07/09/06 — Business owners see potential in downtown Goldsboro improvements

View Archive

Business owners see potential in downtown Goldsboro improvements

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on July 9, 2006 2:01 AM

David Cain has always dreamed of moving his photography studio to a storefront, historic location that he could customize. Recently, he found the "perfect spot," he said -- right downtown.

Thursday, Cain got some advice on how to achieve success in his new location, as business owners and Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp. board members discussed the future of the historic center of the city.

Wiley Williamson is a veteran businessman. He has sold furniture in Goldsboro for more than 44 years.

"I started in 1962 on July 3," he said. "This was supposed to have been just a temporary deal."

But after some early successes and a few changes in location, Williamson said he found a career. Then, he found a new home on Center Street in 2001, a place he says has pushed his sales over $10,000 per week.

"Business has better than tripled since we've been in the building," he said. "In fact, you could sit there and do so much business that you get tired of doing business and just want to sit there and loaf and just take your time."

Williamson added he has noticed the dramatic increase in sales after interior and exterior renovations were completed -- an action suggested by the DGDC. And the store's new look "absolutely" brought more business in, he said.

"You actually do more business now, accidentally, then you did before working real hard," he said.

Williamson added he is happy with the progress being made downtown. New investors, like Cain, are improving the conditions of historic property and helping the DGDC turn around the business climate.

"It can't do anything but make business better," he said. "When they fix up those buildings downtown, it's going to bring more people to your business."

And so, he offered some advice to the downtown newcomer Cain, a few ways to ensure successes as a business in the heart of the city.

"You have to change as the times change," he said. "You can't keep doing business the way you did 10 years ago or 15 years ago. You've got to move on to what's going on now."

Williamson added with a downtown business, you have to be particularly good with people -- you never know whether the person walking down the street will be your next sale.

"You've got to be able to get along with people," he said. "That's No. 1. If you can't get along with people, you can't do business, period."

Cain said he is already excited about the opportunities he dreamed of coming to fruition when he opens Aug. 1.

"It's in a good location," he said of the building on James Street, adding downtown's proximity to Stagestruck and North Carolina Weslyan College is a plus. "We've got a lot of diversity there as far as people who will come by the place. It has always been my goal to go to a storefront location and have a very historical studio, customized to what I see."

Cain attributes the presence of some of the current downtown consumers to the work done by the DGDC over the past few years, including the recent hire of urban designer Allison Platt to complete a the Downtown Goldsboro Master Plan.

"I think (the master plan) is going to bring in more variety as well," Cain said. "More people will have a reason to come downtown, whether it's businesses or restaurants. There is going to be a new outlook downtown."

DGDC board president Mark Webb and executive director Julie Thompson said they believe the plan will be complete by this time next year.

"(The master plan) will definitely help the existing property owners come up with adaptive uses for property they have already got," he said. "It will also encourage investment from outside people who've got the money to make an investment and just don't know what they want to invest in. This will take all the guesswork out of it."

Mrs. Thompson said once the plan is completed, the board can use it as a recruitment tool.

"(Investors) will be able to look and see that there's a comprehensive plan," Webb said.

"Their homework is done for them and they can come in as investors more confident."

Williamson added he would like to see more new businesses downtown soon -- ones that will bring a wealth of new people with them.

"Well, we need businesses that bring lots of people downtown," he said. "You need variety type stores, clothing stores and just general businesses."

Mrs. Thompson added another way to draw more customers to downtown is to improve the neighborhoods around the area. After all, those residents represent a large percentage of the shoppers downtown, she said.

Webb added that improved neighborhoods and more residents mean dollars.

"With the residential influx, you have more shop owners who are willing to locate downtown," he said

Webb added that changes can already be seen in the downtown area, but some people just refuse to see them.

"If you drive around and look at the buildings, and have some vision like Julie has, I think you will see some opportunities that are being passed by every day," he said.