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Eagle biz vets focus on customers

Eagle Valley Enterprise file photoEagle Pharmacy/Nearly Everything Store owner Annie Colby said the store had a great Christmas
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EAGLE, Colorado “-It’s a tough time to be a retailer in Eagle, Colorado, even when you have decades of business experience behind you.

But for some of Eagle’s longtime businesses, the current downturn isn’t their first economic maelstrom. They are headed into the battle with more informed expectations and some hard earned wisdom.

Take, for instance, the Eagle Pharmacy/Nearly Everything Store, which has been a fixture at the corner of Third and Broadway in downtown Eagle for the past half-century. Nearly Everything Store owner Annie Colby says retail is a roller coaster business even in good times. During tough economic times, that’s even more apparent. While business may dictate cutbacks, that’s not a good long-term strategy, she has learned.

“You can’t cut merchandise. It only takes one or two times when someone asks for something and you don’t have it for them not to come in again,” says Colby.

She jokes that now is not the time to run the business by computer, but rather to go by gut feelings. Colby’s gut is telling her that people will still shop in 2009, but they will be looking for necessities, not luxuries. And, more importantly, they will be shopping closer to home. That’s how the last quarter of 2008 played out.

Over the past few years, the Nearly Everything Store has made a reputation for catering to big game hunters. Last fall, the first rumblings of the current downturn were hitting nationwide and the store definitely felt the impact.

“We still had the hunters, but they didn’t stay as long or spend as much,” Colby said. Hunting season sales figures were down in 2008.

So, it was with considerable trepidation that the business looked toward Christmas. The aisles were brimming with decorations, gift times and snowboots. “We figured people can’t just say ‘Forget Christmas’ but they were looking at how to trim back a bit,” says Colby. “We were a place to shop for trimming it back.”

The store took that philosophy a bit further by offering 20 percent off Tuesdays during the holidays. Whatever the combination of factors, Colby said the store’s Christmas numbers were strong. In fact, Christmas Eve 2008 sales bested the 2007 figure.

“I really think that people were backing local businesses,” says Colby. “We are always grateful for every time people shop locally. We can’t be everything for everyone, but everything that’s done locally helps.”

And, in these uncertain times, customers want a sure thing, she continued. Customers know what to expect at the Nearly Everything Store because of the business’ long history. “What would this community do without our craft department for school projects,” says Colby.

In looking ahead, Colby said both the retail and pharmacy parts of the business will continue their commitment to good customer services and to the downvalley residents they serve. The Nearly Everything Store is also continuing its 20 percent off Tuesdays promotion.

“We could all throw up our hands if we just looked at statistics,” Colby says. “But if we all do a little, no one has to do a lot. Everyone needs to stay invested in the community.”

Just up the street from the Nearly Everything Store is Kuttin’ Korner, a beauty shop that’s been in business since 1974. Owner Raenette Johnson says up until now, the valley’s toughest time was likely during the early 1980s.

“We were building a house in 1980 and the lumber yard would make our deliveries and we were the only ones on the truck,” she says.

If the lessons from the Great Depression hold true, Johnson is in the right business. Beauty shops were one of the few businesses that prospered during that period.

“I kind of feel that way now. People still need to get their hair trimmed,” says Johnson.

However, they may not be getting it cut as often or shelling out dollars for other treatments. But then, Kuttin’ Korner has long been a locals-oriented business.

Johnson readily admits her shop is not a luxury salon and in some ways, it’s an old-school operation. A haircut costs $20 and the price is posted on a wall sign. Customers pay by cash or check, not credit card.

“I’m doing everything pretty much wrong, according the experts,” says Johnson. “But I’ve had this business for a long time and it’s been good for me.”

Johnson said reputation is vitally important when a business looks at a tough economy. Johnson believes Kuttin’ Korner has a history of good customer service, consistent operations, a convenient location and skilled employees. For now, she is also planning to stay with the $20 haircut price.

“I think it’s the worst time to raise prices, even though sometimes that is what you think to need to do,” says Johnson. “It is more important to me to give a reasonably priced service.”

As she looks at the bigger economic picture, Johnson believes its time for the entire community to tighten its belt. “Everybody needs to lower their expectations of what we need,” she says. She also has a word of advice for anyone who is thinking about launching their own business.

“I admire people who are willing to take the plunge and open a business right now,” says Johnson “But when you make decisions about a business, the first thing you need to think about is exactly what’s happening now. You need to budget for when things are not going right.”


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