The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

December 26, 2012

More ups than downs in Tarboro

HOLIDAY SHOPPING

The Daily Southerner
John H. Walker & Miranda Baines

TARBORO — For businesses with products appropriate for the Christmas season, 2012 held promise for some improvement.

“It was a little better than average,” said Mears Pitt of Marrow-Pitt Ace Hardware. “We had a good, positive season.”

Pitt said he was pleased overall and that most of his Christmas tree stock had sold out and that the store had experienced “a real good wreath and garland season.”

Pitt said that while all of the talk about the upcoming fiscal cliff and the stalemate in Washington has him nervous, he is optimistic for the future.

Up the street at Henderson Lumber Co., David Pigg said that while his business carried some items that were conducive to Christmas shopping, such as hand and power tools and some decorations, it relies on the construction trade.

“Our major emphasis is building supplies, and there’s not much going on this time of the year.”

Like Pitt, Pigg shared concerns regarding the economic situation and Washington’s role in the problems.

“I am concerned,” he said. “I don’t have much confidence in any of them, any more.”

Some businesses in downtown Tarboro were bustling with holiday shoppers Friday, while others waited hopefully for the last-minute shoppers to flood their doors.

“This week, we’ve been slammed. Silver’s selling fast and the bead bracelets are real popular,” said Kenny Brewer, owner of Brewer’s Jewelry. “It’s been one of the better years recently. The slow down started in 2008, but it’s gotten better now.”

Belinda Brown, a loyal customer of more than 20 years, browsed the jewelry at Brewer’s Friday morning.

“I love downtown because it’s personable. Everybody’s friendly, helpful,” she said. “Kenny’s got a great business.”

“People have shopped earlier this year than I have noticed in the past. They’re spending more money,” said Jimmy Dupree, owner of Roberson & Dupree Shoe Store. “Our sales are ahead. I do think things are improving.” Earlier this year, he said the store ordered a shipment of Uggs, the popular snow boots, and they have been selling fast. Tim Little of Elm City bought a pair for Christmas on Friday morning and had them wrapped for free by Jimmy Dupree’s brother John.

“We’re getting people from out of town,” said Dupree. People like the service we give. We sit down, fit them if they want, let them walk around. It’s been that way for 64 years.”

A few doors down, at Caroline’s Creations & Unique Gifts, Bennita Dunham of Tarboro was picking up personalized bags for Christmas. She got monogrammed bags for her family members at the store last Christmas. To her, it’s “worth it” to shop at locally owned businesses rather than at big-box stores.

“It’s simple. Everybody’s friendly and the prices are good,” Dunham said.

“You get more of a one-on-one, personal feel shopping in a downtown community,” said store owner Caroline Craft. She said her sales have increased this Christmas season, noting she has more variety of gifts than she did last year.

“We’re swamped,” she said. “We’ve noticed a lot of traffic on Main Street in the last couple of days.”

In Craft’s opinion, “people are going to spend money on Christmas presents, whether they have it or not. They’re going to find it.”

“We’re pleased with the business this Christmas season,” said Jeannette Jones, co-owner of Video T.V. & Appliance. “It’s been really, really slow economically, but we’ve had a little flurry of activity lately. We’ve had some people pick up TV’s and things like that for a Christmas present.”

Gloria Wall, shop manager at Tar River Antiques, said business has been slow compared to last year,

“I think people actually are out buying, but they’re more selective in how they spend their money,” she said. She believes people have waited until later to do their shopping this holiday season.

“People will wait until the last minute to shop,” said Wall. “If they’re looking for something exquisite, something different, they’ll come in here.”

Maxway, a discount variety store on Main Street, had a steady crowd of customers Friday morning.

“It’s a little slower than last year, but not a whole lot,” said Sherry Boykin, store manager at Maxway. “We still have our regulars coming in every day.”