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Raleigh Chamber Foundation has received a grant from the City of Raleigh to engage and support small businesses while construction for a Bus Rapid Transit line occurs along New Bern Avenue. This series of articles will spotlight some businesses along the route.

Downtown Raleigh is a dynamic district where rich history meshes seamlessly with the latest trendy restaurants, shops and bars. From contemporary art museums to dog bars and from packed concert spaces to peaceful green spaces, Downtown Raleigh truly has something for everyone.

While it’s already a favorite destination for many, owners of downtown small businesses believe the new bus rapid transit line, also known as Wake BRT, will invite even more people to experience all Downtown has to offer.

Rusty Sutton, owner of The Green Monkey, said, “The BRT will get you here quicker, easier and, man, you could walk off the bus and come right in our door. We like that!”

The Green Monkey, a shopping and entertainment destination, is just footsteps from the first stop of the Wake BRT. Next door, at award-winning Tonbo Ramen, owner Tom Mukoyama echoes Sutton’s excitement.

“Better and more options will hopefully encourage guests to experience more of Raleigh and other parts of the Triangle,” Mukoyama said. He added that the reliable transportation option could also be a benefit for those who want to work downtown. “Finding workers in the hospitality business has been extra tough post pandemic. The BRT will allow some with limited transportation a reliable means to get to work. The later runs mean workers can work full shifts.”

BRT buses are not only reliable, they have several advantages including priority at intersections, meaning they can turn red lights green, and they travel in dedicated lines. This reduces travel time by 10-20% compared to regular buses or car commute. BRT also offers more accessible travel than traditional buses, encouraging people of all ages and abilities to enjoy public transportation in addition to those with bicycles or strollers.

While it may take months to see the full benefits of this investment in Raleigh’s infrastructure, the time is now to support these small businesses.

To start, fill your belly with award-winning ramen. Tonbo Ramen has, time and again, proved they are top of the line for delicious ramen. “From soup bowl competitions to the local bug festival to the North Carolina Sweet Potato cookoff, Tonbo’s Chef Alex has excelled in every event,” said Mukoyama. “Our broths are made from scratch using traditional recipes of old Japan. Some of our broths simmer for over 20 hours to extract as much flavor as possible.”

After you’ve had your fill (we recommend the Tonkotsu ramen, Mukoyama’s favorite bowl), walk next door and enjoy the sights and sounds of The Green Monkey. Part unique gift shop, part bar, part entertainment venue, The Green Monkey welcomes everyone to be themselves.

“We’re a little different. This is a place you can come and hang out with your friends, have an adult beverage or a soft drink, do some shopping or join us for an event. This is a safe space for you to be no matter how you identify, no matter your religious beliefs, no matter your sexual orientation, as long as you have a little bit of money, we want you to come here,” said Sutton. He laughed and added, “I always like to throw that last bit in.”

In addition to fantastically unique (and sometimes cheeky) gift options, and a welcoming bar with full cocktail service, The Green Monkey hosts a range of events, from wine pairings and Spades leagues to karaoke and trivia, in its Monkeyverse Hall.

Sutton said, “We are always looking for ways to help people achieve an experience they can’t find online. You’ve got to have a reason to get on your clothes, get out from behind your phone or computer, get in your car or hop on the BRT and come on down. We want to give you that reason.”

Both Sutton and Mukoyama understand that while there may be construction woes ahead, they are confident their patrons and the city will continue to support them -and all small businesses- through the work. Signage and social media will help customers stay aware of any changes, for example, if curbside pickup needs to be adjusted. Also, sidewalks will be clear and there will still be nearby parking in garages like Moore Square.

Mukoyama added, “We appreciate all those who have supported us and will continue to patronize our business! We love being part of Downtown Raleigh and hope that the BRT brings a new energy and some new attention to our community.

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