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All A.J. Wright Stores Closing By February

NEW YORK (AP) -- TJX Cos. says it is shuttering its A.J. Wright discount stores by mid-February, cutting 4,400 jobs and converting some stores to other brands such as T.J. Maxx.

Ninety-one stores will be converted into T.J. Maxx, Marshalls or HomeGoods stores, and 71 will close entirely, along with two distribution centers. About 3,400 staffers will remain employed at the converted stores.

In Metro Atlanta, A.J. Wright will permanently close two locations: Decatur and Stone Mountain. Five other Metro Atlanta stores will re-open under names.

TJX said the move allows the company, based in Framingham, Mass., to focus on its more profitable businesses. Most positions are part time.

"All associates will have the opportunity to be compensated through the holiday season, and about half of the positions will be retained through late January," CEO Carol Meyrowitz said.

Retail Stores Hoping for Online Push of Shoppers

DORAVILLE, GA -- The day after Thanksgiving is traditionally the start of the busy holiday shopping season. But many people got a jump on that by hitting the stores Thursday or going online.

Ironically, retailers are now using the popularity of internet shopping to try and get customers back into the stores. Indeed, in many ways this year, Black Friday isn't waiting till Friday.

Major stores opened Thanksgiving Day to give themselves a drum leg up on the bottom line.

"I do my shopping first, get my sales, then you go eat; then you rest up for 5 o'clock," said Lorraine Grant, as she went from aisle to aisle at Kmart in Doraville.

Many shoppers were like her, preferring to go against the grain and avoid the crush at the cash register.

"Jewelry, lots of jewelry deals," mused shopper Josanne Heath. "Not a lot of people are out here, so there are not a lot of crowds to deal with."

Former Pro Makes It All the Way Home

ATLANTA -- Former pro Heath Honeycutt had some healing to do before returning to the sport he loves.

"It took me a long time to get back into baseball," Honeycutt said. "I was very dejected and upset that I did not really leave on my terms."

The Georgia Tech alum now lives and breathes baseball as owner of Ninth Inning Baseball in Chamblee, where he trains the next generation of athletes.

"I love every second of it," he said. "I love to see the guys with the same love and excitement in their attitude that I had when I was playing."

Honeycutt played for the Chattahoochee High School Cougars in Alpharetta and then went on to Tech, where he was the only player to start every game in 1998. He was named the Yellow Jackets MVP.

Make Your Own Rain Barrel

Collecting rainwater in rain barrels for use during dry months is an excellent way to conserve water and reduce water bills and the DeKalb County Department of Watershed Management (DWM) will host a Rain Barrel workshop for DeKalb citizens on Saturday, Sept. 25 at the Tucker Recreation Center (4898 Lavista Road in Tucker).

DeKalb Commission Kills GM Plant Development Deal

DEKALB COUNTY, GA -- One of Metro Atlanta's largest economic ghost towns will probably remain a ghost town for the foreseeable future.

The 165-acre General Motors auto plant site that sits off Interstate 285 on Atlanta's north side has sat vacant for two years.

After seven months of intense negotiations among Florida developers, GM, the UAW and various local governments, a joint public-private partnership to turn the industrial wasteland into a new Doraville town center fell apart Tuesday.

DeKalb County Commissioners killed the $60 million mixed-use retail, office and residential deal by a five-to-two vote.

"You are doing all of us a disservice," community activist Viola Davis told the board during a public hearing on the proposal.

She and others accused DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis, Doraville city leaders and the developers of putting together the deal largely behind closed doors.

Georgia DOT announces I-85 express lane construction information session

LAWRENCEVILLE, GA. – The Georgia Department of Transportation will hold a construction information session on the I-85 Express Lane Project on Sept. 1 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Gwinnett Civic Center. The project to convert 16 miles of HOV lanes to HOT lanes will offer more choices to all motorists, including single occupant vehicles and more reliable trip times in the corridor.

"This is the first project of its kind in Georgia," said DOT Commissioner Vance C. Smith, Jr. "With construction expected to begin in mid-September, it is extremely important that motorists understand how changes along the interstate will impact their commutes."

GM Doraville Plan Killed By DeKalb Board

DECATUR, GA -- The DeKalb County Board of Commissioners voted 5-2 to kill New Broad Street Companies' deal to acquire and redevelop the former General Motors plant on 165 acres in Doraville.

DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis lamented the $110 million project would have created 9,000 jobs and pumped $360 million in wages back into the local economy.

Ellis called Tuesday's defeat a "lost opportunity" but said "all hope is not lost." He will try to work with the board to pursue other ideas for the site.