Hillsborough Street businesses rebound in 2021, hope for strong holiday finish

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Businesses along Hillsborough Street are seeing an uptick in business following a difficult 2020 caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It was a horrible year. But we made it only by the grace of our neighborhoods supporting us," said Rusty Sutton, the founder and CEO of The Green Monkey, a gift shop and watering hole which opened in 2013.

Sutton said sales were down about 50% in 2020, though they've seen a rebound this year as events such as trivia nights and drag shows are returning.

"There's a lot of choices out there, and if one person comes to my door and chooses to shop with us, we're grateful," Sutton said.

A couple of blocks away, closer to NC State's campus, David's Dumpling and Noodle Bar felt the effect of virtual classes for much of 2020.

"At least half of our staff are students or former students," said manager Chilton Sheppard.

The university community also serves as an important customer base, especially faculty. Sheppard said that while the lunch rush hasn't returned to pre-pandemic levels, likely because of remote work, they're seeing strong returns at other times.

"Dinner, weekends, we're pretty much back full," Sheppard said.

He said they've recently made a number of hires, but are still looking to add more staff ahead of the holiday season. Sheppard noted that they are beginning to receive inquiries for holiday parties, a big step forward following a year in which they survived off of take-out-only for months.

"They have been very kind to stick with us and be loyal to us and keep ordering," Sheppard said.

That feeling of gratitude connects The Green Monkey and David's Dumpling & Noodle Bar, as well as so many other small businesses in the area, which are continuing to rebound.

"Remember that your big boxes, they thrived through the pandemic. I mean they just blew it out the window. Your small businesses did not. We lost some. But the ones that have stayed alive, they need their patrons now. So please save some money for the small guys. If you don't shop with us, please shop with someone small and local," Sutton said.
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