Friday, March 30, 2012

New Dunwoody-Owned Business Catering to Dog Owners Opening on April 14

My itty bitty neighborhood has a high percentage of all kinds of business owners and entrepreneurs.  Next month a new store is opening in Historic Norcross owned by another of my neighbors!

Grand opening is on April 14.  Check out for the 411.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Festival Season is Coming - are you ready to make more sales on the go?

Spring and summer are festival times.  In Dunwoody, you have Lemonade Days and the opening of the Green Market, then there's the Art Festival, the Beer Festival and winding up with the Music Festival in the fall.  You've got similar festivals in Roswell (Alive After 5), Norcross (Norcross Art Fest) and Atlanta (Dogwood Festival).

All of these fairs are the bread and butter of many local artisans, microbusinesses, and family farmers.  The good news is that more mobile technologies for receiving payment are available to microbusiness owners and individual freelancers.  That means more opportunities for sales at fairs, especially those all-important impulse buys.

For all of you artisans and business owners out there who are going to make the regional rounds this summer, START PLANNING NOW.  There are lots of mobile options to choose from with a variety of equipment and costs.  Decide what will serve your customers best before you have to take your show on the road.

1)  Do I need a mobile online payment solution?
Is your business mobile?  Yes?  Then that's the answer.  Customers want mobile solutions, either by accepting their credit card on the spot, or even using their smartphone for payment.  That doesn't mean you have to forego cash and checks but those are just not enough anymore.

2)  Where do I start?  How do I find a solution?
They're not hard to find.  Google "merchant services" and you'll get a long list of companies of various sizes offering the ability to accept credit cards, including equipment at various prices.  The best place to start may be your own bank:  ask about merchant services where you do your regular banking.  Some offer the latest in mobile payment via smartphone (more below).    If you're dipping your toe into sales for the first time, many beginners start with PayPal.  PayPal was revolutionary in that it was the first service to allow individuals access to merchant services and the ability to accept credit cards without long term contracts or equipment purchases, and made transfers based on an email address.

3)  What are my options?
There's lots of 'em!  First, decide what kind of payments you want to receive at the market or fair.  Do you want to swipe credit cards?  Select an option that will plug into your cell phone via a smart phone case or even plugs into the audio jack.  Options include the new startup Square, which is a description of the device as much as a name.

Another option comes from Intuit, the same people who created Quicken, QuickBooks, and TurboTax.  GoPayment involves either an iPhone case with a classic card swipe device attached, or the new audio-jack-plugin model.  Downsides are this is only available for iPhone (not Android, etc) and Intuit has some higher-than-average fees for their services, per their usual.  Intuit financial options are usually better for more established businesses, rather than beginners.

Finally, PayPal is rolling out "PayPal Here", its own card reader.  It's not widely available yet, but when it is distributed it will be the most flexible (for both iPhone and Android), will accept the widest variety of payments/credit cards at a single rate for all card brands.  (This is important because many merchant services will process different credit cards at different rates.)  Downside is PayPal's transaction fee, at 2.7% of the transaction amount is well above the industry average of 1.5-ish %.

4)  Do I absolutely, positively, have to have a card reader?
Not necessarily.  Mobile banking and payments have made quantum leaps this past year alone.  Chase Bank has been pushing its personal QuickPay service in its TV ads.  All three of the above options have personal mobile payment features that allow payments via free smartphone apps, rather than a credit card.  However it may be worth the extra effort to cover all your payment bases.

When you finally decide on what option works for you, take some time to test it out with friends and family.  Then don't forget to advertise the fact that you're taking mobile payments.  Post it on your website, in your emails, your Etsy store, social media, your signage, wherever.  While we're on the mobile subject, make sure your print materials and merchandise tags include a QR code.  QR codes are (usually) square, 2-dimensional bar codes that can store much more and more complex information.  Use them to link to your website, your Facebook, or to download your contact information into your visitor's contact list.  If you use PayPal for payments, you can link to your payment gateway too.  Make your QR code online for free.

Online payments are not just for big businesses anymore.  Even individuals and private groups can use these tools.  If your club or civic association holds, say, an annual picnic or garage sale, or your extended family is organizing a reunion or vacation, these online payment tools can be very useful for collecting payments.

Have fun and have a great summer!  Best of luck to all of the artisans and micro-biz out there making a living this season!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

BOLO - thieves posing as Dunwoody city workers

I've had people come to my home and stroll into my backyard for the city, looking over the open drainage ditches.  This was legit, the guy had ID.

Helpful hints:


Dunwoody trucks have magnets with the city logo and name of the department on them.  If the truck isn't marked in some way, you might have a problem.  If you don't see a truck, call City Hall (or the cops) and get confirmation that a crew is in the area.  Call the police if you get one of these visits after hours.

ANYONE who comes to the door claiming to work for the city (or a utility, etc) should show you their ID on demand.  No ID, no admittance, no exceptions.  If s/he makes excuses or stalls or tries to give a reason not to show you ID, get on the horn to the police, ASAP.

LOCK YOUR DOOR.  Always.  Especially if someone is lurking outside.  You can figure out that Thief #1 was telling Thief #2 in Spanish that the coast was clear and he could get in while keeping the couple busy.

If anyone is cruising around claiming to work for the City of Dunwoody, it's OK to call the cops.  If the crew and their work are legitimate, there's no harm done.  If they're crooks, they'll get busted that much faster.

Let's be careful out there, folks.

Friday, March 16, 2012

An Open Letter to Dateline NBC and 20/20

No one in Dunwoody is going to fault yours or any other news organization for swarming around the Hemy Neuman murder trial.  It bleeds, so it leads.  That's life.

There are thousands of people who live here - LIVE, not visit for a story - who were all touched by this crime and who now collectively have to continue their lives with this added history.

If you get a Pulitzer, or an Emmy, or even a Nobel prize for your reporting, good for you.  If you report a story that well, you deserve your reward.

With that said:  Dunwoody is a city of people, not characters.  Dunwoody is not a freak show, or a media playground, or a setting for a sitcom.  Dunwoody is not a caricature of stereotypes designed to fill a sound bite, or to set up a witty remark in your script.  Dunwoody is every other city with people finding a way to live together both because of and in spite of our differences.  Even when there is a crime.

Find a way in your 45 minutes plus titles, teasers, and commercials to reflect that reality.

If you're having trouble understanding what Dunwoody, Georgia is beyond this crime and resulting trial, here's a primer to get you started.  Print and save.

  • Dunwoody is a city where anyone in town can create the next "big idea".  When the economy went downhill in the past few years and took the housing market with it, our citizens didn't throw up their hands and give up on their lives.  They created their own companies with their own ideas from their everyday lives.  If someone lost a job, they created a new one in its place.  (Including yours truly and her website customers.)  Look at the statistics in our business community:  Over 80% of our licensed enterprises have fewer than 10 employees.  That is how good serious people provide for themselves, their families, and their city.
  • Dunwoody is a city where as soon as a woman has a baby, or someone is ill or injured, a line of volunteers spontaneously forms to cook dinners or do housework until they get back on their feet.  We take care of each other.
  • Dunwoody is a city where our religious community, however diverse, finds a way to support each other.  Every church and synagogue has social and educational programs that are open to the entire community, not just an individual religion or denomination.
  • Dunwoody is a city that knows we can do things better ourselves.  When the county and state ignored our needs, we made them get the hell out of the way so we citizens could do it right with our own hands.  Doesn't mean every decision is perfect, but at least we're accountable to each other and we're making improvements that otherwise weren't going to happen.
  • Dunwoody is a city that will come together to support our schools.  The county school system made it clear they're not going to put the needs of the students above their own crazy agendas.  So whether it's a public school, conversion charter, or private, the parents will get involved to make sure our kids get the education WE think they should have.  We physically work on the grounds, we pool our skills and talents and "pass the hat" to raise money and gather our resources.  Then after all of that we still stay vigilant to the day-by-day lessons our children are learning and be part of their education.
  • Dunwoody is a city that is aware of people in need and will find a way to meet those needs.  There are fundraisers for the local hospitals.  Consignment sales where families hand goods down through houses of worship at a deep discount.  Some groups even invented ways of growing food for food banks, in addition to making donations from their own grocery trips.  Most of the charity goes on quietly, in private, where your cameras aren't interested in filming.
  • Most of all, Dunwoody is a city that can be passionate and even pissed off with each other from time to time over the issue du jour.  We can scream, yell, blog, curse, and carry on all day long.  But at the end of the day we can leave the strife at the door and find a way to celebrate a good cause, or relax and have fun in spite of our differences.  Look at Taste of Dunwoody, or Lemonade Days or the Bike Rodeo at Brook Run, or the 4th of July Parade, or the Dunwoody Music Festival.  Everyone has a good time but doesn't pretend to sit around agreeing with each other.

Dunwoody is not a bizarre murder or an equally bizarre trial.  Dunwoody will not be defined by this one crime, however newsworthy.  You would do well to keep that in mind as you edit your stories.  Use the real Dunwoody in your backdrop rather than a sound bite or stereotype.  Who knows - your story might become accurate enough to earn you that Pulitzer.


This video and the other media reports sum it up.  These were a few random thoughts throughout the afternoon.

  • A key reason Neuman is looking at a lifetime of Rorschach blots and license plates is because of the work of Dunwoody Police.  Grogan's crew can hold their own with any major police force in the area.
  • I sincerely hope that the news media will knock it off with their images of Dunwoody Prep preschool.  They didn't ask for this PR nightmare, nor did the families whose children benefit from their programs.  No one wants their establishment to be remembered by the public as, "Oh, right, that's the place where...."
  • Dunwoody Pediatrics staff seemed to hold it together when my children visited for their usual appointments after that day.  Impressive considering they were the first responders who tried to help.  This was the reason I decided early on not to pursue a medical degree - I couldn't handle it if a patient died on me.
  • Dunwoody is not an homogenous city.  We don't all think and act alike.  Sometimes that's a good thing, sometimes it's a royal pain in the ass.  This time it's just plain 'ole bad.  I'm sure there are a lot of people - friends, neighbors, etc - looking at Neuman and Andrea Sneiderman and wondering, "How in the hell was I ever close to this person and not see this potential?  So now more of us are wondering...  who else is capable of this kind of crime and then lying about it?

Maybe now the city and our communities can pick up the pieces without TV cameras camped out at the Village or elsewhere in town.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Heneghan’s Dunwoody Blog: Help a Local Dunwoody Mother in Walmart contest “G...

Heneghan’s Dunwoody Blog: Help a Local Dunwoody Mother in Walmart contest “G...: Vote by clicking here Joi Sumpton of Dunwoody is the inventor of Step ‘n Wash, the first and only self-retracting step for public restrooms...

I had no idea this was invented in Dunwoody!  I remember seeing them at the Fernbank Museum when we took the kids last.

Click the link, and go vote!  I will never cease to be amazed at how much business is generated by Dunwoody moms and dads!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Georgetown Renaissance

This is the first time I've ever seen a municipality offer to sell land to a developer with stipulations as to the type of development beyond a zoning designation.  On the surface it looks positive, definitely thinking outside the box.  I'm withholding final judgement only because the path to redeveloping this segment of Georgetown is navigated through a tangled mix of legal questions over executive sessions, leaks from the same, and balancing finances after the failure of the parks bond initiative.  Pop some popcorn and someone pass me a beer, this is getting good!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Honest Auto Service

Before I was able to get my photos for the last blog post, I needed a flat tire fixed.  I trusted in my usual spot:  Danny at Tilly Mill Service Center.  Technically his auto shop is just over the line in Doraville, but he has served many Dunwoody families' cars for years.  My family has always been able to trust Danny and his crew for fair estimates, great work, and a speedy turnaround time.  He also keeps his property neat and clean.

If you're looking for a mechanic for major work, oil change, or fixing a flat when it was the LAST thing you wanted to deal with today, please consider Tilly Mil Service Center.

UPDATE - Zoning Codes Gone Awry - Glaze Drive and "Dirt"

DHA had an item added to the agenda after the board received it via email on Thursday.

It would seem that "City Hall" has approved a permit to dump 5700 cubic yards of "dirt" (from the Chamblee HS construction site) into a less-than-one-acre lot at the end of Glaze Drive.

Being new(er) to this area than many on the DHA board I had to learn a few things about this area.

Previous site of the Glaze family hardware store
and grocery.  Intersection of Glaze and Peeler roads,
a few feet away from Dunwoody's "Gateway"
intersection of Peeler and Winter's Chapel
1.  Glaze Drive is named for this family which still owns the lot at the end of the R-100 and townhome housing developments.  The bare, half-overgrown lot next to the Shell station used to be the site of their family businesses.  (For Sale)

2.  The land in question has been a dump in the past for such notables as GM and similar industries.  God only knows what is under the top soil.  The dump was closed years ago.

3.  The land is bordered by a number of housing developments, including Four Oaks, and the North Atlanta Memorial Park.

The not-otherwise-named "Mr. Glaze" has apparently signed a deal with the contractor hauling dirt from the Chamblee HS construction site to have said dirt dumped into just under an acre of space in the lot.  During the meeting it was calculated that there would be around 600 trucks driving up and down that residential street to dump the dirt.  Starting in 2 weeks.  Did I mention that the road is not paved, but merely covered with gravel?  After driving down Glaze Drive myself I could see that it is actually paved, however the street becomes extremely narrow toward the end and the edges are deteriorating.  Perhaps the "gravel" mentioned at DHA was inside the property itself?
Since a previous visitor commented that most of Dunwoody does not know where Glaze Drive is, I thought I'd post a few photos that I took after getting the kiddos squared away for the morning.
Click to enlarge

First, halfway down the street is a townhouse development.  Right behind it are some high tension wires.  Remember the "greenway" plan that would employ space under the electric wires as "linear parks" and alternate transportation paths?  This is the one that would connect to the Gwinnett county parks system.

Click to enlarge
This is a typical single-family ranch-style home in an R-100 zoning designation on Glaze Drive.  The rest of the street not used for Georgia Power easements looks like this.  These homes on HUGE lots would blend in to any Dunwoody subdivision.  This one happens to be for sale, though I wasn't able to get the realtor's sign in the shot.

Click to enlarge

Here's where it gets interesting.  The road dead-ends with rough asphalt edges and no curbs.  A deep drainage ditch lined with rock is to the right.  See that itty bitty, teeny tiny neon yellow-green sign to the right?  That's the city-issued permit sign required by the "land disturbance" plan.  Here's some perspective in terms of how Dunwoody's zoning code is written:  adding a mountain of dirt requiring hundreds of trucks down this road requires a sign the size of a realtor's or candidate's campaign sign.  When my neighbor wanted to offer violin lessons at home (which would create an infinitely smaller impact) she was required to display a city sign six feet tall in bright red on a 30 sf front yard.  Fair?  Not in this universe.

Click to enlarge

The permit.  Same as the one you would use to do home renovations.  Same one that is issued after the Zoning Board of Appeals discusses how many feet from a stream a porch can be.  Or whether a new addition can be placed on a house.  Or whether a home can be used for daycare.  In that context, it just doesn't seem like enough.

Click to enlarge

More perspective.  This is my Dunwoody Mom-Mobile parked at the dead-end.  The street is barely wide enough to allow a minivan to drive down.  You can't turn around in this street without crashing someone's front yard, even if driving something tiny like a SmartCar.  I had to back up 30 feet to access a driveway just to turn around.  And this is the street they want dumptrucks to drive down.

Click to enlarge

The entrance to the Glazes' property taken from the very edge of the asphalt.  Could someone please point out where the road is that can handle construction equipment?

It was also estimated that the level of the ground would be raised about 10 feet if everything planned is dumped.  For some perspective, that's the equivalent of building a one-story office building on the site.   If Mr. Glaze wanted to build an office building on the site, the permit would be denied because it is zoned residential rather than retail or O/I.  But it is within zoning code to pack an amount of dirt equivalent to that size of a building onto this lot.

"Mr. Glaze" filed a request for a "land disturbance permit" to dump the dirt.  He received it from city hall (represented at DHA tonight by the city engineer and community development director).  There was universal shock and anger that the city could issue a permit for this use.  But here's the thing:  everything requested in the permit by "Mr. Glaze" was within Dunwoody's zoning code and the residents have little legal recourse to stop it.  City Hall had no rationale, consistent with the zoning code, to deny the permit.  City Hall staff did not see a need to contact City Council, or the residents because... it was all in line with zoning code.  Rescinding the permit could result in a court battle which, like previous situations, resulted in the city settling in the six-figure range.  There's going to be a lot of talk about this at city hall in the morning to determine what their next move should be to legally protect the residents of the area.

So that's where Glaze Drive and Dunwoody City Hall find themselves now.  This is an extreme example of "unintended consequences" of residential zoning (that one's for you, John....) but it spotlights the inherent double-standard of Dunwoody's zoning philosophy.  To date, everything considered "residential" is considered positive for a residential experience.  Everything considered "commercial" is considered detrimental to a residential lifestyle.  Glaze Drive is the reason that that basic classification doesn't fly.  The Glaze family didn't have to request a single variance, they didn't have to appear before a single board (even once, let alone twice) didn't have to fill out a lot of extra paperwork beyond the land disturbance form, and have no plans to erect signs or conduct any commercial enterprise.  In short, everything is residential and follows the letter of the law.  But the impact on the neighborhood is astronomical and can last months if not years.

Contrast this with the usual minutiae around residential use permits for construction or "commercial" use.  Months of hearings in front of 2 city boards and City Council.  Extra paperwork justifying its existence and clarifying the amount of traffic and "contact".  Who has a car parked where.  Is a parked car going to "change the neighborhood character".  How many people can visit at one time for a "commercial" use as opposed to a "residential" purpose and how can you determine the difference.  Does it matter if the "customers" are children, rather than white-collar adults.  In the end, most times it isn't possible to identify a "commercial" use impact on a residential neighborhood.  When you can, the result is an inconvenience that could probably be resolved amicably in a single conversation.

This is why the hysteria over "commercial use" in a home is ridiculous:  residential use per zoning code can have much greater impact on neighborhood quality than what is classified as "commercial" and Glaze Drive is proof.  The zoning code is created to pay more attention to the arbitrary intention of the owner, rather than actual, documentable effect on the neighborhood.  The words "residential" and "commercial" have become magic words that determine whether an action is desirable or not and have resulted in loopholes and contradictions separate from their actual outcomes.  I look forward to Duncan & Associates to use this example as a new concept of zoning that focuses more on actual actions that impact a neighborhood, instead of hypothetical activities that may or may not be addressed consistently.

I can't wait to see our elected and hired officials get themselves out of this one.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


Join me in taking a break from the bad news about DCSS spending (again....) and the serious work, marketing, taxes, analysis, whatever you're doing at your desk.  I've got my windows open, fans on, and my office has migrated to the dining table on the deck this incredible afternoon.  One day of respite before knuckling down to serious blog fodder.  Enjoy my surprise finds from my otherwise pathetic front and side yards.

Surprise!  I didn't plant violas this year, definitely not where I found them when I took this picture.  But here they are!

My first attempt at lily of the valley.  They're doing well.  This is the first little bell to peek out of the flower stalk.

I LOVE crocuses.  The only thing that would make this patch better is watching them bloom in the snow.

I prefer narcissus to daffodils.  Bumper crop this year.  Their scent is like perfume out  of a bottle, which you can't get with daffodils.

Some of the hellebores are struggling but they keep trying to bloom.

One of the hellebores taking off.  Right next to the bush where the mockingbirds and cardinals are deciding who  is going to nest there.

White hellebores.  Struggling but persistent.