Recession? What recession?|New business open doors despite economic downturn

Published 12:07 pm Friday, August 14, 2009

Staff Writer

Most business owners would not pick the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression to open a new business or expand an existing one.
In recent weeks, a number of people have chosen to do just that — opening new stores and restaurants or expanding existing ones in Washington.
Everett Duncan and Greg Purser, owners of The Purser’s Chest, are scheduled to open their relocated and expanded interior-design business this weekend in a new location on Main Street.
“We had wanted this location six years ago because it does have waterfront access,” Duncan said. “Even with he recession, our business had held its own,” he said. “Eventually, the recession will come to an end.”
Duncan and Purser had operated in a smaller location on Main Street, but when the new location became available after Whimsy moved to its new location in the old Bank of Washington building across the street, they decided to act.
The new location, renamed The Purser’s Chest, Interiors, Antiques and Artisan Market, also will house several smaller boutiques operated by local artisans and antiques dealers.
For Meredith and Neil Loughlin, opening their own business has been a longtime dream.
The couple recently moved back to Washington from Raleigh, where Meredith Loughlin had been in graduate school and Neil Loughlin worked as a photographer’s assistant, and opened Lone Leaf Gallery &Custom Framing, also on Main Street.
Their new store, which features all handmade work ranging from pottery to paintings and jewelry as well as a framing shop, opened in late July.
“We hope to bring a little something to the town,” Loughlin said.
He and his wife were not daunted by the bad economy.
“I think that people still want to get out there and visit galleries and local businesses,” he said.
Slowdowns do not have to be barriers to starting new enterprises, experts say.
Bill Gates did not wait for the recession to pass before launching Microsoft in 1975.
“An economic downturn always lends an opportunity for people to do things they want to do,” said Catherine Glover, executive director of the Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce. “This is the true entrepreneurial spirit that has made this country great.”
Anytime is the right time to launch a new business if the opportunity is correct and the entrepreneur have correctly assessed and shaped the opportunity, she said.
Still, starting a new business always comes with risk — about half of small businesses fail within the first five years, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration — periods of stagnation or recession can make a launch even tougher. Among the challenges facing many businesses today, for instance, are tighter lending standards, higher prices of energy and food and weak consumer spending.
Economic conditions did not really concern Nancy Campbell when she and Eloise Wood launched their stained-glass store two weeks ago.
Their store, Crabby’s Stained Glass and Collectibles, is one of the few businesses east of Raleigh that sells supplies for making stained glass.
“We prayed about it a lot,” she said. “It seemed to all fall into place.”
She said the number of customers in the store has steadily increased since she and Wood opened its doors, and they are optimistic business will continue to improve.