Thursday, April 03, 2008

Sign of the Times

My favorite deli in Hutchinson has closed. Daisy's Deli was always very busy at lunchtime. I didn't go there often, but I went regularly. However, I know for some people it was a daily stop. We drove by last night and saw paper on the windows and this sign: "Closed. Overwhelming cost of groceries, fuel surcharges and fuel costs have caused us ot make hard choices. Thank You Daisy's Customers for all your past support. Linda Birney."

Daisy's has been in business for quite a few years, so this isn't a case of a new restaurant just not making it. I'm sure sorry it's gone and I'm especially sorry that the horrible economy has taken down a local business. The chains will survive, of course. It will be the local places that can't make it.

One of my favorite spots in town recently raised their prices. I notice because I know how much my ticket always is because I get the same thing everytime. A few years ago when prices went up the owner was stressing over telling me and I assured her there was no reason to be concerned - I understand. That was probably five years ago. This time she told me a week or two before because I usually have my check made out. I was happy to see she wasn't worried about telling me this time. I understand an increase. Of course, at some point you're worried you'll run your customers away and they won't pay it. And, with customers having to deal with fuel cost increases as well, it can get tight. (Gas is $3.19 a gallon here at the moment. I paid $3.24 a few days ago when I filled up.)

I wish Daisy's Deli had just raised their prices, but I'm sure they did the math and decided people simply wouldn't pay what they needed to make it work. They made these big, thick sandwiches and served a variety of soups every day. Greg brought me one of their BLTs for lunch the day of the potato bar.

I will miss them. And, I am concerned what the loss of this business says about the economy in general - and I don't just mean in Hutchinson. I'm afraid this story is playing out over and over again in the country.

Todd McCracken, president of the National Small Business Association trade group, said in a February USA Today article that small businesses — 26 million in the USA alone — often lead the economy out of recessions. "That's difficult to do if they can't get the credit and capital they need to grow," he says.

A US News and World Report article on March 10, 2008 says, "A weaker economy is making things a little bit tighter. High gas prices act, in effect, as a major tax on small businesses. 'To the extent that energy prices go up, they feel the pinch,' says Steve Preston, head of the Small Business Administration."

NPR did a great story just this morning about how China is becoming more expensive and so American companies that are relying on them for cheap sources are going to have raise prices because as they put it, "there's not another China." Of course, this sticker shock isn't going to hit until next year.

And, by the way, this is not just "cyclical" change in the economy. This is the result of poor management on the part of the US, massive debt, and a host of other factors - many of which could have been addressed in the last five years if we had chosen to do so. Instead, we've focused our efforts on creating more debt. Our national debt increases an average of $1.71 billion dollars a day. Yes... billon... each day.

Fred Kaplan summed up the economy beautifully when he was here when he said, and I'm paraphrasing, "we buy China's cheap goods with the money they loan us." It's hard to believe it wasn't even eight years ago that we were a solvent nation, with a surplus in the budget, and now we owe more than 9 trillion dollars.

The thing that none of these stories and statistics and quotes bring to life is the real story of a real business with real people who are now without income. I don't care if economists call is an official "recession," I just know people can't keep up at this pace. I got a 2.5% increase in salary this year. Gas prices alone have increased more than 20% here in the last year. You don't need to be a math genius to see that that can't continue for very long.

If you had increased your debt level more than 1.5 trillion dollars a year in the last six years would you still be able to borrow? Yeah, me neither. Sure, the government has some holdings - all federal buildings and such - but I'm not sure they're worth 9 trillion dollars combined.

I'm reminded of James Carville's sign posted in Clinton's campaign headquarters during the 1992 campaign, when Bush senior was viewed as unbeatable, that has been morphed into, "It's the economy, stupid."

By the way, that sign also other things on it - accounts vary, but it seems to have said:
Change vs. more of the same
The economy, stupid
Don't forget health care

Those all seem pertinent today as well. And, this is a great example of how a central message is critical to anything you want to market.

Greg and Photos

Greg is a professional photographer. He takes wonderful pix, as you might expect. He, also, will suffer for pix. He will lay down on a sidewalk in the summer, or in a snow bank in the winter. He got this hyacinth photo by laying in the dirt in his backyard.

Later in the day yesterday we stopped by the post office because he had spotted this flowering tree earlier and wanted a picture.

Greg got out and spent a few minutes looking for the perfect shot. I stayed in the car and snapped a photo of him taking a photo.

This is the sort of photo you get by staying in the car. Below is the kind of photo you get by actually get out of the car, framing a shot, and knowing what you're doing.

We don't know what kind of tree it is, but it's pretty.

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