On the road in Florida
Flew into Tampa, Florida on Saturday, March 7, 1987, and checked into the Tampa Airport Hilton. One of the companies I was going to visit in Tampa was Jim Walter Corporation and all I had was a P.O. box for their address. As I looked out my hotel room window, I could see a huge building about a mile away with a sign lit up saying, "Jim Walter Corporation."
Sunday morning, I rode over to St. Petersburg which is separated from Tampa by the Tampa Bay. Bikes are allowed on the Gandy Causeway Bridge, an 8-mile bridge connecting the two cities. All those stories about St. Petersburg being home to the older crowd are true. The average age of the residents must be about 75. Population of St. Petersburg is about 250,000. Downtown area was hopping because the New York Mets, who spring train here, were hosting an exhibition game at the stadium.
About six blocks from downtown, I found the headquarters for Florida Progress, a holding company who's primary subsidiary is Florida Power Corporation. It looks like they lease space in a three-story bank building. There is a small, free-standing sign out front which reads, "Florida Progress." The building must definitely house only the senior executives because it isn't a very big building and there are other tenants in the place. Since it was Sunday, no one was around.
About a block away from Florida Progress, I found the offices of the Times Publishing Company which publishes the St. Petersburg Times newspaper, Florida Trend magazine, Georgia Trend magazine, and Arizona Trend magazine. I subscribed to the three magazines and used each magazine's annual listing of the largest private companies as part of the data gathered in coming up with my master list of private companies to visit.
Jim Walter Corporation
Monday morning I showed up at Jim Walter Corporation's headquarters, about six miles from downtown Tampa and right next to a freeway. The company-owned, 8-story headquarters building originally built in 1959 but, added onto in 1969 and 1976, has 200,000-square feet. Parking isn't too bad with 858 parking spaces for 770 employees. Vice-Presidents on up get reserved parking spots. As I walked in the front door, I noticed the first parking spot closest to the front entrance had a spray-painted sign on it saying, "Reserved for Mr. Jim Walter." Receptionist didn't show any enthusiasm and I was met by Erica Mandelbaum, Senior Public Relations Representative. I did find out the marble gracing the walls in the lobby reception area is from a Jim Walter subsidiary, Georgia Marble. Company flag flies out front along with the U.S. and State of Florida flags. Mandelbaum scored 8 points on my 1-10 scale.
City of Tampa has a population of about 300,000. Not much of a downtown, although I was impressed by Harbour Island-a new waterfront complex. Lykes Bros., Inc., a privately-held company with interests in agriculture (mostly oranges), is located downtown in a 13-story structure called, the "Lykes Building." It's a beautiful old building which looks like it was built in the 1920's. The security guard in the lobby sent me up to the receptionist on the 13th floor. After waiting around about 15 minutes, I was told no one was available to see me. Lykes Bros. occupies the top four floors and there are numerous other tenants in the building. I got the feeling I was being given the brush-off.
Jack Eckard Corporation
The address I had for Jack Eckard Corporation, the privately held drugstore chain, was a post office box in Clearwater, Florida. The actual headquarters is in Largo, a suburb next to Clearwater and about ten miles north of downtown St. Petersburg. Corporate headquarters is a 3-story, 150,000-square foot building connected by a skywalk to an adjacent 350,000-square foot distribution center. The company-owned complex built in 1980, sits on a 110-acre site with a pond out front and well-kept grounds. A good-sized sign out front says, "Jack Eckard Corporation." I met with Donna Thielhart, Personnel Interviewer. The CEO's office is on the second floor of the building. There were big doings going on the morning I was there; the company sponsors a stop on the women's professional tennis tour and Chris Evert was due at the corporate headquarters that morning to do some promotional work. The lobby area was set up for the media and many of the employees (over 1100 in complex), were excited about Evert's appearance. Thielhart scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
Lakeland, a town of 50,000, is about 30 miles northeast of Tampa and 60 miles southwest of Orlando. Lakeland's favorite color is green. Why? Because Publix Supermarkets is headquartered in Lakeland and its green trucks are everywhere. Big sign with green letters near the street reads, "Publix, Office-Warehouse." Security guards are located inside the entrance and steer trucks to the warehouse side on the left and visitors to the office side on the right. The busy street out front is named after the founder and still Chairman-George Jenkins (George Jenkins Boulevard). Was warmly greeted by Clayton Hollis, Jr., Director of Public Affairs/Public Relations. The company-owned complex (warehouse/offices), was built in the 1950's and covers over 2 million-square feet. The two-story office building is furnished very plainly-from the lobby area to the boardroom. The privately held company has two corporate aircraft and is about a mile from the hustle and bustle of downtown Lakeland. Almost across the street from the complex is a shopping center which includes a Publix Supermarket. Next door to Publix's headquarters is a company-owned par 3 golf course, which is open to the public and is free to full-time employees. About half a mile down the street is an industrial park which houses Publix's dairy plant. The main receptionist was a nice lady and Hollis made me feel like I was someone important. Publix stores are found only in Florida. Why? Hollis told me to name a state which was growing faster than Florida. He got me on that one. Hollis scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
My next stop was Orlando. I didn't have any companies to visit but, I just wanted to see why 150,000 people live there. All the streets in the downtown area were torn up. Weather was muggy. If it's muggy in March, I can imagine what it's like in the summer. Orlando is the headquarters of the publishing firm, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. The company wasn't big enough to be on my list but, I gotta tell you this story: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich has a big office in San Diego and I found out the company had several corporate aircraft which shuttled the CEO, Mr. Jovanovich, back and forth from Orlando to San Diego. In November of 1986, I wrote a letter to Peter Jovanovich, Executive Vice President and son of the CEO, telling him about my project and how I was planning to fly to Florida in March to visit companies. I asked if my bike and I could hitch a ride on the corporate jet to Orlando in March of 1987. I didn't get a reply so, in February of 1987, I again wrote and asked if I could hitch a ride to Florida and apologized for not being very subtle about my request. I received a letter from Peter Jovanovich, dated February 19, 1987, which was short and sweet:
Dear Mr. Wolsfeld:
Thank you for writing me. I am sorry, but it will not be possible for you to "hitch" a ride to Florida on an HBJ plane.
It would have been every writer-without-a-publisher's dream to be stuck on a private jet for five hours with the CEO of a big publishing firm.
I left Orlando and headed southeast toward the Atlantic Ocean and the city of Melbourne. In California, there are signs along certain roads telling you if you are on a designated "scenic" route. In Florida, there are similar signs along certain roads except, they tell you of designated "evacuation" routes. Must have to do with hurricanes.
Harris Corporation, a producer of advanced information processing, communication and microelectronic products, is headquartered almost across the street from Melbourne Regional Airport on NASA Blvd. If someone at Harris Corporation said, "jump", the approximately 50,000 people living in Melbourne would probably say, "How high?" because there are over 11,000 employees of Harris employed in the area. I met with Raymond Penn, Director, Community Relations, at the company-owned, 75,000-square foot, 2-story headquarters building which was built in 1978 and sits on a 35-acre site. Three flags fly out front, the U.S. flag, State of Florida and the company logo. There is a security guard/receptionist, three corporate aircraft and no recreational facilities. Vice-Presidents, on up, get reserved parking. I got to see the boardroom but, was not allowed to see the CEO's office. Penn scored 8 points on my 1-10 scale.
Leaving Melbourne, I headed south along the Atlantic coastline to Palm Beach. A stop in Palm Beach was necessary because it was on the list as being one of the most affluent suburbs in the country. When I arrived in town, my sore throat had grown into a major head cold and I could barely talk. I refused to spend the day cooped up in a hotel room and took off riding. Riding around, I met a local schoolteacher, who was also riding her bike. So, instead of riding by all the big fancy estates and not knowing who lived there, the attractive schoolteacher gave me a nice guided tour. Took me by the Kennedy estate, the Everglades Club and the Bath and Tennis Club. Lots of bike trails and quiet streets for bike riding. We went by Donald Trump's 17-acre Mar-A-Lago estate and I got my school teacher friend to play along with me as we rode up the driveway of the estate pretending we were lost but, were quickly shooed away by a security guard. Checked out the magnificent Breakers Hotel and the shops on Worth Avenue and took a tour of the Flager Mansion, a palace built by one of the founders of the Standard Oil Company. One of the silliest sights seen: Young healthy-looking couples walking down the streets followed by nurses/nannies pushing baby carriages or cars with the couple's kids. Is that a sign of wealth or laziness? Palm Beach is separated from the mainland by Lake Worth. Several bridges connect Palm Beach to the mainland town of West Palm Beach and once you cross over to West Palm Beach it's a whole different world; complete with your fast food places, seedy ghetto-type areas. Trump Tower, the glitzy condominium complex Mr. Donald Trump had bought and slapped his name on the top of the building, is located on the "bad" side of the bridge or the West Palm Beach side.
On the way towards Miami, I passed through Ft. Lauderdale and even though it was Spring break, there weren't many college kids. It seemed the city of Ft. Lauderdale was trying to clamp down on all the rowdiness associated with Spring break and by doing so, made Daytona Beach, a coastal town about 200 miles north, THE place to go. It was big news in the local newspapers because the influx of dollars by college students wasn't there and businesses were suffering.
Downtown Miami has all kinds of foreign banks and flashy glass buildings. Saw quite a few cruise ships in port.
Knight-Ridder is headquartered near the downtown Miami area in a building housing the Miami Herald and the Miami News newspapers. It's an ugly looking, yellowish, six-story building built in 1963. Signs on the side of the building say, "The Miami Herald" in big red letters and "The Miami News" in big blue letters. Security guard receptionists were very indifferent. Was met by Frank Hawkins, Jr., Vice President, who informed me he was in the middle of writing a speech and only had five minutes for me. His manner was very brusque and his answers to my questions were short. There are about 100 Knight-Ridder employees in the company-owned building and they have one corporate aircraft. I got a quick peek in the boardroom and CEO's office and was sent on my way. Hawkins scored 5 points on my 1-10 scale. Was surprised by my shoddy treatment. I thought Knight-Ridder, being in the information-gathering business, would have been more receptive and accommodating.
I'm in downtown Miami in a phone booth calling up FPL Group and asking the operator for the street address of their headquarters. The address I had for FPL Group was a P.O. box in Miami and I assumed they would be located in the downtown area. Was I ever wrong! I was told the executive offices were in Juno Beach, a town about 70 miles north of Miami and a few miles north of Palm Beach. It meant having to backtrack.
Ryder System is located about 15 miles northwest of downtown Miami and about 7 miles from the airport. To get to Ryder from downtown, I rode through parts of Little Havana. Receptionist in the main lobby is a security guard. I was given a warm welcome by Arthur Stone, Director, Public Affairs. Corporate headquarters was built in 1972 and the 5-story, 390,000-square foot company-owned complex sits on 22 acres. There's a big atrium in the lobby and anyone with a company car gets a reserved parking spot. There's a cafeteria, fitness center and 1225 parking spaces. Originally, a hockey stadium was to have been built on the property. No, I didn't see any Ryder rental trucks in the parking lot. The corporate staff of Ryder System in the building numbers about 300. Stone scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
Riding by Miami International Airport, I saw several older-type planes with the names Southern Airlines written on the sides, parked near a hanger. If my memory serves me correctly, that's the airline run by the CIA.
Sunday morning I went by the headquarters of FPL Group in Juno Beach. It looks like FPL rents space in One Golden Bear Plaza, a newly built complex comprised of two, six-story buildings. Outside the entrance is a building directory along with a phone. Evidently, to get into the building you have to dial the "tenant code" on the phone and they somehow open the lobby doors for you. The "tenant code" for FPL Group was lucky #13. Another tenant in the building is Golden Bear International and I would just bet it's Jack Nicklaus's company. Not too far away is a street called PGA Boulevard. I figure the FPL Group big shots are located in Juno Beach because they live in Palm Beach or else are avid golfers. FPL is a holding company whose primary subsidiary is Florida Power and Light but, FPL also owns Colonial Penn Group, an insurance company which by itself, had over a billion dollars in revenue.
I caught the Amtrak train in West Palm Beach and took the 8-hour train ride north to Jacksonville. The idea of being stuck on a train for that length of time was unappetizing but, I would save several days of riding (about 300 miles).
I had always assumed train depots were located in a city's downtown area, nope, Jacksonville's depot is about six miles from downtown. The train arrived around 6:00 p.m. and I ended up riding to downtown in semi-darkness. I had no idea where I would be staying but, I figured Jacksonville, with a population of almost 700,000, would have some decent hotels in the downtown area. Wrong. I checked into a riverfront hotel about six years old called, "Sheraton at St. Johns Place." People checking into the hotel were being registered at the front desk like a herd of cattle. What did I get for my $92.00, plus tax? A smelly room done in a depressing red with wallpaper peeling off, white melted candle wax on the curtains, a television with poor reception, and a soft drink vending machine down the hallway which eats up your quarters and doesn't spit out any soft drinks. What really ticked me off was when I went down to the gift shop in the lobby and found all the prices on the newspapers and periodicals had been jacked up over the cover price. Example: "Newsweek" cover price was $2.00 but, they sold it for $2.25. I thought only airports jacked up prices! I walked next door to the Jacksonville Hilton and looked at one of their rooms and it too, had depressing dark rooms. Across the riverfront, work was being finished on a spiffy-looking new development called, "The Jacksonville Landing", a complex of shops and a brand NEW Omni hotel. As I was checking out the next morning, I dropped by the General Manager's office and left a letter complaining of my displeasure with the accommodations. **NOTE: After returning home from this segment of my trip, I received a letter from the General Manager apologizing and telling me I would be happy to know the section of the hotel I had stayed in was being remodeled. What do I care about the room being remodeled? How does that help my lousy experience? He should have refunded my money or, at the least, offered me a complimentary room if I ever returned.
Did you know Jacksonville is the largest city in the United States in terms of land area? It encompasses 840-square miles which might explain why its downtown area is so rinky-dink. I stopped by the Chamber of Commerce office asking for information about the city and everyone seemed so disinterested in helping me. Why do they bother having an office on the ground floor if they treat walk-in visitors so poorly? For a city of its size, they have a disappointing newspaper, the "Jacksonville Journal."
Barnett Banks of Florida
Barnett Banks of Florida is headquartered downtown in a 10-story building which looks like it was built in the 1950's or 1960's. I went into the building and found my way up to the 6th floor where I explained to the receptionist what I was doing. She went across the room to confer with another woman, then came back shortly to tell me the man I wanted to see was Mr. Hadley-who was out of town for the day and for me to come back tomorrow. I tried to explain how I was hoping to leave town today and that I didn't have to talk to the head spokesperson and my questionnaire only takes a few minutes...My pleas were to no avail, she had a certain coldness about her and acted like she could care less about my situation. **NOTE: A couple days later, the "Wall Street Journal" ran a front page story on Barnett Banks entitled, "Attentive to Service, Barnett Banks Grows Fast, Keeps Profits Up" and the story went on to talk about the bank's personalized "mom and pop" approach to service. Was this the same bank which treated me like I was a nobody and unimportant? When I got home from this segment of my trip, I wrote a letter to the CEO Charles Rice, and told him about my sorry reception and how it didn't click with the glowing article in the "Wall Street Journal." In the letter, I also asked if I could be sent an annual report and any material/books on the history of the company. I never did get a response.
The Charter Company
The Charter Company is also headquartered downtown in a dumpy, dreary-looking, 18-story structure built in the 1950's. This was an unusual visit because the company had just come out of Chapter 11. Security guard/receptionist and closed circuit TV in lobby area. I met with Joanne Stone, Manager, Stockholder Services, and a nice lady. Company leases space in the building owned by Metropolitan Life and might be moving in the near future. The top two floors, which had at one time housed the CEO's office and boardroom, had been closed down. Senior management gets reserved parking and 350 people work in the building. Stone scored 8 points on my 1-10 scale.
About 5 miles from downtown is Winn-Dixie Stores, a supermarket chain. Headquarters is what I was expecting; plain, functional building in a lousy part of town. Big sign out front reads, "Winn-Dixie, The Beef People, General Offices and Distribution Center." A big red and white sign on the side of the warehouse-type building says, "Winn-Dixie Stores." The receptionist was real nice (5 stars on my 1-5 scale). Lobby area was very plain and filled with various trophies and a picture of the Davis Brothers, the founders. Located in an area predominately black and near railroad tracks. Receptionist told me everyone was in a meeting. Went and had lunch in the company cafeteria and afterwards was told everyone was still in a meeting. Left after waiting an hour. Did like the "No Smoking" signs in the reception area.
My visit to Jacksonville hadn't been very enjoyable and I blame it on a number of factors: lack of friendliness of the people, poor accommodations and my head cold; which probably made me easily irritated. Is it fair for me to call Jacksonville, a city of 700,000 people, not very friendly just by my encounters with a couple dozen people? Maybe not, but first-hand impressions are important in my estimation. What did I like about Jacksonville? The bridges downtown going over the St. John's River.
I arrived in Savannah, Georgia late in the evening on St. Patrick's Day and checked into a Hampton Inn. My sore throat was killing me and I asked the lady at the front desk if there was any orange juice around. She went in the back and brought out two quarts of GREEN orange juice. Green coloring had been added to the orange juice and she told me it was left over from the continental breakfast served that morning. From what I learned, Savannah has one of the largest St. Patrick's Day celebrations in the country. Over 300,000 people invade this city of 140,000 to celebrate. I got up the next morning to ride around town and what a mess! The riverfront area of downtown is where the big whoop-de-do took place and there was tons and tons of trash everywhere. I did like the water fountains that were spitting up green water. I had specifically wanted to stop in Savannah because I had heard it had one of the largest designated historical areas in the country. I wasn't too impressed.
I flew from Savannah, Georgia to Charlotte, North Carolina, a distance of a couple hundred miles. I flew Piedmont Airlines for the first time and just as Delta Airlines had done on my first flight with them, Piedmont did the same; they managed to bash my bike. My back wheel had been mangled and I ended up having to partly walk/partly ride my bike 15 miles to the nearest bike shop. When you leave the airport, the main road out of the place is the Billy Graham Parkway.
Downtown Charlotte has an impressive skyline. The city streets are clean and the people friendly. Four companies on my list are located in the big/little city of 350,000 people.
First Union Corporation
First Union Corporation, a bank holding company, leases a 30-story building with its name on the sides, from Trammell Crow. Building was built in 1971 and 3000 employees work in the 750,000-square foot structure called, "First Union Plaza." I was met and shown around by a super nice guy, Marshall Hester, North Carolina Media Manager, Corporate Communications. Was told a new 42-story, 1,000,000-square foot headquarters building was being built not too far away from present headquarters. I was given a First Union T-shirt and visor. Hester called up the local television stations and the Charlotte Observer (local newspaper) while I was visiting him and, a business writer from the Charlotte Observer ended up coming over and interviewing me. Why was Hester going to all this trouble? I told Hester I was going down the street to NCNB after I finished my talk with him. NCNB and First Union are both super regional banks and very competitive. Evidently, the idea was to have the photographer from the Charlotte Observer take a picture of me wearing a First Union visor and standing in front of the First Union Bank building out front. The photographer took quite a few pictures of me in front of the bank's sign wearing my visor and without my visor. When the story came out in the newspaper, it was a shot of me without the visor on and no First Union sign in the background. All of Hester's planning was for naught. Was given a tour of the room where bank employees trade Futures and was told Crutchfield, the CEO, occasionally does a little hands-on trading. I also noticed when I walked into the lobby of the building, the directory listed Crutchfield's name and floor he was on; most companies I had visited don't like to list which floor the CEO is located. Hester scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
NCNB (North Carolina National Bank), has the tallest building in town and I went up to the Corporate Communications Department where a secretary told me the man I was supposed to see wasn't in and for me to come back tomorrow. The secretary was very rude. I had read several stories about Hugh McColl, the CEO, and how he was an ex-Marine with a tough-guy image. Judging by the way the secretary treated me, McColl's personality had trickled way down to lower-rung employees. I had told her I was planning to leave early the next morning but, she could care less.
Belk Stores Services
Belk Stores Services is a privately-held department store chain with sales of about $1.5 billion. There are about 350 stores in the east and south and many of the stores have names like Liggett-Belk or Lindsay-Belk because they are named after a partner or a long-time employee who has been given a certain turf or area. Headquarters is a real dumpy, 3-story building a few blocks from downtown. Furnishings are very plain and sparse. Lobby area is very tiny with a receptionist and closed circuit TV monitor. The only reading material in the lobby area are three Bibles. I spoke with Darrell Williams, Manager, Public and Employee Communications, and a nice guy. Headquarters was built in the 1940's and is company-owned. I was told they would be moving into new quarters sometime in the next year. The hallways of the building are lined with portraits of employees with 25 years of service. Plywood on the walls and the no-frills furnishings reminded me of my visit to Wal-Mart. Had a short visit with CEO John Belk. Belk Stores Service and Dillard Department Stores in Little Rock, Arkansas, both, had no frills, very plain-looking headquarters and I wonder if there's any correlation between having plain, no-frills headquarters and the type of customer a company is trying to attract; upscale, middle class, blue collar, lower class? Williams scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.
Duke Power is headquartered in a company-owned, 7-story building built in 1927. I had to go to a separate building and talk to Dock Kornegay, Corporate Communications, Customer Communications Coordinator. Kornegay has got the most unusual first name I've come across and, unfortunately, he showed no interest in what I was doing and just went through the motions. No way could I see the CEO's office or boardroom or see the view from the top floor. Kornegas scored 5 points on my 1-10 scale.
Leaving Charlotte, I headed north to North Wilkesboro, home to Lowe's Companies, a specialty retailer of building materials and related products for do-it-yourselfers. A few miles out of Charlotte, I came across a truck burial ground. You've heard of dying elephants supposedly finding their way to secret burial grounds to die? Well, this must be the place where old trucks come to die. There must be thousands of them scattered over about a hundred acres; Mack trucks, Freightliners, dump trucks, Peterbilts, Kenworths, every kind of big truck imaginable. I've seen lots of automobile junkyards but, this was a first for me. Imagine the stories the trucks could tell if they could talk.
It was an extremely foggy morning when I left Charlotte (didn't know Charlotte ever got fog) and soon after I passed the truck burial grounds, I came to a fork in the road. If I stayed to the right, the road took me to North Wilkesboro and if I went to the left, a big fog-shrouded sign told me I would end up in the town of Love Valley. I spent the rest of the day as I headed towards North Wilkesboro wondering if my life would have been changed had I visited the mystical sounding town of Love Valley.
North Wilkesboro is about 50 miles east of Winston-Salem and about 80 miles northwest of Charlotte. Lowe's Companies is headquartered in a two-story building across the street from a bowling alley. Built in 1961, the building originally housed a Lowe's retail store and company distribution center and was recently renovated into corporate offices. I arrived around noon and the very personable receptionist suggested I go have lunch in the company cafeteria. Excellent food in their cafeteria; chicken livers, Coleslaw, mash potatoes cooked southern-style. I met with Harry Underwood, II, Vice President and Treasurer. He said he only had a few minutes to talk and was very aloof. About 1000 employees work in the company-owned, 200,000-square foot building. The lobby area is very modern and an extensive art collection is scattered along the hallway walls. Next to each painting is a small plaque telling you the title and author. Directors on up, get reserved parking spots and there are four corporate aircraft. Downtown North Wilkesboro is two miles away. A good-sized sign out near the street says, "Lowe's Companies, Inc., Corporate Offices." I was given a quick peek in the boardroom and CEO's office. CEO Leonard Herring, has a first floor office in the interior of the building with no outside view. There's a company flag flying alongside the U.S. flag out front. Underwood scored 5 points on my 1-10 scale.
First Wachovia leases space in a 30-story building in downtown Winston-Salem. First Wachovia, NCNB and First Union are all considered "super regional" banks. Nancy Lovelace, Vice President, Corporate Communications, told me First Wachovia has dual headquarters in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia. The owner of the building is JMB Income Properties Limited and First Wachovia leases about 80% of the 650,000-square feet. Over 1500 employees occupy the first 23 floors and the top floors are rented out to other tenants. Built in 1965, it doesn't project an image of a booming regional banking power. Wasn't able to see CEO's office or Boardroom. Lovelace scored 8 points on my 1-10 scale.
RJ. Reynolds Industries
About a month before my arrival in Winston-Salem, I read about R.J. Reynolds Industries (RJR Nabisco) announcing its decision to move their corporate headquarters to Atlanta and it was somewhat disappointing because I had already passed through Atlanta. The headquarters building of R.J. Reynolds Industries, (when I started this project, the company hadn't changed their name to RJR Nabisco), is a huge, 5-story, blue-glassed, 790-foot long structure built in 1977. At the main receptionist desk, visitors can take a complimentary pack of cigarettes from a display. Of course, it goes without saying the brands on display are only the brands R.J. Reynolds manufactures. Les Rich, Director, Public Relations Services, came down to the lobby area and informed me of the company's move to Atlanta in the near future. The building in which we were talking had already been donated to Lake Forest University. I was thinking I might get an enthusiastic reception at R.J. Reynolds because the company's subsidiary, Nabisco, sponsored a series of bike races around the country. Nope. Mr. Rich never asked a thing about me, my project or my bike. Matter of fact, he looked to be in his 40's and had the kind of wrinkled face some smokers seem to get. We talked for about 3 minutes and I never got past the lobby. Rich scored 4 points on my 1-10 scale. Across the street (called what else, Reynolds Blvd.) from the headquarters is a company-owned monster-sized cigarette plant. Wake Forest University is getting a building with a 342-seat auditorium, a 500-seat dining room, a chapel and a souvenir store. Headquarters is about three miles from downtown Winston-Salem.
Piedmont Aviation, headquartered in Winston-Salem, was on my original list of companies to visit but they’ve been recently taken over by USAIR so I decide to skip 'em. Must be quite a shock to a city the size of Winston-Salem to lose R.J. Reynolds and have Piedmont taken over by outsiders.
I play tourist and visit Reynolds House, which was built in 1917 and is the former home of Katherine Smith and Richard Joshua Reynolds, founder of R.J. Tobacco Company. What a place! The estate has a number of outbuildings, which have been converted to offices, shops and restaurants. One of the shops houses a bakery called, "Breads & Spreads", which has unbelievable cookies and the best lemon bars I've ever eaten. Rode around the beautiful Wake Forest University campus which, from what I understand owes much of its existence to the generosity of RJR Nabisco.
Left Winston-Salem early Sunday morning and ride 110 miles due east to Chapel Hill riding the beautiful backroads. I pass through Greensboro and check out the headquarters of Burlington Industries. Located in a residential area, the dark brown building looks like it was built in the 1960's and is about 6 or 7-stories tall. A low-slung sign clearly visible from the street says, "Burlington Industries." I ride around to the rear of the building and find a big parking lot, and behind it, a jogging trail. There's a fountain out front, which has no water in it and, a flagpole. I talk to a security guard to see if by chance anyone was working in the offices. I decide not to hang around until Monday and continue onto Chapel Hill.
University of North Carolina is located in Chapel Hill. Heck of a nice campus, heck of a nice town. Monday morning I cruise through Durham and check out the equally impressive Duke University campus. Duke, as does Stanford University, has its own golf course. Some of the best-looking girls I've seen on my trek reside at Duke and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Durham has several cigarette factories in the downtown area.
Leaving Durham, I head to Raleigh, North Carolina, and on the way ride through the famous Research Triangle Park area.
Carolina Power & Light
Carolina Power & Light lease space in a 21-story building located downtown, next to the Raleigh Civic and Convention Center. As usual, I get the normal blah reception from a utility company. I speak to Robert Rutherford, Director Library & Information Research, Corporate Communications Department. He doesn’t know the answers to most of my questions and shows no interest in finding them. Building was built in 1979 and there’re other tenants in the building including; a restaurant on the top floor and a branch of Planters Bank. Rutherford scores 5 points on my 1-10 scale.
The State Capital building in Raleigh looks pretty dinky and I ride around the campus of North Carolina State. The Chapel Hill-Durham-Raleigh area is a very desirable area to live just by the fact of being able to take advantage of the cultural events, which usually surround one major university, let alone three (Duke, UNC and NC State).