From color schemes and designs to carpentry and finishes, there are many factors to consider when taking on a retail building project, especially for retail clients with specific products and target demographics. 

Clients are often faced with the struggle of finding the perfect contractor capable of meeting their specific needs. This list compiles eleven of the best retail contractors in the Raleigh-Durham area in North Carolina. These contractors were chosen based on their skills, their prior experience, their specialty services, and their overall expertise. These firms are the companies behind some of the area’s most recognizable retail structures.


Cline Design Associates

125 N Harrington St., Raleigh, NC 27603

Cline Design Associates offers a complete range of integrated architecture, planning, landscape architecture, and interior design services. The firm has worked on hundreds of multi-family, mixed-use, retail, and hospitality projects spread across the southeast, with its land planning studio having worked in multiple municipalities and with various code officials throughout its years in business. The firm has secured important relationships with local officials and has grown into becoming an expert in terms of determining the best site designs, subdivision layouts, zoning possibilities, and rezoning with the help of collaboration with these officials. The firm is also known to practice environmentally responsible design, rendering all of its projects highly sustainable and energy-efficient.

The firm is no stranger to recognition and is the proud recipient of a multitude of awards. Some of these awards include distinctions from the prestigious American Institute of Architects (AIA). Its team is composed of over 65 professionals and now operates out of two offices in Raleigh and Charlotte. For the featured project above, the firm was tasked with site master planning and architectural services. It is a mixed-use project which serves as the gateway into Morrisville. It features its own retailer’s district as well as its own boutique and entertainment district.

Szostak Design

3101/2 W Franklin St., Chapel Hill, NC 27516

Headquartered in Chapel Hill, Szostak Design is an award-winning architectural design and planning firm in business since 1980. It is led by its founder and namesake Philip Szostak, a fellow of the AIA and professional with over four decades of experience. He is very involved throughout the entire process from conception all the way through to completion. He is a graduate of North Carolina State University’s College of Design and since his establishment of the firm, he has honed his craft to handle everything from small renovations to complex, multi-million dollar facilities. Some of his most notable projects include renovations to the NC Museum of Art in Raleigh and the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston-Salem.

Under his leadership, the firm has won a multitude of industry awards, some of which include distinctions from organizations such as the AIA and the Urban Land Institute of the Triangle. The firm provides a full and comprehensive range of services and also has extensive experience with design-build and real estate development partnerships.

Louis Cherry Architecture

222 N Bloodworth St., Raleigh, NC  27601

Otherwise known as LCA, Louis Cherry Architecture is a small practice that offers a wide and personalized array of architecture and interior design services. Aside from the retail market, it also specializes in projects from the residential, commercial, and community-based facilities markets. The firm’s projects can be seen throughout North Carolina, and that work includes libraries, restaurants, schools, and places of worship. LCA emphasizes green practices and makes use of various sustainable techniques when working on a design. The firm’s vision is rooted in the modernist tradition of functional beauty: designs must draw inspiration from their purpose. The firm is no stranger to recognition and has been featured in publications such as Walter Magazine and Dezeen.

It is the only firm on this list to host its very own monthly Art Pop-Ups, which features rotating guest artists selling their work. Principal Louis Cherry is a Fellow at the AIA and has been practicing architecture in North Carolina since 1983. He has served on the Board of Trustees for the North Carolina Museum of Art and the Contemporary Art Museum of Raleigh and he ensures that each of the firm’s projects receives the benefit of his experience.

Osterlund Architects

5 W Hargett St. #310, Raleigh, NC 27601

In business since 2008, Osterlund Architects offers smart architecture and is best known for its excellent green and urban designs. The firm makes use of the latest materials and building strategies and has secured a solid reputation for itself for its innovative processes. It sees sustainability as a staple and not an add-on: all of its projects are completed with environment-friendly techniques. The firm also offers efficient options for mechanical and electrical systems and draws inspiration from some of Raleigh’s most popular designs. At the firm’s helm: Andrew and Kristen Osterlund. Andrew is licensed in multiple states and is a proud fellow of the AIA. He has lived and worked in architecture in Raleigh since 1998 and has experience in every facet of architecture. Kristen, on the other hand, is experienced in managing public and private projects through all phases of design and construction.

Completed in 2018 for Deco Raleigh, the project above showcases the firm’s craftsmanship for retail projects. Located in a historic neighborhood, it is a growing gift and home shop. The firm’s team designed grid lines to create a backdrop to showcase the store’s merchandise.

New City Design Group

1304 Hillsborough St., Raleigh, NC 27605

Founded in 1996, New City Design Group handles every stage of the architectural process from concept development and site analysis to interior design and construction administration. It is manned by an experienced team of architects and professionals and employs the latest technologies. The firm has also established relationships with experienced sub-contractors for any matters that may arise throughout the entire process. Aside from its retail work, its portfolio also showcases a variety of social spaces, healthcare facilities, educational institutions, and urban projects. This impressive gallery features a variety of sites completely transformed by the firm through its excellent projects.

Its leadership is composed of its founder Ted Van Dyk, who is joined by Corey Bates and Jeffrey Rezeli. Van Dyk serves as a member of the Wake County Planning Board, The Alexander YMCA Advisory Board, and The Hillsborough Street Business Improvement District Board. Bates has over three decades of experience and specializes in the residential, retail, restaurant, renovation, mixed-use, institutional, and corporate headquarters sectors. Rezeli serves a broad balance of public and private clients. All three principals oversee each of the firm’s projects. 

Ellen Cassilly Architects

600 Foster St., Durham, NC 27701

Ellen Cassilly Architects has been in the industry since 1999 and is led by its founder and namesake. Prior to her establishment of the firm, she first worked for four years in Paris with Pritzker Prize-winning architect Christian de Portzamparc. She eventually joined Frank Harmon Architects in Raleigh, where she had the opportunity to work on several noteworthy residences in addition to the North Carolina Museum of Art Amphitheater and Gift Shop and the St. Matthew’s Parish House. She also has award-winning projects in the Duke gardens on the Duke University campus. Her experience also includes multi-family homes and several other commercial projects, which in turn has influenced the firm’s body of work. Her vision for the company focuses on vibrantly contributing to urban neighborhoods, all with the use of modern and sustainable designs.

The firm has also been a proud recipient of several distinctions, including an award from the American Society of Landscape Architects. One of its award-winning projects is GRUB—a Southern-inspired restaurant located in Durham’s Historic West End Neighborhood. The project earned the City of Durham’s Golden Leaf Award in the Adaptive Reuse category for the renovation of the restaurant. The modern, upscale diner still pays homage to the building’s original existence as a Pure Oil service station. The rooftop bar has reclaimed wood while the interior boasts custom wallpaper that highlights buildings across Durham.

Gontram Architecture

220 Horizon Dr. Suite #221, Raleigh, NC 27615 

Gontram Architecture delivers excellent architectural services that highlight the importance of cost control, contract administration, and design excellence. The Gontram process is known to consistently meet both schedules and budgets. That consistency comes from an approach tailored to suit each client’s individual needs. Gontram is experienced in all types of project delivery services, including the traditional design-bid-build, but prefers and adheres to the more popular design-build approach. The firm is led by its namesake Edmund J. Gontram III, who is both a licensed architect and a general contractor. In 2007, he received his LEED certification from the US Green Building Council and has since been including sustainable design elements in the firm’s traditional projects. He is licensed not only in North Carolina but also in South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and Virginia. The firm itself is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, rendering it eligible to practice in 47 states. 

The firm takes pride in its cost control techniques. The key: it develops estimates after the completion of each design stage to verify project budgets and these are highly accurate. In the event of an estimate surpassing an owner’s available funds, its team offers a variety of excellent alternatives. The chosen project above was completed in collaboration with SmartDesign Group for the Marshall Retail Group. It consists of three individual retail upfits spanning a total of 3,000-square-feet. 

ORA Architecture

510 W Martin St. Suite #100, Raleigh, NC 27603

Based in Raleigh, ORA Architecture specializes in contemporary and modern designs for a variety of markets including the retail market but also the commercial, multi-family, and mixed-use sectors. The firm provides an array of planning, architecture, and interior design services and offers fresh perspectives as well as sustainable designs with a lasting impact. It has been servicing the southeastern area since 2010 and has left its mark as one of the area’s most innovative modern architecture firms. The firm’s process is the perfect combination of budget, constructability, and real-world function complete with environmentally-friendly elements. The firm also has experience with LEED-certified projects and makes use of green building materials and efficient mechanical systems. Its projects are noted for their excellent lighting, proper building orientation and natural lighting, water usage, and indoor air quality.

The firm is led by principals Andrew Iatridis, Chris Grimes, and David Renzulli. Iatridis is the proud recipient of the AIA Scholastic Award Certificate of Merit for excellence in the study of Architecture and a dozen distinctions not only from the AIA but also from several other local organizations, and builders associations. Grimes is an expert in environmental design and prior to the establishment of the firm, worked with several impressive firms. Renzulli is experienced in every aspect of the field of architecture and works closely with the firm’s clients throughout the entire process. 

Center Studio Architecture

107 E Chapel Hill St., Durham, NC 27701

Center Studio Architecture has been in business since 2004 and offers an extensive range of architectural services. The firm has also worked on several interesting projects in the retail, hospitality, restaurant, and multi-family markets. It has also taken on several single-family residences in addition to historic, corporate, and community projects. The firm is known to be diverse, having a racially varied and rich team of talented professionals and designers on its team. The firm also pursues projects and partnerships that elevate the voices, perspectives, and priorities of marginalized communities. Doing so has enabled the firm to curate a portfolio as colorful and vibrant as its wonderful team. 

The project above was completed for Vert & Vogue. It is a Durham-founded boutique of women’s clothing run by a group of top independent designers. It features unique rustic finishes, custom fixtures, and clean modern finishes. 

Inclusion Studio

206 New Bern Place, Raleigh, NC 27601

Located in downtown Raleigh, Inclusion Studio is a full range architecture and design firm that offers a comprehensive range of services. Inclusion is known for its excellent interiors as well as its landscaping and has worked on a variety of interesting projects. The firm is led by R. David Cole, a North Carolina native who grew up in Charlotte before moving to Raleigh to pursue higher education. His impressive portfolio encompasses mobile classrooms to large-scale urban design projects. The same can be said of the firm’s portfolio. Cole’s philosophy of building buildings that are connected to their landscapes is quite prevalent in the firm’s work. It’s a focus throughout the entire building process, which emphasizes the importance of contextualization and considering the urban environment. 

The featured project above was designed for arts-and-crafts store Craft Habit Raleigh. It features clean white brick finishes coupled with an open industrial theme to showcase the company’s products. 

Gurlitz Architectural

121 S Estes Dr. Suite #100, Chapel Hill, NC 27514

Operating out of its offices in Chapel Hill, Gurlitz Architectural offers a full and comprehensive range of architectural services. It works with a variety of project types, aside from retail spaces, such as work from the governmental, private, corporate, and institutional sectors. The firm has been in business since 1988 and has been committing itself to exceptional services and designs ever since. It specializes in both new construction and renovations and is noted for its excellent project management and quality control services. The firm also makes use of green building practices and sustainable designs. Its projects typically have low maintenance costs, low operating costs, and a positive impact on the environment.

Showcased above is the Daniels Building at the University of North Carolina. It houses various stores that sell books, supplies, computers, additional electronics, clothing, and snacks.


  • Shahe Demirdjian

    Shahe is an Editor at General Contractors with around four years of experience as a writer and editor in the construction space. Shahe has always had a huge interest in commercial/residential construction and real estate. On top of his experience at General Contractors, he has two years of experience as a Construction Partner Specialist at BuildZoom and six years of experience as a licensed real estate agent. In his work, he takes advantage of his expertise to take complex technical jargon from those realms and transform them into accessible, engaging content, blending his business administration expertise with a degree from Arizona State University with his experiential insights. Expertise: Architecture, Home Design and Build, Home Remodeling Key Highlights: Arizona Real Estate - Licensed Salesperson Education: Arizona State University - Bachelors in Business Administration