By Caroline Kilaru
It takes some pluck these days to get to The Red Hen.
The resale and gift boutique, which caters to mothers and young children, is in crisis due to the construction on Weaver Street.
â€œSince construction started in April, our sales have been down 40 to 50 percent,â€ The Red Henâ€™s owner, DeeDee Lavinder, said. â€œItâ€™s made our financial situation unsustainable.â€
The construction, which closed the east block of Weaver Street from March through July, began on The Red Henâ€™s block, between Greensboro and West Main streets, in July. The project is scheduled for completion next March.
â€œBusiness has been spiraling down since construction started,â€ Lavinder said. â€œWhatâ€™s happened is that people are avoiding Carrboro.â€
The Red Hen isnâ€™t the first business to suffer during the construction.
â€œThere were problems on East Weaver Street, where the Spotted Dog and Maple View Ice Cream shop in particular saw declining sales, and the town made some efforts and some other businesses banded together to support them,â€ Carrboro Board of Aldermen member Dan Coleman said.
â€œWith the current situation, it is unclear what the pedestrian access is, and thatâ€™s something the town can improve. But something that wasnâ€™t anticipated â€“ and we were between economic-development directors â€“ is the extent to which one block at a time of construction would create a disincentive for even regular customers to access a business,â€ Coleman said.
â€œItâ€™s been a really hard summer,â€ Lavinder said. â€œIâ€™ve been unsure what to do. I couldnâ€™t get the right tone in my mind about saying to customers, â€˜Weâ€™re having trouble, weâ€™re begging folks to come,â€™ or just quietly shutting down.â€
Last week, Lavinder shared the details of her situation with Langley Thomson, a friend and mother to two small children. The next day, Thomson began coordinating an effort to save The Red Hen.
â€œI had this idea to throw a party to draw attention to DeeDeeâ€™s situation,â€ Thomson said. Sheâ€™s organized an event for Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m.
â€œWeâ€™ll have a full day, from live music by Jimmy Magoo at 2 p.m. to face painting, a raffle and baby-wearing support by Triangle Babywearers Group,â€ she said.
The event will also feature parent/child yoga, kidsâ€™ arts and crafts and vegan and gluten-free baked goods.
â€œNealâ€™s Deli and KatieBethâ€™s Learning Garden are also offering discounts to anyone showing a Red Hen receipt,â€ Thomson said.
â€œI think the two reasons weâ€™ve had such an immense reaction to save the store is the Red Hen is a community-focused business, and people have great affection for DeeDee as a person,â€ she said. â€œDeeDee is so generous and warm, and she runs her business in a way that reflects her values,â€ she said.
Customers say the quality of the store makes it valuable to the community.
â€œWhen I bring friends from out of town to The Red Hen, they are blown away. They all wish that they had similar consignment stores where they live,â€ said Christina Wright Bohanek, one of the storeâ€™s regular customers. â€œI would be devastated if they close.â€
Lavinder said the outpouring of support for her store has been a little surreal.
â€œAs a business owner, Iâ€™m not asking for donations or handouts. We just want people to come shop,â€ she said.
â€œWeâ€™re coming up on five years at the Red Hen, so itâ€™s hard to think about the storeâ€™s going under right before our anniversary. â€¦ All because of this logistical piece that we canâ€™t work around.â€