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Construction takes toll on business

By Caroline Kilaru
Staff Writer

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.

“Since construction started in April, our sales have been down 40 to 50 percent,” The Red Hen’s owner, DeeDee Lavinder, said. “It’s made our financial situation unsustainable.”

The Lavinder family in front of The Red Hen, clockwise from top left, DeeDee, James, Hogan, Avis and Rina. Photo By Caroline Kilaru

The construction, which closed the east block of Weaver Street from March through July, began on The Red Hen’s block, between Greensboro and West Main streets, in July. The project is scheduled for completion next March.

“Business has been spiraling down since construction started,” Lavinder said. “What’s happened is that people are avoiding Carrboro.”

The Red Hen isn’t the first business to suffer during the construction.

“There 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,” Carrboro Board of Aldermen member Dan Coleman said.

“With the current situation, it is unclear what the pedestrian access is, and that’s something the town can improve. But something that wasn’t anticipated – and we were between economic-development directors – is the extent to which one block at a time of construction would create a disincentive for even regular customers to access a business,” Coleman said.

“It’s been a really hard summer,” Lavinder said. “I’ve been unsure what to do. I couldn’t get the right tone in my mind about saying to customers, ‘We’re having trouble, we’re begging folks to come,’ or just quietly shutting down.”

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.

“I had this idea to throw a party to draw attention to DeeDee’s situation,” Thomson said. She’s organized an event for Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m.

“We’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,” she said.

The event will also feature parent/child yoga, kids’ arts and crafts and vegan and gluten-free baked goods.

“Neal’s Deli and KatieBeth’s Learning Garden are also offering discounts to anyone showing a Red Hen receipt,” Thomson said.

“I think the two reasons we’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,” she said. “DeeDee is so generous and warm, and she runs her business in a way that reflects her values,” she said.

Customers say the quality of the store makes it valuable to the community.

“When 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,” said Christina Wright Bohanek, one of the store’s regular customers. “I would be devastated if they close.”

Lavinder said the outpouring of support for her store has been a little surreal.

“As a business owner, I’m not asking for donations or handouts. We just want people to come shop,” she said.

“We’re coming up on five years at the Red Hen, so it’s hard to think about the store’s going under right before our anniversary. … All because of this logistical piece that we can’t work around.”

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