As President Barack Obama takes control of the U.S. economy for another four years, business owners in Downers Grove said they remain "cautiously optimistic" that the worst is behind them.
Shaun Black and Tim Canning opened Lemon Tree Grocer two years ago at 935 W. Burlington Ave. in downtown Downers Grove. It was a risky move, they said, opening a store that carries high-end, specialty food items on the heels of the country's worst economic recession since the 1930s.
Though it hasn't been easy, Lemon Tree has enjoyed success in Downers Grove, Black said.
"It's a tough economic climate for small business owners, but you just do what you can to offer quality products that keep customers coming back," he said.
When asked Wednesday about the the presidential election and the impact Obama's second term could have on small businesses, Black said he "tends to keep his personal opinions to himself." Regardless of the politics, he said, business owners must do what they can "to ride out the storm and be successful in their communities."
"We can't control the national economy, we can only respond to the situation and do our best to keep the business going," Black said. "It's been tough, but I'm hopeful that the worst is behind us and things will get easier—both for us and our customers."
Danny Glover took over the longtime Downers Grove favorite Skuddlebutts Pizza and Catering in 2009 when he was just 21 years old. He started as a busboy at the restaurant's original Belmont Road location when he was 15, and rose through the ranks to become a manager when the business moved to 440 Ogden Ave. in 2007.
As Glover began the process of purchasing Skuddlebutts, several banks warned of the risks associated with the restaurant industry. He was told repeatedly that buying the restaurant would be a bad investment.
"I started not to have any hope. 'Maybe I can’t do this. Maybe I’m just living a dream,'" Glover told Patch earlier this year.
While he declined to comment on Obama's victory Tuesday, Glover said the current economy has changed the way small businesses operate. "It takes a little more than it used to" to keep a business going, he said.
Regardless of politics, it's up to the business owners to make their model work, he added.
"Every day I ask myself how I can increase business and get out there and make it happen," he said. "I am always hopeful that I can put my company and myself in a better position, regardless of who the president is. In a way, I like to not blame the economy for the reason why business is down, but credit the economy as a reason why my business should be doing well, like offering people a more affordable way to feed their family rather than going out to eat with two-for-one pizzas.”
As the economy continues to lag, Glover said his biggest challenges are rising food and fuel costs, and keeping his prices competitive with big chains.
Despite the challenges facing many small businesses, Happy Dog Barkery in downtown Downers Grove has experienced steady growth over the past eight years, according to co-owner Beth Staley.
"We've been lucky," she said.
While Staley doesn't believe in mixing her politics with business, she did offer several ideas for the re-elected president when it comes to boosting the economy.
Staley is a proponent of shopping local—supporting small, family-owned businesses rather than big box stores. She said she hopes to see Obama promote the idea during his next term.
"People need to be shopping in their communities and supporting the local economy," she said. "It's the only way businesses like mine can survive."
Staley also hopes to see more people buying American-made products, rather than those made overseas.
"Almost everything I carry is made in the U.S.A., and that's really important to me," she said. "I think that's something that could really boost the economy, if more businesses were willing to commit."
Staley said she is confident the economy will rebound.
"We go through tough times, but you have to be hopeful that things will get better," she said. "Until then, I think it's important that small businesses so what they can to support each other."
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