“With so much change and so many modern restaurants, we’ve always sustained the same type of menu and ambiance that people have loved and been able to come back to time and time again even after they graduate,” Ferry said. “We get people that come back 40 years after they graduate, and say, ‘Hey, this is where I met my wife,’ and those types of things you don’t find anywhere else.”
‘It’s pretty hard not to notice’
Even within the past few decades, restaurant owners have taken note of visible changes along the street.
“I’ve been here since 1995 — everything has changed,” Ferry said. “Not only have several of the businesses changed, but a lot of new construction has happened.”
Ferry said he remembers when there were few corporations on the street and now everything seems to be corporate owned.
Linda’s Bar and Grill opened in 1976. Chris Carini has owned the restaurant for seven years and said he's noticed how the bar's neighbors have changed multiple times.
McAllister’s Deli was open for 15 years next to Linda’s before it was closed down last year. It is now being turned into Bonchon, a Korean restaurant.
“Four Corners is still good, but then the place next to them has changed three or four times,” Carini said. “It’s pretty hard not to notice.”
Owner of Top of the Hill Scott Maitland said the location of his restaurant was rumored to be a TGI Fridays. Since Top of the Hill has occupied the space, he said he's noticed a change in the kinds of prevalent businesses.
“Franklin Street used to be a home to a lot of white collar businesses, like law firms and accounting firms,” Maitland said.
When many of these businesses moved away from downtown, Maitland said they lost a lot of the lunch and happy hour business.
“That’s one of the reasons why I’m excited about Carolina Square, because we’re having a re-introduction of a lot of good office space and available parking,” Maitland said. “I’m hoping we will see a return to that kind of demographic downtown.”
Business turnover is typical
Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger said this kind of growth and turnover is typical in any downtown.
“There’s always turnover and changes and things that are going on,” Hemminger said. “I will say we’re seeing a lot more commercial businesses that want to come downtown and start-ups that are growing and want to stay downtown, so that’s exciting to fill up those downtown spaces and use old retail spots and change them into offices.”
The Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership and the Economic Development Office are responsible for monitoring downtown growth and aiding in the success of businesses.
“We have three areas that we focus on: business recruitment, business retention and business expansion,” said Dwight Bassett, the economic development officer.
With changes and new developments, Franklin Street remains a popular place for businesses.
"In this town, everyone who does well, there’s one thing about them that they always do well in — they have great service and they have got great staffs," Carini said. "The people who run them, whether they’re the manager or the owner, they have a very clear idea of what it is to take care of people."