In a recession, Auburn businesses get creative to survive

By: Gloria Young Journal Staff Writer
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Local businesses are finding creative ways to reduce overhead costs as the recession continues. An Auburn travel agency owner has closed her storefront and now works from home. A pet shop is moving to a much smaller space and, in Downtown, two neighboring businesses are now sharing space. Havalark’s Shonne Elgin, who closed the Auburn Town Center travel agency in December, says it has turned out to be a positive move. Working from home not only saves money, it has helped her make better use of her time. “I’m actually doing much more networking, which I would not have had been able to do before because I couldn’t leave the office,” she said this week. “Now I go to clients’ homes or offices.” Elgin, with 32 years in the travel business, is relying more on Internet marketing and phone sales. Her new way of doing business is more efficient, she says. For Larry Taylor, owner of Pet Xing in Bowman, moving from his 6,000-square-foot store in the Raley’s Shopping Center to a 1,400-square foot shop a block away just made good sense. “It’s a big savings on the rent, utilities and the lease, not to mention general overhead with payroll taxes,“ he said. Taylor has not cut employees, but has reduced working hours, he said. When he reopens at the new site on Sept. 1, there will be fewer products, no reptiles and he’ll no longer offer dog-grooming. Groomer Jocelyn Gerrans will have her business at another location on Lincoln Way. “We’ll still be carrying all our pet foods and dog and cat supplies,“ Taylor said. He’ll also have fish and exotic birds, but a smaller selection. To save money, Taylor did most of the remodeling on the new building himself. “By and large it has been positive,” he said. “I’m counting on my good customer base to follow me and I’ll have freeway signage I didn’t have in the shopping center.” In Downtown Auburn, two Lincoln Way businesses — Art Accents and The Chocolate Shoppe & Gift Emporium — joined forces this month when Ann and Rudy Rivero moved their art and frame store into the back gallery of Lois and Al Granstrom’s candy store. “It’s a win-win for both of us,” Ann Rivero said. “We both had gallery space that wasn’t paying for itself.” The Riveros now have less work area for their framing jobs, but it just means “thinking smarter,” Ann Rivero said. And they love the new space. “It has three skylights so we never turn lights on in the daytime (for summer),” she said. For both business owners, who share a love of art, it offers the opportunity to attract new customers. “They’ll get people into the chocolate shop who normally wouldn’t go there, and chocolate shop customers will find us,” Rivero said. The timing was perfect for the Granstroms. “I told (Ann Rivero) I was trying to figure out what do to with the back room and I’d love to rent it out,” Lois Granstrom said. “It didn’t take long after that.” The two businesses have signs in front and eventually window displays will likely reflect framing as well as sweets and art, Granstrom said. The Auburn area has numerous longtime home-based business who are finding their own ways to keep the bottom line healthy through the recession. Cathy Bianchi, owner of Cathy’s Catering, attributes her success to being active in the community. “I’d say my biggest help is being a member of the Chamber of Commerce,” she said. But Bianchi, who specializes in wedding cakes and business breakfasts and lunches, is also very aware of the impact tough times are having on her customers. “One of the first things I ask my customers is ‘What is your budget?” she said. “It the person is on a tighter budget, I can work within that and I’ll take the extra steps to make sure what they want is done right.” Locksmith Aaron Claydon with Awesome Lock and Key in Auburn has seen business drop. He has been able to make up for some of the lost businesses by working with banks and realtors to change locks on foreclosed homes, he said. Gloria Young can be reached at