“Thank God we’re still here,” Marrone said. “That makes me feel good.”
In the ever-changing face of Franklin Street, only a few familiar establishments, like Carolina Coffee Shop and Sutton’s Drug Store, have weathered the closures alongside IP3.
At least six restaurants — including Gigi’s Cupcakes, Mei Asian and Krispy Kreme — closed down over the past year. Many blame expensive rent and insufficient parking for the high turnover.
Marrone, who runs the restaurant with his brother, said IP3, which celebrated its 35th anniversary Monday, has survived because of the connections it has with residents and athletic teams.
The shop walls are plastered with pictures of athletes, soccer team scarves, UNC sports posters and photographs of a packed IP3 during soccer games.
“For the past 10 or 12 years, we won the best place to watch soccer in the Triangle,” Marrone said. “It’s crazy here.”
Sutton’s, which opened in 1923, is one of the oldest restaurants on Franklin Street. Photographs of customers hang from the ceiling and flow onto the wall. Owner Don Pinney said the drugstore started collecting the pictures in 1982 and now has almost 10,000 in storage.
“We have people who come back, and the first thing they do is look for their picture,” he said. “They ask, ‘Is my picture still on the wall?’”
It wasn’t easy for Sutton’s to survive. Pinney had to close the pharmacy last year. But he is optimistic and said Sutton’s will remain because it adapts to changing environments.
“We extended our hours, which has helped, and our menu items changed, too,” he said.
When students leave town in summer, IP3 and Sutton’s don’t see a drop in business, both owners said. In fact, they said the traffic increases.
“We are actually busier in the summer,” Pinney said. “Not many businesses can say that.”
Carolina Coffee Shop, established in 1922, is the oldest restaurant on Franklin Street.
General manager Jeremy Ferry credits the restaurant’s longevity to its unique ambiance and historic significance.
“I was told that during the ’50s and ’60s, professors and students would meet here after class and have debates here,” Ferry said. “You could catch cooks running out the back door to join protests.”
The three restaurants survived as Franklin Street changed through the decades, becoming town landmarks.
Allison Lazard, assistant professor at the School of Media and Journalism, moved to Chapel Hill a month ago. Carolina Coffee Shop was one of the first restaurants she tried.
“I like to see historic places; I like to see places with character,” she said. “I would say this is one of those places.”