As recession drags, residents hope for recovery

Local businesses maintain staff levels despite corporate shutdowns.
By Jennifer Busby

In another year of economic turmoil, those in the Jefferson Westside neighborhood of Eugene, Ore., are crossing their fingers with no clear end to the recession in sight.
Some have noticed a drop in spending among residents, although expenditures on necessities like food and housing have been steady.

Bill Cole has seen the effects of the recession in his store, where bikes, mo-peds, and scooters pack the floor. Fall is typically a slower time for Wheel Works, but last year’s decrease was dramatic.

The store, at West 11th Avenue and Lawrence Street, sells new, fuel-efficient transportation. Cole, who opened shop in 2001, sees the economy getting worse before it improves. “What recovery?” he asked.

Although no one has been laid off, staff hours at Wheel Works have been reduced. Kevin Campbell used to work 30-40 hours weekly. Now he works less than 20.

“When gas was close to $5, we saw that conscious switch to bicycles,” Cole said. High gas prices in 2008 corresponded with high sales for his business.

Now, however, those who have retained their jobs are spending more frugally. “Everybody goes back to the basics,” Cole said. Money is spent on necessities like food and a warm place to sleep instead of on items like bicycles and mo-peds.

A cashier at New Frontier Market, Paul Sexton, said that business is busier now than when he started working at the neighborhood store. He has worked at the store, which sells organic produce and hosts beer and wine tastings, for two years.

Cashier Rosie Gallego rings up a customer at New Frontier Market.

Most of the people who frequent the market pick up small items. “They’re getting beer or cigarettes,” he said. There are a few regulars, he said, who buy all of their groceries at New Frontier.

Some restaurants have not fared as well as the market, which sits on the corner of Eighth Avenue and Van Buren Street.

Anne Gregory, who works at Sushi Domo, has seen a slowdown in business since the recession began. The largest drop was in July 2008 after Hynix Semiconductor, a South Korean manufacturer of the components, closed its Eugene plant.

Gregory, who works 25 hours per week, said that business wasn’t the same after the Hynix closure. The company’s only US plant, the West Eugene location employed more than 1100 people.

Gregory did express hope that Sushi Domo would persevere through economic hard times.

“If your restaurant hasn’t shut down at this point, you’ll probably be okay,” she said. Sushi Domo, located on Green Acres Road, has steadily hired new employees, despite the ongoing recession. The restaurant has the best sushi in town, according to this year’s “Best of Eugene” in the Eugene Weekly.

Awards and good reviews help restaurants stay in business despite a tough economy, Gregory said.

“Little stuff like that is how you keep your head above water,” she said.

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