After 10 years at the intersection of Rosemary and Main Streets in Carrboro, Don Jose Tienda Mexicana has moved to a new location in Chapel Hill.
The store offers a variety of goods from Hispanic groceries to electronics. It also has a lunch counter providing Mexican taqueria fare.
Gloria Gonzalez owned the store before the move, but sold it to her brother after the rent increased.
“The rent doubled, I just couldn’t afford it,” said Gonzalez.
Bill Dimos, the landlord of the space Don Jose formerly occupied, said the increase was necessary to keep up with market prices in the area. He said he informed Gonzalez her rent would go up when the lease expired in six months.
“It had been the same rent for the last 10 years,” Dimos said.
“I told her I would release her from her lease if she needed to be released early.”
Dimos said he conducted his own market research of the area, which revealed that nearby commercial rents reached as high as $30 per square foot.
“It had been 10 years, I hadn’t even done a cost of living increase, which I was entitled to do,” he said. “I offered to assist her in any way she needed.”
Eddie Murray, an employee of Wings Over Chapel Hill, a restaurant located next to the previous Don Jose location, sees it as a part of a persistent problem.
“To me it’s an example of classic gentrification,” Murray said. “Don Jose has been there longer than I’ve been working here, but I’m sure there is something that could go there that would make more money.”
Don Jose’s new location on South Merritt Mill Road faces an alley beside Al’s Garage. Despite being less visible than the spot on Rosemary Street, Gonzalez thinks that customers will follow the store to its new location.
“Service is our main thing, we treat people well and that gets them to come back,” Gonzalez said.
Jared Fruth, an employee at Jesse’s Coffee and Bar across from the old location, feared that the move might make it harder for the store to draw new customers.
“They’re not centrally located anymore, so fewer people are likely to stumble across the store,” Fruth said.
Even though the new space is smaller, Gonzalez said that Don Jose still offers nearly everything that the previous location had, including prepared food.
“We can’t do haircuts anymore, but that’s about the only thing different,” said Gonzalez.
Despite leaving the location that was home to the store for more than a decade, Gonzalez is hopeful for the future.
“There are always going to be changes, but that happens,” Gonzalez said.
“We just got to keep going and stay in business however we can.”
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