Business

Downtown Raleigh rebounding from closures, riots

Posted September 17, 2020 9:19 p.m. EDT

— Downtown Raleigh's economy is showing signs of life after a very rough spring and summer.

"It's not so long ago that downtown was quiet and mostly empty," Downtown Raleigh Alliance President and Chief Executive Bill King said Thursday while presenting the group's annual report on the state of downtown.

Businesses were shuttered for weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic, and as they started to reopen, some were looted during riots in late May and June.

Apex Outfitters owner Kyle Denis said the night his Hargett Street store was vandalized and looted was one of the most traumatic of his life.

"Not only did they take everything, but they burned mannequins to the ground. It was kind of chaos down here," Denis said, noting he sprayed fire extinguishers at people to get them out of his business, while people he didn't know jumped in to help defend the store.

More than three months later, Apex Outfitters still sits empty. Denis said it's still painful to be in the store.

"We opened in September 2018. The community here really rallied around us, really rallied around our concept," he said. "They were very excited to have shopping in downtown Raleigh. It did really well."

Much of downtown Raleigh has seen a major revitalization in the past decade, and King said the area will rebound from its recent struggles.

"Pedestrian traffic was up 30% in August compared to July. The past two weekends have been the highest sales in downtown since March," he said. "Boards [on storefronts] have been coming down rapidly over the past couple of weeks as we return, while being mindful of the ongoing need for public health and safety precautions."

Denis said he's unsure what the future holds for his downtown store.

"Our business was completely looted, so we’re dealing with insurance and things like that," he said, adding that Raleigh residents should patronize the downtown businesses that are open.

"Downtown is still open for business, and we need people to come down here and support it," he said.

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