Kinston, Lenoir County Economy Experiencing Highs, Lows

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Businesses are opening throughout Kinston and Lenoir County, but some business owners say they're struggling to stay open. Some believe there may be a light at the end of the tunnel.

Lindsey Fry spoke with with the president of the Kinston-Lenoir Chamber of Commerce Laura Lee Sylvester.

"Our business community has grown in so many different ways. We've added more businesses to downtown Kinston. We have more restaurants that have opened up. We really feel like our community is poised for growth."

Sylvester says 6 restaurants have opened in Kinston in the last few months, including Ginger 108 and the Boiler Room on West North Street, but at least 3 have recently closed and she's not sure why.

Restaurant owner Chris Maroules, owner of Christopher's Café off Main Street for more than 40 years, says he has a hunch as to why these restaurants have been pushed out of business.

"You don't have the foot traffic like you used to have. At one time every building in downtown was full, but you don't have that anymore," said Maroules.

In fact, Christopher's Café is the only business open on the block. He tells me, like many restaurants in Kinston, he's seen a decline in customers and often worries about his own business.

"I mean you don't want to see anybody shut down. That's not what it's about, but I mean, there's just not enough people to keep it flowing and Lenoir County is a tough market."

Maroules says because business has slowed down, he recently cut the cafe's hours. He says when they do see a large number of customers, it's typically tourists.

Some other industries say they're not worried. Foss Recycling owner, Stephen Foss, recently opened a new location off Highway 258 South in Kinston.

Kinston is a great environment for doing business," said Foss. "It's easier from a legislative side to create a business and to expand a business. We have locations in Chesapeake, Virginia, Durham County, and other locations that, actually the taxes may have gone up in Lenoir County, but they are still very affordable compared to other areas of the country.

Sylvester, the Kinston-Lenoir Chamber of Commerce President, says the tax base in Kinston has increased 20% in the last 10 years.

Maroules says there's one thing that keeps him optimistic.

"Mother Earth Brewery. I feel what he's doing here could bring us back around to some degree."

The brewery opened 4 years ago in Kinston with only 2 employees. Now it has more than 20 employees. Sylvester says it is moving Kinston's economic development in a positive direction.

"They're doing really well. Their product is now being moved into a 4th market, which is northern Virginia. So we're happy for them for that. In the past year, they opened up a new business called the Red Room which is a music venue right here in Kinston and Lenoir County," said Sylvester.

Business owners say they are staying hopeful that in the next few years Kinston will continue to grow and companies like Spirit AeroSystems and Mother Earth Brewery will continue to bring people to the area.