Chapel Hill store fostered dogs, handled mail for 12 years. Now, it’s being evicted.

Snoopy, a 12-year-old Pomeranian, lay curled in a sunny spot on the floor Friday, lazily lifting his head as customers came into Stray’s Ship-and-Shop in Southern Village.

Another foster dog, Apollo, 3, stretched his shaggy mass between jewelry displays, while two more — Gus, 7 months, and Chip, 5 1/2 — napped in dog beds behind the counter.

Stray’s owner, Bob Gunn, said he’s “very proud” to have found homes for 30 dogs that he got off Craigslist, Nextdoor and through other people in the last 12 years.

“By having dogs in the store, people get to meet them in a casual environment and not a cage at a rescue,” Gunn said. “And I know that if my customers are going to adopt, and they live in Southern Village, they can afford the vet bills, and (they refer other people) so it’s a vetting process.”

Every morning, he walks the dogs to the park in the southern Chapel Hill community before opening the store, and sometimes, old friends and their new families return for a visit.

“There’s Pete. He’s a Great Pyrenees. He’s living here on Graylyn (Drive),” Gunn said, between customers. “And we have Buddy. Buddy was the first one who got me started on this, because customers of mine, the wife was driving in a storm, and for some reason, she opened the door to get out or whatever, and this dog just jumped in.”

That ends April 27 when Gunn closes the door at 710 Market St. for the last time.

Bob Gunn, owner of Stray’s Ship-and-Shop in Southern Village, advises a customer on the best way to ship a package. Gunn has operated the store, which also adopts out rescue dogs and features local artists, for 12 years. He will close April 27.
Bob Gunn, owner of Stray’s Ship-and-Shop in Southern Village, advises a customer on the best way to ship a package. Gunn has operated the store, which also adopts out rescue dogs and features local artists, for 12 years. He will close April 27.

Lost his lease

Gunn was an artist when he started working for the store’s previous owner, taking over when she retired a year later. Stray’s provides P.O. boxes and shipping services, in addition to shelf space for local artists.

He renewed the original lease with an addendum and a 3% increase every year, Gunn said, and told Bryan Properties management last summer that he wanted to renew for another year. In February, he added 3% to his rent payment as usual, he said.

But on March 18, Southern Village developer and Bryan Properties founder D.R. Bryan stopped by to say he was being evicted, Gunn said. His attorney said he doesn’t have any options, Gunn said, because he doesn’t have a signed document.

“I can understand that for whatever reason they don’t want me here — that’s one thing — but it’s the six weeks’ notice” that creates a complicated situation for everyone, Gunn said.

Sixteen of his 29 mailbox customers are businesses, who now have to get new mailboxes and notify the U.S. Postal Service, but also contact their vendors and clients, as well as change their letterheads and websites in a short amount of time, he said.

And he worries about his older postal customers, who often need more help than the local post office can provide and may struggle to find the best shipping rate in a world that’s become less convenient and more specialized.

His older system shows rates for every option, Gunn said, and he recycles boxes and shipping peanuts, providing them to customers for free.

“It’s probably not the smartest business move to make, but it’s put your money where your mouth is,” he said. “If you’re wanting to recycle, let’s recycle.”

He’s also trying to help his artists find new venues. At least one is selling her jewelry for half-price, Gunn said as he wrote a final check to potter DeDe Richardson. The owner of Pickle Pie Pottery bought a wooden display rack from the store after picking up her pieces.

Customers have been calling and emailing the landlord on his behalf, Gunn said, noting a stack of photocopied letters from Southern Village neighbor Jim Lea on the counter.

The decision is “a shock and an unfair logistical burden” for Gunn, Lea said in the letter. “Losing Strays, the only service of its kind right in our neighborhood, would also be an unfair burden on us Southern Village residents and visitors.”

Others suggested boycotting the next business or organizing a petition or march, Gunn said. He doesn’t want “to go there,” he said, because “there’s enough divisiveness and hate going around these days.”

“It’s the way of the world. I’m resigned to it,” he said.

Bryan declined to comment on Gunn’s situation, but said retail “is always changing.” There’s no one lined up to lease the space, he told The News & Observer.

“I appreciate the fact that he’s been there and what he provided, but like everything else, things change and over the last three or four years, we’ve seen some significant changes with Southern Village … with a little less office and more retail,” Bryan said.

He’s also seen the move toward more retail, Gunn said. His focus now is helping everyone with the transition and cleaning up the store to get his security deposit back.

At nearly 72, he has Social Security to support himself, but worries how he’ll feed the dogs — he has 10 now — and provide veterinary care. He might get a job as a dog walker, he said.

Friends started a GoFundMe last week to thank Gunn “for your years of service” and to help him with the next stage of his life.

In other business news

The Flying Pierogi Delicatessen had a soft opening last week at its new store in the South Green shopping center off South Greensboro Street in Carrboro. The family-owned restaurant, which started as a food truck serving Polish and German street food in 2018, is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday with a limited menu. A grand opening is being planned.

Salon 211 stylist Mike Wood has a new venture at 102-A E. Main St. The Moxy Fox Salon is having a soft opening this week and will hold a grand opening within the next month, Wood said.

Billed as “an adult-only experience,” Moxy Fox Salon invites clients to relax with a complimentary beer, wine or cocktail, and “lots of adult conversation.” A different local artist will be showcased each month. The salon is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Jarrah Passani, owner of Flight Tea Bar & Lounge in Carrboro, has closed the pop-up tea shop in Carr Mill Mall for a few months as he works on a tea plantation in Shizuoka, Japan. Fans of the tea shop, which opened last year at the 200 N. Greensboro St. mall, can follow Passani’s journey on Instagram. A new location will be announced when he returns, Passani said in an April 3 post.