Posts by Erin Gamble

RIC Date Night of the Month – July: Movie Night at the North Carolina Museum of Art

Posted by on Jul 29, 2013 in Community, Date Of The Month | 0 comments

There is something special about summer nights in Raleigh. Which is why July’s Date Night of the Month is an outdoor picnic and movie at the North Carolina Museum of Art. Sammy and I ventured out around 7:45, picked up some takeout from the ever-enjoyable Whole Foods hot bar, and set out to claim our spot and have dinner before the show – “Silver Linings Playbook”. It was one of those nights that made you stop and appreciate every little aspect of the evening – warm weather, good company, a starry sky, and so on. Apologies for not posting pics. Phones and flash photography are discouraged so that the lights don’t distract from the movie. We gladly complied since it was a great excuse to go off the grid and relax for a couple of hours.

In order to help you plan your date, Sammy and I came up with a list of Do’s and Don’ts that will help you make the most out of your evening:


DO order your movie tickets online ahead of time to avoid long lines before the show.


DO bring a large blanket and pillows! Sammy and I had a smaller blanket and we tried to prop our heads up on our wallets, water bottles, etc. While it was the source of some laughs, spring for the pillows. You’ll forget your laying on the ground!


DO arrive early enough to get a good spot. We snuck in right before the 9pm showtime and the crowd was quite large. However, if you’re running late, no worries! The park is the largest concert venue of all art museums in the country. I’m sure you’ll manage:)


DO bring a chair if you don’t feel like sitting on the ground. The screen is elevated and very big so you won’t obstruct the view of those around you.


DO bring bug spray. The one drawback of North Carolina summer nights – but enjoying the cooler evening outside is still oh so worth it.


DON’T bring alcohol or any beverage where you could possible be transporting alcohol. BUT feel free to purchase wine and beer at the concession stand. Along with other movie snacks and even meals. Yum.


DON’T show up just for the movie. Friday evenings before 9 at the NCMA have a lot to offer. The West Building offers Art In The Evening concerts with wine and small plates (beginning at 5:30). The East and West buildings are open for browsing and the West Building is open for guided tours. Especially check out the current special exhibition in East Building, 0 to 60: The Experience of Time through Contemporary Art, is on view until August 11. Another option is dinner at Iris (open for dinner on Fridays only). Serving local and seasonal cuisine with both regional and international flavors. Here are sample dinner and dessert menus.


DON’T use your cell phone or have it on during the movie. As I mentioned before, it’s very distracting from the movie and the lovely scenery.


Hope this is helpful. If you have any more questions tweet me @erin091487. And if you’re planning on a date night at the NCMA, we’d love to hear from you @RaleighIsCool!

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Mending Broken Hearts

Posted by on Jul 19, 2013 in Community, events | 0 comments

I’m honored to introduce our very first guest blogger. Joye Mullis is the mother of Ethan, a 4-year-old who is kicking heart disease to the curb. Her family’s story is so inspiring, I couldn’t do it justice by writing about it myself. The Mullis family’s adventure is one of sadness, strength, and hope. Especially hope, because joining the RiC heartwalk team is one small way to offer support to those affected by heart disease everywhere.


Quick! What’s the most common birth defect? 

Cleft lip? No.  Down Syndrome? Nope.   Spina Bifida? Not quite.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) names Congenital Heart Defects (CHD) THE most common type of birth defect in America.


Are you surprised?


In the United States alone, nearly 40,000 infants are born with a heart defect each year.  This equates to about 1 in every 100 births, or around 110 babies born each day with tiny, broken hearts.  Of those 40,000 infants, thousands won’t celebrate their 1st birthday and thousands more won’t reach adulthood.  More than half of the babies who do survive will require at least one invasive surgery in their lifetime, and we’re not talking some laparoscopic procedure.  Full blown open-heart surgery is required to repair many of these defects, and sometimes as soon as one day of life.


The facts are sobering, no doubt, but there is hope.


The Children’s Heart Foundation reports that, in the last decade, death rates for CHDs have declined by almost 30% due to discoveries made through research.  Thanks to these advancements, there are an estimated TWO MILLION survivors of Congenital Heart Defects in the United States! And, get this – more than half of those survivors are now adults.  That’s over one million men and women beating the odds and paving the way for our children!


Wait.  Did she just say “our”?


You see, along with those 40,000 infants born each year come 40,000 moms and dads.  We have sat beside numerous hospital beds begging our babies and our children to hang onto life.  We have fought to teach our children to eat, walk, and talk and we’ve cried tears of joy when they do.  I have personally handed my child over to a team of surgeons, and then watched his infant heart beat from inside his opened chest after their work was done.  My son is one in one hundred.


"110 babies born each day with tiny, broken hearts"

“110 babies born each day with tiny, broken hearts”

Ethan, my firstborn, found his way into my arms on the morning of March 8th, 2009 before the sun had a chance to rise.  He was the baby I so desperately wanted, the child I already loved, and no doctor in the hospital could convince me he wasn’t perfect – even though he’d been prenatally diagnosed with two birth defects which would require surgical intervention.  I remember crying over his bassinet in the newborn nursery, silently praying that he would be OK.


I had no idea what else was coming our way.


After spending a few hours with Ethan in our hospital room, the nurse took him to the nursery for some routine testing.  Based on the coloring of his skin, though, she decided to perform an extra test – a pulse oximetry screening – to check his oxygen levels.  What she discovered began a flurry of activity that led someone to our room to say,


“We have reason to believe there is also something wrong with your baby’s heart.”


My husband and I talked with a pediatric cardiologist who told us that Ethan was very sick and would need open-heart surgery sooner than later.  In short, our son was diagnosed with Pulmonary Atresia with VSD. This basically means there was no way for blood to get from his heart to his lungs (pulmonary atresia), and there was a large opening in the wall that should have separated his ventricles (ventricular septal defect – VSD).  I was angry and terrified all at once.


Ethan was rushed by the LifeFlight ambulance to Duke University Medical Center within hours after his diagnosis.  His first open-heart surgery took place on March 11th, 2009 at just three days old. It was a long, grueling operation, but the repair was a success.   Six days later, however, Ethan went back into the operating room to have a permanent pacemaker implanted.


He stayed at Duke for nine and half weeks, underwent four operations during that time, and also experienced full cardiac and pulmonary arrest.  It took eleven minutes of CPR to bring him back to us, but he fought hard and proved just how tough he is!


In his four short years of life, Ethan’s had a total of seventeen surgeries and procedures – seven of which have been heart-related.  Despite all of that, though, he is now a healthy, active four-year-old who loves bugs, cars, and super heroes.  He will face additional surgeries in the future, but we choose to enjoy and focus on who he is today.  The journey hasn’t always been easy, but it has taught us to seize every moment of un-promised life, and to love deeper than we ever thought possible – even when it hurts.


Especially when it hurts.


Given the prevalence of Congenital Heart Defects, it is likely that you know someone affected by them in some way.  Maybe even you are.  Or, maybe you’re like me and thought heart problems only happened to old people.  I was clueless before my son was born, which is why I’m so passionate about shedding light on this life-threatening birth defect now.


Since Ethan’s birth, our family has gotten heavily involved with the American Heart Association.  We have committed to helping Photo1them raise research dollars, and the annual Heart Walk is a wonderful, simple way to do so.  Please consider getting involved.  Join a Heart Walk team and begin your own fundraising efforts.  Do it in memory of the children who have lost their battle, and in honor of those who are still fighting.  Even the smallest act can send a loud message – let us know that we’re not facing this alone.


Maybe one day there will be a fix.  Maybe one day we’ll be able to spare our children from surgery after surgery.  Who knows? Maybe one day there will even be a cure.  Until then, I’ll be doing my part to raise research dollars for America’s most common birth defect.


Will you join me?



To read more about the Mullis family and their story, visit their blog.  Don’t forget to register for the Triangle Heart Walk here and search “Raleigh Is Cool” to find our team. See you September 22nd at PNC Arena!

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RIC Date Night of the Month – June: NoFo @ The Pig

Posted by on Jun 21, 2013 in Date Of The Month, Restaurant | 0 comments

Each month, RIC’s Erin Gamble will feature a cool date night venue for your courting pleasure. Tweet her with your suggestions! @erin091487

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For a night out in the city of Oaks, NoFo’s creative twist on a historically southern store gives date night a brand new meaning.

In honor of Raleigh Is Cool’s very first “Date Night of the Month” feature, I thought it was fitting to find a venue that was especially perfect for a first date. Most of us could agree that a safe pick for a first date with someone is dinner – not too fancy, but not too casual. Even more of us could agree that a first date is super scary because of one major dilemma – what if you run out of things to talk about? With both of these timeless worries in the back of my mind, I asked my own beau to join me for an evening at NoFo in Five Points to see if it met the criteria.

NoFo, an eclectically southern meets cosmopolitan store and restaurant, is nestled in the heart of the Five Points neighborhood in Raleigh. When we arrived for our date, we were able to sneak a peek at some of the charming goods before the store closed. There were so many unique gifts, we immediately pointed out that we should come by again soon for “a short and entertaining shopping experience” (Read: second date just planned itself, gentlemen!).

Everywhere around us, the atmosphere gave us instant conversation starters. imagePerfect for first date jitters. Pigs were everywhere – pictures of pigs, pig art, and Piggly Wiggly photos danced around the restaurant. It was really fun trying to guess what all the pig business was about. And what kind of name is “NoFo” anyway? Not only For oldies? Nostalgic owner Found orangutan? You get the point.

As an added bonus, our friend and manager, JJ, made an appearance to give us the inside scoop of our date night adventure. We learned that NoFo originally began in Wilmington on the corner of North and Fourth streets in 1997. The Raleigh location is called NoFo at the Pig because the restaurant is actually a restored Piggly Wiggly. This would explain all of the carefully pig-themed tributes to the great southern grocery store.NOFO’s focus is on all things made in North Carolina and the South. It promotes “Love Living Local” with a wealth of carefully chosen products to eat, drink, wear, read, listen to, use and enjoy from southern food artisans, entrepreneurs, designers, farmers, craftsmen, musicians and artists.

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Our server, Mary Clare, made our evening’s experience a breeze. For our drink order, she suggested the Oak City Sour. This idea was right up my alley, so I gave it a whirl. Drinks paired with the Hot Pimento Cheese Dip were delectable. For our meal, Sammy ordered their Blue Plate special for Thursday (Yep. Throwback style) which was meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and green beans, and I ordered the pork loin.  All of it was wonderful – really, no critiques or complaints. Everything was the perfect combination of savory and refreshing. Yet another talking point!

Total cost of the meal was right around $50. Very reasonable for the traditional first date drinks, app, and main course. 

Sammy and I agree that although we were only pretending to be on a first date, NoFo was built for a fun and relaxed environment. Great service, amazing food, and an inviting atmosphere makes NoFo the triple threat in the restaurant biz.

Quality restaurant with a unique history? Perfect first date coming right up!

Planning a date night to NoFo? Let us hear what you think! Tweet us @RaleighIsCool.


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Car Care and Community Care At Its Finest

Posted by on May 21, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

“I love life. And I love my job. So my job never feels like work!” –Mike Phillips

Owner of Men At Work Car Care Center Mike Phillips’s start-up story, like most, is full of ups and downs. He was born in Philadelphia but moved here in 1979 to attend St. Augustine’s University here in Raleigh. He first learned how to detail cars with a Ford dealership after college. He took the knowledge he gained from this first job, and felt confident that he could enter the detailing business on his own.

“Learn something. Wherever you go. Whatever you do. And take it with you.”

Mike and some of the guys flexing their muscles outside of the shop

Mike and some of the guys flexing their muscles outside of the shop

That’s exactly what he did. He opened Men At Work Car Care Center in November of 1988. Business was good – which comes as no surprise to me. While sitting with Mike for our interview I witnessed worn down folks walk in and instantly light up when they hear Mike’s booming voice. I saw him encourage his team of men detailing the cars – reminding them frequently that, “We’re big on ‘Thank Yous’ around here!” And most importantly, I saw filthy cars transform to factory fresh in less than 30 minutes.

Throughout his journey, however, Mike struggled with drug use and dealing. It took a combination of bad economic times, seeing his family hurt because of his choices, and being arrested to realize that something had to change.

“Some people get no grace. They lose it all before they get it together. For me, it didn’t take that.”

Mike finally was able to close that chapter of his book. As a result of the legal trouble he got in, he gained a unique perspective on employment after serving time.

“No one wants to give you an opportunity. The first thing they ask you is if you have ever committed a crime.”

Because of this hardship that former criminals face,  Mike makes it a priority to hire men who have recently served time in an effort to help them rebuild their resumes and lives.  Currently 95% of his staff have been convicted of a crime and paid their debt to society through prison time.

When I asked Mike what he would want a potential new customer to know about Men At Work, he had this to say:

“Come here once and you won’t go nowhere else. You come here and you know I’m giving back. I’m showing love. “

I have been to car care centers all over eastern North Carolina – mainly because I am too preoccupied (lazy) to clean my own car. I can tell you after several washes from Mike and his guys at Men At Work, I will never go anywhere else. They truly do a phenomenal job.

Raleigh, give yourself a weekend off of car-washing duty. A standard wash is around $20.00 depending on the size of your vehicle (plus tip). You will leave with a satisfactory detail job, a smile on your face, and a team of really awesome men yelling, “THANK YOU!” as you drive away.

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Simple is Cool. Bliss is Cooler.

Posted by on Apr 10, 2013 in Community, Professional | 0 comments


Robin (left) with Megan Brown, receptionist and marketing coordinator, and Claudia Alarcon, Esthetician. Just two of team that were available for a quick photo that day.

 By Erin Gamble

As you may have read in our “Our Story” section, Sarah, Katie, and I used to live right in the heart of Glenwood South off of Boylan Ave until a house fire sent us packing. Among our many corporate neighbors were the sweet ladies of Simple Bliss Spa and Salon. If any of you have seen me in the last week or so, you know that I took the risk that many girls agonize over, and either regret or love – bangs. Sounds silly to you gentlemen, I’m sure. But the girls feel me. The new ‘do was a hit according to my friends and boyfriend, Sammy (unless they were just sparing my feelings). I attribute the success of this visit to my former “neighbor” and hair stylist, Kara; just one of the lovely ladies that are beautifying downtown Raleigh in every sense of the word. I decided to venture back this week for a much-needed massage (not that anyone ever describes it as a sort-of-needed massage).

Before my session I had the opportunity to sit down with Robin Berning, owner at Simple Bliss Spa & Salon. This would be my second massage with Robin and I was already a pretty big fan. But after our brief Q&A sesh in the Spa’s Relaxation Room, I see her in a whole, new light.

Robin has been in this profession for 25 years. She loves what she does and she loves Raleigh. Especially because it simultaneously provides a big-city feel with small-town, friendly relationships (couldn’t have said it better myself).

If you have relocated to Raleigh from the Virginia/DC area (good choice!), you may have heard of the Sugar House Day Spa and Salon. Robin was a key component in getting that business rolling and she thoroughly enjoyed her time there. However, seven years ago, when she and her family moved here, Robin quickly noticed a huge difference in her professional life.

“I found it extremely difficult to find happiness in my workplace,” she told me, remembering that the relationships at her old job were ideal and her new place of employment was less than joyful.  I’m sure we can all relate when we look back over our professional journeys.

Robin still commuted to DC periodically to fill in and make some extra money. After working one particular weekend at Sugar House, Robin collected her paycheck to return here to Raleigh. She glanced down at the amount, and burst into tears at the sad realization that she had made more money in that weekend than she did in two weeks at her new job. Robin remembers her friend and co-worker looking at her right then with wise words to offer:

“You need to work for yourself. You need to find a way. You need to open your own place.”

Robin refers to this as her ‘aha moment.’

Robin started this journey in a small room at Personally Fit, with no clients, and in the lowest of low economic times. She continued to travel to Sugar House to help support her family each weekend for 2.5 years while she built her business. TWO AND A HALF YEARS. After a couple of small spaces, Robin took the biggest chance of all and leased an old house in January of 2012 in Glenwood South.

Robin described the new location as a “full-blown party house.” The place needed countless renovations and changes to bring it up to code. By day, Robin was a imagepleasant, peaceful massage therapist. Nights and weekends, she was a lean, mean, home-improvement machine. Fastforward to the day of the interview where I sat in a beautiful room with lavender walls, chocolate brown accents, and lots of character. Robin modestly admitted that she did the decorating herself with help and input from the girls on staff. And speaking of her staff, Robin was most complimentary of her team.

“Everyone that works here is very good at what they do. Everybody is gifted in some way – touch, artistic style. Everybody. And they love what they do.”

When asked what advice she would give to the Raleigh entrepreneur, Robin’s response was simple, and practical:

“Keep going. Do the right thing. And do it well.”

Robin’s desire to do things “right and well” has brought her this far. And she looks forward to 2013 being the year she can watch her business thrive, with hopefully less construction, renovation, and long commutes to DC.

The services offered are quality, well-priced, and enhanced by the relaxing and friendly atmosphere. I speak from experience. Find the full list and learn more about the team here.

I recommend a visit ASAP to Robin and the girls there. And I also can proudly admit that today, Robin reminded me that when there isn’t happiness in your workplace, you can fix it! I will be visiting Simple Bliss again soon. Maybe for a massage or a hair cut. But mostly for a refreshing reminder of what we can conquer when we set our minds to it.


Couple’s massages are offered in the same room.


Where I had my deep tissue (pain-free) massage









Pedicures in a room with a view


Hair salon. Where the bangs were born.

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