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In belt-tightening times, businesses streamline to survive

By: Gloria Young, Journal Staff Writer
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A longtime Auburn pet store is moving to a smaller location. A Downtown restaurant has relocated to a smaller space and updated the menu. And several shop owners in Old Town have combined their inventories. It’s all part of an effort to keep doors open in tough times. “They’re committed to making their businesses successful,” Bruce Cosgrove, Auburn Chamber of Commerce executive director said this week. “They’re going to do whatever they have to do to remain in business and ride this economy out. That’s what I’m seeing.” After 12 years in the Raley’s Shopping Center off Foresthill Road, Pet Xing will soon occupy a building a couple of blocks away. “We’re going from 6,000 square-feet to 1,400,” owner Larry Taylor said. “Economics is the reason. My lease is up and it is costing me more to stay here and I can’t afford it.” With less space, Taylor is cutting back on inventory and will no longer offer dog grooming. “I’m going to be concentrating more on animal health products,” he said. “We’ll keep the same lines of food and pet supplies, and we’ll still carry birds, fish, reptiles and small animals.” Taylor, who has owned the business for two years, said he wants to reduce overhead so he can keep prices down. Doors are set to open Sept. 1 at the new store, located next to Lou LaBonte’s restaurant on Lincoln Way. But before then, Taylor is planning a customer appreciation day. “We’ll cook hot dogs and have sodas and shaved ice,” he said. “I just want to thank everyone who supported us at this location.” Along with the move, Taylor is considering adding a delivery service for pet supplies. “I’m still working out the details,” he said. “We have a lot of elderly people who come from Foresthill and Weimar. If we can help them, I’m going to try to do that.” In Downtown Auburn, Terri Galli, owner of Luigi’s restaurant, decided last summer she needed to retool her business. Galli and her husband, Lou — who passed away in 2007 — had operated Luigi’s in Downtown Auburn since the mid 1990s. In October, Galli relocated a block away from the Lincoln Way address to Harrison Street. Then she renamed the eatery —it’s now Luigi’s Pastaria — and revamped the menu. “I changed the business quite a bit,” Galli said. “We went from being totally full service with a more formal atmosphere and higher prices, to becoming a more reasonable place to dine. We’ve changed the format and the dining room and lowered the prices by about 25 percent.” At 1,000 square-feet, the new space is smaller, but Galli emphasizes that it still offers many of the favorite dishes from the past. “It has worked out very well,” Galli said about the move “The hardest thing is for people to find us — getting people to reconnect with us. The food quality is the same. People sit down and say, ‘This is Luigi’s. It’s still the same.’” Galli shares ownership of the restaurant with her sister, Michelle Storino, and most of the same staff is still there. “We have all the same cooks,” she said. “They’ve been with us 17 years. And we have the same dining room staff. The managers have been there for 13 years and five years. We’ve been really fortunate.” Beyond the decor and casual atmosphere, the biggest change customers will see is in the prices. “At Luigi’s before, a dinner would be $25 to $30 per person,’ Galli said. “You can come to Luigi’s now and dine for about $15 per person. We’ve really matched the economy on the downtrend. We’ve worked to match the quality of (the former) Luigi’s, but with more reasonable food.” Besides in-house dining, Luigi’s has added catering and handles lunches for companies and schools, Galli said. She also caters weddings. “Everyone is trying to economize,” she said. “People are spending about half what they used to for a wedding, so we fit their budget.” In Old Town Auburn, Kelley Von Zboray has sold vintage clothing for 18 years as owner of Those Were the Days. When she moved to her new location on Commercial Street in March, she wanted to have her own store but knew she couldn’t do it alone. “I still wanted to keep my quality family life,” she said. “I’m raising two children and have been married for 23 years.” So she enlisted two retired shop owners to join her. Nancy Munster, who formerly operated As Time Goes By and Diane Pingree, of Sweet Sue’s, now share the space. The building lends itself to the separate areas, Von Zboray said. Her clothing line fills the back of the store, while Munster and Pingree’s antiques and collectibles are displayed in the front. “It’s wonderful,” she said. “We don’t have to worry about employees. We can stay open seven days a week and don’t get burned out. We each have time for the things that are most important to us.” The Journal’s Gloria Young can be reached at gloriay@goldcountrymedia.com or comment at Auburnjournal.com.