Small businesses battle the economy

Posted by Cody Holyoke - bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - It's a unique atmosphere shoppers have come to know and love.

The Mulberry Business District is a smorgasbord of small shops.  Nowadays, however, some of those stores are slowly fading away.

Take 'The Hen Pen,' for example--a store that stood on Mulberry Street for nearly a quarter century.

Now, it's a victim of a down economy.  Last year, the store's owner told WSFA 12 News tough times were ahead.

"I think that we're going to see a lot of small businesses go out by the end of the year, because they just can't survive," said Alice McMullan in an October 2008 interview.

That's not the only vacancy.  A handful of other businesses suffered a similar fate.

The rest are still hanging on.

'Painted Pink,' a boutique just down the street, offers discounts and relies on a strong customer base to keep things going.

"Hopefully, we bring a lot to the district, because people come to see us and visit the other shops as well while they're here," explained Pat McDonald, the store's owner.

It's a formula that continues to bring in the customers.

"In smaller stores, they know their customers better, so they can pick out things that are better with the customers that they know," said Kate MacNeil of Kentucky.

Though some storefronts stand empty, business owners on Mulberry Street are hopeful things will turn around.

"I just have my hopes that we get some more cute shops to add to the ones who are tried and true that stuck it out," McDonald said.

New stores are expected to move in to the Mulberry district.  The Montgomery City Council recently considered a rezoning request to accommodate one of them.

The owner of T-J Best Grocery, another long-time store in the area, closed the shop's doors this week because of growing health problems.

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