Robotic bears and bank CDs make a comeback
The group of robotic bears known as the Leonard Bearstein Symphony Orchestra that delighted Charlotteans with holiday music is now back on the bandstand, but not in Charlotte. The bears were recently exiled from their home and Founders Hall at Bank of America's uptown headquarters after more than two decades. For more, we turn now to Tony Mecia of the Charlotte Ledger business newsletter.
Marshall Terry: OK, Tony. So where is the orchestra now?
Tony Mecia: Yeah, Marshall, the Leonard Bernstein Symphony Orchestra has a new gig in Kannapolis. Kannapolis has a festival of lights, a holiday celebration that runs through the end of the month, and the bears have relocated there after 20 years at Founders Hall. As you mentioned, it's 45-minute set, you know, kids seem to like it. It's sort of festive. They tell corny jokes and play music.
Terry: Remind us what happened. Why were the Bears given the boot at Founders Hall?
Mecia: Well, it's still a little bit unclear. You know, Charlotte Ledger and WFAE's Nick de la Canal, we were asking questions to Bank of America. What's the deal with the bears? They've been here for 20 years. Why are they not here? Bank of America said it was very committed to other holiday festivities in uptown and around Charlotte. Didn't really give a reason. But, you know, it might not be too much of a stretch to wonder, did somebody find them too corny? Did they, are they a little out of step with the times? I think those are maybe some familiar criticisms of robotic singing bears. But, you know, the company that runs the Bears has multiple sets of these bears, is able to deploy them to different shopping malls, things like that. So they were able to relocate a set of the Bear Orchestra up to Kannapolis. And so that's where they're going to be.
Terry: All right. Well, shifting gears now, the Ledger reports the CD is making a comeback. And no, I'm not talking about a way to listen to music, but rather a way to handle money. What is a CD exactly and why is it coming back?
Mecia: Right. We're not talking here about your Barry Manilow collection, Marshall. We're talking about certificates of deposit, commonly known as CDs. These had sort of fallen out of favor among customers the last few years because with low interest rates, they returned almost nothing. But now with interest rates rising, the rates on CDs are rising as well. In some cases, they're up to around 4% a year in that range.
The Ledger talked to a number of people in the financial services industry, leaders locally, a US Bank and the Sharonview Federal Credit Union. They said they're seeing more customers asking about these. Customers apparently see them as a better alternative than just having money sitting in a checking or savings account. That's certainly true. One of the downsides of CDs is you're locking up your money. You're getting a promised rate of return, but you don't have access to that money for a set period of time, usually several months. So if it is money that you need, you might look at other options, you know, high-interest savings accounts. And of course, there's always the stock market. Mutual funds traditionally return better than 4% a year. But, you know, it can be very volatile. And, you know, most of the stock indexes are down this year. So that's a little bit of risk that some people don't want to take.
Terry: OK. Looking at Johnson and Wales now, the school has had a real game of musical chairs with leaders in the past seven years with five presidents. And there's a new leader now. Who is Rick Mathieu and what's his goal?
Mecia: Yeah, Rick Mathieu is going to be the new president of the Johnson and Wales University campus in Charlotte. He is currently the dean of the Queen's University of Charlotte McColl School of Business. You did mention there has been a lot of leadership change at Johnson and Wales. Locally, I think a lot of smaller colleges are facing some challenges. Mathieu, I think, is a well-known person in the local higher education community. Johnson and Wales, says that he's going to come in and help them implement their mission and vision, focus on the school's commitment to diversity. You know, it's going to be just another new leader over there at Johnson Wales.
Terry: Well, on to some news in Matthews now. A new report that the town is getting a pottery park. Try saying that five times fast. Tony, what is a pottery park?
Mecia: Yeah, I was previously unfamiliar with the pottery history of Matthews. It turns out the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission has documented that there is a place of historical significance as it relates to pottery in Matthews.
A potter named Rufus Outen settled there in the early part of the 20th century. He built a kiln and a studio there. The Historic Landmarks Commission says that at the time, Matthews was a, quote, ceramic no man's land, and that he was making pottery there and selling it around North and South Carolina, and that it's a place of historical significance. And so now the town of Matthews is going to turn it into a park. They're calling it the Outen Pottery Park, about an acre and a half. It's near Matthews downtown. And they say it's going to be kind of like a museum.
Terry: Well, speaking of museums, Charlotte is getting a new one this week and it's a bit different, right, Tony?
Mecia: Yes, a little different from a pottery museum. On Friday, there's going to be what's called the Museum of Illusions opening in uptown. It's a private chain of museums opening in a Charlotte location. And as the name suggests, it has a bunch of optical illusions. And it's sort of really geared toward people taking pictures, putting them on Instagram.
You know, our reporter Lindsay Banks went out there this week, had a picture of basically her head being served on a platter, just an illusion. Didn't actually happen. She's smiling, so we know it's okay, but there are a lot of things like that. We are seeing a trend generally toward these selfie museums, museums oriented toward people taking pictures of themselves, posting on social media. So it is something going to be a little bit different. The Museum of Illusions opens Friday at the Ally Charlotte Center.
Terry: All right, Tony, thank you.
Mecia: Thanks, Marshall.
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