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Women-Owned Businesses Thrive in this City

Meet the women who are driving the revitalization of downtown Elizabeth City, NC.

By Bill Lewis on March 2, 2022

2 Souls Wine Bar in Elizabeth City, NC
Mike Dragon

A growing community of women-owned small businesses in Elizabeth City is strengthening the region’s economy and leading the transformation of the historic downtown into a destination for shopping, dining and entertainment.

“Women-owned businesses have been a driving force downtown,” says Darlene Tuttle, owner of Sanctuary Design Co. “Restaurants, the wine bar, art and dance studios, and numerous boutiques draw people to the area. The support, encouragement and camaraderie that exist among these businesses is evident every day. We have each other’s backs and that is so necessary as an entrepreneur, especially in the past year and a half of the pandemic.”

Sanctuary Design Co., located on East Main Street, offers competitive pricing on furniture and accessories from top manufacturers. Launching a small business takes a lot of faith and hard work, but entrepreneurs in Elizabeth City are not alone. They have resources for advice and support.

Alissa Fretwell, owner of Bijoux Vibes in Elizabeth City, NC
Eric Waters

Stellar Support Fuels Success

Just ask Alissa Fretwell, who operates Bijoux Vibes, a chic women’s clothing and accessory boutique at 104 S. Poindexter St. “The area is growing, but the relationships you build by owning a business are irreplaceable,” she says. “Our town has so many local resources that help small businesses thrive.”

She cites the Small Business Center at College of The Albemarle, the Small Business and Technology Development Center at Elizabeth City State University, the Elizabeth City Area Chamber of Commerce and various government offices and agencies as examples of that support network.

“These resources played a huge part in helping me decide to open my business,” Fretwell says. “They know the area and have seen what works and what doesn’t. I highly recommend anyone looking to open a business to reach out to any of one of these community partners for more information.”

Mel Martine and Nicole Hyatt, owners of 2 Souls Wine Bar in Elizabeth City, NC
Mike Dragon

Why Start a Business in Elizabeth City?

Mel Martine and Nicole Hyatt operate 2 Souls Wine Bar downtown. “With dedication and strong leadership, Elizabeth City has become an attractive business district to open a small business,” Hyatt says. “After attending several of the Committee of 100 meetings and learning about the economic development of Elizabeth City and the growth that was happening, we were very excited about the opportunity of opening and running a business of our own.”

“We love being downtown, surrounded by other thriving businesses, supporting one another, and it’s truly incredible
that a majority of our businesses in downtown Elizabeth City
are women run.”

Nicole Hyatt | 2 Souls Wine Bar

The Elizabeth City Area Committee of 100 is a nonprofit organization that works in concert with Elizabeth City and Pasquotank County government leaders to promote growth in the region.

“We love that Elizabeth City has a waterfront, two universities and a community college, a military presence and is a tourist destination being so close to the Outer Banks,” Hyatt says.

Darlene Tuttle, owner of Sanctuary Design Co. in Elizabeth City, NC
Sanctuary Design Co.

Cheering for Success in Elizabeth City

In addition to 2 Souls, Martine and Hyatt operate Nicole J & Co., which was launched in 2018 and provides social media marketing for small businesses throughout Elizabeth City.

“It’s only natural that you would mentor, encourage and cheer on the leaders around you. Of the 20 small business accounts we manage, 19 of them are women run and are very successful,” Hyatt says.

Spotlighting Success

The city’s women-owned businesses also include Sheri’s Party Palace, launched by Sheri Poyner. The shop offers party decorations for any occasion.
Small Town Trendz, started by Georgeanne Midgette, sells fashionable clothing as well as popular T-shirts and gifts.

Downtown Elizabeth City had always been on Tuttle’s radar as the home base for her interior design business.

“We jumped on the chance to be a part of the revitalization efforts taking place here. Elizabeth City has everything needed to ensure growth and development. A four-year university, a large military base, a historic waterfront. Not to mention a thriving arts community,” she says. “Our location smack in the middle of the Hampton Roads metro area and the Outer Banks makes it a perfect location. We have gone from the sleepy little town you pass through to the destination itself.”

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