Businesses benefit from Charlotte the stingray's fame

Wednesday, February 28, 2024
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HENDERSONVILLE, N.C. -- Charlotte the stingray started as a funny situation of "Oh, how could that happen?" The ECCO Hendersonville Aquarium and Shark Lab creature is pregnant with many not knowing how it happened since there are no male stingrays around her.

Theories from those working with the stingray include asexually reproducing, which is extremely rare.

Now, she's a national sensation.

She's being talked about on many platforms, and Hendersonville businesses are feeling the benefits of her popularity.

"It's just a buzz around the restaurant," Hannah Flanagan waitress Rachel Capps said. "We're all kind of wondering about her progress or if anyone's heard anything."

Millions of people across the country are wondering the same thing.

"There's a mystery unfolding at an aquarium in Hendersonville, North Carolina," Jimmy Kimmel said in a segment on the Feb. 13 episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live. "A biological mystery that blows anything we've seen on Maury Povich out of the water."

Kimmel, ABC News and TikTok are just some of the outlets talking about Charlotte's mysterious pregnancy.

And those working in downtown Hendersonville are hearing about it.

"The last two weekends have been a lot busier than I feel like we would normally be this time of year," Poe House owner Megan Fortado said. "You've seen it on Jimmy Kimmel and it's all over Facebook. It's made a big difference."

"I've had people from Ohio, Florida, all kinds of places are coming here," Capps said. "It's a small aquarium, but it's a big deal right now. I think that's great."

"When it gets busy, we say, 'Well, people must be coming to see Charlotte again,'" Black Bear Coffee Co. manager Rebecca Wray said.

Charlotte's 15 minutes of fame couldn't have come at a better time.

"Especially last year, it was one of the worst years most of us on Main Street have had," Fortado said.

What's usually a slow period before tourist season has Hendersonville business booming.

"The line out the door happens during the summertime," Wray said. "It's been fun to have that happen in February when we didn't quite expect it. We have been so busy."

"Our neighbors, West First Wood-Fired, were really busy the last two weekends," Fortado said. "With a lot of the families out, they explore the town and come to see what we have to offer. But, it's mainly for Charlotte."

While many can't wait to see Charlotte's pups, business owners are happy whenever that time comes.

"Hopefully, she can hold on as long as she can so that people keep coming," Fortado said. "Even after, I'm sure people will want to come see the pups."

"It's created a lot of talk around our little town," Wray added. "It's been awesome."

The aquarium is open to the public 1-4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.


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