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Cabarrus Magazine

'Up Front' Podcast Examines what Phase One of Reopening Looks Like for Cabarrus

May 11, 2020 02:53PM ● By Jason Huddle
Huddle

Welcome to Up Front with Cabarrus Magazine a presentation of Cabco Media group and sponsored by Atlantic Bay Mortgage Group, Cabarrus Arena and Events Center, Cabarrus Eye Center, Certec Automotive, Concord Downtown Development Corporation, Family Wealth Partners, New Hope Worship Center and Walk Cabarrus. I'm your host, Jason Huddle. Welcome again, my friends to another edition of Up Front with Cabarrus Magazine. A lot has happened in the last two weeks. We took last week off because it was 1/5 week in the month and now we are ready to get started with the month of May. And thank God we have started the process of reopening the state. Now I know some of you think it's too soon, but I think Governor Cooper's plan is stepped and cautious and we have to get to a point where people are starting to open back up. It's just not feasible to keep everything closed as much as some of you would like too, and I'm not gonna criticize that point of view, but I've made it very clear that we need to get reopen in North Carolina as quickly as we possibly can but as safely as we possibly can, that being said, I apologize that the podcast is, ah, a little bit late this week because I wanted to get some input. Once Governor Cooper made his announcement that we were going to be entering phase one. I wanted to get a local perspective by interviewing our friends at Concord Downtown Development Corporation. Who is a sponsor of this program and we greatly appreciate that, as well as the city of Kannapolis, the two biggest municipalities in this area. We thought it would be a great idea to have their input as far as how these two cities in Cabarrus county that take up the bulk of the county, how they have fared during this crisis, and then what do things look like going forward? Kannapolis and Concord both had a lot of events and activities planned this summer. Those were all up in question as well as how our business is going to be reopening as these phases progress. So we are going to get into all that but first it is time for shamless plug time. We may not have produced a May issue of Cabarrus magazine, and that was deeply distressing too us first time in 20 years, we have not at least produced a digital issue of the magazine, but that doesn't mean that there is nothing to talk about. Cabarrus magazine dot com has all the latest news in Cabarrus County, COVID-19 related and not. We still have our restaurant guide up, we still have our summer camp guide out, which you guys need to be checking out and will be modifying that as new information comes available. And we are getting ready to produce the June issue printed and digital. So we're very excited about that, so keep up with everything at Cabarrus Magazine dot com. Don't forget, you can go to the Up Front with Cabarrus Magazine podcast page and catch up on all the episodes you may have missed, starting at Episode one, and that is today's shameless plug time. All right, everybody stick around when we get back from break, Johnson Bray from the Concord Downtown Development Corporation will be on the line. Stay tuned.

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Huddle                

Welcome back to the program. I am joined by phone today with Johnson Bray. He is the head executive at Concord Downtown Development Corporation, and I know he's had his hands full the last six weeks in dealing with a lot of worried merchants. So Johnson despite your busy schedule, thank you for joining us today on Up Front             

Bray

No Problem, thank you for having me.

Huddle                

Let me just put this disclaimer out before we get into anything. Johnson has really bad allergies, so if you hear him sneeze or cough for you here that he's stuffy. Don't don't think that he has the Rhona just allergies, and he's okay, right? Johnson?

Bray

Absolutely

Huddle

Okay, so I just want to give that out of the way first before we talk about moving forward as we're talking about opening back up the state this week, I want to talk about the last six weeks for our Concord Downtown merchants, first of all, how they've been getting along.

Bray                

A lot of them are very optimistic about how things are going and helping will go once we are able to open back up. We have a lot of resilient businesses here and downtown Concord, I have been very proud of the way that they have adapted their business models. To this new situation and they adapted very quickly. Others closed up for their own health, and we completely understand that. And we're just excited about the light at the end of the tunnel that we start getting from normalcy back in downtown Concord.

Huddle                

Did we lose any stores? Are there any stores in downtown Concord that are not planning on reopening at this point? You know of any?

Bray                

None have told me if they are planning to close up permanently, so we're really happy about that. I was expecting a lot of that, actually, just because small businesses, it's such a tough lifestyle and I've been very thankful that they all seem to weather the storm, and we`re all very happy about that.

Huddle                

That is great news, you know. And I can tell you from a small business persons perspective myself, the last six weeks have been not fun, to say the least, and it was a probably the most difficult storm in 20 years of doing this magazine, we weathered several recessions, including the bottoming out of 2008. And I can tell you that this last six weeks was harder than those three years after 2008.

Bray                

Yeah, it's been a really tough time to be in this position, and I not that far into my professional career. I've only been out of school for about four years now, so this is really the first major crisis that I've had to experience in my time of the downtown director. And it's definitely been a learning experience for me. But my first crisis had to be the works, one we've probably experienced in our history as far as living memory goes, and the people that we work with down here couldn't have been better. We had businesses like Cabana and Redhill delivering food to front line employees and businesses supporting other businesses and partnerships forming and it really shows the best of our community in a time like this.

Huddle                

I agree. And certainly, goes without question to say this is unprecedented. I think the closest we've come to all that we've been through in March and April would be 100 years ago with the Spanish flu epidemic. Other than that, I can't think of another time in history that everything has just been completely shut down so I'm glad that downtown Concord is weathered that storm relatively well. But let's talk about moving forward. As of Friday evening, at five o'clock, North Carolina will officially enter into Phase one of the reopening program, which really isn't a lot different than the shutdown, except that there are some allowances for clothing stores to begin to reopen with limited capacity. I believe so. Let's talk about what phase one looks like for downtown Concord and what visitors and shoppers can expect for Union Street.

Bray                

Absolutely so with phase one, businesses are able to open at 50% capacity as far as retail goes, and right now they're technically able to open at 20% capacity since the governor issue his last executive order, but many have remained closed and so right now we're communicating with business owners to try and get a sense for who is going to open back up so that we can establish a reopening campaign, something like the bingo that we did previously that people filled out there bingo card and sent to it via email. And we're really just trying to highlight the people who are going to open right now so that we can get back into the swing of things.

Huddle                

And when will that information be available Johnson?

Bray                

We're having to have bingo card out by tomorrow afternoon, and that way people can start filling it out immediately. And we haven't established a timeline for when that would be due. But we probably get people two weeks to a month to fill it out, just as people continue to reopen. And then that sort of thing as well.

Huddle                

So for those listeners that aren't as familiar explained the bingo card a little bit.

Bray                

Absolutely. So what we have done this with the bingo grid is we, uh, put like, shop at, uh, retail business downtown online, or picked up beer from Red Hill walks the greenway, socially distanced and those sort of things, just so that pretty much anyone can fill it out. People have a good chance of getting bingo, but we made them downtown specific, and the previous bingo cards were very restaurant centered. And this new bingo card would be restaurant and retail centered because now we actually have the ability to go into our retail stores again, and we're very thankful that that can happen. I know a lot of people were starting to feel the pinch of not being able to shop that sort of things.

Huddle                

But for sure, shopping has been limited, to say the least. You know, Amazon was only sending out essential supplies, so it was hard to order anything that wasn't considered essential. Unless you like to shop at Walmart or Target for your clothes, you know there really wasn't any other options. So I'm excited to see that the retailers in downtown Concord are reopening once those bingo cards are available Johnson. Where can people get them? How can they acquire them?

Bray                

They can find them on Instagram at Concord downtown or on Facebook, Concord Downtowns about Inc.

Huddle                

And then once you get bingo, what do you do?

Bray                

You email them to Info at concord downtown dot com.

Huddle                

Perfect are in the last a minute or so that we have Johnson. I wanted to talk quickly about the sad fact that we missed Spring into Arts. It's one of the highlights of the year for me, and I know a lot of people look forward to that sort of as, ah, welcoming of spring, a welcoming of the new season. And it's sad that that did not take place, but it is not canceled completely. Tell us about what you have planned for later on the year that will incorporate the festival.

Bray                

So I've been playing for quite a while. Too reinvigorate spring and arts and in a weird way, this gave me the opportunity to really reinvigorated altogether, although I would have rather done under different circumstances,

Huddle                

I'm sure.

Bray                

But Spring and Arts was supposed to be this Saturday, and we moved it pretty quickly as soon as we started figuring that things were going to be shutting down and combined it with Candy Crawl on October 31st Candy Crawl is really probably our largest attended event, so we thought it would have a lot of benefit to the vendors and the business owners to combine these things together. So the candy crawl portion would take place from, um, 10 to noon. And that's for kids to go collect candy from our business owners and then the street festival takes place from noon to six. And we`d have, like music, a beer garden, the bouncy houses, the whole nine yards. And we're planning on calling this the Concord Halloween Festival.

Huddle                

I think you just call it Fall into Arts.

Bray                

We thought about it. But one of the things that I am really passionate about as a downtown director is making sure that we are authentic to the spear of our community. And the downtown Concord residents really embrace Halloween. And so I've been trying to figure out a way to really capture that sort of spooky spirit. But the residents of historic Concord really embraced, and that's one of the reasons we started the murder mystery scavenger hunt.

Huddle                

Which is still taking place?

Bray                

from years ago. Yes, that will take place October 17 and we actually have another one in February of 2021.

Huddle                

Awesome Well, Johnson Bray with Concord Downtown Development Corporation of before I let you go, let me say Thank you for your sponsorship of this program. We appreciate the CDDC's Partnership with Us, and we're excited to see what you guys have coming the rest of the year. I know that the summer programs are still up in the air. What's going on with that?

Bray                

You're welcome. We are very happy to partner with you guys on that, and our summer programs are We're really just sitting on our hands trying to figure out when to jostle the movies around. Maybe we're gonna stick those in place here there. We also partner with 600 Festival on the Haulers on Union Parade, which is supposed to be next Thursday, but it's going to take place October 8. So we're trying to reschedule everything and put everything in the movies that we started last summer. I think are really just going to depend on the time that we're able to dedicate to those without jamming everything in or piling things on top of other towns events. We don't want to compete with anyone. We want to make sure that you know the whole community supported in that sort of day.

Huddle                

Sure. So October is gonna be a huge month of downtown Concord for sure.

Bray                

Absolutely something every weekend in October and we're looking forward to it.

Huddle                

That sounds great. We're certainly looking forward to it Johnson and appreciate your time today. If people want more information, tell him real quick the website for Concord Downtown.

Bray                

Yes, our website is actually new because it was hacked recently, So you can visit us at Concord downtown dot com Or follow us on Facebook at Concord Downtown Development Corporation or INSTAGRAM at Concord Downtown.

Huddle                

Perfect Johnson Bray with Concord Downtown Development Corporation Thanks so much for your time today. We're looking forward to seeing you guys once again in downtown Concord.

Bray

Absolutely, thank you!

Huddle

You guys stay tuned. We've got Annette Privette Keller from the city of Kannapolis. Coming up right after these messages.

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Huddle                

Welcome back, thanks for sticking with this on Up Front with Cabarrus Magazine. I am joined now on the phone by Annette Privette Keller. She is with the city of Kannapolis. She is a several time guests on the program and that Thank you so much for joining us today on upfront.

Keller                 

Thank you. Glad to be here.

Huddle                

So it's been a rough go for everybody and I'm sure Kannapolis is no exception to that. Tell me what you've been hearing from businesses in Kannapolis as far as how they fared through this storm that we've all been through.

Keller                

First, we'd really like to say thank you to everybody, our businesses and our residents. We know this has been a very, very difficult time. All of us have been impacted in some way shape or form. You know, our lives have been just turned upside down. Our businesses have been just super. Everyone has generally adhered to all the rules and regulations they call us and ask questions. Everybody's been very courteous and understand that, you know, this is out of our control. And if anything, we have all learned that we're all connected as a community. We said that, you know, and we hear it a lot, but now we know every action that everybody takes makes us all the community. So we've been very pleased that everyone has worked with us to make, um our community safe. So now that we're getting ready to do phase one of reopening, we're hearing from businesses there wanting to make sure that again, they're doing all the right things and we've tried to help get people resources, signage for their businesses, help them understand what they can and cannot do. Francis, one of the local funeral homes I've talked to him on a regular basis. They're trying to be so very careful and understand the rules and regulations and still operate their business.

Huddle                

How has COVID-19 affected the reshaping of the downtown area? I know we featured it in the digital version of the April addition. We did not get to print in April edition, so I was disappointed in that. But we did feature Kannapolis in that issue, and I'm curious. Did it slow things down, The construction continuous, normal? How did that go?

Keller                

We were very fortunate that the construction industry has been able to continue on almost nonstop. So we are seeing the project downtown feet of the apartment and makes use. It's on schedule. Everything is going very well. They are starting to put up the facade, doors and windows air starting to go in their own tracks. So everything's moving along very nicely with that project. Which is great news, Of course. It's been a disappointment that we have not been able to start the Kannapolis Cannonballer season, but we are still hopeful that somehow, some way we can have an abbreviated season if it's safe to do so, the other businesses downtown, the cellblock one is still progressing. That closing should be happening soon, and we do expect to have announcements about businesses coming into West Avenue in the next few weeks and granted, there are some businesses who said, you know, wanna wait, Maybe I don't want to open this summer. Maybe it might be this fall, but we're very pleased that on the whole it it looks like we're going to be fine. We may just have to delays.

Huddle                

Have you heard for many businesses that told you this was just too much and they're not planning on reopening?

Keller                

I have not heard of existing businesses that have said that we certainly have a good number of businesses that have been greatly impacted and they're struggling, and they are trying to see if they can regroup and, like, you know, get stimulus funds and do all the things they need to do. We are concerned just like everybody else in the country, that we will have some business casualties, but I've not heard of any personally yet.

Huddle                

Well, that's good news. So far for sure, let's talk about moving forward. Unfortunately, just like we talked with our friends and down sound Concord in the previous segment, and this weekend would have been the spring into Arts festival. Likewise, we just missed what would have been the weekend for Jiggy with a Piggy. So I know a lot of people were disappointed. You included that that had to be canceled. One of the things that Kannapolis does so well are community events, especially over the summer, with the concert series in the park and and all the other things that are going on. So can you tell us a little bit about what this summer is going to look like? And are there any plans to replace the Jiggy event this year?

Keller                

Well, yes. Kannapolis is known for all of its events, and last weekend would happen Jiggy with the Piggy. And it was certainly different to not be enjoying all the crowds of people in the barbecue and all those wonderful things that happened with the Piggy. We are constantly almost daily talking as a staff. As we learn more about COVID is. We see what has been happening, the new normal. I know everybody's getting tired of hearing that, but what is the new normal mean for festivals and concerts and the family movies and all of these things? And I think right now, the day we don't have good, clear cut answers. We're just gonna have to wait and see as the next couple of weeks. With this phase one reopening, you know, it's going to be very important for us to evaluate and look at all the data and see what is happening on. We're certainly hopeful that everybody still takes precautions and we can all be safe and healthy. So that's not I'm sure what everybody wants to hear, but it's sort of it's just unknown at this point and we're making plans and alternate plans, and we're just in a look and wait and see, period. Right now, we are hopeful that somehow we will be able to have events either late this summer in the fall. But we're just gonna have to wait and see.

Huddle                

It seems like with the outdoor events, especially at the concerts, that as long as people are social distancing outdoors, I mean, where's the risk there or is there a risk there or I don't know, I guess I'm just asking is you guys have. I'm sure I've talked through all this. Shouldn't events like the concerts be a little bit more plausible? I understand a festival where people were moving about and it's close quarters, but the part people can spread out. So is that possible?

Keller                

Well, we've talked about them. What does it make? Um, if you and your family come to a concert and you're sitting there and you're in a group of 4 or 5 you can be close to each other, possibly when we just and then do we put six feet eight foot between another group of family that we're certainly talking about? The possibility is less crowds at outdoor events. We just don't know what those new parameters are going to be. And I think as we've all learned as a nation and a worldwide, we just don't have a lot of answers about COVID. We're still finding out things, you know, we're constantly evaluating we're learning things from other countries, So we just have to realize that today what we might think is going to be okay tomorrow might not. And so we still have to learn and educate ourselves.

Huddle                

This is a tricky virus, for sure. I really don't want to get started cause I will go down a rabbit hole about how you might have symptoms, or you might not, or you might could touch something and get it or you might not. It just seems like they I don't know. It's a little .ever mind. I'm not going to go down that road. It's just weird to me that this virus behaves like no other. But that's just my personal opinion. Well Annette before I let you go, just tell us, Is there anything else that we need to know? Moving forward with Kannapolis. What is phase one look like? And, um, And how are businesses planning to to reopen at this point?

Keller                

I think if anything, we know everybody's cooped up. We're tired looking at each other's faces home. Um, we want to see new faces and do things again and get out and about. We're very much a society that moves, and if anything, we just really want to have everybody be very cautious and very careful. Andi, As we open up these businesses, please patronize businesses, but do so carefully. I think it's important to where your mask and to be healthy, and most of all, if you're sick, stay at home. But if we can just all be careful because it's and be safe. Hopefully, we will get to have our concerts in our special events later this year.

Huddle                

And I'm sure you'll be announcing things in the days and weeks to come. As you guys figure things out, where can people go to get that information?

Keller                

Absolutely. We have tried to keep everything streamlined. Keep it simple. On our website
Kannapolis NC dot gov we have a special page. As soon as you go that home page, you'll see COVID19. You hit that we're updating that site daily with the information for Kannapolis Cabarrus County, the state and the federal government. Anything that some needed for you to know we're doing that daily for us is a city. Not much will change in phase one. We're still operating services. We are going to resume E waste and white good and bulky waste collection on a normal schedule. Those schedules have sort of been modified during the stay at home. So starting Monday, everything goes back to normal with our waste collection. Everything else City Hall remains closed to the public. Fire stations remain closed. We're encouraging people to pay their utility bills online, electronically, because customer service is closed and their number other ways that you could also pay on one. But all the information is right there on our website, and we also use social media.

Huddle                

Wonderful. Annette Privette Keller with the City of Kannapolis thank you so much for spending a few minutes with this today. And thanks for all you're doing to get Kannapolis back up and running.

Keller                

Thank you, Jason. We really appreciate all you do to.

Huddle                

All right, you guys stick around. We will wrap up the show after these messages. Stay tuned.

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Huddle                

I'd like to once again thank Johnson Bray from Concord Downtown Development Corporation, and Annette Privette Keller from the city of Kannapolis for coming on the program today and talking to us about what reopening Cabarrus County is going to look like. I realize this is a fluid situation. Things are ever changing and things they said on the program today. They may change by next week or next month, so you can't necessarily hold them to that. They're doing the best they can in planning for the future in a situation that constantly changes, as I kind of alluded to during the interview with Annette  even what we know about this virus. Or at least I should say what we're being told about this virus. It's always changing. One day it incubates for 14 days. The next day you could have it the next day. One day we're told it doesn't stick to services for more than a few hours. The next day we're told it could be there for several days. You may be asymptomatic. You may have symptoms. Your kids might be a carrier, even though they don't usually get it. For me it's just a little too convenient that every time a concern of the virus seems to be alleviated, they come up with another reason to be concerned about this virus to me, that is a little bit more fearmongering than truth. And I think it's important that yes, we listen to the experts. But I also want to point out these experts that we've been listening to along have been wrong about a lot of things. They've hyped up the numbers and we shut down the economy as a result. A my little bitter about that. Yeah, I kind of am. But it is what it is. At this point I'm not saying COVID isn't real. I'm not saying it's not a threat to people, so don't get that from what I just said. What I am saying is that I think it's important that we do our own research as well and not just trust what the national media is telling us because believe me when I tell you they are only giving you part of the story or the most sensationalized part. Go past the headlines, read the actual articles and you'll find that the headlines are very sensationalized, as opposed to what the articles actually say. That having been said, please make sure is you start to reenter your life next week. For those of you that are, make sure that you're taking care of yourself and each other. You're doing it safely cautiously. I look forward to talking to you guys next week. Until then, you've been listening to Up Front with Cabarrus Magazine, a presentation of CabCo media group. I'd like to thank our sponsors. Atlantic Bay Mortgage Group, Cabarrus Arena and Event Center, Cabarrus Eye Center, Certec Automotive, Concord Downtown Development Corporation, Family Wealth Partners, New Hope Worship Center and Walk Cabarrus. I've been your host, Jason Huddle until next week. Go out and enjoy some sunlight.

Phase One Has Begun!

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