South Carolina health inspectors found a host of violations at restaurants across the Midlands in June, from roaches and flies in kitchens to mold and food being stored on floors.
The state Department of Health and Environmental Control each month releases grades and inspection reports for food establishments across Lexington and Richland counties.
Here are the restaurants that received some of the lowest ratings in June.
Brooklyn Express Pizza and Pasta on Broad River Road in Richland
Brooklyn Express was inspected on June 10 and got a 70% C grade.
An inspector observed an employee handle ready to eat food items with bare hands and an employee not wash hands between points of contamination. Also observed was chicken wings and Italian sausage being thawed at ambient temperature under a hand washing sink.
Sheet pans were seen not adequately washed, rinsed and air-dried before placing on a prep table for use.
Certain foods were seen not being held at proper temperatures.
A required followup inspection was held June 13 and the restaurant got an A grade.
Liberty at the Lake on Marina Road in Richland
Liberty at the Lake was inspected on June 20 and got a 77% C grade.
An inspector observed fly activity throughout the kitchen area. Also observed was waste water running across the floor in the lower bar when the hand sink was used.
Multiple employees were seen handling ready to eat food with bare hands. Dishes with food matter and pans with plastic reside were seen stored as clean. Also, certain foods were not being held at proper temperatures.
A required followup inspection was held on June 28 and the restaurant got an A grade.
US Wings & Deli on Broad River Road in Richland
US Wings & Deli was inspected on June 21 and got a 75% C grade.
An inspector observed roaches and flies in back of the dish line area. Also observed was two bus pans of wings subject to time not discarded from the previous day.
Grease was seen dripping from the hood system to the prep area below. Grease accumulation, encrusted food debris and buildup were seen on equipment and shelving throughout the kitchen areas.
A required followup inspection was held on June 27 and the restaurant received another C grade. Another required followup inspection has not yet been held.
Waffle House on Garners Ferry Road in Richland
Waffle House was inspected on June 21 and got a 75% C grade.
An inspector observed flies at the back of the building and the front of the building. Also observed was expired milk within reach in the cooler at the cook/make line.
An employee was seen cracking eggs, placing raw meat on the griddle without proper hand washing. Also seen was water buildup at the cook line under the counter refrigerator and the dishwasher in poor repair.
A followup inspection was held on June 22 and the restaurant got another C grade. Another required followup inspection has not yet been held.
El Mariachi on Sunset Boulevard in Lexington
El Mariachi was inspected on June 29 and got a 70% C grade.
An inspector observed white, fuzzy growth on squash in the walk-in cooler. Also observed was 14 large containers of food stored directly on the floor in the walk-in cooler.
An employee was observed handling raw fish, then proceeded to touch ready to eat foods. Also seen was corn husks in a pot sitting in the hand sink, along with a vegetable peeler and gloves. Raw meats and shell eggs were stored above salsas in the walk-in cooler.
A required followup inspection has not yet been held.
Tacos Locos & Grill on N 12th Street in Lexington
Tacos Locos was inspected on June 27 and got a 74% C grade.
An inspector observed flies throughout the kitchen and prep areas. Also observed was boxed food and open foods stored on the floor in the walk-in freezer, along with tamale husks stored directly on a dirty surface.
Plates stored and ready to use to serve food were seen with food debris and greasy buildup. White, pink and brown buildup was seen inside the ice machine.
A required followup inspection has not yet been held.
Waffle House on Piney Grove Road in Lexington
Waffle House was inspected on June 14 and got a 76% C grade.
An inspector observed employees not washing hands between points of contamination with glove changes, when switching from handling dirty dishes to clean and between handling raw food and ready to eat food. Also observed was certain foods not being held at proper temperatures. Soiled crates were seen being used to hold clean lids. Also, several cases of product were seen on the floor throughout the back of the building and dry storage area.
A required followup inspection was held on June 22 and the restaurant got an A grade.
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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — According to CEO, Tyrone Garrett, the Wilmington Housing Authority will begin calling the 150 families displaced by mold today, informing them their per diem payments will be cut in half.
“And that’s because we want to be able to maintain it as long as we possibly can,” said Garrett. “And at the rate that we were going, we wouldn’t be able to sustain it for much longer.”
This will effect food and transportation costs, not hotel costs. According to Garrett, hotel costs will still be fully taken on by the WHA and their fund sources.
Garrett says average displaced family of five receives $1,300 each week in per diem just to cover food and transportation.
“There is a uniform relocation act which we follow,” Garrett continued, “which talks about what we are responsible for and have to do. I think someone looked at a different set of numbers and dollar amounts and utilized the wrong concept.”
Garrett says initially, they were using federal funds to cover per diem. But those are considered capital funds, and can’t be used that way.
“Capital dollars have to go into actual capital needs. Actual remediation work or construction work. They can’t be used for soft costs. So the soft costs, such as per diem were being driven and carried by the Housing Authority’s actual budget. Operating budget.”
Garrett says the operating budget covers necessary expenses like contractors, maintenance to units, and utilities. He says left unchecked, per diem would continue to eat into the budget until the Housing Authority could no longer cover these costs.
“We basically to some extent hired 150 employees on a budget for 50,” he explained. “I think it’s better to reduce it and continue it for a period of time versus cutting it out all together because you don’t have the funding in place.”
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Mike Groh sat in the front row of the upper deck that Sunday, wind whipping on a 26-degree December afternoon at Giants Stadium. And Groh, five days shy of his 15th birthday, couldn’t have been happier. With his dad next to him, he admired the football royalty performing on the field — Phil Simms, Harry Carson, Lawrence Taylor, and the rest of the 1986 Giants.
It was the perfect birthday present — a flight from North Carolina to watch his Giants pound the Cardinals, launching them toward their first Super Bowl title; a pregame diner meal near the stadium; and even a game-worn L.T. jersey, courtesy of his dad’s buddy, Bill Parcells.
Thirty-six years later, that jersey hangs in Groh’s office at the Giants’ training facility, across a parking lot from where the old upper deck once stood. As new head coach Brian Daboll’s first wide receivers coach — tasked with molding Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney, who both underachieved last season — Groh is reestablishing his family’s connection with the Giants, a franchise that helped him fall in love with football.
Recently, Groh told his dad something he had never shared.
“He said it was the one team he always hoped he could coach for,” said Al Groh, who coached for the Giants from 1989-91 and with the Jets from 1997-2000.
For Mike Groh, at age 50, this is also the next step in his latest career rebuilding mission, two years after the Eagles awkwardly fired him as offensive coordinator — a moment that resembled Al being forced to fire him at the University of Virginia in 2008. With a Super Bowl ring, three college national titles, and far too many moves around the country, Groh’s coaching life has brought him “the highest of highs and the lowest of lows,” he said.
But now, Groh is starting fresh in a place that feels comfortable, back in New Jersey, where he made high school football history with Randolph in 1990, the same season Al won a Super Bowl as the Giants’ linebackers coach.
Groh taking this job under Daboll “was him coming home” to “where his memories are,” said Kevin Bray, one of Groh’s best friends from Randolph — a group Groh has leaned on through his coaching ups and downs. And if Groh and Daboll win big — with a team that has failed miserably over the past decade — New Jersey will be home again for a while.
Groh has witnessed Giants glory. He was a ball boy in 1990 training camp, back when Bill Belichick talked football with his dad at the kitchen table. A few months later, Groh stood in the Giants’ locker room in Tampa, Fla., after they won the Super Bowl, watching his idols celebrate. That L.T. jersey in his office is more than just a memento. It’s a motivator.
“Those guys were giants — no pun intended — in your mind,” Groh said. “We’re here to get it going in the right direction. I’m excited to be a part of getting back to, really, Giants football. For all the good memories, it feels good to be back [in New Jersey], but hopefully to make some new ones.”
A voice piped up from the back seat.
“I forgot my birdhouse!”
“All right, well, go get it,” Groh told his 8-year-old son, Cort, short for Albert Michael Groh IV.
It was the last day of camp earlier this month in Indianapolis, and Groh was picking up his two kids, Cort and 5-year-old daughter Quinn. The next day, they’d all pile in — Groh; his wife, Elena; the kids; and two dogs — and drive 12 hours to their new home in Summit. Another move for Groh, who coached the Colts’ receivers the past two seasons.
But first, Groh turned around to check out his son’s birdhouse.
“Hey, Cort, that’s awesome, bro!” he said.
Groh loathes the headaches of moving, but he’s gotten used to them, even as all the boxing and unboxing adds more grays to his salt-and-pepper beard. Still, he tries to never look back, even when change stings.
It seemed he had found solid footing in Philadelphia. He joined the Eagles as receivers coach in 2017 and immediately won a ring. When Frank Reich became the Colts’ head coach, Groh took over as coordinator. Though Doug Pederson continued to call plays, the Eagles finished 10th and seventh in Pro Football Focus’ offensive ratings from 2018-19.
Pederson even publicly said Groh would return in 2020. Owner Jeffrey Lurie disagreed — and Groh was gone. If Groh harbors emotions about the firing, he declined to reveal them.
“I think it’s probably best that I just … ” Groh said, pausing for a moment, “keep those feelings to myself at this point.”
Groh’s reunion with Reich in Indianapolis wasn’t as jarring as his firing from Virginia in 2008 — the first time he had to relaunch his career and reprove himself.
After playing quarterback at Virginia and working 2½ years as a stockbroker in Richmond, Va., Groh started coaching in 2000, as a low-level assistant for his dad, then in his lone season as Jets head coach. Groh followed Al to Virginia in 2001 and became offensive coordinator in 2006. But because of state nepotism laws, he reported to athletic director Craig Littlepage, a former Rutgers basketball coach, who forced Al to fire Mike after three uneven seasons.
That father-son conversation still upsets Al, who called it “the worst.”
“It was very hurtful, and that’s because it wasn’t my idea,” he said of the firing. “I think Michael’s career accomplishments from that point have shown the folly of the athletic director’s knowledge of football.”
Groh felt adrift — 37 years old, just married, and wondering what was next.
“I think that was probably the hardest moment from a career standpoint,” he said. “Because I really had only ever worked for my dad in the profession. I didn’t have a lot of contacts. Obviously, it didn’t end well [at Virginia]. Trying to figure out what the next step was from there was certainly a challenge.”
In 2009, he landed at Alabama as a graduate assistant under Nick Saban, who, like Al, comes from the Parcells and Bill Belichick coaching tree — along with Daboll. (Al and Saban spent one season together, 1992, on Belichick’s Browns staff.) As he restarted his career, Groh opened his mind to Saban’s ideas. He still has notebooks full of information he collected that season.
And he still lives by advice Saban gave him about not looking back at mistakes or ahead to aspirations: “Just do a really good job with the job you’ve got — and things usually work out for the best.”
That season in Tuscaloosa also began Groh’s vagabond coaching life. From 2010-16, he worked at Louisville, back at Alabama, and in the NFL with the Bears and Rams, before the Eagles hired him. Since leaving Virginia, he’s made eight stops at seven different places in 14 years.
And Groh started the trend at Alabama — and eventually elsewhere — of an established coach taking a low-level job at a big-time program to rehabilitate his career.
“I really was a trailblazer in the way that coaching staffs are put together in college football,” he said.
He won three national titles in three seasons at Alabama. (He was receivers coach/recruiting coordinator from 2011-12.) After the first championship, in that rehab year, he flashed back to his dad bringing him onto the field when the 1990 Giants won the Super Bowl.
As Groh soaked in Alabama’s celebration at the Rose Bowl, he stood with his dad, wife, and mom, Anne. Then he turned to Al.
“Dad, remember the Super Bowl?” Groh said. “Well, now I paid you back.”
The night before the biggest game of Groh’s life, he sat in the den at home with his dad.
“Before you go to sleep, think about how you’re going to be prepared if you have to throw one or kick one to win it at the end,” Al told him.
“Dad, I’d rather be throwing it than kicking it,” Mike replied.
“I’m sure you would,” Al said. “But it might go either way. Just be ready for whatever comes up.”
The next day — Dec. 1, 1990 — Groh and Randolph would face Montclair in the state championship, while trying to set a state record with a 49th straight win and playing for the memory of head coach John Bauer Sr., who died two weeks earlier.
Groh, a senior quarterback and kicker, rarely had to attempt field goals because Randolph’s offense was so prolific. But before boarding the bus to Montclair that Saturday morning, Groh sneaked in a few extra practice field goals.
“Weird,” thought Bray, a right tackle and linebacker.
Meanwhile, Al was at Giants headquarters, prepared to miss the game. The Giants were playing in San Francisco that Monday night and had a Saturday flight to catch. But Belichick surprised Groh by arranging for a police car to bring him from Giants Stadium to Montclair, so he could catch some of the game. He watched from one end zone, under the goal posts.
When Al had to leave for Newark Airport, Montclair was leading and driving. He got on the plane feeling anxious. Somewhere over Utah, he picked up the seat-back phone and used his credit card to call home. Anne answered.
“You just need to talk to Michael,” she said, declining to reveal more.
He was at a teammate’s house, she said. Al tried him there. The phone rang. Al’s mind raced.
“Dad, remember what you told me last night?” Mike said when Al finally reached him.
“Yeah, Mike, what happened?” Al said.
“I kicked one on the last play of the game to win it,” Mike replied.
Al — who still gets goosebumps every time he tells this story — shouted with joy on the plane. Giants players who overheard the call erupted in cheers for one of their favorite ball boys. Mike’s 37-yard field goal as time expired gave Randolph a 22-21 win — and made him a New Jersey high school football legend.
That iconic game and the Giants’ Super Bowl victory also forever made North Jersey a joyous place for Groh — finally, somewhere he could call home.
He never truly had that before 1989, when he arrived in Randolph. Growing up, he moved around the country as his dad changed jobs — Virginia, North Carolina, Air Force (under Parcells), Texas Tech, Wake Forest, the Falcons, and South Carolina. Randolph was Groh’s third high school. He arrived as a junior, fresh off a South Carolina state championship.
He told Bray, one of his new neighbors in Randolph, how hard all the moving was. But as it turned out, Randolph gave him just what he needed.
“In Randolph, football was a big deal,” Bray said. “That’s kind of the language that we all spoke.”
Groh dove into Randolph’s grueling summer workouts, even exposing teammates to country music on the locker room stereo — a holdover from his time in the South. Groh gained teammates’ respect by showing up every day in the summer for 6½ hours of lifting weights and learning plays in Randolph’s complex, passing-focused offense. At night, he and his new friends hit the Pizza Palace on Sussex Turnpike to make that evening’s plans over slices.
“He fit in on Day 1,” said Mike Lyons, a Randolph assistant coach since 1987. “Just what we were looking for.”
So even as Groh’s coaching career dragged him around America, he carried Randolph with him, along with that game-worn L.T. jersey. He stayed in touch with friends like Bray and Darren Tappen, a basketball teammate, inviting them to Alabama’s national title games and the Eagles’ Super Bowl. He never got rid of his Randolph helmet or jersey. He kept a tape of the “Miracle at Montclair” game and a framed photo of him leaping to celebrate the winning field goal.
“It’s kind of a grounding thing,” Tappen said of Groh’s continued connections to Randolph. “I think it’s very important. It’s the one thing he knows that he can get.”
Groh was a clean-shaven high school kid in the summer of 1990, when he worked Giants training camp as Belichick’s ball boy.
He threw passes to defensive backs during drills. He got players’ cars washed, cleaned their lockers, and carried their pads off the field. From across practice, Al admired how easily his son — growing into his own man — interacted with the players.
And while Groh said coaching Giants practices now doesn’t feel like “a déjà vu moment for me,” he still retains all those memories and indelible images from 1990.
Now, at age 50 — though he doesn’t feel it — he is secure in his accomplishments, despite the bumps. His three Alabama rings alone are “more than most coaches can say they ever got to be a part of,” he said.
But he’s not done, as he prepares to mold one of the 2022 Giants’ most intriguing position groups, in a critical bounce-back season for Golladay and Toney. Groh hopes to mimic the transformational results he got last season from Colts receiver Michael Pittman Jr., who had 1,082 yards and six touchdowns — more than double his production as the 34th overall draft pick in 2020.
“I feel like I’ve got a lot of good years left — hopefully the best years professionally and personally,” Groh said.
But first, Camp Daddy — which is what Groh calls this stretch before Giants camp begins in late July. Elena got a job working on the business side of the fashion industry in Manhattan, so Groh is watching his two kids.
They’ll explore Summit and visit his parents — Poppy and Gigi, as they’re now called — at their retirement home in Hingham, Mass., not far from where Mike’s younger brother, Matt, is chasing his third Super Bowl ring in his debut season as Belichick’s director of player personnel.
They’ll also make the 30-minute drive out to Randolph — where Groh plans to catch a football game this season — and stop by the Pizza Palace. It’s a regular trip when Groh is in town, to visit with Vito Donato, whose family has owned the restaurant for 51 years.
“You see him come through the door, and you want to give him a big hug and say, ‘Welcome home,’” said Donato, who was a year behind Groh at Randolph High.
Some of Groh’s Randolph buddies have moved away — Tappen lives in Arizona, Bray in Connecticut — but in the summer, they always reunite at a beach house in tiny Gearhart, Ore., for golfing, sturgeon fishing, and bonfires. Blissfully, cell phone service is spotty.
“It’s refreshing to get out there, kind of off the grid,” Groh said.
Then it’s back to New Jersey, to his family, to a dream job that he hopes can keep them all here longer than two years this time. When he landed this job, he pulled up a group text thread of his Randolph friends. He wanted to let them know he was coming home.
And he knew just how to do it, with another indelible image. Instead of writing anything in his message, Groh just texted a photo — of a Giants helmet.
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WATCH: FOX13 Investigates moldy apartments & what you can do WATCH: FOX13 Investigates moldy apartments & what you can do
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Mold can be found in any apartment or home in our community.
But some renters told FOX13 that even when they call their leasing office about the issues, nothing is done to fix them.
And some are so desperate that they take matters into their own hands.
Vanisha Johnson told us she’s been in her apartment for more than two years.
“I have breathing problems,” Johnson said. “My daughter has sickle cell. I have lupus.”
She said that despite the treatment, she’s been living with mold every day.
“Since I been here. They will come in here and try to spray it down. They have a new company come in every three weeks to a month, so you have to re-explain yourself. They spray it with bleach, and that will be all,” Johnson said.
It’s not just bleach.
Johnson said maintenance has also simply tried to paint over the mold.
“It was just a big hole right here. It was mold growing around the whole tub,” Johnson said.
After one complaint to code enforcement, her complex cut that area around her bathtub out and replaced it with new sheetrock.
But she said even now, she’s worried the mold will come back.
“There is never a real solution. Code Enforcement advises me to file a lawsuit against them because, with my daughter’s health, it was not good for her health,” Johnson said.
When someone like Johnson complains about moldy apartments, they reach out to Memphis Code Enforcement.
They’ll investigate and issue citations which turn into fines if the problems aren’t fixed.
Public Works Director Robert Knecht told us moldy apartments are a common complaint.
“The real challenge regarding mold is that there is no standard to mitigate mold in and of itself. What we do try to mitigate is the causation of mold. It may be an excess of water either through plumbing or leaks,” Knecht said.
Knecht said there are ways to get rid of mold.
“There are ways to mitigate mold and mildew. Depends on the surface and the location of it,” Knecht said.
It all depends on what ‘type’ of mold is infecting your home, and there are nine different types.
If there’s mold in the drywall, it’s ruined by wetness, and experts suggest cutting that section out and replacing it, as they did in Johnson’s home.
Mold also loves wooden surfaces around your windowsills, flooring, wall framing, and furniture.
Knecht recommends drying surfaces, using bleach, and scrubbing in areas where mold grows.
If all else fails, Mid-South lawyers suggest taking the person who owns the property to court.
Attorney Walter Bailey said you might have to resort to legal action and report the mold to other departments beyond code enforcement.
“The most effective method would be to log your complaints and report it to the health department if you don’t get any quick relief,” Bailey said.
If your home is uninhabitable, a lawsuit is a bigger possibility, especially if someone’s health is in jeopardy.
According to the Tennessee Department of Health, renters should give a written request to the landlord for repairs that are needed and keep a copy for their records.
It is not recommended that you stop paying rent. Report the issue to the Department of Health and then file a report with the Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs.
When it comes to mold, you don’t want to take any chances — especially if you suspect a mold outbreak within your home. Part of the difficulty in identifying and ultimately doing away with mold is understanding where it’s coming from since it can live and travel through vents, into walls and in other hard-to-reach areas.
While it can be intimidating to decide which mold test kit to go with, the Mold Inspection Network DIY Mold Test Kit is a solid choice for at-home testing.
What to know before you buy a mold test kit
Types of mold test kits
The best mold test kit is the one that best suits your needs — leaving a wide range of options. Typically, mold test kits come in a few different common varieties: a tape or surface strip test; a visual swab sample test for clearly damp or moldy areas; chemical strips that can help identify certain types of mold; or a petri dish plate collection.
Mold test kit sample type
Depending on your budget, time constraints and other needs, it’s important to consider which mold test kit is best for your particular circumstances, whether this means an at-home test, a lab results test, an air-quality professional or a combination of all three. In general, mold test kits tend to fall into three categories when it comes to sample types, including air check tests, instant chemical tests and settling plate tests, which use the aforementioned petri dish model to collect samples.
Lab vs. no-lab mold test kits
Another important factor to consider when buying a mold test kit is whether or not you want to send your sample into a lab for results. While this can help confirm or identify the presence of a larger number of mold types than a typical at-home-only test may be able to, it also may take a longer period of time to await results, and it often includes extra fees.
What to look for in a quality mold test kit
Number of identifiable mold types
Tthe best mold test kits will identify the widest range of mold types, making this the most important factor to consider when choosing between different mold kits. Some buyers have found that certain mold test kits do not identify the specific type of mold in their home or space, and they either had to await secondary lab results or have the space tested by an air-quality professional. In either case, this can usually be avoided by spending a little extra to buy a test kit that covers a higher number of identifiable mold types.
Preferred mold test kit type
Different mold test kit types feature varying levels of reliability, so it’s basically up to the user to choose those that are more accurate than others. While an air-check mold test kit is typically the most reliable, it also tends to be the most expensive type of at-home mold test. Others, like chemical strips and swabs, tend to be a little less reliable, so they often include the aid of a lab results program.
How long results take
If you’re on a time crunch, you may not have time to wait for lab results or at-home results that need to incubate in a petri dish. Instead, it may be best to either hire a professional or to purchase a mold test kit that includes instant or fairly swift results.
How much you can expect to spend on a mold test kit
Those on a serious budget can find mold test kits for as cheap as $9; others may range between $10-$100 and sometimes more if you decide to hire an air-quality expert.
Mold test kit FAQ
Are mold test kits good for testing after repairs are made?
A. Yes. In fact, many professionals recommend following up mold repairs with a cheap mold test every so often to ensure the problem hasn’t come back. If the results come back positive after repairs, it may be a good idea to reach out to the person that made the repairs or another professional who can help you identify the mold.
Do mold test kits work?
A. In most cases, mold test kits do work. However, it is important to assess just what your needs are when dealing with potentially moldy areas and to make sure you get a test kit that will identify the type of mold you think you may have.
What’s the best mold test kit to buy?
Top mold test kit
Mold Inspection Network DIY Mold Test Kit With Lab Analysis and Expert Consultation
What you need to know: This kit has three separate surface mold tests included and an easy-to-follow instruction booklet and start guide. Lab results are included with the price of the kit.
What you’ll love: This mold test kit tests for a wide range of mold types, and lab results don’t take long to be returned. Buyers can also call the company to ask questions during the process.
What you should consider: Buyers must pay their own shipping costs when sending strips into the lab.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top mold test kit for the money
Mold Armor FG500 Do It Yourself Mold Test Kit
What you need to know: This mold test kit comes at an excellent price point and can be purchased in two, three or four packs for those who want to stock up.
What you’ll love: With three different mold test types, including an indoor air quality test, an A/C sampling test and a surface strip test kit, Mold Armor takes just 48 hours to detect a number of mold types. This mold test kit also includes a lab for results verification.
What you should consider: It costs extra to use the lab results feature, although it’s more accurate and easier to understand than the at-home testing methods.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
Healthful Home 5-Minute At-Home Mold Test Kit
What you need to know: For those who don’t want to involve a mold lab, this five-minute mold test kit can test for up to 32 mold types.
What you’ll love: Many users didn’t want to have to wait for lab results to be returned via mail, so this mold test kit fills an important need for those who want to be able to test from home. This mold test kit also comes at a good price point.
What you should consider: Some buyers later found mold types that weren’t covered in this test kit.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Charleston, South Carolina, June 16, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — It’s amazing what can result from a small flash of inspiration. For Nicole Birnbaum, a rising senior at the College of Charleston who’s majoring in communication, such a moment took place early in her freshman year. It was an epiphany that led to the creation of a successful commercial venture – FlipRings – and to her winning Student Entrepreneur of the Year for 2021-22.
Back in the fall of 2019, when the College was shuttered due to Hurricane Dorian, Birnbaum spent that week at home in New Jersey with her parents. Her father happened to have a black silicone ring that he used in place of his wedding band when working out or doing other activities. The younger Birnbaum wondered if rings like that were available in a range of colors.
“I found myself playing with that thing,” she recalls, “because silicone is stretchy and it’s just fun to play with. That made me wonder if I could find the same product available in other colors. I went online, but couldn’t find anything like that. At least it didn’t appear that anyone was making and marketing such products to people my age. So, I started thinking, ‘What if you could just have a ring with some fun, expressive words on it, kind of like those bracelets that used to be so popular a few years ago?’ That’s where it all started.”
When Birnbaum refers to “it all,” she’s being more than modest. Launched in the winter of 2020, her venture steadily gained popularity after the first models appeared. By the end of 2021, FlipRings had exceeded $500,000 in gross sales.
“Our first model had the word ‘coffee’ engraved on the outside and ‘tequila’ on the inside,” she explains. “Flip rings, right? You can reverse them inside or out. I love graphic design and designing things in general, so at that stage, I was just playing around. Eventually, I found a supplier and ordered some samples. I showed those to the women who were my roommates, but I didn’t tell them that I had created these things. They instantly loved the concept, and it just took off after that. The photos of them wearing the rings were the first elements of our marketing collateral for FlipRings.”
Birnbaum, who partnered with her dad to get FlipRings off the ground, has made effective use of social media – primarily Instagram – to promote the rings. She now has over 36,000 followers on that platform and some 30-plus student ambassadors at universities across the U.S. And all the while, she’s managed to keep a low profile.
“Initially, I wanted to create a kind of community around FlipRings,” she says, “and I wanted to get it out there that the person behind this was 19. But I didn’t really want people to know that it was me. So, I worked to make our Instagram presence personal and interactive. I think that was the right formula because we’re still doing really well with sales. And most of that is because our outreach speaks in the right tone to people my age. Essentially, what we’re offering is about self-expression and having fun, and I think that resonates.”
Just as FlipRings was getting off the ground, Birnbaum set up an account with the e-commerce platform Shopify.
“That’s right when a lot of people were spending a tremendous amount of time on the web because of the COVID-19 lockdown,” she explains. “The timing really helped a lot because the business just exploded at that point. I also think it’s important that my company puts a big emphasis on empowerment and moods. The whole idea is to help people show that moods change all the time, and that’s OK. FlipRings help people express themselves through an accessory.”
Last fall, to augment her business skills and pursue a minor in entrepreneurship, Birnbaum enrolled in the CofC course Introduction to Entrepreneurship. Over the initial weeks of that class, she grew to know the professor – David Wyman – fairly well. It was Wyman who recommended she enter the College’s Student Entrepreneur of the Year competition.
“I really wasn’t interested,” she recalls. “When he told me that I’d have to make a presentation in front of the judges and about 60 other people, I knew I didn’t want to do it. I have anxiety around public speaking, but Dr. Wyman insisted. He said the experience would be good for me. And, he was right. I learned that I can’t be nervous. I mean, FlipRings is my business and I know it thoroughly, so I just had to speak about it in a way that connected with the judges and the audience.”
Ultimately, Birnbaum’s presentation prevailed and she won top honors in that annual competition, walking away with the $1,000 prize. But more valuable to her are the lessons she learned and the connections she made in the process.
“I’ve learned a lot by running my own business and finding ways to promote it,” she says. “The contest was another aspect of that learning journey. And I’ve learned that there are lot of students at the College who are running small businesses. In fact, along with Billy Barlia and Oliva DeSisto (two other students in the Introduction to Entrepreneurship course), we’ve started a new club to support and encourage this – the Founders Club. We’ve only been active since January, but we’ve got about 15 members and everyone seems keen to keep it going next year.”
In the interim, Birnbaum will spend the summer dividing her time between Charleston and her home in New Jersey. She’ll continue to manage FlipRings, but says she doesn’t want to focus solely on that.
“I’ll also be doing a remote internship this summer,” she offers. “It’s a creative consulting role with an advertising agency based in California. I’ll help them with designs for events and ads for clients, doing things like picking color schemes and helping orchestrate events.”
And, what about her future as an entrepreneur?
“I don’t really have a plan,” Birnbaum says. “I don’t know if that’s good or bad; I’m just enjoying the moment. I’m expanding to other products. We’re now doing skull caps or flip beanies for winter and flip bucket hats for summer. But my business is so new. It’s only been two years, and I just want to see where it can go. I can do whatever I want with this enterprise, and that’s what I love about it.”
College of CharlestonCollege of Charleston
Mike Robertson College of Charleston 8439535667 email@example.com
Excess moisture and standing water contribute to the growth of mold in homes and other buildings.
Steps can be taken to prevent mold growth if wet items are cleaned and dried within 24 to 48 hours. Make sure you only enter your home once it is safe.
Signs of Mold:
Mold can be recognized by sight or smell or present no signs at all (hidden behind walls or under floors)
Sight (Mold growth often appears on walls and ceilings, looks like spots and can be many different colors)
Smell (You may smell a strong unpleasant musty, earthy odor)
People at Greatest Risk for Health Effects from Mold:
If you are allergic to mold, or you have asthma, allergies, or other breathing conditions, being around mold may make your condition worse.
If you have a chronic lung condition or a weak immune system (such as people with HIV infection, cancer patients taking chemotherapy, and people who have received an organ transplant), you could be more susceptible to mold infections in your lungs.
Possible Health Effects of Mold Exposure:
People who are sensitive to mold may have a stuffy nose, irritated eyes, wheezing, or skin irritation.
People who are allergic to mold may have difficulty breathing or have shortness of breath.
People with weakened immune systems or chronic lung diseases may develop mold infections in their lungs.
Cleaning Wet or Moldy Items after a Severe Weather Event:
When your home is safe to enter, dry out your home as quickly as possible to minimize mold problems and perhaps even prevent the growth of mold at all.
Water damage specialists or mold remediation companies have experience with cleanups of flooded homes and can provide you the peace of mind of knowing mold problems will be properly taken care of. At a minimum, a maintenance or service professional that is experienced in mold clean up should check and clean your home heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) system before you turn it on. If the HVAC system was flooded with water, turning on the system may spread mold throughout the house.
If you choose to perform clean up yourself, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers the following information:
To protect yourself from potential exposure to mold, buy an N-95 or N-100 mask at your local home supply store and wear it while cleaning your home (an ordinary dust mask or handkerchief will not protect you from the mold)
Hard-surfaced, non-porous items which do not absorb water can be cleaned using soap and water and disinfected with a bleach solution of no more than 1/2 cup of bleach in 1 gallon of water. (Never mix bleach with other household cleaners. Mixing bleach and ammonia can produce dangerous toxic fumes ). Nonporous materials include tile floors, countertops, showers, tubs, metal objects, plastic, glass, and other hard nonabsorbent materials and surfaces.
Porous materials soak up water like a sponge. Items that cannot be dried thoroughly within 24-48 hours of getting wet are much more difficult to disinfect and may need to be replaced to prevent mold growth. Porous items include wood, drywall, carpet, mattresses, fabrics, and furniture made of particle board.
Ensure that wood studs are completely dry prior to re-installing wallboard. If the wood is not completely dry, more mold can start growing behind the new wallboard.
Use plastic to shield areas adjacent to where you are working so that spores disturbed by the clean-up don’t become reattached to a new substrate and grow. This includes sealing off nearby HVAC ducts, which often have sources of moisture and food for spores to grow.
MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCSC) – What should have been a new chapter in their lives has turned into a nightmare for some Mount Pleasant homeowners. Mold, ventilation problems and structural issues are just some of the complaints listed in lawsuits filed against the builder and HVAC contractor.
The Midtown Townhomes by Lennar are one of the newer builds in Mount Pleasant. It’s located off of Hungry Neck Boulevard and they’re listed as luxury townhomes. From the outside, many would think it’s true but neighbors say things have gone wrong.
“I started looking around, I mean opening closets, and I was just like ‘Oh my God,’” Kim Conway, who bought her townhome in 2020, says.
Conway says she was gone last summer for about six weeks. But when she came back, there was mold on every floor.
“My furniture, my bed, my mattress… everything was damp when I came home,” Conway says. “Like my sheets were wet. Everything was wet. And I lived in here for four days like this. And my furniture, these chairs… they had to come in and clean every piece of furniture. Everything. There was nothing left in this house.”
Conway says she had to move into a hotel while Lennar cleaned it up. According to documents from her attorney, it cost about $14,000.
She’s not the only one dealing with issues.
“I need to have the air conditioner work properly so that there’s not too much humidity in the house and it won’t blow constantly,” Karen Tinsley, who bought her townhome in 2021, says. “I think the unit is not the correct type of unit. I have a sink in the kitchen that’s cracked from the factory. I have a water heater that I’ve replaced because the plumber said that it was too small for my unit.”
Tinsley says she’s had problems since day one.
“My oven didn’t work properly. I have a gas stove and it was flickering so they had to go in the attic and make a bigger line for that. And I’ve had cracking of brick on the outside. There’s all kinds of wall problems upstairs. I have a bowed out floorboard and someone came in and said, ‘well we’re going to have to take out the wall because the plate and the wall isn’t attached to the sheetrock.’ So that means they’re going to have to come in and tear out the wall and fix that.
Tinsley says of the laundry list of items she has sent to Lennar to fix only about 25 percent has been done. And she’s wary if they’re actually done correctly. She says the most concerning thing to her, though, is the cracking bricks.
“I have these dreams where that my entire house is falling down from the outside and everything inside is all going to just fall down,” Tinsley says. “It’s like how scary is that? That’s what I’m stressed out about.”
All in all – neighbors just want their new homes fixed and for Lennar and the other companies to own up to the problems. That’s why they filed the lawsuits.
As of Thursday, the lawsuit against the HVAC company, Fogel Services, is pending in Charleston County. A federal court dismissed the lawsuit against Lennar for procedural reasons, but a motion for reconsideration of that dismissal is currently pending. Neither company has responded for a request for comment as of Thursday.
“I think Lennar should accept what they’ve done and they know they’ve messed up these buildings,” Conway adds. “They should fix them. They should be responsible and just fix them. And learn how to build.”
They’re also offering some advice to home buyers.
“I would say don’t rush into buying anything get an inspector,” Tinsley says. “Maybe get two inspectors. Get some advice from other people to go in and look at the history of the place. Don’t rush into a brand new construction because they’re taking shortcuts these days to sell.”
This isn’t the first lawsuit against Lennar. There are more than a dozen listed in Charleston County alone listed on the court’s website dating back more than a decade alleging similar problems.