SOME PEOPLE just can’t be pleased

vop logoThe NCAE is grumbling over pay raise proposals being offered their members by GOP legislators that are BIGGER than ANYTHING ever offered by past Democrat majorities.  The movie crowd in Wilmington apparently can’t decide whether or not they like the amount of money the state government is proposing to throw at them.

Now, we’ve got the downtown merchants here in Pinehurst.  I know, I know. When you think of Pinehurst, you think of golf.  But, believe it or not, we have a small business community — clustered mostly in our historic downtown sector that looks like you’ve traveled back in time to the Roaring 20s.  It’s charming.  It’s attractive.  But beyond a few good places to grab a drink or a bite to eat, there really is not much of a draw.  (The Pinehurst resort doesn’t even steer its guests there anymore — instead pointing them to the more commercially-thriving areas of nearby Southern Pines and Aberdeen.) 

A lot of businesses in downtown Pinehurst are struggling.  Could the problem be that they aren’t offering products or services that are widely in demand?  Not according to those folks.  To them, it’s all the i-want-you-to-stop-whininggovernment’s fault: 

Assistant Village Manager Natalie Dean met with a handful of Pinehurst merchants Thursday to gauge their reaction to the historic U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst No. 2 last month. […]

The golf championships, which were played in consecutive weeks at the same venue for the first time, were a boon for local restaurants and bars. However, some retailers flourished while others faltered.

“I think merchant satisfaction during the Opens was greatly impacted by their expectations,” Dean said. “Some expectations came to fruition, some didn’t.”

Cristin Bennett, owner of Tesoro Home Décor, said the village needed to do a better job of monitoring the merchant parking lot to ensure that only business owners and their employees were using it.

“People were parking in the lot that had Virginia and Florida tags,” Bennett said. “They were getting out of their cars in shorts with (Open) tickets around their necks.”

Deborah Myatt, owner of Le Feme Chateau, said some village ambassadors were pointing people to specific stores without first assessing their needs.

“My father was told to go to a particular clothing store and he wasn’t even shopping,” Myatt said.

She added that the village needed to enforce its ordinances for the “pop-up shops” that were in Pinehurst only for the Opens the same way it does for perrmanent businesses.

“What’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” Myatt said. “One shop had sidewalk signs, an elephant and other things that aren’t normally allowed. Honestly, it looked like Myrtle Beach without the beach. It was tacky.”openlogo-web

Myatt also took issue with the U.S. Open Experience in Tufts Park.

“We were showing the world the village, but a lot of the charm was removed in order to accommodate the USGA,” she said. “Perhaps we could move events like that to The Arboretum. While a lot of events are good for the village, they’re not necessarily good for business.”

O-kay.  So, you demand that the Chamber and the government do everything it can to lure people into downtown.  And when that happens, you get mad about it.  Unbelievable. MORE:

Bennett also suggested eliminating the local open container law.

“We couldn’t entice customers with free booze,” she said with a smile.

Huh?  Free booze from businesses is against the law.  If you feel you might need something like that — it’s time to re-think your business model.  MORE:


Mayor Nancy Fiorillo said she was “not surprised” by what she heard at Thursday’s meeting.

“The Opens were good for our restaurants and pubs,” Fiorillo said. “I don’t think they were so good for our specialty shops. We were planning a party for ourselves and our guests. I believe people will be back. That is the key.

“I think all is well, and all will end well.”

Fiorillo said the village has “done everything” it can in recent years to improve the infrastructure needed to help merchants “thrive.”

Some merchants noted that the village cut its marketing budget in half, but Fiorillo defended the move.

“I do believe it’s time for the village merchants to step out on their own,” she said.


Her Royal Highness, Queen Nancy, is right on. This is a lesson other towns struggling with their downtown need to heed.  It’s not the job of government to prop up certain local businesses for the sake of “saving downtown.”  Capitalism is all about the survival of the fittest.  If you are not meeting the public’s needs or expectations, your business suffers.

Of course, Pinehurst village government is not totally blameless in the frustrations downtown merchants have felt.  I talked with one former restaurant owner in the downtown area about his dealings with the village bureaucracy.  He tried to set up a ”sidewalk café ” feature to complement his indoor dining area.  Village planners initially blocked him — claiming that the sidewalk in front of his business was ”historic.”

The restauranteur hired a lawyer, and did some research.  The “historic” sidewalk was constructed in the 1990s.  And — as far as he could tell — nothing famous or historically noteworthy ever happened on that sidewalk.  He and his lawyer went round and round with the planning office and eventually reached a compromise.

If local government wants to help small businesses grow and prosper in their jurisdictions, they need to be knocking down more roadblocks than they erect.