Jefferson Westside businesses struggle with poor economy.

With the economy hurting across the country small businesses are feeling the sting of the recession as bad as any, and the businesses of Jefferson Westside are no exception; they may even be feeling it more than most.
According the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nationwide unemployment rate in September stands at 9.8 while Lane County’s unemployment  rate was reported at 12.2 percent, 2.4 percent higher than the average.
Local businesses continue to struggle with the ongoing recession despite claims that the recession is over.   Hien Williams, who owns The Graphics Shop in Jefferson Westside, has struggled to keep his business going since he opened two years ago and worries about its future.
“It sucks” Williams said of the economy. “Last winter was a huge struggle. I’m nervous about going into this winter.”
For Williams, who starts his working day at about 6:30 a.m.12 hours is an average day of work and, sometimes it is as late as 5 p.m. before he takes a lunch.  Williams has to work long hours because his lack of business forced him to start laying off employees last December.
“I used to have two others, now it’s just me” Williams said.
Williams’ business isn’t the only one falling on hard times.
Across the street, travel agent Bonnie Lee Solari, owner of Bonaventure Travel, has been hit hard by the struggling economy as well.
“Obviously, the majority of my business is leisure travel. When people lose their jobs, a vacation is the last thing they’re thinking about.” Solari said of the travel agency’s struggles.
Unlike Williams, Solari wasn’t forced to lay off any employees, but she wasn’t able to replace her only agent when he left and now runs the business entirely on her own.
“When I lost an agent, it was, ‘do I hire a new one?’” Solari said.  “It’s just me. Do I want to worry about payroll until this gets better?”
Solari, who has been a travel agent for 20 years, has felt other effects beyond a lack of business as well.  Solari said that businesses, such as hotels, used to offer her familiarization trips, in which they paid for travel agents to experience the vacation for themselves.  Such trips have become less and less, according to Solari. She hasn’t been on a familiarization trip since 2005.
Oregon Family Dental, a local area dentist office, hasn’t struggled as much with the recession but still has seen its effects, according to the its receptionist, Mary Chung.
“More people are opting for extractions instead of root canals.”  Chung said.  She added that having an extraction is a much cheaper procedure than having a root canal.
Chung said that they haven’t had to lay off any employees but added that the office, which has four employees, started off small in the first place.
Despite the hard times, the local businesses owners have found some positive notes for the future.
“September was a really good month. Almost like things were loosening up on the economy.  It was a good month.  Historically, September isn’t.” Solari said.  Solari hopes business will continue to rise through the winter, but said that travel tends to be at it’s worst from September to January.
Williams said that The Graphics Shop was able to get by over the summer, and he’s seen a new form of customer starting to help his business recently.
“Students are starting to come here.  I had some sororities come here, which was helpful” He said.
Williams also hopes to market the “beer hoodie,” one of his own designs, to NASCAR .  The “beer hoodie” is a hooded sweatshirt with an additional pocket in the front to fit a beer.  Williams has even created a baby sized version of the hoodie to fit a baby bottle.
For Solari, even in the bad economy, it’s about doing something you enjoy.  Solari said she held quite a few jobs before becoming a travel agent, but, even in better economies, was never able to stay for long.
“After two or three years I’d get bored. I taught in schools, I did peoples’ taxes. After a week of this I told my husband, ‘I think I can see myself doing this in 10 years.’ And here I am, 20 years later.”

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