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It’s been a common complaint among downtown visitors for years: while there are restaurants and nightlife on nearly every corner, there’s virtually nowhere to shop.
The fledgling retail scene, however, has been growing rapidly this year, particularly around the Wilmington and Hargett intersection. Specialty flip-flop shop FeelGoodz and jewelry store Moon and Lola opened in the spring, a few doors down from the handbag store Stitch.
“In any growing downtown, usually you see your restaurant growth first, then as you get more restaurants, the demand becomes higher for retail,” said Paul Reimal, economic development manager for the Downtown Raleigh Alliance.
Want to go?
Starting Thursday, Deco Raleigh will be open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday at 19 W. Hargett St. downtown. A grand opening celebration is set for 5 p.m. Nov. 9.
Pam Blondin, former director of the local affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, says downtown still needs shops that appeal to a broader customer base. Few places exist to pick up a gift or a birthday card. “It just seemed that there was this piece missing from downtown,” Blondin said.
On Thursday, Blondin will open Deco Raleigh, a shop at the corner of West Hargett and Salisbury that aims to fill the gap. Deco will have hip gifts that aren’t sold nearby, targeting a “smart audience,” she said. Blondin is also bringing in vintage postcards of downtown Raleigh, unique games and toys such as Peruvian hand-knit dolls, and home decor items. About a quarter of the shop will be devoted to affordable art on consignment from area artisans.
“You’re not going to see the traditional oil painting,” Blondin said.
Once Deco’s staff settles in – likely after Christmas – Blondin plans to add services. The artists’ work will be sold online, and a “concierge service” will let customers pick out items and have them delivered to downtown offices or picked up at the curb.
“Do I think I’m going to make money in this? No,” she said. “My mission statement is more about generating community around retail.”
Deco will participate in First Friday, and Blondin hopes other retailers will join her in what has been a storefront dead zone between Fayetteville Street and the Warehouse District. Empire Properties carved a long-vacant restaurant into four spaces, and the other three will be leased soon, Blondin said.
While Salisbury is considered a secondary downtown street, Diaz points to other positive developments: The building across from Deco is under renovation for offices and retail, and a property owner is fixing up vacant storefronts near Subway. “I think we’re on the right track,” he said.
Blondin is even more optimistic. “I think we’re having this Renaissance now,” she said.