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Downtown Benson Thrives, Mule Days Celebration Approaches

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BENSON — Libby Johnson's father opened a shop in downtownBensonmore than 40 years ago. Today, shoppers still drive from near and far to spend money there.

"Some are from Benson, some are from Dunn, from Four Oaks, Smithfield. I have a lot of out-of-town customers who are very loyal to me," said Johnson.

In the days of giant malls and dying downtowns, Benson's downtown shops are thriving. Some say it is the unusual specialty items, and others say it is the easy parking. Almost every storefront is open for business.

"I think a lot of it is community support," said Deborah Carter of the Chamber of Commerce. "Merchants do support merchants. The people in town support the stores."

"Just about everybody who comes in we know on a first-name basis and, you know, it's people we've known all our lives," said business owner Connie Parker.

"You go in a store here, they remember you when you come back, and I grew up here so this is where I do come and shop," said shopper Danielle Dixon.

People from just about everywhere else will be in Benson this weekend when the annualMule Days Celebrationbegins. That is when between 60,000 and 100,000 people from out of town descend on this town of 5,000.

Benson's downtown district is small compared to many places, but its storefronts continue to buck the trend that bigger is better.

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Brian Bowman, Reporter
Brian Bowman, Photographer
John Clark, Web Editor

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