Kinston business owners discuss COVID-19’s impact on the city

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KINSTON, N.C. (WNCT) – As the major league baseball season gets a delayed start, minor league teams won’t return to the diamond.

That includes the Down East Wood Ducks.

Without the Down East Wood Ducks returning this summer, dozens of business owners in Kinston are worried their businesses will suffer due to the lack of visitors.

Normally, Queen Street is quite busy this time of year.

Because of COVID-19 and the temporary loss of minor league baseball, that has changed.

“We do get families in and we just are not seeing that because if people are going to come in, usually, they’re on the way to the beach,” said Leraine Tolston, owner of Queen Street Deli. “This year compared to people that were staying downtown and really enjoying Kinston, we’re not seeing that as much anymore.”

Tolston has been in business for nearly 10 years.

“We stayed open until 5:30 until it turned summertime and it turned hot,” said Tolston. “We had to change it to 3:00 because we just weren’t getting the traffic in the downtown area.”

Like many business owners, she has concerns about all the unknowns that come with coronavirus.

Mayor Don Hardy says the loss is also hurting the city’s hospitality and tourism industry.

“There’s a lot of folks who come from all over to see baseball games and they’re going to miss that revenue,” said Hardy. “Our city is going to miss that revenue. Our hotel occupancy taxes are going to miss that revenue.”

While that money is missed, entertainment venues, shops, breweries and restaurants are pushing through.

“We’re still here,” said Tolston. “We’re still striving and we’re here to make a difference for Kinston. But we need everybody.”

Business owners are looking at how this will affect them in the months and years to come.

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