Area businesses: the ups & downs

Establishments react differently to changing economy 

Frank Hiller, right, the owner of Mississippi Flyway, hugs Gail Odaniell Sunday night after the business closed its doors for the last time. The business had been open for 32 years, and Odaniell said she has worked for 27 of them. Hiller said events such as franchise businesses opening and low SIU enrollment played a part in the restaurant’s close. “The last few days have been great, though,” Hiller said. “We never anticipated the crowd we would get,” Hiller said. “Customers we haven’t seen for years, from as far as South Carolina and Alaska, came back just for the closing to say their goodbyes.” Lynnette Oostmeyer | Daily Egyptian

Frank Hiller, right, the owner of Mississippi Flyway, hugs Gail Odaniell Sunday night after the business closed its doors for the last time. The business had been open for 32 years, and Odaniell said she has worked for 27 of them. Hiller said events such as franchise businesses opening and low SIU enrollment played a part in the restaurant’s close. “The last few days have been great, though,” Hiller said. “We never anticipated the crowd we would get,” Hiller said. “Customers we haven’t seen for years, from as far as South Carolina and Alaska, came back just for the closing to say their goodbyes.”
Lynnette Oostmeyer | Daily Egyptian

Although many area businesses are closing their doors because of the recession, some are optimistic about southern Illinois’ economic future.

Local eatery Mississippi Flyway served its last customer Sunday, and PMac record store will close its Carbondale location in March, which will leave only its Cape Girardeau location in operation. In contrast, Cristaudo’s bakery plans to begin expansion in late February.

Amy Dempsey, of Carbondale, has worked at PMac since 1999 and managed the store since 2006, but she said it’s time to close the doors as digital downloads dominate the music business.

“It’s the worst it’s ever been, but it’s not necessarily terrible,” she said. “Our Cape store still does really well, but with a lot of artists releasing their albums as MP3s only, that cuts down on their cost and cuts out the middleman, which is what we are.”

Dempsey said all Carbondale location merchandise is discounted, and anything leftover will be taken to the store’s Cape Girardeau location.

It’s common to be slow after the holiday season, she said, but this year has been exceptionally slow.

“I may have anywhere from 10-20 customers in a given day,” she said. “There is no comparison to back when I first started. On a Friday we would have four people working one shift, where as now it’s easily handled with one person.”

Dempsey said consumers can continue to buy their records locally at Plaza Records, and people value supporting local businesses, but the store was bound to close eventually with increased music downloads.

“It’s not like food, which you’re always going to need,” she said. “But here we’re pretty specific because it’s just music and DVDs, and it’s just not enough to keep it open.”

However, while some businesses close their doors, another looks to expand its walls.

A long-time Carbondale name, Cristaudo’s Bakery, plans to complete its expansion to sit-down restaurant by late next month alongside the merchandise store and catering service it now offers.

“We have always had the idea of expanding our restaurant,” said Leah Maciell, Cristaudo’s part-owner. “It was part of our business plan when we first re-opened, and it has just taken us a little more time than originally planned to get there.”

Cristaudo’s Bakery was established in 1977 by Lorenzo and Lucia Cristaudo. When their daughter Rachel moved back to town in 2000, she became an active manager and eventually became part owner with Maciell, Nicholas Stewart and Jennifer Robinson.

“When we expand, we will be like the old Cristaudo’s that was in Murdale (Shopping Center),” Maciell said. “We will have breakfast and lunch with some new menu items that we’re developing right now. We’re hoping to just offer the community more options when it comes to breakfast and lunch when they’re in the downtown area and continue with the Cristaudo’s tradition. ”

As owners, Maciell said she and her co-workers try to do everything as cost-effective and money-conscious as possible since the business relocated to the Kaleidoscope in downtown Carbondale last year, she said. The staff and their friends will perform the renovations.

“We’ve only been open for a year, so it’s hard to tell our numbers right now,” Maciell said. “The economy is down, but because we feel that we have so many different aspects of our business we’ll be doing alright.  There will be four to five different aspects at any given time can have more business than the other one.”

Zsolt Becsi, economics professor, said area business closure and expansion is common as the economy slows.

“It’s not that they’re bad business people or that their product is bad,” he said. “Businesses go up and down in what’s called a turn. What matters is, are there more businesses growing than getting out of business? If so, then we’re in an expansion.”

Becsi said southern Illinois may be a little further behind the economic curve, but some businesses couldn’t make it after the difficult recession. However, he said, expansion is key.

“Some people are optimistic about the future,” he said. “The more optimistic people there are, the better it is because those people will start expanding and after that we have an economic expansion.”

Area businesses have to offer something unique to keep up as a southern Illinois buy-local trend becomes common, Besci said, but they must remain high-quality at a low price.

“Overall, we aren’t in the full swing with businesses opening left and right,” he said. “America is a dynamic society, and that’s the dynamic — you can get into business easily, and you can get out easily.”

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