Cherie Berry put her picture in every North Carolina elevator. Here’s how that affected her reelection.

April 14, 2016

It’s hardly surprising when an incumbent uses political advertising to raise his or her reelection prospects. But here’s what is surprising: a claim that advertising in elevators delivered this lift. And yet that’s exactly how North Carolina Commissioner of Labor Cherie Berry may have brought her electoral prospects to new heights.

Berry’s the commissioner of North Carolina’s Department of Labor, which oversees the Elevator and Amusement Device Bureau. The Bureau conducts semiannual inspections of the state’s elevators, escalators and so forth. Berry was first elected labor commissioner in 2000; she won reelection in 2004. And in 2005 she put in place a rule that every elevator in the state must include placards adorned with her — or rather, the labor commissioner’s — picture.

Do Berry’s elevator pictures count as free political advertising?

Those elevator pictures have made Berry a niche celebrity in North Carolina. She’s had several songs written about her. There’s a parody Twitter account with the handle @ElevatorQueen. Berry has reveled in her fame. In fact, her 2012 reelection campaign included a television advertisement in which her elevator picture did the narration.

In an article in the May edition of the journal American Politics Research, my co-author Neil Weinberg and I tested the idea that these picture-adorned placards are a novel form of political advertising and have enabled Berry to ride the ups and downs of electoral politics. Other incumbents have advertised in similar ways — for instance, putting their names on state driver licenses. But Berry’s example includes publicly available data.

Political scientist David Mayhew’s famously defined political advertising as “any effort to disseminate one’s name among constituents in such a fashion as to create a favorable image but in messages having little or no issue content.” If Berry’s pictures fall in this category, improving her name recognition and bringing in more votes, she should get the biggest lift in counties with the highest concentration of elevators.

If so, her votes in these counties should be going up

Berry is a conservative Republican from rural Catawba County who has advocated abolishing the minimum wage. You would expect her vote totals to go down in urban counties like Wake (which contains Raleigh) and Mecklenburg (which includes Charlotte), as well as counties with large universities, like Orange (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) and Watauga (Appalachian State) — unless the elevator pictures were to bring her totals up.

Here’s how we tested this and what we found. We used statistical models to compare Berry’s performance at the county level in 2008 and 2012 (the two elections after the installation of the pictures on elevator inspection placards) to her own previous vote percentages, as well as to the average county-level percentage received by other Republicans running for comparable statewide offices, part of the North Carolina Council of State.

And sure enough, elevators brought up Berry’s election results.

2008 results. In 2008, Berry’s net change in vote percentage from her own previous tallies is positively associated with the number of elevators per 1,000 people in a given county.

In other words, Berry’s performance went up most in those counties with a high concentration of elevators.

However, we found that the concentration of elevators in a given county did not predict Berry’s performance compared to other Republicans running for state office in 2008. We use the analogy of a runner who is in the midst of training to reconcile these apparently contradictory results. That runner might improve on her own previous performances, but still not beat the rest of the field.

2012 results. These results aren’t as ambiguous. Once again, Berry brought up her total of the vote in counties with a higher concentration of elevators. But this time, Berry performs better than other Republicans running for statewide offices in counties with a higher concentration of elevators per 1,000 people.AD

What should we take away from this study?

As political scientists have long thought, political advertisements can affect elections — even in the most unorthodox forms. With this kind of advertising, incumbents don’t have to spend campaign funds — but they still come out of the election at a higher floor than when they began.

If they do learn from Berry’s elevator pictures, they may realize that such advertising can help when they try to rise to higher political office. In a May 2013 poll, Berry performed strongest of all Republicans tested against then-Senator Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) for the U.S. Senate seat Hagan was vacating in 2014. While Berry didn’t run for Senate, her picture in North Carolina elevators continue to bring up her political prospects as she seeks a fifth term as labor commissioner in 2016.

Jacob Smith is a PhD candidate at UNC in Chapel Hill where he studies Congress, elections and public policy.


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Staying Safe & Healthy During COVID-19 Outbreak

Though we often take them for granted, elevators are an essential mode of transport for people who have difficulty climbing stairs or need to travel many floors, especially in critical settings where time is often of the essence.  If you need to use an elevator in a hospital or residential or office building during this unusual time, it is important to take precautions because you will likely be in closer than recommended quarters with another person as you ride.  We urge you to follow these tips for elevator use if you must be out and about during the COVID-19 pandemic:

Avoid crowded elevators
If the elevator is full or even just has more than one passenger, consider waiting for the next one. If you do not absolutely need to use an elevator to go up or down in the building, consider taking the stairs instead. It’s best only to use an elevator alone or with one other passenger while we are experiencing COVID-19, which is transmitted through respiratory droplets in the air.

Avoid direct hand contact with buttons
Try to avoid touching the floor buttons with your bare fingers.  If possible, wear gloves or use the end of a pen or pencil to push the button.  If you do need to touch the button directly, be sure to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer as soon as possible after exiting the elevator.

Practice social distancing
If you are in an elevator with other people, try to stand as far from them as possible. If you find yourself in a crowd, you might want to get off at the next floor and wait for the next elevator.  If you must cough or sneeze, turn away from others and cover your mouth and nose.

Be vigilant
Stay home when possible and only put yourself in public situations when necessary. Ensure that you always wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after being out in public. Respect others’ desire to practice social distancing and use the 6 feet rule. Try not to touch your face or eyes at any time, and of course, if you feel any symptoms, contact your physician or local health department.


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Debunking Common Myths about Stairlifts

We recently installed a stairlift for a client in the Charlotte area who took a tumble down the stairs. Though both he and his wife are in their eighties, they are quite mobile and never considered that they might need the increased accessibility that comes with a stairlift. After he recovered from his fall, they decided to install a stairlift to help avoid any further spills or injuries.  Now it’s there if they need it, and they can remain safely mobile in their home for years to come.

Liftavator installed Stairlift in the Charlotte, NC area.

Over the years we have installed hundreds of stairlifts and have heard many myths about the realities of installing, maintaining and owning them. Here, we are going to confront five of those myths head on and show you that having a stairlift in your home is a viable option to having greater accessibility and mobility and can allow you to stay in your home long after you may not be able to use the stairs.

Myth #1: If you are young and mobile and have no problems maneuvering the stairs, you do not need a stairlift.

Fact: It is a fact of life that pain or mobility issues can affect anyone at any time. A stairlift provides mobility and restores accessibility to the whole house and the outdoors.

A stairlift essentially puts your home all on one level, eliminating the need to walk up and down the stairs. Installing one adds an immediate, positive impact on your quality of life, as it leads to greater comfort and safety in your home.  So no matter your age, you can benefit from installing a stairlift in your home.

Myth #2: A stairlift is an expensive and unwise investment.

Fact: A stairlift might be a very smart investment when it comes to safety and mobility in your home. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four Americans aged 65+ falls every year, and of course, one of the most common places to fall is on the stairs. Having and using a stairlift greatly reduces the risk of falling on the stairs.  In addition, if you live in a retirement area, having a stairlift in your home can make it attractive to buyers should you ever need to sell.

That said, the cost of a stairlift can vary depending on the needs of the customer and the orientation of the staircase. They are available for all types of stairways, from one straight flight to several curving ones, starting at under $5,000. To receive exact pricing, contact us to schedule a free in-home evaluation so that we can determine the dimensions of the stairlift.

Myth #3: A stairlift utilizes the entire area of a staircase so other members of the household cannot use the stairs.

FACT: In most homes, staircases have more than enough room for a stairlift to be installed. Additionally, after installation, there will still be room for others to use the stairs by foot if necessary. The chair’s arms, seat, and footrest can be folded out of the way at the top and bottom landing of the staircase, thus creating room for foot traffic on the stairs.

Myth #4:  The installation of a stairlift is a lengthy process that permanently damages the area around the staircase once the stairlift is removed.

Fact: Actually, a new straight stairlift installation can be completed in two to three hours, and the installation does not impact the stairway wall at all because the stairlift’s rail is mounted on the stairs, not on the wall. Assuming an adjacent outlet is available, no electrical lines need to be run. A curved stairlift can be completed in one day in most cases, and the case is the same regarding the electrical access.

Myth #5: Stairlifts operate using only electricity.

FACT: Many homeowners assume that stairlifts operate solely on electricity, but that is not the case. The lift itself runs on a battery and only needs electrical outlets at the bottom or top of the stairs to keep it charged when not in use. Because it runs on a battery, you will still be able to use your stairlift in case of a power outage.  There is no danger of being stranded in your home.

As you can see, there is an awful lot of misinformation surrounding stairlifts. If mobility in your home is becoming an issue for your family, we encourage you to contact us today for an in-home consultation to explore your options regarding a stairlift.  For more information on residential and commercial elevators, stairlifts, vertilifts, ramps, and more, visit or call (252) 634-1717 today.



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Trump Hotel Chicago Transforms Elevator into Gingerbread Express

Kristen Thometz | December 14, 2018 10:19 am

The Trump Hotel Chicago transforms one of its elevators into the Gingerbread Express each holiday season. Pictured is the 2015 elevator. (Kristen Thometz / Chicago Tonight)

Gingerbread cookies and houses are synonymous with Christmas. The Trump Hotel Chicago takes the seasonal staple to the next level with the Gingerbread Express—an elevator dressed head to toe in gingerbread. 

The idea for the elevator was cooked up in 2012 by a pastry assistant and a hotel manager “who wanted to do something on a grand scale,” said Aya Fukai, executive pastry chef at the Trump Chicago, in a 2015 interview.

“One pastry assistant at that time—before I was here—suggested the idea of a gingerbread house like the one the Ritz Carlton does where they used to work,” Fukai said. “The hotel manager, being the character that they are, said, ‘Let’s do something else. Let’s do something completely new just for this hotel.’”

And with that, the Gingerbread Express was born. Every year since then, the elevator that takes hotel guests up to the restaurant Sixteen has been transformed into a giant gingerbread creation.

This year’s elevator was envisioned up by executive pastry chef Jared Bacheller and brought to life by pastry sous chef Bri Maxeiner and the hotel’s culinary team. See a video below.

Gingerbread Express by the Numbers

How much flour, sugar and ginger does it take to turn the elevator into the Gingerbread Express?

Below, a rough estimate of the ingredients used.

  • 445 pounds of all-purpose flour
  • 5.5 pounds of cinnamon
  • 3.25 pounds ginger, ground
  • 230 pounds of dark corn syrup
  • 105 pounds of dark brown sugar
  • 90.5 pounds of molasses
  • 98 pounds of butter
  • 50 pounds of chocolate
  • 46 pounds of fondant

As for the time it takes to bake, decorate and install the Gingerbread Express?

  • 450 hours from the pastry team

Preparation for the holiday elevator begins in September. “We start baking bricks in September, so it’s a gradual process rather than a one whole day thing,” Fukai said, adding the staff has to attend to their daily duties at the hotel as well.

“We mix the dough, sheet the dough, cut the dough and bake the dough,” she said. “We’re not a factory, so we don’t have a super large mixing bowl. We do 10-12 batches to make about 800 pieces. As you can imagine that takes up a lot of time and space.”

By Nov. 1, approximately 800 5-by-10-inch gingerbread bricks have been made, and at this time “we go in to the detailed pieces and make them a little more special,” Fukai said. “The stained glass [gingerbread bricks] are cut with cookie cutters and the holes are filled with colored candy sugar.

“There are chocolate rocks that surround the fireplace. Also, we have sprayed tiles. We spray them with cocoa butter with stencils to make it look like there are snowflakes. All of the detailed little pieces are done little by little before we get to the actual build out for it.”

Building the Gingerbread Express

It takes the Trump Hotel Chicago's pastry team 450 hours to create the Gingerbread Express. (Kristen Thometz)

It takes the Trump Hotel Chicago’s pastry team 450 hours to create the Gingerbread Express. (Kristen Thometz)

Before Fukai and her team can work their magic transforming the elevator into a delicious work of art, the Trump’s engineering team must work theirs.

“The engineering team goes in there and builds a plywood wall inside of the elevator for us to glue the gingerbread bricks to,” she said.

Another person takes care of the electricity inside the elevator, including installing the lights around the window, the LED lights for the stained glass gingerbread bricks, the electrical toy train that runs along the top of the elevator and the TV showing a fireplace.

Once all the engineering is complete, Fukai and her team get to work about two weeks before the Gingerbread Express is scheduled to open.

“Each brick is laid by hand one-by-one starting at the floor. I watched a bunch of YouTube videos to learn how to tile a bathroom. It’s very similar except for the fact that the bricks are not completely the same size as the bathroom tile,” she said. “They are hand-cut and baked, so they have a little difference, although we try to make them the same. We use spacers to make sure each and every space between the bricks on the top and sides are the same. That way gravity doesn’t give and start sinking the bricks because of the spacers. Once it all dries, we pull out the spacers and fill each cavity with frosting.”

That process is repeated little by little inside the elevator over the course of two weeks. Once the interior of the elevator is complete, the team gets to work on the outside of the elevator.

“We do the lobby level in three days at the very end, and it’s the same process,” Fukai said. “It feels really good once it’s done. We know there’s going to be all of these kids and even adults who want to be kids inside and want to go on the elevator. … I think it’s kind of like a Christmas punch in your face. You can’t get any more Christmas than this because you’re surrounded by it.”

While the elevator is free to ride, the Gingerbread Express aims to raise awareness and donations for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

“All of this is to shed a light on St. Jude’s which is a group that we support and the Eric Trump Foundation in the hopes of people being generous and in the Christmas spirit. That’s why we link to the St. Jude’s donation, and all donations are accepted at the front desk,” Fukai said.

Enjoy the sights and smells of the elevator through the end of the year.


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A Home Elevator is a Luxury You Can Afford

Instead of asking, “How much does a home elevator cost?” you should be asking, “Can I afford not to install a home elevator?”

An elevator in the personal home has long been viewed as a luxury. However, more buyers, ranging from older adults or families with young children to those with temporary or permanent disabilities, now want an easy way to move people and things from one level of a home to another, according to the National Association of Realtors.

But home elevators are no longer just for the super-rich. Baby boomers looking to “age in place” are installing them to ease the burden of bad knees and bad backs. So are families juggling children, pets, and groceries—both groups can greatly benefit. Builders say lifts are increasingly showing up in home renovations, custom-build homes, and high-end speculative properties.

Falls: The #1 Concern

Dr. Gisele Wolf-Klein, director of geriatric education at Northwell Health, recently told CBS News that seniors who fall alone at home often don’t tell anyone. When that happens, family is not aware that safety has become an issue and that their loved one is now at risk for an additional fall—one that could lead to serious injury.

“Elderly patients tend to not report falls to their families, or even doctors. A fall is a very frightening thing that you keep quiet about. They think if they mention it that it’ll start the ball rolling—the move to a nursing home or the need for aides to help out in the house—and that they’ll lose their independence,” she says.

When a fall occurs, especially if the loved one ends up in the hospital or requires surgery, life at home will never be the same. Wolf-Klein explains those who fall often develop chronic problems and can end up in a wheelchair. They may now need assistance with everything they do—bathing, going to the bathroom, cleaning the house, preparing meals, or simply getting from one room to another.

Falls also lead to higher health care costs, say experts at the CDC.

A Fall Will Cost Much More than an Elevator

Almost three million older Americans end up in emergency rooms after falling every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); 800,000 patients are hospitalized because of it, likely due to a broken hip or head injury.

Falling injuries are on the top 20 list of most expensive medical conditions, costing Americans at least $34 billion in direct medical bills in 2013. This number does not include long-term effects such as disability, dependence on others, lost time from work and household duties, and reduced quality of life, according to a 2015 CDC report. For each individual, the National Council on Aging estimates the price of a fall is approximately $35,000.

In addition to the tremendous cost, falls are quite serious medical issues—greatly affecting quality of life after the fall. Consider these additional facts from the CDC:

  • One out of five falls causes a serious injury such as broken bones or a head injury.
  • More than 95 percent of hip fractures are caused by falling, usually by falling sideways.
  • The chances of breaking your hip go up as you get older.
  • Women are more likely to fall than men and more often have osteoporosis, a disease that weakens bones and makes them more likely to break.
  • Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
  • Each year, more than 27,000 falls lead to death.

Such serious injuries make it hard for a person to perform everyday activities, live on their own, or simply get around. Even when not injured, many people become afraid of falling again. This fear can cause a once active older adult to limit their daily activities. When less active, the body becomes weaker—actually increasing the risk of a fall.

The CDC researched the main conditions that can cause a fall; one of the top risk factors is home hazards, such as stairs.

Yes, Home Elevators are Affordable

When you realize your car is no longer safe to transport you and your family, you don’t hesitate to purchase a new one. When your refrigerator quits working, you replace it for the health and convenience of your family. The same could be said for installing a home elevator: When your home’s design no longer works for you and your physical needs, an elevator is the obvious choice to make daily life easier.

“Residential elevators can be entirely within a homeowner’s budget, and, as a mobility solution, there’s no better way to equip your home for the comfort of seniors and individuals with disabilities that limit their movement,” says Ryan Penn, Medium. “Elevators provide greater independence by allowing those who have difficulty climbing stairs to continue to complete their chores and self-care as usual—whether it’s maintaining a bedroom on the third floor or transporting laundry to the first floor.”

The bottom line: Home elevators eliminate what can become a dangerous obstacle of climbing and descending stairs with few renovations to your home.

The thought of adding an elevator to the home seems quite impossible to most people. This may have once been true, but the addition of an elevator is accessible and affordable today. Plus, innovations in design and construction have made it possible for an elevator to be easily incorporated to the design of an existing home or a new build.

About Liftavator

Liftavator, the number-one source for residential, limited use/limited application (LU/LA) in North Carolina, designs, builds, and installs only the highest quality elevators and platform lifts. In addition to the company’s revolutionary designs and ideas, it offers a 90-day guarantee on all labor and materials. Liftavator doesn’t consider a job complete until the customer is 100% satisfied.

For more information on residential and commercial elevators, stairlifts, vertilifts, ramps, and more, visit or call (252) 634-1717 today.

(Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; CBS News; National Association of Realtors; Los Angeles Times; National Council on Aging; Medium; and The Globe and Mail.)


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Two-way Communication is Crucial for More than Just Relationships


Most of us aren’t thinking of safety each time we board an elevator. We trust it will take us from point A to point B with no issues. But what if something goes wrong? What if the elevator stops between floors? What if no one’s at home to hear you call out for help? What if you reach for your cell phone to call a family member and discover you have no service? It’s a scary thought.

Safety on Call

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) elevator code requires an approved emergency two-way communications device be installed in all elevators—even those found in homes across America. The device is a straightforward way for home owners or property managers to reduce the risk of elevator injuries or entrapment. Wouldn’t you feel safer if you knew help is—literally—only a phone call away?

Here’s why the “two-way” part of the communications device is important: It’s nearly impossible for police or paramedics to assess the nature of your emergency if your home elevator is not equipped with a reliable, working phone line. If they are unable to speak directly with you, the firemen dispatched may think urgency is key and decide to perform an emergency extraction by using “jaws of life”-type equipment. This process, and the damage it brings to your home and elevator equipment, is extremely costly (and completely unnecessary) in a non-life-threatening situation.

Code and Compliance

To clarify, the current ASME code addressing emergency communications states that communication must be established between the elevator car and another location in the home. If no contact is made at the second location, communication is automatically directed to a 24-hour monitoring service. A monitoring/dispatch service can quickly handle both emergency and non-emergency situations no matter the time of day.

It is the homeowner’s responsibility to make sure the elevator phone works properly. One monitoring service suggests the following steps to improve the safety of your elevator:

  • Inspect the two-way communications device weekly and verify the phone line is installed and working properly by placing a test call.
  • If the phone line is not working properly, contact your telephone provider to verify the line is in proper working order.
  • Verify the call is answered by a person and not an answering machine.
  • Confirm the person answering can identify the location of the elevator.
  • Ensure the proper emergency contact information has been registered.
  • If problems are discovered, contact your service provider to report the issue.
  • Consider upgrading your communications device to enhance the safety of your elevator.

Trust is Key

Liftavator, always focused on safety, is adopting these new communication code changes in all new installations. If your home elevator was installed prior to 2017, we encourage you to call and speak with a representative to learn if your system is in compliance. If not, we’d be happy to schedule a quick inspection. Thankfully, several options are available to update a non-compliant elevator and we can discuss each option and determine what will best work for you and your family.

About Liftavator

Liftavator, the number-one source for residential, limited use/limited application (LU/LA) in North Carolina, designs, builds, and installs only the highest quality elevators and platform lifts. In addition to the company’s revolutionary designs and ideas, it offers one of the industry’s most comprehensive warranties. Liftavator doesn’t consider a job complete until the customer is 100% satisfied.

For more information on residential and commercial elevators, stairlifts, vertilifts, ramps, warranties and more, visit or call (252) 634-1717 today.

(Sources: Liftavator Inc.; National Elevator Industry, Inc.; The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME); Kings III Emergency Communications; and KONE, Inc.)


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Demand for Residential Elevators and Lifts on the Rise

Persons with mobility difficulties no longer have to view stairs as an obstacle to reach other levels in their residence. Small elevators are becoming increasingly popular in homes to better accommodate mobility impaired individuals. Decreasing costs, improved ease of installation, increased reliability and greater availability have increased the acceptance of residential elevators.

Aging Population Expected to Increase Demand

An aging population and the onset of health issues are expected to increase the need for mobility aids prompting a growing demand for elevators where stairs and ramps have typically been the only alternative. The US Census Bureau indicated in 2000 that 13% of the population was over 65. That number is expected to increase to 20% by 2030. The aging baby boomer population, perhaps due to a societal trend toward addressing mobility issues, will not accept barriers to mobility like stairs. Consequently, many persons are planning for, or are installing lifts in their homes. Often individuals have spent many years in a two story home and don’t see themselves moving somewhere else just to have one floor. Moving may not be financially viable and may necessitate relocating to surroundings that are unfamiliar.

Alternatives to Meet a Range of Needs

Stair lifts, wheelchair lifts, and residential elevators are three alternatives that are feasible for homes. Stair lifts are affordable and are relatively straightforward to install. However, they assume sufficient mobility to get on and off of them. If a mobility aid like a walker is required, a second one would be necessary on the second floor if it can’t be carried up. Wheelchair lifts are platforms for lifting a wheelchair 2 – 14ft vertically especially where there is not enough space to install a ramp. Examples of applications include getting to the first floor from the garage in a home, or up a short set of stairs in an older facility. Versions such as the Lift-Avator Verti-Lift are built for public or private use. Installed costs for wheelchair lifts range from $6,000 to $19,000.

Home elevators can provide service up to 50 feet, and are available in various sizes and with various options to accommodate the needs of residential use. Base equipment costs for a home elevator are typically around $20,000. Home elevators can range in size up to 15 ft. Planning during the design phase of new construction for a possible future elevator installation is the most cost effective solution because the building structure is easily modified during the building phase.

Fortunately, mobility barriers are becoming less prevalent. A range of choices in affordable, reliable lifts present alternatives that architects  and builders can offer to their clients to help them overcome the barriers that cannot be designed out. We expect to see continued growth in the market.

If you would like to discuss an elevator upfit for your residence, do not hesitate to contact us today at 888-634-1717 or visit our showroom at 4430 Hwy 70 E, New Bern.


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Liftavator Announces Rental Program

Announcing the Liftavator Rental Program!

Do you only need a lift or ramp for a short time while you recover? We have a program that suits your needs. Stair lifts, scooters, vertical platform lifts, deck lifts and ramps are ALL available for rental. Stop by our showroom for a demo and pricing. Prefer to purchase, we have in-house financing available!


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