In downtown Raleigh, it is easy for us to get caught up in our bubble.
It can feel like we have a predominantly Millennial population as we forget about the folks with two and a half kids and white picket fences that live just a few miles down the road from Fayetteville Street. It’s easy to get judgemental of the people who question you about that new restaurant that opened three years ago.
If you think about our city’s evolution, it’s difficult not to look back a decade and see the good old days. With Raleigh’s rapid growth, if you’ve been here any amount of time, It’s easy to get caught up thinking of yourself as an old-timer.
But spending some time with Mike and Iris Mettrey puts things back in perspective.
“I’ve seen a lot of change — for the good and the bad,” said Mike Mettrey. “In the 80s and 90s, you could step outside on a Saturday and not see a single person.” But while he enjoys the increase in people, as a business owner Mettrey worries that downtown is becoming one-dimensional with its density of restaurants.
“I’m happy to see that Briggs Hardware is coming back,” He says, reminiscing about a time few of us know. He jokes, “I remember when the best food in downtown was at Hudson Belk. They had a cafe on the top floor.”
Mettrey was born and raised in Raleigh. During the 1960s, he was an engineering professor at North Carolina State University, and he’s had a business on Wilmington Street for more than 40 years. You’ve probably walked past it, as many of us have, and wondered how a billiards company could hold such prime downtown real estate.
Met-Tech is the oldest handcrafted billiards maker in North Carolina. Mettrey’s family originally founded the company in 1943 as a billiards table retailer. Having grown up around the business, he eventually decided he could apply his engineering education to the custom table manufacturing process, building some of Met-Tech’s original custom tables in his garage.
Today, Met-Tech produces as many as 1000 handcrafted, custom tables in a single year. Mettrey recently completed tables for Circa 1888, a new pool hall, and The Lincoln apartments. While the high-end luxury home market has always been a part of their business, the commercial market has shown the most growth. Developers incorporate custom tables that match the other furniture they use. For Met-Tech, this typically means creating new contemporary tables to complement the design aesthetics of the apartment and condo complexes that are sprouting up across the country.
While we applaud the new restaurants and breweries that continue to open in downtown, we don’t give enough credit to people like Mettrey and business like Met-Techs, which have stayed with downtown through the good times and the bad.
They are downtown Raleigh more than most of us.
Check out more from Met-Tech at met-techbilliards.com or swing by the shop at 105 S. Wilmington Street.See the tables in person and play a few rounds in Circa 1888 located at 412 W Davie St.