We were there in October when the New York Times announced it would be following six New York-area small business owners over the next several months as they attempt to cope with the credit crunch and what we now know to be a recession, one that could be both long and deep.
Well, the Times checked in with the six last week. The stories of their experiences over the past couple months are sometimes hard to digest but nonetheless great to read, and you should read them.
The good news? All are still in business--which, given what the past three months have witnessed on the economic front, is frankly something of an accomplishment in and of itself. One or two even look to be safely away from a real danger zone.
On the other hand, things are clearly slow all around. "You lie in bed sometimes wondering how you’re going to get through the next day and make sure everyone gets paid," says the owner of a Bronx meat market.
Indeed, a chief concern for many of these entrepreneurs is trying not to cut payroll--not for business reasons as much as for human reasons. As the owner of London Tours put it, "My worst nightmare would be to cut staff, because I feel a responsibility toward our staff."
It's heartening to read of some of their optimism: "I have four workers, one is Irish and three Mexicans. I give them a bonus of one week’s work, and that won’t change," explains the owner of a Ditmas Park construction firm. "Looking ahead, it looks better than two months ago and it’s going to get better faster than what everyone thinks."
But then you hear from the owner of a Financial District Middle East restaurant: "Me and my wife came to the conclusion that we should take a smaller place, just me and her and a dishwasher, like when we started out. I noticed that there are lots of places that are empty and nobody’s renting. It’s going to hurt me if I have to leave this place. The woodwork, I did it all myself. I’m very proud of it."
We certainly hope all six are in business the next time the Times checks in on them. We're just not sure that we'd bet that they all will be.
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