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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — More and more “closed” signs have been popping up in windows along front street in downtown Wilmington.

That’s leaving some wondering if they are actually signs of a lagging downtown economy.

“Having these independent business owners is a challenge for every downtown,” said Wilmington Downtown, Inc. Director John Hinnant. “But it’s the nature of the beast. We don’t have the authority to mandate their hours of operation.”

A sign in the window of The Eat Spot on Front St. reads “We have taken some time off.”

Down the street, a “closed for the winter” sign is in the door at Rita’s Italian Ice.

It’s the kind of thing you might expect at the beach, but probably not in the Port City’s central business district.

“Downtown, I think, is very touristy as well,” said Rita’s Italian Ice owner James Branch. “When the tourists are here, it does well. When they’re not, it’s not worth being open,” said Branch.

At the same time, some restaurants are using the slower winter months to close for renovations.
Reel Café will be closed the entire month of January to make some changes.
Despite the down time, Hinnant says he sees some promising things happening downtown.

“In our building, when we moved in, there were no tenants on the upper floors. Today, this building is over 75 percent occupied,” said Hinnant.

Hinnant says plans for apartment buildings and hotels, like the one being built at 2nd and Grace, are encouraging signs for the downtown economy.

Branch says he wants his shop to be a year-round fixture, and he’s getting creative to do it.

“We’re rolling out more Italian hot foods, such as stromboli, calzones. Hopefully, by shortly into the first quarter, we’ll be getting those ready and out to the stores,” said Branch.

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8 Comments on "‘Closed for Winter’ becoming a common sight in downtown Wilmington"

2015 years 10 months ago

is as delusional as Saffo and the members of City Council with respect to downtown Wilmington being an “economic engine”…a phrase Saffo used numerous times when describing the proposed baseball stadium.

Hinnant has no idea what it takes to run a business. He suckles at the teat of City Council for his funding. If he were charged with raising his own revenue…he’d fail miserably like the stadium bond issue did.

2015 years 10 months ago

Before too long, there will only be 1 or 2 restaurants downtown to choose from. People are sheep, and herd in to places other sheep have herded into. It matters not that there are other great restaurants within the downtown area, it only matters that the other hipsters have crowded into these places and made them acceptable. When all other places have been choked out, the lack of options will be puzzled over for a minute or two while the sheep sip their mocha lattes and make plans to converge on Mayfaire…

2015 years 10 months ago

In our desperation to attract businesses to vacant storefronts we don’t even ASK if they’ll be year round businesses Mr Hinnant?
This is unfortunately painting a far different picture of down town than many of our so called leaders want us to think. down town is NOT a destination place. If it was, we wouldn’t be seeing closed for the season signs.
We need residents there John Hinnant. Riverfront condos. If down town is “seasonal” hotels won’t do much business there.
We need permanency not transients.


2015 years 10 months ago

we would likely have had all that had we been city slickered into supporting the taxpayer funded ball park. Right?

Oddly, I have still not seen an official announcement terminating the Agreement between Mandalanta and the City.

2015 years 10 months ago

but is Hinnant going door to door to require those business owners to remove their signs?

He was certainly vocal in his prior comments.

2015 years 10 months ago

If the businesses he attracts are part time businesses – shouldn’t HIS job be part time?


2015 years 10 months ago

I’m not paid to say that downtown’s great like John Hinnant, but I was down there last Wednesday and the place looked like a ghost town.

There is a simple way to measure at least part of this though. Last year there was a survey that showed about 1/4 of all of the commercial spaces, I believe, in downtown were vacant. Has it gone up or down?

2015 years 10 months ago

Maybe – there were no guarantees.
As for Mandalay and the city there is a clause in the agreement that says something to the affect that if one or the other parties pulls out then the MOU is moot.

Given how raw the nerves are right now it is probably best that it just expires



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