Open Forum editors are visiting small businesses to ask how they're handling the economic challenge. Here are the stories of four businesses in New York City, reported by Bill Brazell.
A Salon Focuses on Customer Service
Santa Cruz, founder of Salon Santa Cruz, is proud to have kept her business going on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue for 25 years. She says the economy's turmoil is "affecting us over time, rather than all at once. We're in the beauty industry," more luxury than necessity, so people can cut back when times are tight. "They'll extend their color service a little longer," she said. "They may decide not to get that pedicure." At the same time, "We're a feel-good, look-good industry. We help people feel good." And when times are tough, people want to feel better. To keep her customers coming back, "we've had to retrain the staff, so their customer service is even better." And she had to postpone hiring a cleaning person, instead asking her current staff to help more with the cleaning.
Planning for a Slow Holiday Season
At Major Florist Wholesale, owner Louis Theofanis said he had "thirty phone calls to answer right now," so business is "not down that much yet." But he's planning for a slower than usual December. "We're expecting it to be down 20% for the holidays, so we're ordering 20% less," he said.
When Your Product is Optional, Don't Overstock
James Bure, 51, President of A & J Lingerie & More, says there's one silver lining to the credit crunch: Developers "want to eliminate small stores like this to build skyscrapers -- but they can't build those, now, because they won't be able to get the loans." But he knows demand for his products may drop. "People need to focus on necessities," Bure said. "You've got to put food on the table before you buy a color TV or lingerie or whatever." So his business may take a hit, and he's begun to prepare: He and his mother drive together to work, instead of separately. "I've installed energy-efficient lighting, too. Little things that add up. When you're in a small business, you need to be more careful with your spending, with your buying habits. Don't overstock when you can restock."
Dependent on a Credit Line
Elena Velarde of The Arte Capoeira Center and her husband, Mucui, have been teaching and promoting the Brazilian folk art in their studio on East 28th Street in Manhattan for seven years. Business hasn't slowed, but she does have one big fear: "We hope our credit line stays open, because if the bank stops that, we would have to shut down."