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Franklin Street staple Shrunken Head reopens storefront after flooding

The sign over Chapel Hill's Shrunken Head Boutique's front-door is pictured on March 3, 2022.

Shrunken Head Boutique's storefront is reopened and remodeled after flooding last December.

After a sprinkler system malfunctioned and flooded the shop in December, Shrunken Head Boutique closed for refurbishment. Four months later, the store reopened during UNC’s class of 2022 graduation week.

“I stop in there when I'm in town just to look around, looks like they've redone the place," Harold Berger, a customer who visited the shop last Friday, said. "Very nice. Very clean. Good selection.” 

Matt Pate, a manager at Shrunken Head Boutique, said the store's managers originally did not intend to make any change to the interior.

But Pate said the store was "completely soaked;" the entire ceiling, all four walls and the floor were ruined.

“There was a little bit [of water] on either side of us and Gizmos below us,” he said. “We got the worst of it.”

Moreover, all of the store's merchandise and appliances were waterlogged.

Now, the former chessboard-like black-and-white ceiling has been replaced with pearl-colored tiles. The wooden planks on the sides, which were previously an oxidized yellow, were also replaced with white slat walls.

“Although I love the old store, and it had such great charm to it, this is more modern, I would say," rising UNC senior and Shrunken Head Boutique employee Erin Bostic said. "And this, I think, ties more into what's trending now.” 

Pate said although it was impossible to rebuild the store exactly as it was, they did their best to preserve the nostalgic atmosphere of the boutique.

Bostic said that because Shrunken Head Boutique is a family-run business, the staff wants to bring in a "family feel." 

“When you walk in, we're gonna greet you like, 'Hey, welcome in,'" she said. "We're gonna give you a spill of the store and its history.”

Though the building was remodeled, the bright light, beach music and customer service have stayed the same. Bostic said they create a welcoming air in the store and help Shrunken Head Boutique foster a sense of community.

Eloise Jones, a Shrunken Head Boutique employee and a recent UNC graduate, said the staff is always laughing and gets along well.

"I feel like we attract the same kind of fun, happy, smiley people,” she said.

Bostic said in addition to the damage to the store itself, some memorabilia was ruined during the flooding.

The memorabilia that survived the flooding is now placed in new framing, which was added during the refurbishment.

“We definitely lost a few of our memorabilia, which is sad, of course," Bostic said. "But, thankfully, we were able to save a good portion of it."

Pate said Shrunken Head Boutique was reimbursed for all of the damaged products by the store's insurance.

Moreover, this is the first time the store has been remodeled after more than half a century of service. Jones said that the store is brighter, cleaner and more open.

Bostic said that although the flood was devastating and heartbreaking, it brought the staff closer together.

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"I would definitely say that we're just much more of a family than before,” she said.


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