MORRISVILLE - Tucked into shopping centers and industrial complexes are some of Morrisville’s best-kept secrets: locally owned businesses that offer everything from Italian meats to cloth diapers.
Over the past two decades, the town has attracted a cadre of speciality stores that have become destinations, drawing customers from throughout the Triangle and beyond.
These businesses have not just survived the recession – they have thrived.
The Triangle Rock Club is doubling in size to meet the growing demand for rock-climbing space. Chatham Hill Winery, the state’s first urban winery, has racked up numerous awards since it opened in 2000. Saffron, an Indian restaurant, has attracted international celebrities to its Morrisville dining room. Heart of the Triangle indeed
Morrisville’s motto – Heart of the Triangle – is more than a snazzy slogan. It’s the reason some small-business owners say they decided to open in this town of about 20,000.
Elite Ballroom co-owner Robertas Maleckis moved his dance studio from Durham to Morrisville in 2009.
“It was a better location. It was nicer and closer to Cary,” Maleckis said. “It was more convenient for our students who come from Raleigh, Cary and Wake Forest, opposed to Durham which is near the edge of the Triangle.”
Maleckis’ studio isn’t in a highly visible downtown district – Morrisville doesn’t have one – but he said he attracts new students through word-of-mouth endorsements. (It probably doesn’t hurt either that Meleckis and his wife, Inga Sirkaite, have won international dance competitions.)
Elite Ballroom isn’t the only business cashing in on Morrisville’s central location.
When Karissa Binkley’s home-based cloth diaper-delivery business took off, she looked to Morrisville to find a storefront.
Binkley found space at Grace Park, a mixed-use development of residential and commercial property. She opened Diapering Doula in 2009 and converted the business into the Family Nest, a cooperative of child and parenting services.
Binkley found a niche – her fair-trade products are made by women-owned businesses. But she also credits her success on the shop’s location between Raleigh and Chapel Hill.
“I almost signed a lease in Chapel Hill, but I realized that I would have isolated clients coming from Raleigh,” she said.
Retail centers like Park West Village and Grace Park are giving more people a glimpse of Morrisville, said Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Carlotta Ungaro.
“People are coming here to eat at Travinia’s (Italian Kitchen) or Buffalo Wild Wings and seeing what else is here,” she said.
Many might think of Morrisville as a corporate hub.
“They know this is where Lenovo and Time Warner is,” Ungaro said. “They think of it as a place for nationally and internationally known companies. It’s not viewed as a destination for retail shop establishments.”Tucked-away treasures
CapriFlavors, an Italian food shipping business, brings in up to $10 million a year, according to the N.C. Department of Commerce.
But what attracts shoppers from all over the Triangle to its Morrisville Parkway location is its retail store – and co-owner Titina Vuotto’s cooking classes.
Walk into Vuotto’s in-store kitchen, and she immediately offers to feed you. She teaches cooking classes at the site.
“You think of something like this in a big downtown like Raleigh or Chapel Hill,” said Mike Stockwell of Raleigh, who attended a class. “You don’t expect this kind of experience to be tucked away in the middle of an industrial complex.”
As Morrisville continues to grow, officials expect more of these kinds of service-oriented businesses.
It’s already happened for one segment of the population – the Indian community.
About one-fourth of the town’s population is Asian. In the past five years, more and more Indian restaurants and grocery stores have cropped up, including Apna Bazar.
Satish Deva and his three business partners worked in Research Triangle Park and realized they didn’t have many options near their homes in Morrisville and Cary when it came to shopping for ethnic foods.
So in 2009 the men opened the 5,000-square-foot Apna Bazar, which means “our market” in most Indian dialects.
“From the first day, we were busy,” Deva said. “The corporate parks bring the customers to us. They shop here on the way home.”
The market also draws people from across North Carolina, he said. A push for small businesses
Town Councilman Steve Rao has been a proponent for adding more small businesses in Morrisville.
“I think the image of Morrisville is changing,” Rao said. “Right now you are seeing a growing international community, and you are seeing more merchants who can service those specific communities.”
If town leaders move forward on plans to build a downtown, Rao said, the area could help bring some cohesiveness to the community and attract more small businesses.
“We want a healthy balance,” he said.