Local businesses try to thrive against big competition

By Gus Bode

It’s not easy being a small business owner in Carbondale.

With more big-box type stores such as Dick’s Sporting Goods moving into town, local business owners have had to fight harder for their share of the economic pie, often relying on a set demographic or employing different strategies to stay afloat.

Since June, the Rosetta Stone bookstore has been operating out of the Tropicana Vintage Clothing store. Rosetta Stone, which was originally located in the Campus Center plaza, was forced to move out due to rising costs.


“It was a choice between going out of business or coming here,” said Paula Bradshaw, mother of Jessica Bradshaw, the owner of Rosetta Stone.

Paula Bradshaw watches over her daughter’s store on the days Jessica Bradshaw works her second job.

The Bradshaws were allowed to move into the clothing store in exchange for their employment at Tropicana.

Terence Greer is opening his restaurant, Truly’s Country Kitchen next week. Setting up shop where King Beef used to be, Greer said he plans to make his restaurant unique.

Greer is dedicating the main hallway in his restaurant to influential black people such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Muhammad Ali. Lining this walkway are pictures and captions depicting the struggles and achievements of these people.

Greer hopes his combination of restaurant and museum will instill a comfortable atmosphere and attract customers to his budding establishment.

“It may bring back memories of being in your grandma’s house,” said Greer.


Mary Lou’s Grill has been operating since 1962. The restaurant has been run by the Martin family since 1990, when Marilynn Martin took over for her mom, Mary Lou.

Despite break-ins and 24-hour restaurants such as Denny’s moving into town, Mary Lou’s has thrived and even won the business of the year award last year.

“Sometimes I wonder how we’re gonna keep the doors open,” Martin said. “But we always make it.”

Like Marilynn, who worked at Mary Lou’s with her two sisters before taking over, her sons Gary and Kyle work at the restaurant and may one day run it themselves.

“We’re just like any other employees,” Kyle Martin said. “We don’t get treated any differently.”

One of the oldest businesses in Carbondale, Arnette’s Barber Shop, has been in operation for over 62 years. Since 1945, this small barbershop has served the community on the northeast part of town.

“There’s no secret when you’re competing with someone, you just do your best,” said Kent Mason, the current owner of Arnette’s. “Treat a person like you want to be treated, do your best, and do unto others as you would want them to do to you.”

Mason purchased the store in the early 1980s from the Arnette family after Charles Arnette, the original owner, died.

Arnette’s also employs student workers, such as Joshua Spears, a junior from Carbondale studying business management. Spears said he has been coming to the barbershop since he was a child and has been working there since he graduated high school.

“I probably got my first haircut here,” he said.

As a business management major, Spears also understands the workings of the business world.

“You have to have organization to run a business,” Spears said. “That’s why a lot of small businesses shut down, lack of organization.”

Unlike other small business owners, Mason is not worried about competition, citing a loyal base of customers.

“The northeast side takes care of its own,” Mason said.

David Lopez can be reached at 536-3311 ext. Daily Egyptian writer 273, or by email at [email protected].