Downtown businesses rely on one another to set positive examples

Published 7:03 am Tuesday, July 14, 2009

By Staff
It’s a Catch 22 in an economy that’s gone off the deep end.
Keep your shop open longer hours and perhaps attract more customers — or lose your shirt because there aren’t enough customers to make a difference. Moreover, the longer you’re open, the higher your overhead costs and the less time you have to devote to other potential moneymaking ventures.
Recent Daily News Sound Off callers have complained about downtown Washington merchants not being open regular hours or packing up the sidewalk before potential shoppers get off work.
In response to the callers, a few downtown merchants admit that keeping their shops open regular hours (think 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. or so) is not economically feasible in our sagging economy. The owners of the downtown business Shabby Chic — Pat and Kim Rogers — say they have even gotten second jobs so they can afford to keep their business open.
And that’s a shame.
“We’re hanging on,” Pat Rogers said in a recent interview. “I love this. If I have to close my shop, it will kill me.”
Other downtown merchants — though most not having to secure second jobs — are also feeling the pinch. They contend that the recession, increasing electric rates and rising insurance premiums are increasing the cost of doing business at the same time their revenue is decreasing.
At least one Sound Off caller — presumably a downtown merchant — called in response to the complaints by saying most people go to Greenville to shop. That of course, only adds to the area’s woes.
Several downtown merchants interviewed for Sunday’s Daily News article, argued that the most effective way to grow your business is to be open when the public is not working — that means nights, weekends and holidays.
Longtime merchants have also complained that businesses that don’t keep regular hours and are closed on weekends are negatively effecting all of downtown. It’s hard to argue against that rationale: Through word of mouth, one disgruntled customer can paint an unfairly negative picture of the whole downtown.
Just as keeping a business looking spick-and-span inside and out bolsters the prestige of other downtown merchants, so, too, does keeping regular hours and being open when people are most available to shop.
There doesn’t seem to be much point, otherwise.