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Saturday June 3rd

Franklin Street, Chapel Hill businesses continue to survive, rely on community

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 Local businesses in Chapel Hill have been working to build and maintain strong community support and provide for community needs in a rapidly developing area.

Just this year, Basecamp, Prologue Used and Rare Books, 1922 by Carolina Coffee Shop and Still Life Chapel Hill opened on Franklin Street.

While some have come and gone, other businesses have remained stable through 2022. 

One of these is Carolina Coffee Shop, which celebrated its 100th birthday this year. The Shrunken Head Boutique and Sutton’s Drugstore are also long-lasting local businesses and have been open for 53 and 99 years, respectively. 

Shrunken Head employee Erin Bostic said having businesses that have remained despite changes in Chapel Hill and Carrboro is important for keeping the area’s small-town charm.

“It’s really nice for people to come in and be like, ‘This has always been a constant, the Shrunken Head is always here,’” she said.

Jamie Fiocco, the owner of Flyleaf Books, said supporting local businesses helps the economy by keeping money in the immediate community.

“You vote with your dollars,” Fiocco said. “When you move about your community and you spend money at businesses that you like, you keep them open.”

Flyleaf Books opened in November 2009, and part of its mission is to be a resource to the community by making a diverse collection of books available that encourages people to learn, ask questions and form opinions about the world around them, Fiocco said. 

Along with selling books, Flyleaf hosts events at the bookstore, schools and in partnership with local organizations.

Matt Gladdek, the executive director at the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership said even newer businesses like the Purple Bowl, the Gathering Place and Brandwein’s Bagels have found success because they build community through collaboration, such as events and fundraisers for local groups.

Spring Council, co-owner of Mama Dip’s Kitchen and daughter of founder Mildred “Mama Dip” Council, said support from customers was vital for the restaurant’s survival during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Customers found new ways to show their support, such as using curbside pickup and buying the restaurant’s merchandise and take-home products, Council said.

“We look to our community, the people who have sort of embraced us all these years, and just to know that they’re out there and coming back to the restaurant and supporting us feels really good,” she said.

Mama Dip’s Kitchen has been open since 1976, and Council said it has created a family through customers who are reminded of their homes and connect through the restaurant's southern cooking.

“The people that came in the restaurant and the folks we really connected with socially, they sort of became our family and our friends,” Council said.

Despite the support and love for long-standing staples, there is still a turnover for local businesses in the Town. Gladdek said it can be difficult for businesses to balance serving guests from both UNC and the local area.

Local businesses have also been hurt by rent increases in the area and the dwindling effects of the pandemic, Gladdek said. He added that there has also been explosive growth in other areas of the Triangle, pulling away tourists and shoppers from Chapel Hill and Carrboro. 

As the area develops and grows, more chain restaurants and businesses have moved into Chapel Hill and Franklin Street within the past decade.

Stores like Target and Alumni Hall have moved into the bottom of Carolina Square, and fast-food chains like the upcoming Raising Cane’s and McDonald’s are becoming more common.

Ramesh Dahal, the owner of Momo’s Master on Columbia Street and Basecamp on Franklin Street, however, has opened two restaurants within six months of each other

Basecamp took over a storefront previously occupied by Jed’s Kitchen, which opened at the end of 2020, but closed earlier this year.

Dahal said Basecamp is a unique restaurant that does not compete with other businesses on Franklin Street, which adds to the business's success.

It is often difficult for businesses with a smaller amount of spending money or businesses with a targeted customer base to stay open, Gladdek said.

He added that it is important to look at the entire community — both students and residents — and appeal to both sets of people.

Gladdek said creating a community that is desirable for all customers is something that sets successful local businesses apart. He said that local small businesses often do well because they know the community and provide for its needs.


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