Amid protests, COVID-19 pandemic downtown Raleigh businesses struggle to survive

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Between the pandemic and protests, many businesses in downtown Raleigh are struggling.

On Friday afternoon, the sidewalks were mostly empty, leaving little foot traffic for small businesses like House of Swank.

“Downtown is a struggle right now. We’re dealing with the after effects of both COVID and the protests,” said John Pugh, co-owned of House of Swank, a t-shirt shop.

“Some folks are dependent just on foot traffic. They’re really having to navigate some weird waters,” Pugh added.

Pugh said his business is rolling with the punches the pandemic is throwing his way.

“It’s been ups and downs, it’s like riding different waves,” he said.

He still sells merchandise at his brick and mortar storefront on East Hargett Street, but for the most part, he’s converted his business to an online shop.

He says doing that helped save his business.

“It’s kind of like throwing darts at a dart board a lot of times,” Pugh said. “But yeah, I think we’ve pivoted pretty well overall.”

While Pugh has been able to navigate these uncertain times, several other downtown businesses are still boarded up and covered with plywood.

“It’s disturbing because these are small businesses, family-owned businesses and they can’t get the funding to pay their rent because the market is going up, up, up,” said Rontel Stuckey, who is visiting from Charlotte to celebrate his birthday.

Pugh added, “I think there’s been a lot of shuffling; some folks are closing their doors, some folks are moving to smaller places.”

Even with the PPP loans from the government, Pugh says the grim reality is that some businesses won’t survive.

“It’s gonna be a difficult 12 months, I think, before there’s any sort of normalcy, whatever normal is now,” he said.

CBS 17 reached out to the Downtown Raleigh Alliance to see how many businesses have closed, or plan to close, but did not hear back.

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