WHITEVILLE, N.C. (WECT) - Downtown Whiteville seems to be in a tug of war with the town’s revitalization plan; First Hurricane Matthew, then Hurricane Florence, now the coronavirus.
But business owners say no matter the challenge, they’re determined to keep growing their city.
“We had more small businesses starting and on the slate to start within the last six months than I’ve ever seen, and now this,” said Jennifer Holcomb, President of the Columbus County Chamber of Commerce and Tourism.
It’s been a whirlwind of emotions for business owners in downtown Whiteville. They say each time the area has gained momentum in revitalization, disasters have hit.
“Biggest concern for us are those businesses that are on margin, those small, brand new businesses," said Holcomb. "Those are our biggest concern and we just hope that they’re able to hold fast, that they’re able to exist or be in existence once this is all done.”
Business owners like Todd and Lori Collins are trying to remain positive. They closed up shop a week earlier than they had to and packed up most of their jewelry store to comply with Governor Cooper’s stay at home order. They’re letting customers know that they will be back once the pandemic passes.
“We use social media to show folks all the new projects that are coming out that they would normally be coming in to see them," said Lori Collins.
"Anything that we can do to promote our business to let our customers and those that follow us know that we’re on top of everything and we’re really looking forward to opening back up,” said Todd Collins.
Business owners like the Collins don’t know when they’ll be able to re-open, but they’ve survived and stayed in business through difficult times before and their optimism remains high.
“Even though you have the doom and gloom of the virus, we look at the uptake of what is actually really happening downtown," said Todd. "The virus is going to come and go and these businesses are going to carry on.”
The chamber of commerce says the city was on the verge of one of its biggest economic booms before the coronavirus forced shops to close.Even though it’s a tough pill to swallow, businesses owners like the Collins say they’ll push through.