Shop owners on a blocked-off stretch of Hillsborough Street say business is down slightly but that the street closing didn’t kept their regular customers away in the final shopping days before Christmas.
Utility work required for developer John Kane’s Stanhope apartment complex has closed the two-block section to traffic until Jan. 5, when students at nearby N.C. State University return. When the closure was announced last month, merchants worried the traffic hassles would take a bite out of sales at a crucial time.
But on Monday – four days after the street closing began – several business owners said the effects hadn’t been too bad so far. At Guru Guitars, owner Eugene Reinert said he hadn’t seen many “random walk-through” customers who stop off on a whim, but regulars were still coming in.
“It’s down a little bit,” Reinert said. “It’s impossible for it not to affect us in some way.”
Reinert and his fellow guitar makers at Guru tried to make the best of the situation, hosting a “hole in the street” party last Thursday to lure customers to the shop with free pizza and homemade chili.
Next door at Nice Price Books, owner Brian Shaw said he still had plenty of people coming in for used books and records as the holiday approached. Checking his handwritten ledger, Shaw said he was not seeing a noticeable decline in sales.
“We’re pretty much right on track for the same thing as last year,” he said.
Both Shaw and Reinert said they had been helped by the last-minute change to leave open the short stretch of Hillsborough in front of their shops. The reprieve was scheduled to end Tuesday, however, with barricades going up at Concord Street.
Another concession to the shops is a series of electronic signs reminding drivers that the businesses are open. Some businesses have also put up their own signs along the detour route with messages like “This way to Cup A Joe.”
With the closing running from Dixie Trail to Concord, the businesses will get a bit harder to reach. And with rain keeping construction crews at home earlier this week, the shop owners are worried about the traffic nightmare that could happen if the reopening gets delayed beyond when NCSU students return.