Dalton: Mom 'n' pop shops hurting

Dalton: Mom 'n' pop shops hurting

February 15th, 2009 by Kevin Cummings in Georgia

Staff Photo by Dan Henry -- Diann Thompson browses through lamps at Raspberry Row gift shop in Dalton, Ga., Tuesday afternoon.

Staff Photo by Dan Henry -- Diann Thompson...

DALTON, Ga. - Late last year, a "Going Out of Business" sign hung in the window of Puppies & More downtown.

Owner Nora Herrmann took the sign down after two weeks and the shop is still clinging to life after her husband started traveling to animal shows around the Southeast to sell the store's pets and products.

"His traveling is what's keeping the store in business," she said. "But it's killing me because we breed our own dogs, and I have to do that and run the store."

Mrs. Herrmann said Dalton's hemorrhaging loss of jobs in the floor-covering industry directly correlates to the past 12 months of a dire business slump for the 3-year-old pet store.

"(Carpet mill workers) are a lot of our customers, and layoffs and declining hours and business definitely slows us down," she said. "We are holding on, but we are also being taxed to death."

Oscar Urizar, owner of Oscar's Shoe Repair, estimates that his business has dropped 35 percent in the past year because of carpet mill layoffs and cutbacks.

At Raspberry Row, a locally owned specialty gift shop in Dalton, owner Pat Spence said there is a noticeable decline in business, but it's more of a trickle-down impact from the slow economy than the lack of textile workers shopping in her store.

"The whole town has felt a drop in business," Mrs. Spence said.

She said she's looking forward to the third quarter of this business year, when economic experts say things might get brighter. But she said she believes negative media coverage has made shoppers more wary of spending. She said positive attitudes and good economic news would boost the economy.

Dalton is at the top of the list for increases in unemployment between January 2007 and January 2008. The slump in the housing market leaves diminished demand for carpet, and a jobless rate above 11 percent is the result.

Not everyone is hurting.

Rita Jensen, manager of Peacock Alley Tea Room in downtown Dalton, said the decline in the town's floor-covering industry has not hurt the upscale eatery. She said very few textile workers frequent her business and most of the tea room's clients are well-to-do or retired.

"We have a certain clientele, so it doesn't really matter what the economy does," Mrs. Jensen said.