News 12 at 6 o'clock; December 15, 2008
AIKEN, S.C. --- The Aiken Mall on Whiskey Road is losing The Gap in January, and other business owners tell News 12 more shops may be closing soon.
Three other small businesses in Aiken are shutting down as well. Two are in the Pine Log Road area and another is in downtown Aiken. Now, two of those owners are speaking out to News 12 about the hard times and their optimism for the future.
Allan Fogle, owner of Shutterbug Photo, has 22 years of memories in the photos he's taken at the store. "It's saying goodbye to someone you've been doing business with for years and years," says Allan. "We've seen a lot of families grow up."
The number of people walking through his doors has been going down, especially over the last two years. Now, his doors are closed for good.
"22 years ago, I was thinking, 'If I can keep it open long enough to pay off the equipment, I'll be happy,'" says Allan. Despite the closing, he's still optimistic about the future, and he's got the pictures to prove it.
"It's like giving up a child, it really is," says Joan Tuck. "It's very difficult because this is my other family." Joan is the owner of Haven of Rest Christian Store on Pine Log Road in Aiken. Her shop is right across the street from Allan and she too is closing her doors at the end of the month.
"It's been my joy for all of these years," says Joan. It's 18 years of memories and it's hard to say goodbye to her friends. "There's a family connection with people that come in here," she says. "That's going to be really hard."
But with more people shopping online and sending e-cards instead of buying cards and more at her store, she's closing too on December 27Th. "I'm sad to go, of course. I'm worried what I'm going to do at home," says Joan.
Again, that big name leaving the mall is The Gap. Its last day will be January 24, 2009. Also, we're learning from other business owners that other stores in the mall will be closing soon. News 12 tried to confirm this with the Aiken Mall, but several calls to the mall were not returned.
For Allan, all that's left to do right now is to pack up. "It frustrates me that small businesses don't get the bailouts the large businesses do," says Allan. "We're just left out when everyone else gets a handout."
We're told the economic situation in downtown Aiken is slower but steady. At the end of the month, many businesses are reporting sales that are not as bad as what's being reported in the news. They say right now, there are only two downtown stores that are empty, and often the turnover there between stores is quick. We do know that the Carriage Home Antique shop is closing there also, but the owner is planning on putting something else in the space.
Fred Hume tells News 12 the economic situation for manufacturers in Aiken is doing okay. They are not seeing as many large number of layoffs as the rest of the country. But he tells News 12 they are not producing as much as usual these days. He adds that companies are not coming in as fast to the area, either.