Volvo on a roll
An expansion-minded specialty market and café that got its start in Charleston began 2020 in retreat mode.
Caviar & Bananas abruptly shuttered its Greenville and Nashville outposts between Dec. 31 and Jan 2, after a roughly three-year run in both places, according to multiple Upstate and Music City media outlets.
The food purveyor’s two Charleston-area locations — on George Street on the peninsula and at the airport — remain open.
Caviar & Banana had closed its Nashville store once before, in mid-2018, citing sluggish sales. It reopened a few months later under new ownership.
The Greenville location was on North Laurens Street in ONE City Plaza. It opened in August 2016.
Both stores are still listed on the company’s website.
The New York-based investment firm Feenix Venture acquired the business from founders Margaret and Kris Furniss in September 2018, about 10 years after the couple launched Caviar & Bananas. Financial terms were not disclosed.
“The offering is unique to the cities we’re in,” a Feenix Ventures executive told The Greenville News last summer. “There is a lot of potential there.”
In hindsight, not enough apparently.
Volvo on a roll
Volvo Cars had a 10 percent increase in U.S. sales in 2019, finishing the year with more than 100,000 sales for the first time since 2007. That mirrors a 10 percent boost in sales throughout the Americas region, including the U.S., Canada and Latin America.
“Achieving double-digit growth across the region is something we are very proud of,” Anders Gustafsson, president and CEO of Volvo Cars USA, said in a statement. “Not only does it reflect the dedication and hard work of our employees and retail partners, but it also underlines the strength and importance of the Americas region.”
The U.S. sales tally was 108,234 cars, reflecting 12 consecutive months of year-over-year growth. The automaker sold 17,526 of its S60 sedans, built at a $1.1 billion manufacturing campus near Ridgeville in Berkeley County. The most popular model was the XC90 SUV, with 35,760 sales.
Globally, the surging demand for SUVs helped Volvo achieve its sixth consecutive sales record with customers buying 705,452 vehicles. Europe was the biggest market, accounting for nearly half of all sales, followed by China and the United States.
An ownership shake-up at Roper St. Francis is a done deal, but the health system’s leadership will remain in flux until the spring.
Roper announced in late October one of its three part-owners, Charlotte-based Atrium Health, would give up its portion of ownership. The reconfiguring gives Ohio-based Bon Secours Mercy Health a majority, 51 percent stake in Roper St. Francis.
The Medical Society of South Carolina, which has had a hand in Roper’s operations since the early 1900s, ceded majority control and now holds a 49 percent stake.
The changeover was finalized Jan. 2.
Roper CEO Lorraine Lutton stepped aside from her role with the news, leaving empty the top job at the Charleston network of four hospitals. A spokesman for the health care system said the search for a new top executive and a new chief physician officer is still underway, and will likely be finalized and announced in the spring.
Roper is one of the largest employers in the Charleston region, with about 6,000 workers.
Online review forum Yelp found one restaurant in South Carolina among the top 100 place diners should check out across the nation this year.
And it’s in Charleston.
With its cut-to-order offerings from its massive, custom-made smokers, Lewis Barbecue at 464 N. Nassau St. on the upper peninsula came in at No. 34.
The top spot went to Shawarma Guys of San Diego with its Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes.
To determine the Best Places to Eat in 2020, Yelp’s data science team pulled the top restaurants by ratings and number of reviews in 2019 across the U.S., with representation based on each place’s share of top-rated restaurants nationally, then curated the list with the expertise of community managers around the country to finalize the rankings.
The result is a list as quirky, interesting and unique venues, from white tablecloth restaurants to food trucks and gyro shops.
Wheeling and dealing
The owner of Charleston’s fleet of luxury car brands is among 49 automobile dealers across the country nominated for the 2020 Time Dealer of the Year award.
Tommy Baker, president of Baker Motor Co. and its lineup of Alfa Romeo, Infiniti, Jaguar, Land Rover, Maserati, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Rolls-Royce, Sprinter and AMG cars, was chosen to represent the South Carolina Automobile Dealers Association as the state’s nominee for the 51st annual award.
“My career in the automotive industry has afforded me the opportunity to contribute fiercely to the Charleston community,” Baker said.
The business school at his alma mater, The Citadel, now bears the name of Baker and his wife, Victoria.
A native of Charleston, Baker, 74, served four years in the Marine Corps. He started his auto career at the former James Oldsmobile of Charleston while attending college, then moved to North Carolina to pursue opportunities in the car business. He later returned to Charleston and founded Baker Motor Co. in 1988.
His portfolio of dealerships now includes the Savannah Highway main campus of 10 luxury brands, Mercedes-Benz of Mount Pleasant, Baker Buick GMC Cadillac in Charleston and BMW and Porsche sites in Wilmington, N.C.
Baker will be among the 49 dealers recognized Feb. 15 during the 103rd annual National Automobile Dealers Association Show in Las Vegas. On Tuesday, representatives of the state trade group and auto financial services company Ally will visit Baker to congratulate him on the nomination.
South Carolina’s highest legal authority is following the central bankers at the Federal Reserve in cutting interest rates.
At the start of each calendar year, the S.C. Supreme Court is required to revisit and reset, if necessary, the rate of interest that accrues on financial decrees and monetary judgments handed down by judges and juries within the Palmetto State.
The 2005 law provides that the annual figure be “equal to the prime rate as listed in the first edition of the Wall Street Journal published for each calendar year for which the damages are awarded, plus four percentage points, compounded annually.”
The rate has been as high as 12.25 percent in 2007 and as low as 7.25 percent, where it stayed for six years starting in 2009.
The figure had been on the rise since 2016. Last year, it jumped a full percentage point to 9.5 percent.
The trend reversed course for 2020, reflecting the Fed’s three stimulus-inducing cuts last year. The high court confirmed the South Carolina interest figure for the next year at 8.75 percent. The change takes effect this coming Wednesday.