Downtown Winston-Salem restaurants get around the detour
You may have been around the block a time or two trying to get to where you’re going in downtown Winston-Salem with the construction of Business 40. However, business owners and restaurants are trying to make the best of the situation. What hasn’t helped a cumbersome entry into the downtown district—a cold and seemingly endless, wet winter. (We all just saw the sun a few days in a row for the first time in weeks.)
Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership launched a significant television, print and social media campaign to increase awareness and remind customers that downtown is still open for business with slogans like “Downtown Winston-Salem, Worth A Detour,” and “Find It Here.”
Mission Pizza Napoletana’s Peyton Smith said his end of town hadn’t been so negatively affected by the closure of Business 40, though his restaurant is less affected by it location-wise. “With the arts district and its quality projects underway, it’s bringing new attention to North Trade Street. It’s easier to get to North Trade via U.S. 52 and Cherry/University.” Smith said he feels bolstered by their growing reputation so business is up and that’s good news for him and his neighbors.
Down the street, Chef Mark Grohman, owner of Meridian, said so far, it’s business as usual, and he won’t know for sure if he’ll be affected. “We’ll see when they take down the Cherry Street and Marshall Street bridges.”
Yep…Those are coming down too.
Just like eating local is “intentional,” deciding to take the detour into downtown Winston-Salem is as equally deliberate. It’s never been as easy dining in downtown as it is driving to a restaurant with its own parking. So restaurant owners are counting on the mindset to “choose downtown” to get them through the next year. Restaurant owners are intentional about how they invite the public.
Chef Tim Grandinetti, owner of Spring House Restaurant, Kitchen & Bar and Quanto Basta, said it hasn’t been as bad as predicted.
“We continue to be incredibly grateful for the support and confidence of our guests. We strive to offer daily features, seasonally-inspired menus and culinary events that encourage guests to seek out the Spring House, despite roadway obstacles.”
Grandinetti also gives kudos to the NCDOT for sticking to a schedule, which is keeping him optimistic.
However, not everyone has been feeling such optimism, and many of those businesses are on a different side of the detour.
Tommy Priest, who owns the Coffee Park Airstream, is one owner who’s hoping for better days.
“Our sales have been 40 percent off compared to the same period last year. It’s frightening, disconcerting and has created a trickle-down impact.”
The downturn has prevented him from addressing repairs and upgrades to equipment, and “has contributed an immeasurable amount of stress across our baristas and family.”
Coffee Park has trimmed operating hours but increased the number of food truck lunch days to drive additional traffic. Priest said they’re working on business relationships with realtors and arts organizations to improve customer frequency and awareness. If you check out the Coffee Park Air Stream Facebook page, you’ll see he’s got a good list of events going on.
With the closure and weather over the past two months already causing issues, Priest said most of his customers’ issues revolve around the unknowns, such as the rolling closures of the utility companies and the city closing off various blocks, making it more difficult to get around on top of a fussy detour. “This past week’s closures of 5th, Spring and 4 1/2th Streets have made for multiple frustrating detours while trying to patronize Coffee Park at Central Library. Those that live West of the Biz 40 closure have a much easier drive than those East of the closure.”
Priest said he’s thankful for his long-term customers who’ve been intentional about patronizing his business since Broad Street’s bridge closed in October.
Dana Moody, who owns West End Coffeehouse along with her husband, Jimi, said the Broad Street Bridge shutdown had affected them the most. She said it’s not as bad as some have experienced, but it’s noticeable.
“We’ve definitely noticed a drop in our West Salem folks. Traffic is also heavier at our intersection with the 40 shut down, so I’ve had several people comment on how much harder it is to park along the street on 4th Street or in front of the shop on Broad,” Moody said. “We’ve had to reduce some of what we offer like baked goods, drinks, Gelato to save on operating costs. We’ve also reduced our hours, and we’re no longer open on Sunday.”
However, a reduction of hours has helped Moody get her creative juices flowing in other ways.
“We’ve taken the time to start to build up our pie business. Our customers have been very responsive, and that part of the business is growing. The sell-out of pies on ‘National Pie Day’ [March 14] is a good indication of that.”
Travis Myers, Chef at Willow’s Bistro, South of Business 40, said that at first, it was hard, but business is picking back up.
“People are starting to find their way around. I’ve noticed that Biz 40 to Peters Creek to downtown has gotten extremely packed over the last month. At first, people didn’t take this path. But every morning, more and more are taking this route.”
That’s good news even though Myers said that road is now getting a little backed up. He said local media outlets are helping them get the message out as things get back to normal with traffic and nicer weather.
“Our message is the same. It’s not just us, but all of downtown. So please remember us all.” Moody agreed.
But what’s a business to do? For one, local business and restaurant supporters have to be as intentional as possible about their shopping and dining choices. It’s no different from choosing to eat local any other day.
“I’ve told anyone who wants to help downtown businesses to become a fan and promote what you love. It’s pretty simple and easy to do,” Moody said.
Like, comment or share Facebook or Instagram posts of businesses that you support. Facebook and Instagram have those pesky algorithms that make posts less noticeable from accounts that get less engagement.
“Don’t just tell people about places you like, take them there. Make plans to meet for lunch and introduce them to someone new. Take a picture and tag your friends,” Moody said.
Kristi Maier is a food writer, blogger and cheerleader for all things local who even enjoys cooking in her kitchen, though her kidlets seldom appreciate her efforts.