CONCORD, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — The Cabarrus Creamery, a decades-long Concord staple, announced it’s closing because construction and closures for the downtown streetscaping project took more than just a bite out of business.
There’s a taste of nostalgia inside the ice cream shop.
“I grew up when the Creamery was on Church Street and that was our go-to adventure on Sunday afternoons,” said co-owner Beth Huss.
The Cabarrus Creamery has been a household name in Concord for a hundred years.
“We opened up an ice cream shop knowing absolutely nothing about ice cream,” said Huss.
Huss and her husband bought the name and recipes and reopened the store on Union Street 20 years ago.
“The first week, we ran out of ice cream, there were so many people that came,” she said.
At the time, Huss says there were very few businesses in downtown Concord.
“We feel like we kind of started downtown,” said Huss.
But business hasn’t been so sweet lately.
“I feel like we had just gotten our business back up to what it was before COVID and then, Bam!” said Huss referring to the street closure.
“They finally got to Union Street, closed Union Street down, and that’s when we really felt it,” said Huss.
The city began a major streetscaping project involving underground infrastructure work.
Huss says it’s so tough for customers to find parking that she thinks people just give up and go somewhere else.
“I think the hardest thing for the downtown businesses is we’ve kind of felt alone,” said Huss.
She says officials have held meetings with business owners, but she and her husband usually come away without answers.
“I feel like they’ve kind of all hung us out to dry,” said Huss.
The Creamery’s last day is Sunday.
The owners say the construction is making it too difficult to stay open, and they’re saddened by the lack of support from the city. The contract for the streetscape project goes through July 31, 2024.
“It feels horrible, we’ve been here for 20 years,” said Huss. “We’re like a fixture here.”
They’re not calling it quits for good just yet, saying they’ll reassess after closing this winter to see if it’s worth it to open back up in the spring.
“Just say a little prayer, I know that God has a plan, and I’m just relying on Him to see me through,” said Huss.
The Cabarrus Creamery is closed Wednesday and Thursday for Thanksgiving. It will be open Friday from 3-8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, which is the final day, from 1-8 p.m.
Several other restaurants and a bar downtown tell Queen City News their profits are down since the streetscaping project began. The project’s timeline can be found here.
Gianni’s remains open but announced on Facebook it plans to move locations. However, it did not announce the new location.
Lil’ Robert’s Place, a craft-beer shop, says it may also have to close.
The City of Concord says they have been interacting with the Creamery and other downtown businesses throughout the construction:
The City continues to hold monthly merchant meetings. These alternate between in person and virtual option to accommodate schedules. The Creamery last attended in March in person. However, a recap of the meeting is sent to all businesses afterwards, whether they attend or not.
The Downtown office staff does daily in-person check-ins with businesses throughout downtown. When they do not see or hear from a business owner after a while (particularly a consumer facing business) they reach out via email. Some touch points are also done over the phone – especially the regular requests for holiday hours and weekend specials for the city to share and cross promote for the businesses. For example, regarding the Creamery, the Downtown staff spoke with them ahead of the Christmas in July event and asked if they wanted to participate with a Christmas-themed special – they declined.
All businesses are offered the resource and frequently reminded to please share their specific events and promotions with the city so they’re part of the Events and Promotions feature on the downtown website and promoted on the Concord Downtown social media and newsletter. All businesses are also offered opportunity to be featured as part of the Feature Friday.
The city regularly shares resources available to merchants, many at no cost, through the Small Business Center as well as other resources. For example, as a Main Street of America community, the city was able to offer businesses “Grow with Google” workshops for free.
City Council updated the façade grant program to expand the opportunity for businesses. This grant is a specific benefit offered to downtown businesses only. City staff have discussed the Façade Grant with the Creamery property owner twice, including earlier today. He indicates an interest but has not taken any action.
The city actively and regularly partners with downtown business on joint events to activate downtown and get more people visiting downtown. A recent example is the Small Business Holiday Trail, where the city’s Downtown office partnered with downtown businesses to create this event that will bring more people downtown on Small Businesses Saturday.