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Alan Barbee has only been president of the Spring Hope Area Chamber of Commerce a couple of weeks, but the lifelong resident is optimistic that the uptick in business he’s experienced will carry on throughout 2019.
Barbee, who has owned numerous businesses over the years, and his sister inherited an office building in town from his late parents, who also were Spring Hope entrepreneurs.
“We’re real excited because we’ve got more people in those businesses than we’ve had in the past 30 years,” Barbee said.
In addition to the North Carolina license plate agency scheduled to open downtown at the beginning of March, a medical patient billing services company also is opening a training office and call center in one of the town’s old sewing manufacturing plants.
The town has maintained a population of about 1,300 for the past 100 years. However, Barbee said he believes a lot of recent excitement about the town stems from its close proximity to Raleigh and the transition of U.S. 64 to Interstate 87, which has the potential to bring new businesses and consumers through town who he said have previously overlooked it.
“A lot of businesses are reluctant to move to small towns if you’re not on an interstate,” Barbee said. “I think once that gets into place, businesses will really start looking at Spring Hope.”
Michael Lagcher, co-owner and manager of Michael’s Showside Grill downtown, expressed similar sentiments in a September interview.
“We’re unique for a small town. We have a lot of the same regulars, the same people all the time. But, a lot of customers come from Raleigh, Bailey, Wilson, Wake Forest and the Louisburg-Bunn area,” Lagcher said.
Barbee said he is happy about the new businesses that are opening up in the area and believes it shows that Spring Hope has something for everyone. He hopes to see more technology, pharmaceutical and internet businesses develop around town in the next few years.
“This is a small-town atmosphere that people come here and instantly fall in love with. I’ve talked to a number of people who moved here, that when they drove to the middle of town and said this is where they want to live,” Barbee said.
Christy Walters, owner of Girls N Curls Boutique, said after her grand opening with the chamber in October that she chose to open a business in Spring Hope because of its proximity to her job in Nashville and home in Middlesex as well as the town’s welcoming atmosphere.
“I like the small-town feel. I want this place to place to be something me and my daughters can do together,” said Walters.
Educating the public about the benefits of chamber membership is high on Barbee’s list of priorities. The board is currently developing a schedule to have Coffee Connections with the general public and interested people who may not be able to attend the organization’s monthly meetings.
“It’s a chance to see other people and hear about what’s going on,” Barbee said.
The chamber is located on 112 W. Railroad Street and is open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. For more information about the Spring Hope Chamber of Commerce, call Sheila Jeffreys at 252-478-1919.