Small business owners are really having a tough time just making it into 2009 because they can't compete with the big chains on price. In any year, the price gap puts them at a huge disadvantage, but during a nasty recession it's likely to be a death knell. Former LATer Jesus Sanchez has a post on his Eastsider blog about local merchants who opened their doors during the rush of gentrification some years back - and who now may be left holding the bag. He talks to Eagle Rock store owner Kelly Witmer, whose store Regeneration features items made out of recycled or sustainable materials.
Regeneration's shelves were stocked with items like recycled plastic sandals, boxes made out of used magazines and fabrics woven from bamboo and organic cotton fibers and jewelry made out of coconut shells and discarded glass and pottery. Business was slow at first but began to build in a few months. Regeneration generated enough sales, about $6,000 a month, to allow Witmer to break even and provide her with what amounted to a minimum-wage salary. But she continued to struggle and then things got worse. Sales started to drop dramatically last August and by November they were down by about half compared to last year, Witmer said. "To try and stimulate more sales, I've had sales, mark-downs, art openings but have had little response or turn-out," said Witmer.