Floye Dombalis, 88, is working the register at Mecca near the end of a weekday lunch hour, greeting every customer who enters. She’s been there since the mid-1960s, when she was called in one day to “help out.”
Looking back, Floye jokes that she “should not have done such a good job” because she’s been working there ever since.
The Mecca on Martin St. was started by her husband John Dombalis’s family in 1930. Over the years Floye has seen the city of Raleigh morph from a sleepy southern town to a booming Capitol City.
Floye remembers riding around Raleigh with her husband, and when they’d drive past a new shopping center, he’d say “That’s where I went rabbit hunting,”
She knows much more about the city’s history than its former hunting spots, however.
There used to be 11 shoe stores downtown, Floye said, but none survived the destruction of Fayetteville Street when it was dug up to become the Fayetteville Street Mall.
She says most folks do not remember the cold, wet winter when Fayetteville Street was torn up. There was mud everywhere, folks could not get downtown and many of the businesses could not survive. She believes that was the low point of Raleigh downtown history.
The high point was the restoration of Fayetteville St and the public’s return.
As her shift at Mecca winds down, Floye laughs, recalling another time a photographer came in asking for a picture. Reluctantly, she agreed, only to face the camera and be told, “oh no, I want to take a photo of your cash register.”