NORTH CAROLINA (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – An unprecedented number of small businesses across our region have closed in the last six months.

“I have never seen it before in my entire career,” said Tom Bartholomy, president and CEO of the Better Business of Piedmont and Western N.C.

The BBB serves 32 counties in N.C. In the last six months, it has seen 232 businesses close, nearly doubling the yearly average.

“If they are not going out of business, they are selling their business if somebody is willing to buy it,” Bartholomy explained. “What we hear most from those folks is, ‘I can’t deal with anymore. I can’t hire people, and those that I hire aren’t worth anything.’ And they just say, ‘hey, look, I made it through the pandemic, and I have had a good run in this business, but I am done.'”

“The labor market conditions are tough,” said John Connaughton, a UNC-Charlotte economics professor.

He said the U.S. labor market is experiencing a fundamental change.

Businesses are facing increased operating costs because of inflation, many are struggling to hire and retain staff, and a large majority of the labor marking is an aging population choosing to retire now rather than later.

“So, you put all of those factors together, and it’s pretty easy to make that decision to leave,” Connaughton said. “This is just the normal transition. In with the new, out with the old.”

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One of the new ones is Lee’s Hoagies in south Charlotte.

“It’s a very, very good product,” general manager Rob Hogya said.

The Philly-inspired sub shop just hit its two-month mark of being open, and so far, so good.

“They are happy to have something down here that is from home, and that is something that we wanted to provide,” Hogya said.

Like the business closing across the state, Hogya also deals with a hiring issue. Most days, he works 12-hour shifts.

“Most days, I am here 9-9, sometimes 8-7. Sometimes 7-9,” he said.

While others have walked away for that reason, he is sticking it out, hoping it will all pay off.

“We are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel in my eyes,” he explained. “We are seeing sales go up and, in my opinion, a need for another location or two. Hopefully, fingers crossed.”