What happens when a bricks-and-mortar business moves?

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By Fraser Sherman

Anyone who needs to move to a new home has to wonder if they can find the right place. When a bricks-and-mortar business moves, there can be even more to worry about.

Will the new building have the space and features their business needs? What if it’s too far for regular customers to keep patronizing the store? What will foot traffic in the new neighborhood be like? Can the business still turn a profit?

Despite the risks, sometimes a move is inevitable.

“$10K a month just wasn’t feasible,” Kayla Ewell, the manager-turned-owner of Chapel Hill Wild Bird, told The Local Reporter, referring to the rent increase that pushed the store out of Eastgate Crossing. The former owner sold the store to Ewell, who launched a $20,000 gofundme to help relocate the 27-year-old business.

Finding the store’s new home at 9515 U.S Highway 15- 501 N. took a while. “Some of the retail spaces available required a lot of work to fix them back up from another business moving out,” Ewell said. “We couldn’t afford to do a lot of renovations on top of all the other costs, so we had to find somewhere that wouldn’t require much.”

Ewell said she drove around shopping centers looking for available space, checked prices, and then looked on the Loopnet commercial real estate website for more options. The new building won her over because of its “ready-to-move-in-ness of the space.” It fit her needs beautifully, especially after she and her staff added bird feeders out front and a garden. Soon, she said, they’ll add a birdwatching area out back.

Ewell said the pluses make up for the minuses, such as the loss of Eastgate foot traffic and the longer drive her steady customers have to make to reach the store. Another minus is the cost of moving. That includes the security deposit, rent, Internet, point-of-sale system, inventory, advertising, a ramp, Uhauls, and software. “We were fortunate the previous owner donated all of the fixtures, but we basically had an empty store to fill, and it’s not even halfway to where it was in the previous location.”

Why move?

Some local businesses move because they’re growing. The Cheese Shop, for instance, will move this year from inside the Glasshalfull restaurant in Carrboro to its own location in the former Carolina Car Wash building.

Other moves, like Chapel Hill Wild Bird’s, are born out of necessity. The Oasis Cigar Lounge left South Green Shopping Center after a dispute over smoke from the cigar bar allegedly penetrating a neighboring tenant’s space; the Oasis owners haven’t announced a new location yet. Walker’s Funeral Home moved from West Franklin Street to 11680 U.S. 15-501 North due to high rent, parking problems downtown, and the condition of its 1952-built former home.

Alan Cohen, former owner of Crazy Alan’s Emporium, said he moved from Franklin Street to the Timberlyne Shopping Center in 2005 in hopes of increasing sales. The move didn’t help but changing the name from Office Supplies and More to Crazy Alan’s did the trick.

Both Launch Chapel Hill and the Purple Bowl restaurant have left their former home at 306 W. Franklin Street after “our existing landlord sold the building to a real estate developer,” the Purple Bowl’s Taylor Gilland said. “That real estate developer announced plans to tear down our building and build a wet lab. Due to a lot of support from the community, we decided it made sense to keep the business going in a new location.”

Purple plans

The Purple Bowl is a popular local restaurant run by the Gilland family, offering a menu that includes acai bowls and smoothies. Like Ewell, Gilland said it was a challenge to find the right place for the business’s future.

“We wanted a space that has cool bones,” he said, somewhere they could remodel to make it more appealing and intriguing than their previous home. “If we were going to go through the effort and cost of moving, we wanted something that got us excited. We also wanted to make sure to have outdoor space and natural light.”

By luck, Purple Bowl regular Shea Rush introduced Gilland to a friend in real estate whose firm had bought a building at 505 West Franklin St. Gilland signed the lease about six months after beginning the search but the work to renovate the space has just begun.

“It’s an abandoned office space that is not in good shape,” he said. “We are working on a very significant renovation to give it the look and feel we want. This will involve effectively gutting the existing space and transforming it into a really energized area.”

Gilland said the worst parts of moving are the outlay in time, money, and effort, but as compensation, the Gillands can create the exact setting and ambiance they want for the Purple Bowl. Then comes the opening and the real test: Will students be willing to walk a little further down Franklin Street to get their smoothies? Time will tell.

Fraser Sherman has worked for newspapers, including the Destin Log, the Pensacola News-Journal and the Raleigh Public Record. Born in England, he’d still live in Florida if he hadn’t met the perfect woman and moved to Durham to marry her. He’s the author of several film reference books and has published one novel and several short story collections.

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1 Comment on "What happens when a bricks-and-mortar business moves?"

  1. Diane Weinstein | March 29, 2024 at 3:29 pm | Reply

    Would like to have one of your reporters talk
    To Bob of “Strays” a small shop in Southern
    Village that has been there for years. He is
    A small business that acts as our post office
    Sells local artist’s works and takes in stray
    Dogs. The landlord Bryan Corp. developer of
    SV will not renew his lease. Sad story as Bob
    Has done a fine job

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