Charlottesville Breaking News

Horsin' around: Galloping Grandfather keeps on riding

Harry de Leyer can fly. Photos of him soaring over seven-foot jumps atop champion steeds line the walls of his trophy-filled farmhouse in Dyke. A painting of him over the fireplace depicts that same pose: airborne.

When the Dutch-born horseman took an $80 workhorse he'd rescued on its way to the slaughterhouse to the prestigious National Horse Show in Madison Square Garden– and won– in 1958, his legendary status was assured.

That horse and de Leyer are the subject of Elizabeth Letts' just-released book, The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, the Horse That Inspired a Nation, which debuted at number 10 on the New York Times Bestseller List. Of course for de Leyer, it's the third time he and his thoroughbred-butt-kicking workhorse have been the subjects of books.

Just as the story of Snowman is awe-inspiring, so, too, is de Leyer's tale of coming from war-ravaged Holland to the United States with a bride and $160 in his pocket to work at a tobacco farm in Greensboro, North Carolina. From there he parlayed his equine skills into the annals of horse history.

"My father had a brewery," says de Leyer, "and the beer was all delivered with horses. Horses were always around me."

By the time he was seven years old, de Leyer was competing in horse shows against adults. "There was...

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Retail migration: Could Stonefield threaten Barracks?

Last week, we looked at store vacancy data for the Downtown Mall, completed in July by the City's Office of Economic Development, but what about the City's other retail centers? And what effect might the coming shops at Stonefield (known for some time as Albemarle Place) have on our existing centers?

Long-successful Barracks Road enjoys a zero percent vacancy rate, with only the former Quiznos sub shop unoccupied, and not counted because it has been closed for only a few months. Vacancy rates on the Corner and Preston Plaza are also now at zero with the arrival of the Java Dragon coffee shop in Preston, which replaced the Blue Ridge Eco Shop (which moved to the Downtown Mall), and clothing store Jack Wills on the Corner, which replaced the Corner Market. 

Seminole Square continues to have the most vacancies of the studied districts. In January 2011, the rate was 13 percent, but it had fallen to 9.4 percent by the time the July study was completed. Currently, there are five empty stores in Seminole Square.

So how might Stonefield affect the shopping center next door with the historically high vacan...

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Oh, Snap! Halfaday gym ownership claim refuted

Back in the spring, after James Halfaday announced a run for City Council, he met with a reporter at Snap Fitness and acted like he owned the place, and, actually, claimed he did. Halfaday's alleged co-ownership of the 24-hour gym on Zan Road went unchallenged from April until September.

Photos of the gym appear on his election website, and local media, including the Daily Progress, Charlottesville Tomorrow, and the Hook, reported it; and he's listed in Cvillepedia as the co-owner of the fitness center. It was only after a story in the September 8 issue of the Hook "Quake casualty? Council candidate claims knock-out blow"– that an email from attorney Brad Young showed up in a Hook reporter's inbox on behalf of Mike and Nancy Hamdani, owners of The Long Run Inc.

"Mr. and Mrs. Hamdani are the sole owners of Long Run, which in turn is the sole owner of the Snap Fitnes...

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Buffetted: Weschler to invest for Warren's shareholders

An owner of the Hook is Omaha-bound. And this isn't a baseball story.

Ted Weschler, 50, until now a quiet giant in the hedge fund world, has been hired as part of a new generation of talent to run key investments for Berkshire Hathaway Inc., the publicly-traded company best known as the brainchild of legendarily-savvy investor Warren Buffett.

Earlier this year, when discussing the first little-known member of the two- or three-member investment team that will eventually replace him, octogenarian Buffett noted that the goal was finding "a 2-year-old Secretariat, not a 10-year-old Seabiscuit."

This reporter has long known that Weschler is a Buffett fan but had no idea about the hiring– or about the $5 million worth of meetings that led to it. The series of curious events are detailed in a story in Fortune.

"It's an incredible accomplishment," says Peter Tuz, president of Chase Investment Counsel. "I would liken it to a good college quarterback all of a sudden being picked by the Superbowl team."

In Charlottesville, where Weschler will continue to live part time, according to Fortune, Weschler has created a highly successful fund called Peninsula Capital by taking large positions in a select few firms and occasionally getting involved in corporate affai...

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Street cred: West Main relaxes

West Main– from the infamous cop-hits-wheelchair man intersection to the one just before the once-controversial dusty Amtrak parking lot– was the site of the second annual Midtown Street Fair Saturday, September 10. There were thumb-wrestling contests sponsored by the ladies of CLAW (Charlottesville Lady Arm Wrestlers), face painting, fake mustaches, a strong-man swing-the-hammer-ring-the-bell challenge, karaoke, live music, funny bicycles, a BBQ cook-off (Orzo won), and kids and families and local hipsters everywhere.

According to organizers, the 35 vendors on hand welcomed close to 4,000 people during the day long event, raising awareness of 'Midtown' as a restaurant and retail destination, and money for such charities as the FOCUS Flea Market, the Music Resource Center, and the Jefferson School rehabilitation project.

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