Moore's Status Grows as Regional Hub
Moore County has become a regional shopping, dining and entertainment hub over the past decade, thanks in large part to the boom since 2000 in the number of people commuting to the county for work.
"On a day-to-day basis, what are they doing before they get to work and before they go home? They're shopping and eating here," says Patrick Coughlin, president and CEO of the Moore County Chamber of Commerce. "The impact of out-of-county workers is pretty significant."
Take Drew Maerz, for example. He left his job two years ago as principal of Tabernacle Elementary School in Randolph County for an administrative position with the Moore County school system. But he and his family still live in Asheboro.
"At times, I stop at the grocery store in Robbins on my way home from work if my wife needs me to pick up a few items," Maerz says. "My job here has really opened our eyes to new activities and new places to eat.
"The money we used to spend at night and on weekends in High Point and Greensboro is now being spent in Moore County. Before, we never thought about going to places like Southern Pines."
Of course, new commercial developments such as Aberdeen Commons have also helped draw more out-of-county shoppers. But Coughlin and business owners believe that the county's small-town charm goes a long way as well.
"I think one of the main reasons people come here is the local flavor," Coughlin says. "They get the big city benefits with the small town flavor."
Claudia Miller, owner of Morgan Miller in downtown Southern Pines since 1998, says customers tell her that they "just love the whole deal that we've got going on here.
"You know we've got something here, because they've got everything at their fingertips and they make the choice to come here," Miller says.
Her biggest challenge is overcoming the stigma of owning a boutique women's clothing store.
"You've got to ensure that working people know that they can shop here," Miller says. "I would be crazy not to pay attention to my shoppers. I have to understand what they want to buy and at what price point."
And it is the variety of price points - across the dining, shopping and lodging spectrum - that makes Moore County such a popular destination, whether it be for a day, a weekend or more.
"I was shocked by the amount of diversity," says Ashley Baker, vice president of the Aberdeen Business Guild.
Baker, her husband, Matt, and mother, Shirley Starkey, moved to Moore County from Arizona in 2007 after purchasing the Inn at the Bryant House, a bed-and-breakfast inn in downtown Aberdeen.
"We would not have come if we didn't see the growth and recognize the potential here," Ashley Baker says. "The dynamics are evolving as more young families and military personnel move here."
Baker played an instrumental role in forming the business guild two years ago.
"We wanted the businesses in Aberdeen to start working together to market the town," she says. "We have so much to offer. People who have never been don't realize the charm and beauty that exists in downtown Aberdeen."
Coughlin believes that local ownership of downtown buildings provides stability that has helped business owners weather the recent recession.
"You've got a mix of owner-occupied buildings and entrepreneurs who rent to business owners, and both reinvest in their properties because they have a vested interest in the outcome," he says.
Miller adds that the "Shop Locally" message championed by the Southern Pines Business Association and other pro-business groups resonates beyond the county line.
"I think that's making an impact," she says. "We've maintained our vitality despite the recession because our shop owners are really great at changing along with the economy. It all comes down to value, product quality and price point.
"This area is so unique and special. I think we've got a little gold mine here," she adds. "I think when the economy starts to turn, people are going to be spending more time and money here."
The Southern Pines Business Association (SPBA) recently printed a new brochure that focuses on the shopping, dining and entertainment options in downtown Southern Pines.
"We're trying to get people here for those very reasons," says SPBA President Kit McKinley. "We're promoting Southern Pines as that, so I agree that the county has become a regional hub."
Coughlin says the quality of health care in the county and the growth in the number of small businesses also play a symbiotic role.
"They complement each other so well and have helped each other," he says. "People come from out of the county for their doctor's appointment and make an afternoon or a day of it. I think the extra time they spend here says a lot about Moore County."
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