College graduations, Mother's Day, giving boost to local businesses

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Triangle businesses are hoping to take advantage of big crowds this weekend, with college graduation ceremonies and Mother's Day both acting as key drivers.

"We love our customers. And we're excited to have them come out. We just opened for inside dining Monday, a week ago, and we have filled up every time and we have to slow it down so the staff that we have can handle what's coming," said Sharon May, owner of Relish Craft Kitchen & Bourbon Bar in Raleigh.

Unlike previous years, May said they are not taking reservations, instead, they are relying solely on walk-in traffic. For some people, it may be the first time returning to a restaurant since the beginning of the pandemic.

"I see it on people's faces when they're coming. You can tell if they're hesitant to come or not. And we're playing each person by ear to make sure that they get the comfortable experience," May said, and she added that her entire staff is vaccinated.

As they navigate capacity limits on indoor dining, May highlighted outdoor availability.

"We still have a lot of outside tables, more than (we had) pre-COVID," May said.

Off-camera, two other Raleigh restaurants told ABC11 that they have already maxed out on their reservations.

According to a survey by National Retail Federation, shoppers are expected to spend about $220 on Mother's Day, a nearly 8% increase over 2020 and the highest since the survey began.

"We're starting to see numbers come back that we had seen two years ago," said Eliza Eisenhardt, Manager of Operations at DECO Raleigh.

The gift shop works with local artists on a variety of products.

"Handmade items typically have a little extra something, a little extra love to them. And I think that's why a lot of mothers tend to like DECO Raleigh," Eisenhardt noted.

Last year, they were forced to build an online sales system because of the pandemic.

"Now that we're back open, we're getting new items back in from makers, making sure that we're very robust, so when people do come in they're finding exactly what they need," Eisenhardt explained, adding Mother's Day is their second-busiest stretch of the year.

For Kathryn Shah, Mother's Day is special for a number of reasons.

"I have a 10-week old (daughter) and an eight-week-old business," Shah said.

Shah and her business partner Sarah Bell recently launched Spring & Mulberry, a treats business that uses organic ingredients and dates as a sweetener. It was inspired in part by Shah's medical struggles.

"I was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 35, which is something that is shocking and life-changing. And as part of my treatment process going through chemotherapy and surgery and all the things you do through traditional medicine, I also decided that nutrition was an important factor," Shah said.

During the past weeks, they've sold more than 500 products, an important initial boost which also provided an opportunity to garner immediate feedback.

"We're basically learning as much as we can before a national launch in the fall. So if people love a certain product and order a lot of it, we know to increase our orders for that product in the fall. And then if people have negative feedback on a product, or if they like nuts crunchier, they'd like us to add cherries, or they want more chocolate, those are all things that we can test and iterate on before we broaden our launch in the fall," Shah explained.

Shah noted outside the economic reasons, opening just prior to Mother's Day also holds sentimental value.

"Our brand is certainly designed to be giftable and shareable, whether that's for Mother's Day or for a hostess party or a chic picnic, but it's also meant to be for yourself. And I think all of us moms don't have a lot of time in our lives to take care of ourselves," Shah said..
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