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Black Friday construction worries some Dunn merchants

A revitalization project in downtown Dunn has local merchants worried that construction will affect holiday sales.

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DUNN, N.C. — Melody Price is busy getting her clothing boutique, Frox, ready for holiday shoppers.

"This is the biggest time of the year. The weekend coming up is typically our biggest weekend of the entire year," Price said Wednesday.

But she has no control over the biggest items left on the checklist – rolling out the welcome mat for customers.

Crews are scrambling to finish paving the sidewalk in front of her business.

Broad Street – the main drag in downtown Dunn – has been a construction zone since the summer when the city started a $3 million revitalization project to attract more visitors.

Right now, though, Price and others say it is pushing customers away. The street has been closed since August and sidewalks have been closed, making it difficult for customers to get her store.

"My sales are down 40 percent from (this time) last year," she said.

Dunn City Manager Ronnie Autry says the project was supposed to be finished by early November. Contractor issues, Hurricane Irene and a wet fall triggered delays. The entire project is now set for late spring.

"Every time we took one step forward, we would move two back," he said.

The project is moving along, however. On Tuesday, crews pushed to finish the road and reopen it to vehicle traffic.

"I never loved the smell of asphalt as much as I did yesterday," said Melanie Strickland, who runs a gift shop. "It smelled wonderful."

Strickland and Price say they hope that will mean more traffic on Black Friday.

Despite some remaining bumps in the road, merchants say it's more important than ever this weekend that shoppers know they are open for business.

"Financially, it's extremely important," Price said. "I think it's also important for the morale of downtown."


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