By Nathan Ham
It was a strange sight with only a handful of cars here and there parked along Main Street in Blowing Rock. Several stores remained open this week, though unsure of what the future will hold, especially after local restaurants and bars had to close their seating areas.
“I think this week has been a transitional sort of week. I hear more people will be closed next week than this week,” said Charles Hardin, President/CEO of the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce. “Decisions being made in other places are really affecting what we can do.”
One thing that Blowing Rock has always been famous for is its numerous outdoor activities. Memorial Park is still open, the Blue Ridge Parkway is just a hop, skip and a jump away from Main Street and people are taking advantage of warmer temperatures by just getting out and walking.
“I’m amazed really at how many people are still here and are out there enjoying Blowing Rock. We’ve always said for many years that outdoor recreation is our main draw. We have calls from people still coming to visit. Some of these people are coming from other states so they don’t know about our restaurant dining areas being closed so we are trying to explain that.”
Hardin pointed out that for business owners, typically March and April are the slowest time of the year anyway, but that if things are like they are now in the summer months, a lot of people will be feeling a money crunch.
“Depending on how compliant the citizens of our country are and how well they follow these rules, that will determine how long this thing goes,” said Hardin. “If we don’t do what we’re supposed to do and this prolongs into June, July, and August, that’s a totally different game. Those businesses can’t miss June, July, and August. That’s our bread and butter up here.”
According to Hardin, 2018 was the best economic year that Blowing Rock has had and 2019 was right there with it. So far in 2020, Hardin said that the numbers in January and February have been fantastic.
Hardin also said he hopes that the state can avoid a total lockdown that would all non-essential businesses to close.
“Right now at least some of our economy is working. I’ve had landscapers on the property this morning; I see contractors and construction workers out. If we can allow those guys to continue working without affecting anything, we should do it,” Hardin said.
On Friday, Tanger Outlets announced that all of the retail stores at Shoppes on the Parkway were closed until further notice.
“We will continue to monitor developments and communicate changes as they occur. We will also maintain a center team and security presence at the site. Retailers may still schedule deliveries and access the stores as needed,” Tanger Outlets said in its statement.