6 Oct 2011

Economy’s Effect on Downtown Bowling Green

Author: Jacqueline Gedeon | Filed under: Local stories

By Jacqueline Gedeon

Like many companies in Ohio, the businesses of downtown Bowling Green have been affected by the decline in the world’s economy. Small business owners have had to adapt to the economy’s fluctuations in order to keep their businesses active.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Consumer Price Index for all urban consumers in the U.S. increased 0.4 percent in August 2011 on a seasonally adjusted basis.

“We have been in business for 35 years,” Floyd Craft, owner of Ben Franklin, said. “We honestly are surviving now over the last three or four years when the economy has really been bad because we’ve been very conservative over the years and we don’t have any debt.”

Ben Franklin is an independently owned old-fashioned variety store located in downtown Bowling Green. Craft has had to adjust his scheduling of employees’ hours. The employees who previously worked full-time, now only work one to two days a week.

Ben Franklin, photo credit Jacqueline Gedeon

“We have not laid off any employees,” said Craft. “We may not have replaced one or two. We are running with less employees than we had, but we never actually cut someone because of that.”

Earlene Kilpatrick, Executive Director of the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce, said she is seeing some trends in downtown businesses. She said she noticed more cross promoting, partnerships and a push to shop locally whether you are a consumer or a business owner.

“In this day and age, every business owner has had to think leaner and meaner,” Kilpatrick said. “And by that I mean how can we do more with less?”

All of the 181 businesses in downtown Bowling Green are each experiencing different effects from the economy, and some are even unaffected by it. Kelly Wicks, owner of Grounds for Thought, has not had to lay off any employees or decrease hours. Grounds for Thought is an independently owned used bookstore with a large selection of used vinyl records and comic books. Wicks said that the business has been in Bowling Green for 22 years and continues to grow as a company.

“If you talk to any real small business owner, you’ll see that it’s not the heavy handed government regulation of burden that’s holding businesses back, it’s customers don’t have any money to spend, and that’s the real problem,” he said.

Nancy Lee said the economy was excellent the summer of 2007 when she bought North Grove Carry Out. North Grove Carry Out is a small store that sells beer, cigarettes and other various items. Since 2007, she has noticed some changes in her hometown.

“The parents were no longer giving their kids money to go, you know, buy beer and go uptown and everything else,” she said. “So they have to find jobs, and the jobs that they are finding are the jobs that the high school kids used to get.”

The raise in minimum wage has effected Lee’s hiring process and pricing of her merchandise.

“Everything that our customers buy, the alcohol and the cigarettes, are at state minimum,” she said. “So it’s not really like I can increase my prices that much to be able to cover the unemployment that I pay on people and the workers’ comp and such as that.”

Not all businesses can survive these tough economic times. Thirty years ago, Nancy Lee’s husband, Doug, started a business called Lee Electric that began to collapse in 2003 in the midst of the struggling economy. Lee Electric installed electricity to residential and commercial buildings.

When Lee Electric was at its peak, it installed electricity in about 80 houses per year for about seven years. His problems began when the prices of commodities increased. Banks refused to provide loans home owners to meet what the contractors were charging.

Things slowed way down,” Lee said. “You go from a building contractor building 10 houses a year to one.”  Lee has had to give up the majority of his business and is currently contracting for Lee Electric, along with working for the county as an electrical coordinator.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, in 2009 about 552,600 new employer firms opened for business in the U.S. and 660,900 firms closed.

The B.L.D.G, a retro clothing store and recording studio lounge, as well as Mezmorize, a store that’s main focus was selling cigars, cigarettes and tobacco, have recently closed.

“Can I honestly say that some of our recent closings are directly linked to the economy?” said Kilpatrick. “I really can’t. I think there are several factors that come to the conclusion of closing a business.”

Two stores that have recently opened are Mosaic and Dada. Squeakers has recently been sold to a new owner.

“You have to be optimistic in business,” Craft said. “You always think and hope that next year’s going to be better.”

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2 thoughts on “Economy’s Effect on Downtown Bowling Green

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