If you usually get to Southport or Fort Fisher via ferry you are going to need a Plan B. The Southport-Fort Fisher Ferry will be closed through the end of January for much needed maintenance. But that decision isn't sitting well with some. Fewer people traveling in and out of Southport could be a blow to retailers during this year's especially critical holiday shopping season. Driving over land from Pleasure Island to Southport usually takes about an hour and ten minutes. For many commuters that is just too long. Instead, they hop on the ferry and cut that commute in half. Southport store owner Emily Binder said, "Seeing the water, seeing the boats getting ready, eating on the water, and making a whole day of it. But this year, it's not as fun to do the drive." Business owners realize the maintenance is necessary; it is just bad timing. "December is a crucial month for a lot of people around here," said Bobbie Hennessey, an antique shop owner. "They count on selling in December, especially around the holiday." Ferry manager Jud Ferguson said it may hurt businesses, but if the ramps are not fixed, someone could get hurt. "I’m all for Christmas," Ferguson said, "and I know this is going to affect them some, but it just has to be done." For Hennessey the ferry closing means fewer people coming to Southport to shop for antiques. "This ferry problem came up, so we are closing a couple days a week, because we'll be losing a lot of business on the weekends,” she said. She said it would be better for business to close the ferry down during slower months, like February and March. "Having the ferry close down for a couple months really hurts a small town like Southport," she said. Private contractors started working on the Southport ramp Monday, but officials said the Fort Fisher workers didn't get started yet because it was too windy.
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