With the recession dragging down business, restaurants and shops around Middletown’s Main Street are trying various strategies to lure in customers and cut costs.
“The [economic] situation has made us more efficient,” said Brenda Reilly, the owner of Tuscany Grill. “We turn off the lights more and turn off the heat when we don’t need it.”
But businesses aren’t the only ones affected by the economic downtown—Reilly has noticed a general change of mood in her customers since the recession hit.
“Attitudes are different,” she said. “People used to come in talking about how great the stock market is but not anymore.”
The economy has also impacted patrons of the Lady Bug Boutique, a shop off of Main St. that sells candles and gif items.
“I would say people are still spending, just spending less,” said Amy Becker, the owner of the boutique. “Like Christmas, for example, we were busy but people didn’t spend as much.”
According to Pon, the manager of Thai Gardens, the restaurant has seen a 15 to 20 percent drop in business so far this year.
“It is slower here than last year,” Pon said. “I think if we can keep it stable at just 20 percent down, we’ll be okay.”
Even local discount stores are feeling the impact of the recession. According to the manager of the store 99 Cents on Main Street, business has dropped 40 percent and is only getting worse.
“It’s very bad, bad, bad,” said the manager, who declined to give his name. “Less people come in.”
Some businesses are offering promotions in the hopes of luring customers through their doors. The Indian restaurant Tandoor launched a promotion in January that offers a 15 percent discount on all menu items for customers who eat at the restaurant and a 10 percent discount for takeouts.
Tuscany Grill just added the “Tuscany Table” special, where customers get a five-course meal for $26. At the Lady Bug Boutique, Becker is hopeful that with spring finally here, and Easter and Mother’s day coming up, more people will buy gifts from her shop.
Despite the tough economic climate, one business has actually seen a boost in sales in the past several months. Eloise Tencher, the manager of Brew Bakers said that an increasing number of people who are tight on money have been visiting the bakery for its sandwiches and Austrian pastries.
“I find that a lot of people don’t want to go to expensive restaurants,” Tencher said. “They would come here because of the quality of the food and because it’s cheaper. Business has been good.”
Tencher is glad her bakery is doing well, but is showing restraint as the recession continues.
“For us right now, things are looking pretty good,” Tencher said. “I’m cautiously happy. I’m not going to go out and do something crazy, but I can’t complain.”
Becker said she is trying to remain optimistic and ride out the storm.
“I just have to remain positive and think of new ways to bring new items in and have new promotions and sales and keep focusing on the positives and hope that with that, it’ll spin around,” Becker said.
Others business owners are less than confident.
“I don’t know about the future, man,” the manager of 99 Cents said. “I’m shaking.”