Darby Street is part of Newcastle's soul. It was trendy before Newcastle became trendy.
It's alarming, then, that a survey of business owners along the strip shows a trade slump of 30 per cent over two years. The survey also showed that 15 businesses had closed or moved from Darby Street in the past six months.
The precinct's predicament, along with other affected businesses in Newcastle CBD, has been attributed to a combination of factors at local, national and global levels.
The light rail construction and ongoing development of the city, combined with slower economic growth, has taken its toll.
This situation has led Newcastle shop owners to form a new business action group. The Makers and Traders of Newcastle City are seeking rates and rental reform.
They're also looking at creative ways to attract people to the city, including events, activities and collaborations.
Darby Street fashion label High Tea with Mrs Woo is one business to be feeling the pinch from development and construction work in the city.
Interestingly, co-owner Rowena Foong listed other factors affecting consumer spending as the two recent elections and global campaigns on energy, plastic and pollution, as well as an economic slowdown.
At the national level, the Reserve Bank's interest rate cuts and the Morrison government's tax cuts are aimed at kickstarting the economy. Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg tried last week to put a positive spin on things, with Mr Lowe saying the economy is growing and the fundamentals "are strong''. He agreed with the Treasurer that the economy was sound, saying "more Australians have jobs today than ever before''.
However, the Australian economy grew by just 0.4 per cent in the March quarter, contributing to a decade-low growth rate of 1.8 per cent.
Some are pushing for the Morrison government to boost infrastructure spending.
A rise in wages and living standards are also needed to boost consumer confidence. If the government's much-vaunted economic credentials are to be believed, it should be able to make progress in this area.
At the local level, struggling businesses are hoping Newcastle council will do what it can to help the cause. Landlords, too, may find it's in their interests, as well as the tenants, to offer rent relief.
It's worth remembering that capitalism without compassion can be self-defeating.
And it shouldn't be forgotten how important small business is to local economies and communities. The sector employs a lot of people, including youth and students.
Newcastle wouldn't be the same without Darby Street's vibe and energy.
Let's hope the new business group can find the right recipe to bring customers and prosperity back to the iconic strip and other CBD business.