'It's definitely working.' Business owners in downtown Cary embrace new growth

Sean Coffey Image
Monday, May 22, 2023
Business owners embrace new growth in downtown Cary
Business owners in downtown Cary say the area has never seen more foot traffic in the area, and they're embracing the recent growth.

Business owners in downtown Cary say the area has never seen more foot traffic in the area, and they're embracing the recent growth.

Matt Bettinger, owner of Sidebar and Hank's Downtown Dive, said the concept of bringing a bar downtown was almost unthinkable when they opened a little over five years ago.

"When our business partner first told us that we should look into downtown Cary, I was like 'come on, no one wants to go downtown Cary to a bar at night. It's just not happening,'" he said. "So yeah, it's definitely working. Obviously, that has changed. We've doubled down with another restaurant, or another establishment, so it is without a doubt working."

Bond Brothers Beer Company was one of the first downtown success stories in Cary, opening in 2015. One of their owners, Whit Baker, says the recent growth along Academy and Chatham streets has made the area almost unrecognizable.

"Even walking to lunch -- where before you're walking to lunch and you can see pretty far in one direction, and now it's like walking down a row of buildings -- it's strange, but it's also exciting because it means more people are downtown," Baker said.

And more foot traffic could be coming soon. Cary is hoping to convert its current Town Hall campus off Academy Street into acres of new, mixed-use development within walking distance from downtown. They also hope to incorporate two other parcels of land, bringing to the total involved in the new project to 30 acres.

Ashworth Drugs is just down the street from the Town Hall campus site and has been in business downtown for over 65. Owner Paul Ashworth says the town's done a good job growing the area while helping preserve businesses like his.

"People want to see balanced growth, or good growth where you have things that are planned that are not just haphazardly thrown up," Ashworth said. "I think Cary's done a fantastic job with that."

There are some concerns about the rapid growth too, though. Ashworth said parking has long been an issue for businesses downtown.

"It's not uncommon for customers to come in and say they had to circle the block a few times to find a parking spot. So parking has always been an issue down here," he said.

But with foot traffic at an all-time high, businesses say they can manage the growing pains.

"Other than that we're all about it. We love to see the downtown area grow and develop, so we're excited for it," said Melissa Schantz, general manager at Scratch Kitchen & Taproom.

There's currently no timeline for Cary's plan to convert the Town Hall campus into a mixed-use space.

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