Businesses adapt to economic slowdown

Published 11:39 am Monday, October 6, 2008

When Mike Cohn walks into his Chelsea business, the 4×4 Rockshop, every day, he sees the effects of the country’s struggling economy. Whereas he used to have staff members helping out, he’s had to let them all go and run the vehicle accessory shop by himself.

Cohn said his sales started declining late last year, helped along by a bad Christmas season.

“We had a little bump at the beginning of the spring when people were all excited and wanted to get their trucks out on the road for summer,” Cohn said. “And then gas shot up over three bucks.”

Year-to-date sales at the 4×4 Rockshop are down 25 percent from last year. That follows two straight years of growth, Cohn said. He moved his business into his Chelsea building one year ago after having his shop online since 2003.

“Here, everything we sell is a luxury item. You don’t have to lift your truck. You don’t have to put a performance part on your truck,” he said.

Some businesses have been able to avoid the pressure by offering services that are needed, economic crunch notwithstanding. That’s how Paul Petro, owner of Paul’s Diamond Center in Pelham, describes his success.

“With us, it’s just that we do a really good bridal business. People are still going to get engaged. People are still going to get married,” he said.

While Petro’s shop has continually seen good numbers, he did see a sharp decline last Christmas.

“In December, the bridal business is still good, but you see people buying other gifts. Overall, you also see people buying for Christmas, and we did see a drop in that. That was real disappointing,” he said. “You see people in the (housing) business coming in and buying stuff in December, and they’re not spending near the money they normally would.”

Petro said he’s tried to address the situation by offering a bigger selection of prices, especially as Christmas gets closer.

He also said he believes the store’s longevity has a lot to do with its continued success.

“We’ve been here 19 years, and we’ve got a real good name and we stand behind everything we do,” he said. “We’ve made a lot of friends. When people think of jewelry they think about us.”

Area restaurants have seen mixed success recently. Incahoots, a popular spot in Helena for 10 years, hasn’t seen any economic effects, said owner Harold Deason.

“We’ve been here so long, we’ve got so many regular customers,” he said. “Business is good.”

Meanwhile, Wright Dairy in Inverness will continue on as a catering business, but its restaurant and grocery will close.

Owner Carla Manning said rising gas prices was the biggest reason she had to close the restaurant and grocery.

“The gas prices increased and that’s what made our prices go up. Expenses have gone up due to the gas price increase and sales have gone down,” she said. “People cut back on eating out. It’s difficult for everybody. People can’t afford to spend money on anything extra right now.”