Aiken businesses cutting hours, closing

By: Gene Petriello Email
By: Gene Petriello Email

News 12 at 6 o'clock; February 9, 2009

AIKEN, S.C. --- As some businesses are seeing slumping sales, others are saying things are actually looking up. We walk you though Aiken's economy.

Thom Abbott, owner of Southside Gallery and the adjacent coffee shop for 22 years, is about ready to close his doors for good. The art store has been in the family for 28 years but now the walls are going bare. It's a sad sign the business is one of the victims of the economy.

"It's sad, it brings tears to my eyes," says Thom. His sales have been going down since 2007, just about the time the housing market started slipping.

"It just got worse, got worse and got worse and actually the business we did this last Christmas was worse than 20 years ago," says Thom.

It's the same story downtown. Carla Cloud with the Aiken Downtown Development Authority says sales are off 18-30% especially around the past holiday's. "But, they (the businesses) were expecting that and some didn't go down as much, and that was good."

This, as people like June Kehr do more window shopping these days. "Bargain shopping," she says. "If I do see something that is a good sale, then I'll do that."

You can't miss those sale signs in the downtown area either. They are popping up everywhere you look.

After a rough '08, Lionel Smith LTD -- a clothing shop on Laurens Street -- is slashing prices earlier than usual. "Smiddies always taught us to keep our chin up and keeping going after business," says worker Danny Minolfo. "We try to have a good attitude about it."

Just around the corner, restaurants are feeling the pinch too. Papa Russ's has cut their hours during the week and Olive Oil's on Chesterfield is now only open 6 days a week instead of 7 because of the economy.

I asked Carla if it is hard to recruit businesses to Downtown Aiken because of this situation?
"Right now, we haven't had a difficult time at all" was her reply.

But, across downtown, it'll soon be time for Thom's final toast. "I'm sad," he tells News 12. "I'm relieved that I'm not working and being in here 6 days a week and losing money," says Thom.

As for that business telling us they are doing well this year is M. Smart Custom Framing, which is inside Tea Garden Gifts. Both say they are having a solid shopping season so far in 2009.


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