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Downtown Dreamers

06/01/2006 04:35PM ● Published by Anonymous

For those who are old enough to remember (and have lived here long enough), downtown Fayetteville holds some very special memories. From perusing the finery at The Capitol department store to having a soda at the Point News, downtown was the place to see and be seen.

Then the 70s and 80s brought malls to our city’s landscape. And like city centers all over the nation, downtown Fayetteville entered a long dormant period.

But downtown is back. Cafes, sweet shops, art galleries and more line the once-abandoned streets.

Behind this revival are some passionate small-business owners who have taken a chance on this historic neighborhood. And they’re tickled pink to see it paying off.

Suzanna Hrabovsky

of The Downtown Pup

Suzanna Hrabovsky may own The Downtown Pup (108 Hay St., www.downtownpup.com), but it’s Winston, her three-year-old Brussels Griffon, who made it happen.

“I always tried to find fun, unique things for him,” she says, “and I knew other people were looking, too. So I thought, ‘This would make a great business.’”

After a year of toying with the idea, she came up with a plan and opened the boutique in January. The selection includes gourmet treats, organic shampoos, even stylish sunglasses – all for the four-legged set.

As Winston relaxes in his “Furcedes,” a car-shaped luxury bed, shoppers giggle over spangled collars and peruse dog-friendly baked treats from the “barkery.”

“People are always surprised by what they find here,” she says. “I always try to have something that people have never seen before.”

The downtown location was a natural choice for Hrabovsky, who lives in a Hay Street loft.

“I wanted to support downtown because I love the atmosphere,” she says. “It’s not going to make me rich, but it lets me feel like my success is part of something bigger. And you couldn’t ask for better neighbors. We all know each other and look out for one another.”

Hrabovsky has advice for those who have designs on opening a downtown business of their own.

“Go for it,” she says. “You can put together a business plan and get everything organized, but you really learn the most from just jumping in with both feet.”

Greg Hathaway

of Greg’s!

The man behind Greg’s! (122 Maxwell St., 483-8355), an art gallery, gift store and pottery studio, is no newcomer to downtown. Greg Hathaway has worked in the Maxwell Street building since the mid-80s, when he made his living in graphic design. In the early 90s, when his landlord came into some financial difficulty, Hathaway was faced with a choice: either buy the building himself or move out.

“I had to buy,” he says. “It’s the uniqueness, the character of downtown. I couldn’t be anywhere else.”

The space evolved from a graphic design firm to an art gallery, and saw other tenants come and go. Finally, it became what it is today: an eclectic mix of original artwork and distinctive gifts with a special sense of humor. And if you want something truly one-of-a-kind, you can paint your own pottery or take pottery classes from Hathaway himself.

“There aren’t many places in town where you can find a really unique, special gift for someone,” says Hathaway. “I’d say 60 percent of what’s in here, you can’t get anywhere else in the world.”

Hathaway says he is encouraged by the recent rebirth of the downtown neighborhood. But he knows a way to make it even better.

“If everyone in this town came downtown and spent just one dollar,” he says, “the impact would be huge.”

The symbiotic nature of the downtown business community, Hathaway says, is part of its success.

“We all really want each other to do well,” he says. “If my business fails, that’s a boarded-up storefront that hurts the whole block. So really, we’re all in this together.”

Brenda Hardwick and Melissa Roman of The Shabby Rose

The Shabby Rose (225 Franklin St., 223-7673) is the brainchild of Melissa Roman and her mother, Brenda Hardwick. Roman’s romantic style of decorating – with refurbished antiques, soft fabrics and rosy hues – so impressed her mother that the two decided to make a business of it.

“We knew people would be amazed,” says Roman. “We have customers who come in and say, ‘This is exactly what we’re looking for!’”

The store is reminiscent of a Victorian valentine, with framed floral prints, vintage gloves and purses and ornate furniture. A plush four-post bed serves to showcase some of the merchandise.

The women were pleased when they found a space downtown that worked just fine for their business plan.

“We love it here, “says Hardwick. “There’s a historic ambience in this area that fits perfectly with us.”

Both say that the neighbors in their Franklin Street building make this location unbeatable. Sharing this colorful row with them are White Trash & Colorful Accessories and Fleur De Lis (both home design boutiques), plus Beautiful Beautiful hair salon and Art & Soul art gallery. The building has become something of a “Style Central” for downtown Fayetteville.

“Our businesses all complement each other,” says Roman. “And we look out for one another.”

Roman says she’s proud that she and her mother are helping the neighborhood along with their business.

“We can see how much it’s changed in a short time,” she says. “And it’s really just getting started.” n

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