For one big day, business is good

Normal traffic is wait-and-see game

Staff WriterJuly 30, 2006 

— For Fayetteville Street businesses that survived more than a year of construction, Saturday was sweet payback.

Although few along the street passed up the opportunity for such activity, it might be a while before businesses stay open regularly Saturdays.

The Capital Room, though, has always been open Saturdays. Normally, the doors open at 6 p.m. On this Saturday, the doors opened at noon.

"I wish it was like this every night," said Carter Powell II, father of owner Carter Powell III, who was running between the bar and the outside dining area. "Today helps, but it doesn't make up for a year of construction."

Powell II said he is mulling over regular extended hours for the weekends.

Business was brisk at the Mecca restaurant, thought to be the state's longest continually operated restaurant.

Mecca fixture Floye Dombalis, who turned 80 on Friday, said business was rough during construction.

"We still got our regular customers," she said. "But people who had to struggle to get here didn't come."

At America's Pita Grill, Houda Nesrallah, mother of the owner, Danny, rejoiced. There was plenty of traffic at the tent in front as well as inside, where gyros sizzled on the grill.

"Business has been suffering for 18 months," Nesrallah said. "Today, it's back to normal."

How good was business?

"It's going to cover rent for a couple of months," Nesrallah said.

Amanda Angel, owner of the Chick-fil-A, said Saturday's business exceeded expectations.

"We didn't know what to expect for the event," she said. "I think it's awesome, the turnout. It's overwhelming. Hopefully, more businesses will move down this way. We need a mix -- more businesses and more residences."

But she hesitated to say that her shop will continue to be open Saturdays.

"We're taking a wait-and-see approach," Angel said.

Her business was helped by a Chick-fil-A tent on the sidewalk with coupons for free goodies, depending on where the wheel stopped in a game promotion.

Angel said she wasn't sure when she would close.

"We'll base it on flow," she said.

Port City Java poured many cups of coffee all afternoon.

Businesses just off Fayetteville Street, such as The Borough and China Market, set up tents on the main drag.

The Big Easy, which hasn't officially opened, had a booth out front and doled out jambalaya.

Even the barber shop at the corner of Davie and Fayetteville streets took the opportunity to cash in on the pedestrian traffic.

"When there's 20,000 people downtown, I'd be kind of silly to not be open," said Ray Stephenson Jr.

Staff writer Javier Serna can be reached at 836-4953 or jserna@newsobserver.com.

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