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Today's word on journalism

January 13, 2009

Breakneck:

"I get the feeling that the 24-hour news networks are like the bus in the movie 'Speed.' If they stop talking for a second, they think they'll blow up."

--Jon Stewart, The Daily Show, 2008 (Thanks to alert WORDster Ross Martin)

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Tough times for Tremonton businesses

By Dave Archer


December 10, 2008 | TREMONTON -- For years, Peggy Schultz considered herself a lucky person. She had something that so few have, yet so many desire. Every morning, she would wake up and head to a job she loved, one she looked forward doing every day.

As the owner of Quilter's Harvest, Schultz had the opportunity not only to sell fabric and patterns to prospective quilters, she also traded ideas with fellow quilters, talked shop with those who visited her store and found joy in helping those new to quilting get started with their projects.

But all of that is gone now.

Schultz was forced to close her doors for good last month, and it has proved to be one of the hardest things she's ever had to do.

"It broke my heart," she said. "That shop was the love of my life. It was real hard to close it down."

Lately, downtown Tremonton is a little less populated than it has been in years past. Businesses like Quilter's Harvest and Little Gold Treasures have left the area or are in the process of shutting down for good, while others like Murdock Chevrolet and Five Star Trailers are seeing record low profits this year.

According to Sheena Hansen, Bear River Valley Chamber of Commerce president and general manager at Five Star Trailers, a number of factors are involved when local businesses like these close. First and foremost, it's often because there just isn't a large enough demand for a product.

"It's too bad, because (the owners) have a good idea, but it's not going to fly," she said. "The need and demand for those types of things have changed."

Hansen acknowledged that local stores receive some support from area residents, but there is oftentimes more people who choose to leave town to shop. Larger cities like Logan, Ogden or Salt Lake City can offer consumers more choice and more savings, which ultimately hurts the hometown businesses that support local events, fundraisers and activities.

"Many have become programmed to leave town," Hansen said. "When you can leave town and get everything done it one trip, it makes it (easy) for some."

She also said a struggling national economy hasn't done anything to help matters, as more and more people are spending their money on things that they need and not the extras that they want.

"The things we have in Tremonton, and in a time like this right now, it is very difficult to support," she said. "It's not things that people have to have."

That was exactly what happened with Schultz's business, as she cited a lack of sales as the reason for having to close her doors for good. Over the last few months that her business was open, she said she saw more and more people who were looking to save money and get their shopping done in one trip.

"There's more traffic on Main Street than there was six months ago, but they're not doing their shopping in Tremonton," Schultz said.

Yet this was a problem Schultz didn't think she'd have. When competing businesses like Buttons and Bolts and Cabin Fever Quilts were around, Schultz said her business remained steady, as she believes the competition and choices available to consumers kept people in town. However, when those two businesses announced they were closing their doors and held clearance sales, Schultz saw her business drop. She assumed that it would work out, thinking her customers would return once those businesses were gone. The opposite happened, however.

"It never really recovered to where it was while (those other shops) were open," she said.

It finally got to the point that Schultz had to make the painful decision of whether or not to keep running the business that she loved at a loss. Unfortunately, that was something she just wasn't able to do.

"I couldn't afford to go bankrupt with it," she said.

The pain isn't only being felt by small, locally owned shops, however. Hansen said a number of restaurants are reporting lower figures, and local car dealerships are seeing some of their worst sales numbers in recent memory. In fact, Hansen said she's seen a drastic decline at her own company, Five Star Trailers.

"I'm exactly half of where I was a year ago," she said. "It is very widespread."

Even with these factors, however, businesses coming and going is nothing new to the area. Tremonton City Manager Rich Woodworth said that he's seen plenty of businesses close their doors in the past, many within a few months of each other.

"It seems like there's a cycle where two or three happen at once whenever it happens," Woodworth said.

So what can local business owners do? For one, Hansen said she recommends choosing a product that will appeal to a wide number of people instead of offering a specialized product for a select few. She also said people need to go back to old habits of going the extra mile to make their business succeed, much like they did when they first opened their doors.

"You really pull your bootstraps up and come out and try harder," she said. "Do what you did when you first opened, when you had that drive and desire to succeed."

So while life continues for Schultz, it is definitely different than what she's used to. She no longer wakes up each morning excited to open her shop, no longer has countless opportunities to talk with others about quilting. She continues to pursue the hobby that has brought her so much joy, but as far as being able to help others find that through her products, that's something she knows will never come back.

"I couldn't ever go through another 'going out of business' again," she said.

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