Slow economy hits Main Street

Locally owned Main Street businesses, feeling the effects of a changing economy, are dealing with increased supply costs and, in some cases, decreased customer activity.

"The biggest effect we've experienced is that our food costs have risen dramatically," said Bank St. Bagel co-owner Danielle Adams, who recently re-structured the entire menu to reflect new input costs.

"The cost of freight has jumped," said Ken Emerson, owner of Swain Sports.

According to Georgia Walther, owner of The Clothes Horse, "It's affected all of us. People are buying [single] items, not outfits."

Compounding the problem, many consumers are cutting back on spending in general. Angel Gawel, owner of Image Empire Salon, said that pedicure and manicure treatments are down and customers are going longer between coloring treatments.

Presidential candidates have begun to focus on the state of the economy and nearly all polls for the November election have shown that the issue is the foremost concern for a majority of voters.

Arlene Webb, owner of Stagecoach Florist, acknowledged a decline but was optimistic about the future. "Hopefully things will turn around in an election year," she said.

Not everyone is convinced that the economy situation is unfavorable.

"I don't think the economy is bad," said Lowell Conrad, owner of Conrad's Appliances. "There are always changes. We've actually been running a little ahead this year."

Others are seeing an upside to the economic climate. Emerson reported that Swain Sports' bike business has been "better than ever," as families seek alternative vacations and transportation methods. He also believes that some customers are shopping locally, rather than driving to Henrietta, to save on gas.

Technician Michael Perry of PC Trend Computers said that the service and repairs industry has benefited from the economic situation. "I think for our business, in an economic downturn, more people are choosing to repair their computers rather than buy new," he said.

According to the Labor Department, the unemployment rate reached a five-year high of 6.1 percent in August. Many economists have long speculated that rising fuel costs and the housing crisis could contribute to a United States recession. Congress attempted to alleviate the downturn with an economic stimulus package that was signed into law on Feb. 13.

Congressional Democrats have renewed calls for a second round of federal spending to stimulate the economy, but President Bush is opposed to the idea and political analysts give it little chance of passage.