Just as a pandemic-weary populace is adapting to the outdoors being a good place to have fun while staying safe, a signature Carrboro outfitter for outdoors equipment is going away.
Townsend Bertram & Co. — which has pitched its tents, backpacks and fashionable clothing for an active lifestyle on and off the trails for the past 32 years in Carr Mill Mall — will close permanently at the end of November. It is clearing out its remaining merchandise and furnishings at deep discounts.
In 1988, shortly after Audrey Townsend and Scott Bertram ’72 married, they heard that Weaver Street Market would be coming to Carr Mill Mall, so they leased the space next door and opened three months after the grocery store. It was a perfect pairing — their shop selling clothing and equipment for healthy outdoor activities next to a vendor specializing in organic and healthy food, including many items that packed well for the trails.
“It’s been a great run,” said Townsend. “Carrboro is a great place. We’ve always been well-supported by the community.”
Townsend Bertram has supported the community in return. Over the years, the company has invested in many local nonprofits that work to protect the environment, right social wrongs, improve health and educate people on a variety of issues. After Bertram died in 2017, the store started a scholarship in his name that partners with the nonprofit Learning Outside to honor his adventurous life.
Bertram, who counted tree-climbing among his skills, gave Carrboro another gift every year during the winter holiday season. He climbed the giant, ancient hardwood in front of the store and wrapped it in holiday lights. The community turned out in droves for the annual tree-lighting event, which included cider and song.
After Bertram was diagnosed with cancer in 2013, his and Townsend’s older daughter, Betsy Bertram, took on a larger role in the business, working as brand developer and partnering with Sara Abernethy and Taylor Dansby to keep the store going while Townsend focused on her husband’s health.
The store has always thrived, but a confluence of circumstances moved Townsend to decide to retire. The store’s lease was coming up for renewal, the pandemic was persisting, and her daughter was moving away from the area. After decades of working in the store where, Townsend said, “every day was fun,” the prospect of running the business on her own held no joy. Nevertheless, she said, “I will miss it.”
Townsend said she considered selling the business, but “it’s hard to sell a business during COVID.”
“I want to thank the community for their support,” she said, “and encourage them to support other local stores. Local businesses make our community special.”
The store’s merchandise sell-off will be conducted in compliance with social distancing, disinfecting and mask-wearing requirements set by Orange County. The store will hold raffles and give away prizes every day and will have a silent auction to sell the handmade shelves, tables and display cases, as well as other furnishings in the store.
Carr Mill Mall, 200 N. Greensboro St., Carrboro | tbandc.com
— Nancy E. Oates