Local merchant Bronwyn Thornton feels new energy at Central Square Shopping Center, the pastel-colored buildings on the west side of Route 158 in Nags Head and one of the Outer Banks’ most visible outlets.
“This whole shopping center had gotten to be tired,” says Thornton, who owns Encore décor, one of several new tenants who have moved into the center in the past couple of years. “It was just about vacant, people had moved out, it was disheveled. … I think it’s reinvented what this center used to be.”
The nearly 40-year-old shopping center, near Mile Post 11, houses three vintage and antique shops, three church groups, a hair salon, tanning salon, a dance studio and the Outer Banks Sentinel, the award-winning local newspaper. The shops host an auction once a month from May through October, with food and refreshments. Merchants regularly hold fundraisers for various causes and conduct classes in the offseason in crafts such as wreathmaking, pressing flowers, and using infused oil.
ReStyle Market and Encore décor are the two largest spaces, at approximately 4,000 square feet apiece. Both have vintage and antique furniture and collectibles and local art. ReStyle Market owner Stacey Falciano moved into the center area from a smaller space in the Square in spring of 2017, and Thornton moved her shop from a smaller location in Southern Shores that fall.
Jake Hazelwood manages New 2 U, an antique and collectibles store for his parents, Jeff and Deborah Whitelow, that opened on Black Friday 2017. The 1,600 square-foot space emphasizes local pieces and local artists and welcomes all ages, with an area chock full of vintage toys.
“The first thing parents say to their kids when they walk into an antique store is, ‘Don’t touch anything,’” Hazelwood says. “Well, we want kids to come in here and play with the toys and let their parents look around. We try to have a fun, family-friendly atmosphere.”
Tonda Pruitt has run Electric Beach tanning for the past 14 years and has a steady clientele of locals who perhaps work multiple jobs and can’t get to the beach regularly, or those who seek a little color before summer arrives and during the offseason. She has walls full of lotions and tan accelerators, and many options in various tanning beds and booths.
“Here, it’s been a great fit for me,” she says. “It’s a good space. People help each other out.”
Reflections Salon mirrors the Square’s loose, supportive vibe. Brandi Pledger has run the 700 square-foot space since 2005, but describes it as a collective with fellow stylists Ashley Jackson, Sherri Blivens, Key Pledger, Amanda Davenport and Deb Lockhart. It opens at 7:30 a.m. – should someone desire a quick trim on the way to work – six days a week and someone is often there until 7 or 7:30 in the evening.
“This is not your typical hair salon,” Pledger says. “It’s a family environment. It’s a job, but we’re here because we love it. It’s kind of a home away from home. Our clients are family. We support our clientele. It’s more than just hair.”
Church of the Outer Banks, an Anglican church, moved into the shopping center last December and occupies two spaces across the hall from each other. One space houses the office and can accommodate small groups. The other is called the Gathering Space and can host larger groups, youth education and private counseling, though weekly services still take place at the YMCA. Pastor Joey Fitzgerald called the new spaces “a Godsend.”
“It’s afforded us the opportunity to do a couple things we haven’t done before,” he says. “It’s allowed us to expand our ministry.”
In turn, new tenants helped resurrect Central Square.
“It had just gotten tired,” Thornton says, “and I think we brought it back to life.”