On Turning Forty

This issue marks Charlotte magazine's fortieth anniversary. It was founded in 1968 by a small group of people led by a man named George Morgan. Morgan, whom I've had the pleasure of spending some time with during my thirteen years working here, was trying to convince the chamber of commerce to start a magazine, but it was reluctant to commit the resources. He owned a printing company, so he went ahead and did it on his own, with the chamber's endorsement. He ran it for a decade, during which time he tells me it was rarely more than an expensive hobby. But he and his staff put out a good magazine, had a lot of fun, and came out with some great stories to tell. (If you ever run into him, ask him to tell you the one about John Belk and the gun and the airplane.)

In the 1980s and 1990s, the magazine changed ownership and format a few times as it struggled to grow along with the city. In 1994, a small publishing company, which was buying magazines in midsize markets, bought the title. It decided to rebuild the magazine from the ground up, with the intention of creating a city magazine of which the new Charlotte, which had emerged as a New South dynamo, could be proud. The editor, a talented newspaper vet named Ken Allen, hired me, a young kid with plenty of experience working in a record store, a little bit of experience writing about sports, and zero experience putting out a magazine, as his other editorial staffer. In the fall of 1995, we published our first issue of the new version of Charlotte magazine.

I don't know how we managed it, but we ran some great stories in the late 1990s, stories that, honestly, were ahead of their time. We predicted the furor over Charlotte Rep's Angels in America in a piece headlined "Why Jesse Helms Won't Be at Opening Night." Before the Panthers ever played their first game in Charlotte, we explained that the city might not be big enough for two major sports teams. We wrote about crime and traffic and sprawl and power players and vacations and food. I'm sure we ran plenty of dumb stories, too. But for some reason, I can't seem to think of any right now…

Three years ago, a fine media company called Morris Communications bought us, and they told us to just keep doing what we were doing. Photography- and designwise, the magazine looks better than ever -- at least that's what you keep telling us. We've continued to cover all corners of the city. Circulation, newsstand sales, advertising revenue -- all are at record levels, and we owe all of you a huge thanks for that. And for now, at least, I hope we've achieved that initial goal of publishing a magazine befitting its city.

Not that we're satisfied, of course. There are plenty more stories to tell in this city, and we have big plans for the future. You'll notice that this issue doesn't contain pages and pages celebrating our forty years. We thought about putting together an anniversary package, but then we asked ourselves, Which would you rather read about? Pork? Or us?

Easy answer.

Elsewhere in the issue, we introduce you to a courageous group of Iranian refugees, follow Pat McCrory as he runs for governor, and profile the person charged with bringing Dale Earnhardt Inc. back to glory. We show you scenes of tailgating at the Bank of America 500 and break down artisanal pizza. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed putting it all together.

Coming next month: The Power Issue • Van Miller on Guns • Top Dentists 

Richard Thurmond, editor@charlottemagazine.com