Franklin Street’s high foot traffic has not been enough to attract enough customers to save some businesses.
Chill Bubble Tea, Penang, Toots & Magoo and Crepes Veronique all recently shuttered their Franklin Street storefronts, but town officials say businesses shouldn’t be worried.
“It’s not surprising that there would be turnover,” said Chapel Hill Town Council member Ed Harrison.
Harrison said the town’s high restaurant density can cause businesses to fail, but they’re quickly replaced.
“This is somewhere where an empty hole tends to be filled,” Harrison said. “It’s a matter of whether the company that owns the space wants to fill it.”
But business leaders say Franklin Street can be a tough place to succeed.
“Some stores don’t survive because they don’t have the right environment,” said Ivy Greaner COO for Ram Real Estate, which manages sales for the town’s new 140 West Franklin development.
Michael Hinderliter, former owner of Chill Bubble Tea, said staying afloat when students are gone poses a major challenge to success in Chapel Hill.
“Franklin Street is a tough place when the students are not there,” he said.
Hinderliter said he sold the business in January because he did not have the time to expand the brand.
“I sold it at the beginning of the year and the new owner closed it about a month ago,” he said.
The Courtyard on 431 W. Franklin St. offers 12 retail spaces — but Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe, Camos Brothers Pizza and Kairys Properties are the only businesses still open.
The development was once home to Bliss Boutique Bakery, Penang and Crepes Veronique.
Vimala Rajendran, owner of Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe, said word-of-mouth advertising has been the restaurant’s cornerstone in a tough location.
“The community has funded us because we’re a sustainable business,” she said.
“They support us.”
Rajendran said the biggest challenge for her business, which opened a year and a half ago, has been lack of visibility and high rent.
Yilmaz Bulut, owner of Artisan Pizza Kitchen, also said the hardest time for his business was its beginning, before it had established its brand name and a loyal following.
To give the brand exposure, Bulut said he decided to give free samples of his then-new invention — artichoke pizza.
“I gave a sample one because it was a new one,” he said.
Greaner said many businesses come without enough capital to get through tough first years.
To ensure a vibrant retail space at 140 West, Greaner said they will try to look for retailers that have the right concept and enough capital.
“We’re looking for full service salons, retail, maybe frozen yogurt or maybe a bakery,” she said.
Greaner also said they will work with the town to use the interior courtyard as public space to bring attention to retailers.
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