Tucked away on Durant Road, The Vintage Village looks more like the front yard of an overzealous decorator than a shopping center. Inside, locally owned businesses sell unique goods.
There are Christmas trees, lawn furniture with chipped paint and a row of old doors, some with missing knobs.
North Raleigh has no shortage of shopping plazas filled with big-box stores. The shops at The Vintage Village are among the area’s small businesses that compete for shoppers’ money and attention during the holiday season.
Some owners at The Vintage Village say they’re seeing a steady stream of customers, thanks to a growing number of people who want to shop local.
“This year has been the busiest, steadiest year we’ve had,” said Jenny Sellers, co-owner of SuZanna’s Antiques, which was one of the first stores to open in The Vintage Village about nine years ago.
Susan Cooper at Two Old Birds, a few shops down from SuZanna’s, said she thinks customers have turned to small businesses because they fulfill specific needs.
“I don’t think we have very much competition in what we do,” Cooper said. “There’s no other place like this in Raleigh.”
Two Old Birds specializes in hand-painted and refinished furniture. The store also carries a special chalk paint that was recently released in the United States.
Joel Graybeal, vice chairman of small business and member services with the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, said another draw of small businesses is that owners and customers can interact more personally.
“There’s a higher degree of memorable customer experiences than there would be with a large business,” he said. “You’re not going to get that in a national store, they have a million customers.”
The economics of small businesses may also play into a customer’s decision to shop there.
“If a consumer buys locally, the money that the business is going to make gets reinvested back into the community,” Graybeal said. Supporting small businesses usually means supporting local employment and local economies.”
Sellers said the economy may have had something to do with the turning tide of shoppers’ preferences. As do-it-yourself projects become more popular thanks to websites like Pinterest, stores like the ones in Vintage Village have an advantage.
“You can’t find the look at some of the big-box stores,” she said. “You can’t find an old, chippy window to turn into something else at some of these new chain stores. It’s not the same quality, it’s not the same look. It’s just not as much fun either.”