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Durham loses two retail touchstones, Chapel Hill loses one, and shopping just got a little less exci

UPDATE: Hours after The Saunders Report initially published this story, we learned that a longtime and beloved Chapel Hill store, Southern Season, is shutting its downs for good.

By a show of hands, who else feels sad every time you see a business going belly-up, especially one right in your neighborhood?

As someone who's had two businesses go kaput - remember the late, lamented Richmond County North Star newspaper? - I know that a "Going out of business" sign usually signals the demise of someone's dream. I find myself thinking "Gee, if only I'd bought more fish sammitches or gin-and-tonics or pickled pigs' feet from them, they'd have stayed open."

It's hard to do that when it's a furniture store, especially a high-end one, or a store that sells everything from giant copper frogs to genuine monks' robes and nuns' habits.

See, unlike with fish sandwiches, pigs' feet or gin, for which you can always make more room, with furniture and copper frogs - once you've got enough, you've got enough.

Durham recently lost Riverview Galleries Fine Furniture and Interiors, and by the end of the year it will lose Native Threads, which is - some might say literally - giving up the ghost at the end of the year. (I'll explain in a minute.)

While driving down Roxboro Street in Durham one recent Saturday, I saw a bunch of brightly colored signs along the road: Riverview was going out of business.

In Rockingham, we didn't have furniture stores: We had "furnitoo" stores that sold bedroom "suits," not suites.

Don't even ask how we said "accessories."

Over the years, we've bought modern pieces from Riverview, but my favorite piece is a massive antique rolltop desk that looks like something at which Frederick Douglass or Thomas Jefferson wrote letters.

Upon seeing the signs announcing Riverview's closing, I immediately pulled into the shopping center parking lot and rushed inside to commiserate with David Nelson, the store's owner.

"Aw man, I'm so sorry," I said as we stood near the back and watched shoppers navigating the showroom searching for bargains.

"Why?" he asked. "I'm happy."

Say what?

"It's time," he said.

Nelson explained that the construction that had ripped up the sidewalk near his store - and the months-long construction on the recently opened Harris Teeter - didn't help business, but those weren't the reasons he closed.

The shopping center anchor had been open for more than 40 years, and he'd owned it for nearly 30. Now, he said, his wife and he will have time to travel.

Orlando Morales, owner of Native Threads, a touchstone store on Ninth Street when that block was a hip strip with real funk and a genuine bohemian flair, is closing under duress.

Thomasi McDonald, a writer for the Indy, accurately described the store as a "global bazaar."

A bazaar and possibly bizarre: Make sure you read the part where Morales talks about the Congo slit drum and the spirits that won't leave it. Now that he's closing for good, perhaps the spirits will leave.

Eric Brinsfield, owner of Southern Seasons, explained why he's shuttering the gourmet food store. "Southern Season is an incredible business, and I firmly believe that the concept is part of the future of retail; However, it requires a more robust organization and more capital than I can provide as a small business owner."

In the Indy story, an understandably demoralized Morales said something similar. "Look, the store was a success. It just didn’t make any money."

Amen. Anyone who has ever had a dream knows that there is more than one way to measure success.

But there is only one way to pay the landlord.




Meet Barry Saunders

For over 20 years, Barry was a columnist for The News & Observer in Raleigh, NC. He also wrote for other publications, such as the Atlanta Constitution and the Richmond County Daily Journal. Often described as powerfully honest and illustratively funny, Barry's writing is both loved and hated by readers- sometimes simultaneously.  


Want more? Get your own copy of one of Barry's published books featuring reader favorites (and not so favorites) from his years writing columns for The News & Observer. Titled "Do Unto Others...And then Run" and "...And The Horse You Rode In On Saunders!", they're full of guaranteed entertainment. 


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