Whatever the behind-the-scenes machinations of the recent closing of the popular Double Eagle Grill & Bar in downtown Aberdeen, there appears to be a clear winner: downtown Aberdeen.
Once a crossroads of local commerce, then a forgotten and empty shell of bypassed bricks and mortar, the few streets that make up the business core of Aberdeen are clearly getting a new look from would-be merchants, restaurateurs and investors.
Within 48 hours of Double Eagle owners Brant and Jani Newton announcing on social media that they were closing, a new tenant, Brian Hainley, had signed a lease and announced his plans for a breakfast-and-lunch spot in the old building on North Sycamore Street.
“I wanted a downtown storefront-style,” said Hainley, no stranger to the restaurant scene in Moore County. “I had a few good prospects but had to get the timing right. With this spot, all the cards fell in place.”
While it has a long way to go to get the same kind of vibe and foot traffic as its neighbor to the north, Aberdeen is slowly becoming the new destination.
Is this interest in downtown Aberdeen real? Look no further than who’s investing in a number of the buildings: the McPeake family. Bonnie McPeake, who has built a solid business along U.S. 15-501 with a series of hotels and invested in downtown Southern Pines, now owns six buildings in downtown Aberdeen. The family’s company is also currently building a new four-story Hilton Garden Inn behind the Aberdeen Commons shopping center.
Melissa McPeake says the company has acquired the historic properties in downtown Aberdeen because they see the town’s potential.
“There is more walkability than people realize. And it’s got good bones,” she said. “There are lots of great shops that attract people. We just need them to come to more than one space at a time.”
Once upon a time, someone probably said that about Broad Street in Southern Pines. These days, it’s hard enough just to find a parking spot on Broad Street, much less get a lunchtime table in one of its many restaurants. And the merchants’ annual sidewalk sale this past Saturday turned out a crowd like it was a holiday season.
This is great news for existing merchants but not those like Brian Hainley, who either can’t afford the rent or find a suitable space. Enter Aberdeen, which has both of those and investors like the McPeakes willing to work with them.
“We own a lot of old buildings,” said Melissa McPeake. “We like to renovate them, and we’re in business to take care of our buildings so we can rent our spaces.”
A Growing Appetite
Good things are starting to happen for Aberdeen. Demand is picking up. Where there were nine empty storefronts two years ago, now there is just one. The town, which has sponsored a Sunday summer concert series the last couple of years, is seeing growing interest.
Driving through last Friday night and Saturday afternoon, on-street parking was full. A mix of merchants leans toward home furnishings but also includes quirky niches like Hit Point Hobbies, which draws dozens of gaming enthusiasts for Friday night and weekend card games. Earlier this spring, the Sweet Carolina Ice Cream shop opened in the historic Aberdeen Hotel Annex building on West Main Street.
“We are hoping to be part of the upswing that is happening in downtown Aberdeen,” said co-owner Christopher Clayton. “We’d like to see everybody succeed around here. We are excited to be part of that revitalization and to stimulate even more of that ourselves.”
A mix of actions by the town, investors and businesses is clearly paying off in Aberdeen, showing that Moore County has yet to sate its appetite for downtown revitalization.