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Local businesses struggle with inflation, increase collaboration

Jamil Kadoura, owner of Med Deli, stands at the back of his restaurant in Chapel Hill, N.C. on Saturday, Oct. 07, 2023. The back-half of Med Deli contained the kitchen, banquet hall and administrative offices, which still remains severely damaged from the fire in July.

As business owners continued to struggle with inflation in 2023, businesses increased collaboration with each other and saw a return to pre-pandemic levels of foot traffic.

Stephanie Cobert, the director of marketing for the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership, said Chapel Hill was able to bring in new audiences to local businesses through events like the Chelsea-Wrexham soccer game.

“Coming together as a community, whether it's to bring these fun experiences to downtown or whether it's to help support one another, has really been a bright spot in downtown this year,” Cobert said.

Schoolkids Records owner Stephen Judge said his business has seen its best gross sales in two decades in the last few years, but that this success has decreased because inflation has caused people to focus their income on necessities like groceries and gas.

He also said his business is no longer facing the supply chain issues that many businesses struggled with coming out of the pandemic. However due to inflation, he said the problem now is not being able to get the records, but affording the cost of them.

“I think that it's just really starting to affect people, and people just don't have the money to spend and we know that — and it's not even just that people don't have extra money to spend, inflation's hit us as well,” he said.

Chrystina Passanisi, the owner of Sofia's Boutique in Carrboro,  said the biggest challenge her business faced this year was staffing, because of a shift in people’s ideas about work during and after the pandemic. Employees did not want to simply have a job anymore, but rather wanted to express themselves and connect to something meaningful, she said.

Passanisi said business is generally going well in the community because people are back to life, traveling and celebrating special events. 

“I think that’s probably the biggest impact that I’ve noticed — is that people are happy," she said. "They are engaged in life and that results in business.”

In July, a fire broke out at Mediterranean Deli on Franklin Street while a contractor was working on the building's roof. Many local businesses and organizations offered support to Med Deli, and a GoFundMe for restaurant staff raised over $200,000 with help from the Chamber for a Greater Chapel Hill-Carrboro and the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership.

CHDP tries to connect businesses with resources to alleviate financial burdens, Cobert said. She also said the partnership programs events including game day activities and live music to increase foot traffic.

“Seeing the way the community came together for Med Deli — coming out in a moment's notice to buy up the wine at the DB Sutton & Company wine shop after the fire, making appointments for catering and haircuts, buying gift cards — this shows what the community is all about, what Chapel Hill is all about,” Cobert said. “We want to keep that going and we know the community does too.”

@DTHCityState |

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