Downtown Wilmington sees business decline in April, hopeful for May


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The COVID-19 pandemic continues to take a toll on the downtown Wilmington community, as April numbers are showing another big drop in business, according to Wilmington Downtown Inc.

WDI released a survey of participating businesses downtown that shows employment was at an all-time low in April, as well as sales compared to last year.

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Co-owner of Memory Lane Comics and Toys Jacob Motsinger applied for a government bailout and it helped save his business.

“We applied for PPP and have gotten that, and that’s been a definite blessing,” he said.

Motsinger says Memory Lane opted to keep all employees working and while the Paycheck Protection Program is helping, business is still down.

“We’ve adapted so much into shifting things online that we’ve been able to keep up to a degree, but we’re still down 35% I would think,” he said.

It’s something Wilmington is seeing throughout the downtown area.

“We asked them to compare and contrast how many people were working full time and part time on February 1st, how many full and part time on May 1st,” said WDI President Ed Wolverton.

That data shows half of all downtown jobs have been lost. WDI also collected data on sales.

“In this case we’re looking at April 2019 versus April 2020,” Wolverton said.”

That showed a 98% decrease in sales for about half of the 68 businesses that responded.

Wolverton believes things will improve for May, as more businesses reopen and restrictions are lifted. He says this data is used to determine where resources are most needed.

“It’s also a way for us to gauge in this case the impact of some of the federal and state programs that have now come into play,” Wolverton said.

Federal programs helped some businesses hang on, but Fiorina, a new Italian restaurant, actually opened its doors downtown during the pandemic.

“The city was very welcoming and helped us out a lot during the process trying to get open,” said Executive Chef Daniel Hlusak.

Hlusak says he’s excited to be a part of the downtown community and the restaurant’s layout is ideal for safety and social distancing.

“If your real focus is giving the best service that you can, then doing things that ensure people’s health is part of that service,” he said.

WDI has a grant program of their own and has provided $3,000 grants to 37 downtown businesses so far.

Click here to read the full release from WDI.

Click here to view the data.