenger been drinking tonight?”

ME: “No, not at all.” (I later found out that while all of this was going on the policewoman was on the other side of the car questioning Allie and accusing us of hiding beer in a CVS bag in my back seat that had nothing in it but toothpaste and shampoo that I bought before we went down there)

POLICEMAN 1: “Okay, you’re good to go.”

Finally, we were free to go. I feel that several of our rights were violated in this situation:

1. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t believe you can legally search someone’s vehicle without a warrant to find things that are not in plain view.

2. What was their probable cause? The fact that I was, in one of the cop’s opinions, “walking a little funny?” I was walking completely normal.

I’d also really like to know what in the world he was doing asking me why I wore contacts and was offended that he asked “how much” I had been drinking when the correct thing to ask would have been “have you had anything to drink tonight.” I do realize that they see a lot go on down there and have to be weary, but they completely jumped to conclusions and were accusatory to the point of being very unprofessional. They were poorly coordinated, argued amongst one another, and seemed to be on major power trips. They also completely fabricated several things, the biggest being that my car “reeked of alcohol.” There wasn’t, nor had there ever been, alcohol in my car, so I was completely bewildered, offended, and angry that they would make up such a blatant lie.

I was offended at how the situation was handled and feel that VCU Police are not doing a satisfactory job at all. I can’t speak for all VCU officers, but the unprofessional and unskilled behavior of this group leads me so far as to say that their salaries (that group specifically) are a waste of Virginia taxpayers’ money.

I feel this is something that needs to be shared, so pass it along.

Fun With Styrofoam At RCC

By Uncategorized

What’s the best way to clean styrofoam out of a huge building? Ride it down the steps, of course! This is absolutely hilarious and we had so much fun doing it. Check it out (and make sure you have your sound on to hear all the ridiculous stuff we said)!