On both national and local levels, small business growth is key to economic recovery post-recession, according to U.S. News and World Report.
As the country eases itself out of a financial downturn, business communities like Winnetka and Northfield continue to find ways to cut costs and, at times, expand.
Store owners battled slow growth and weathered crazy storms this past year. Keep up with business stories on Winnetka-Glencoe Patch Facebook.
“From what I’m hearing from the business owners, they are seeing better numbers at the end of the year from last year—not a lot, very small increments,” said Executive Director Terry Dason. “The general attitude definitely seems to be improving.”
Overall 22 businesses opened or expanded in 2011, according to chamber statistics. Of those, 12 were new to the community. On the other end of the spectrum, two businesses shuttered their doors.
“We also have quite a few businesses that are opening this year,” Dason said. “No matter what, we typically have a nine percent vacancy rate in good times and in bad times.”
For Café Aroma owner Mitra Ryndak, 2011 was a chance to expand her business by moving to a larger space in the 700 block of Elm Street. “We went through a lot of changes this year ... 2011 was a lot more challenging than 2010 for us,” Ryndak told Patch.
“A lot more happened as far as storm and weather that slowed business tremendously—we did not just battle the economy,” she said. Chicago was hit by tremendous snow in February 2011, and the summer storms broke rainfall records in July.
As a result, Ryndak said she cut staff from 12 to eight people and implemented shortened days during the winter. “We’re open for dinner only three nights a week and hope that we can keep cutting down on some costs."
As Ryndak worked through an expansion and cutbacks, Arthur Frank decided 2011 was the year to set up shop. Frank , a used and vintage book store, in November.
"We felt that the state of the economy didn't really matter for a store like ours; we're such a tiny section of the market," Frank told Patch.
While business was slow in January, Frank said the store's inventory has been growing. "We’ve got about 3,300 books listed on the web, 5,000 in the store, and another 10 to 12,000 that people have given us to sell that we haven't processed yet," he said.
For now, Frank said that Round Table has to keep a smaller staff, with the first priority being on marketing. "We’re being more careful what we spend money on, a lot of pepole still don’t know that we’re here," he said.
Meanwhile four businesses are slated to open or expand in 2012, half of which are food establishments. Dason told Patch in January that residents are craving more eateries. “The community always wants to see new restaurants,” she said when discussing Patrick O’Neils third endeavor, .
In addition to the immediate ribbon cutting ceremonies, Dason said the chamber is exploring long-term initiatives.
“We are now in a strategic planning mode to figure out how to merge all of our programs together,” Dason said, highlighting that the Northfield and Winnetka chambers merged in 2011.
“We’re trying to figure out what we can do to grow the chamber and help the business community.”