Charlottesville Breaking News

Groupenomics II: Companies still profiting from deal craze

About this time last year, the buzz surrounding the group buying craze was frenetic: Half-off food at your favorite restaurant! Up to 75 percent off a spa visit!

For some businesses struggling through a recession, it may have seemed like manna from heaven. In Charlottesville, Groupon and Living Social deals began producing pre-paid customers, and soon the phenomenon gave birth to copycat local ventures like CvilleSaver, CatchMyFire, and the Hook's own Daily Deal.

The buzz was bound to cool as customers experienced "deal fatigue" and businesses tired of taking losses as a form of so-called advertising (as the deal sites take up to 50 percent of a deal's revenue). Yet, a year later, the business model is still a going concern.

The biggest player, Groupon, went public in November after just three years in business, raising $700 million, the most by a US Internet company since Google's eye-popping $1.7 billion IPO in 2004. And just recently, Forbes reported that Groupon co-founder Eric Lefkofsky's net worth has reached $2.9 billion.

But what about the local players? Are they still making a go of it?

"I think the deal offers will fizzle out over time," says restaurant group manager Stu Rifkin, who (with The Nook)...

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Bright smile: Nonprofit dental center keeps kids grinning

Thanks to a little-known local institution, thousands of kids may have been saved from a lifetime of embarrassment, dimmed employment prospects, and potential health woes. The Community Dental Center just celebrated its 10,000th patient.

Tucked away in a Hydraulic Road office park, the Center looks like any other pediatric dentist's office, but the similarity ends with the bill. Unlike other dentist's offices, where a filling can set an uninsured parent back hundreds of dollars, the Center offers low-cost dental treatment to less-fortunate children.

A 2007 New York Times article found that for the first time since the 1980s, the number of Americans living with untreated dental problems was increasing. These problems are not merely cosmetic issues, as infected teeth can, in fact, become life-threatening infections.

Take the case of the cash-strapped 24-year-old Cincinnati man who died in September after a wisdom tooth became impacted. Even routine tooth decay can lead to tooth loss, which can create a cascade of new medical issues including jawbone loss. Moreover, psychological effects and a lifetime of lessened job prospects might ensue from tooth loss.

In addition to accepting Medicaid (which covers about hal...

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Web slinger: Waldo's new site takes aim at federal corruption

When it comes to building websites that promote government transparency, Waldo Jaquith has built a strong reputation– and it'll likely only be bolstered by the March 8 launch of www.ethics.gov, a website that Jaquith spent the last four months building, working several days a week inside the White House.

"The mission came from a campaign promise made by Obama," Jaquith explains, "to provide a single location where people could enter the name of a person, agency, or business and pull up federal ethics records pertaining to them."

When it came time to fulfill that promise, the White House didn't have to look far to find Jaquith, a programmer who previously created Richmond Sunlight, a website that makes sense of the General Assembly. In June, he was invited to the White House as a "Champion of Change" for his work on that site, and when he arrived in D.C. to receive the award, that's when he got the job offer.

"They offered me a position as 'entrepreneur in residence'," says Jaquith, who says he loved the idea– but not the move to D.C. it might have entailed. He turned it down, and another offer followed right awayR...

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Garth shade: Glass, nautical theme, cottage enliven 9 acres

Address: 2004 and 1975 Walnutside Place          
Neighborhood: Garth Road area of Albemarle
Asking: $1,049,000
Assessment: $1,011,600
Year Built: 1985
Size, primary house: 3,652 finished, 720 unfinished
Size, cottage: 1,132 finished, 384 unfinished
Land: 8.8 acres assessed (9.41 acres in current listing)
Agent: Tommy Brannock, BHG Real Estate III, 434-977-3033
Curb Appeal: 8 out of 10

The Albemarle couple who designed and built this unique home called "Meadow Run" were clearly influenced by a passion for all things nautical. Aptly labeled a “transitional," the style mixes traditional with its Victorian furnishings and window treatments, but a buyer will also notice modern swaths of glass and spacious scale— along with the nautical motifs— to infuse a modern tack.

A spacious double-height entryway leads to a stunning central hall heralded by double columns and loaded with shelves (currently displaying books about the sea, naturally). A settee faces rolling pastures through two stories of glass in a view complemented by a combination of French doors and overhead casement windows, with a Palladian window at the top.

The area for entertaining seems endless. A formal living room occup...

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Saintly move? Poet thieves return St. Maarten's sign

Looks like the people who stole St. Maarten Café's sign had a fit of remorse, which even inspired some poetry.

"I came around the corner last night after having dinner and there it was," says Nicole Hamilton, who is re-opening the restaurant with her husband Russ and several local investors, "bolts too, sitting against the wall."  

On Tuesday, March 6, Hamilton was close to tears after she discovered it missing. She asked that it please be returned, and said the owners would not press charges. 

"We plan on giving it and the wall a good cleaning and getting it rehung very soon," she says. "There was almost no damage to the sign, so I think it was taken out of respect and love of Maartens."

Indeed, Hamilton received an email from the thieves before it was returned, in the form of a poem:

To the good people of St. Maarten's,
Please give a moment to make amends.
We thought your bar was closed for good,
And wrongfully stole your sign made of wood.
We're truly sorry, we mean you no trouble,
Your sign will be back, right on the double.
Returned to the cafe later tonight,
Give us a chance to make things right.
We're dreadfully sorry we caused such a fuss,
...

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