‘It’s been a little down’

Published 11:43 pm Tuesday, July 19, 2011

FRANKLIN—Local business owners have reported less than stellar returns this summer, suggesting the city is still reeling from the closure of the International Paper.

“It’s been a little down,” said Fred’s restaurant owner David Rabil. “Some days are very good and some days are flat.”

Fred’s has lost mill employees who stopped there for lunch and folks visiting the mill from out of town.

The restaurant has benefited from Thursday nights’ We Be Jammin’ concerts at Barrett’s Landing. Fred’s brings in a disc jockey and bands.

“We do something a little extra on Thursdays that brings in a big crowd,” Rabil said.

Dan Howe, manager of The Downtown Franklin Association, said that while some businesses aren’t doing as well as they would like, it’s not all bad news for downtown business.

“I think some are doing pretty good, and obviously there are some that are still struggling due to the economy,” Howe said.

He acknowledged that during the summer the area tends to lose people to the beach and lakes; however, more people are staying home to enjoy local events such as Patriotism in the Park and We Be Jammin’

DFA helps to sponsor the Farmers’ Market downtown. The market is open 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.

The move from Armory Drive to Main Street has not been disappointing for Simply Divine owner Liz Britt, who moved into the former Parker Drug building seven months ago.

“We’re doing very well,” Britt said, noting she recently decided to open on Saturday mornings to offer a breakfast buffet.

In contrast, Gerry Patnesky, owner of Alphabet Soup, has not seen the foot traffic she’s used to from summers past.

“Even after the flood (caused by Hurricane Floyd in 1999), it was better than this,” Patnesky said. “It has been slow (in the past), but not this slow.”

The announcement that International Paper has decided to repurpose the mill for the production of fluff pulp gives Patnesky and other business owners hope for the future.

Patnesky said potential customers of her gift shop are waiting to see what will happen before they feel comfortable spending money.

Area hotels are struggling as well, said Franklin-Southampton Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Teresa Beale.

“A lot of hotels housed folks from the mill,” Beale said. “I’m encouraged that hotels will benefit from its repurposing.”

Warren Story, general manager at the Super 8 on Armory Drive, agrees. The repurposing of the mill will hopefully help area hotels “dig ourselves out of a hole,” Story said.

“I think it’s going to be a big economic boost,” he said.