Afton Village, A Road Map Through The Recession?


Independent Tribune
Published: August 22, 2010

David Mayfield, Mayfield Developers, imagined Afton Village as a traditional, historic neighborhood, where families had sidewalks along which to stroll and green spaces in which to play.

Afton Village, a mixed-use development on George W. Liles Parkway, offers a mix of residential and retail.

The mix of condos, town homes and single-family dwellings blend with the adjoining commercial village for the village feel that Mayfield was looking to create.

Building homes and businesses may seem risky during a recession, but Mayfield might have a plan that works.

He was trained as an architect and urban designer.

“In a way, I was working on commercial revitalization in older neighborhoods when I still in school in Raleighin the early 70s,” Mayfield said. “In one form or another, I was looking at how neighborhoods in small commercial districts work.”

He studied how to keep those neighborhoods vital, how to focus on services — having the things people need every day — instead of “comparable shopping.”

“That is what my model has been on all the mix-use developments,” Mayfield said. “I was more interested in having dry cleaners and restaurants and the things people would use on a regular basis.”

“It’s not that we are particularly great at commercial brokerage. We didn’t know what we were doing when we first started,” Kelli C. Stevensprincipal broker for Afton Village said.

Most of the businesses have been successful, with the exception of a couple. About 350 to 400 of the 550 total planned homes have been built and sold. When the recession hit last year, there were 21 new residences to sell. Stevens explained thst all but one has sold.

Building new homes has slowed because of the lack of lending from banks, but Afton Village seems to find interest in what they have available.

Retail businesses are also finding success during this down economic year.

The Wine Room is going on its sixth year at Afton Village. It was the first business to open, and has found a loyal following among the community.

Elizabeth’s Treasures has been open for six years. The Afton Cleaners opened five years ago and E Noodles & Company has been in business there for four years.

Recently Max’s Ally, a restaurant that occupied a building of 5,000 square feet fell victim to the recession, and Entre Vous closed its doors.

Since the restaurant closed, Stevens has had four brokers contact them about the building.

“We want it to be a restaurant, but it doesn’t have to be,” Stevens said. “I’m meeting with one next Monday who has a fish and steak concept that’s a lot lower price point (than Max’s Ally). We think it would do well.”

As interest continues in the development, each new business is carefully considered.
“It’s who has a better concept and who signs the lease the fastest,” Stevens said.

Three new businesses have opened in the past few months — La Piazza Deli, a New York-style deli; Miss M’s Sweets, a chocolate store; and Smoothie King.

Many of the existing retail stores and restaurants have resigned leases, and a couple have or are planning to expand.

There is a common thread that runs between the successful businesses, Stevens explained — hard work and a strong desire to succeed.

Stevens also believes that “mom and pops” have a better chance of surviving during a recession, because they can modify their business plan quickly.

She cites The Wine Room as an example. When they first opened, it was hard to get the traffic they needed. Their focus was selling wine and food, but they had a section in the back to supplement the income with wine accessories.

As they added small items, like purses and candles, it started to develop a more boutique feel and they started to attract more business.

“With this economy, I feel like we have had to come down a notch or two. Bring our good quality for lesser prices. People just aren’t spending what they were,” Teri Reno, owner of

The Wine Room, said. “People would come in and buy a $50 or $60 bottle of wine, but it just doesn’t happen anymore. People want to stay under $20, so we’ve really had to change our thought process.”

Stevens says when a face is attached to the business, it’s easier to build a client base and loyalty needed to succeed.

“Small business owners have the ability to do that. You are able to roll with the punches better. The ‘mom and pops’ are faring better in this type of recession,” she said. “Karren Kwong, who is the owner of E Noodles, knows what you eat, what you like to drink, and everybody’s name. There is loyalty that people feel when supporting the merchants in their area,” Stevens said.

For more information on Afton Village visit or call Kelli C. Stevens at 704-425-2777

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