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The Daily Tar Heel

Editorial: Small business turnover is a sign of lacking local policy

At the intersection of East Franklin Street and South Columbia Street, the space where MidiCi used to be located remains vacant as of Mar. 20, 2022.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the monetary value of the fraudulent checks that Seafood Destiny owner Anthony Knotts is being accused of issuing and writing. The checks total $28,000, according to WFMY-TV. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for this error. 

Earlier this month, Seafood Destiny owner Anthony Knotts was jailed earlier this month on charges related to issuing fraudulent checks totaling $28,000, according to WFMY-TV, a CBS-affiliated television station in Greensboro. 

His arrest puts the restaurant's future into question — a jaunting thought for businesses in Franklin Street that already experience high restaurant turnover. Seafood Destiny's Chapel Hill location opened over winter break last year. 

Lotsa Stone Fired Pizza occupied the space currently filled by Seafood Destiny for three years before eventually closing down in 2020. The location has also housed Jasmin & Olivz Mediterranean and a QDOBA. 

The space below Top of the Hill previously housed MidiCi Italian Kitchen, which closed in August 2019 and has yet to be reoccupied. Across the street, Jed’s Kitchen, which opened last year, recently closed down for good. 

On the other hand, Raising Cane’s, a Louisiana-based chain that specializes in chicken fingers,  will take space near Jed’s Kitchen. The restaurant will open in the space formerly housed by Lula’s, another chicken restaurant. 

The constant turnover is a bad omen  — therefore meaning it should be an overall priority for the town.

With Franklin Street and Colombia Street located in the heart of Chapel Hill, the area attracts a frequent amount of traffic. Empty storefronts reflect a missed opportunity to capitalize on the area's commercial potential.

Naturally, the COVID-19 pandemic was challenging for small businesses in Chapel Hill. The University pushed classes remote for much of the pandemic, meaning many students were either not in the area or chose to socially distance themselves from trafficked locations. 

Still, in the post-pandemic era, the city will have to choose between supporting small, local businesses or allowing larger, more financially secure corporations, to monopolize on these areas.

Support could come in the form of providing rent subsidies to local businesses as a way to ensure adequate profits and economic stability.

Small businesses are the legacy of the town. When one thinks of Chapel Hill, several existing businesses that have been a part of the city for decades come to mind, such as Mama Dip's Kitchen, He’s Not Here and Four Corners. 

And while those businesses are special, their longevity makes them just as unique.

However, others could argue that the financial backing of large corporations is the solution. Existing chains, such as the Starbucks on Franklin Street, show how bringing in a popular brand on the street can be successful. 

One could only imagine the success of a name-brand restaurant such as a Bojangles or Buffalo Wild Wings if a spot were to open on the intersection. The excitement among students for the debut of Raising Cane's illustrates how brand recognition could boost sales.

Because of the high turnover, it will ultimately be up to the city to decide whether to continue to seek out local companies to try to develop a successful Franklin Street location or to bring in well-known name-brand corporations to optimize the area's business potential.


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