South Square area’s troubles continue

Dec. 13, 2013 @ 05:07 PM

After 11 years working at the fabric shop, Diane Tatreau was vacuuming out the near-empty space Thursday.
Some signs such as “linen and cords” and “foam” were still up, most of the inventory was gone from Not Just Linens, a drapery and upholstery fabrics store on Durham-Chapel Hill Boulevard.
The store’s owner closed the Durham store, and moved the inventory to a 13,000-square-foot warehouse store near Southern Pines. In Durham now there is a string of vacant retail spaces along the boulevard.
Carpet One Floor & Home location and the piano and music store Pearson Music are closed. The building that previously housed the German eatery the Bavarian Brathaus is also empty, and is up for sale or lease.
“We always felt that this was a great location for us, but for some reason, the economy affected us,” said Tatreau, who was Not Just Linens’ manager. “We’re just very sad to be saying goodbye to the business and all of our friends.”
Not Just Linens owner Casey Tilson closed the Durham store, but is keeping the original store location near Southern Pines open along with the location in Wilmington.
He said the Durham store’s sales numbers were “actually unbelievable” when it first opened. About four years ago, he said sales started to decline.
“I was able to negotiate a lower lease last year, which kept us open for another year,” he said.
Tilson said the business was affected by the decline in new home construction during the recession. He said that impacted related industries such as home decoration and furnishings.
Tatreau also said that home decoration trends shifted toward a more simple style, which involved “less fabric, less trim, less stuff.”
In terms of location, Tilson said the store was located along the heavily trafficked boulevard, but “everything just started vacating” in strip centers along the road.
“For whatever reason, when you look out the window and see the traffic, you think it wouldn’t have an issue,” he said. “It’s surprising.”
Paula Fullerton, co-owner of Sew Fine II, a Durham-based design firm that sells custom draperies, window treatments, pillows, carpeting and other items for the home, said she’s seen a “big turnaround” in business in the last 18 months.
“They weren’t spending during the depths of the recession (and) now they’re doing things,” she said, such as home additions or other improvements.
Fullerton said she believes the No. 1 factor affecting the store was the location in the South Square area, which has been affected by the closure of South Square Mall and competition with The Streets at Southpoint. Sew Fine II is on Fayetteville Road near Southpoint.
“I think the former South Square Mall area has a hard time,” she said. “Now if they come near Southpoint, they’re going there anyway to shop, or if they go to Crabtree, they’re going to shop. I think that’s why car dealerships are opening again near Southpoint.”
According to a second-quarter retail report for the South Square area from the real estate research firm Karnes, the vacancy rate for the area rose to 5.08 percent in the quarter, and there was a net loss of 19,217 leased square feet in the area in the quarter.
There was also a net loss in 106,227 square feet of retail space in 2009, but net gains in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
According to data from Avison Young, the vacancy rate in directly-leased office space in the South Square area was 21.5 percent in the third quarter. That was up from 2003’s vacancy rate of 13.6 percent for the area, but down compared to a peak in 2005 of 30.6 percent.
That’s compared with a vacancy rate of 16 percent for directly-leased office space in the third quarter Triangle-wide. The Triangle had seen an increase in office vacancies in 2010 to 19 percent from a drop in 2006 and 2007 of 13 percent.