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Smaller businesses enjoying bigger success in Chambersburg

December 26, 2009|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- On the last major shopping day of the year, small-business owners in Chambersburg were pleased to end 2009 on a financial high note.

While area unemployment remained high through 2009, the economy rebounded slightly from early record lows to months of profit for area small businesses.

"Every month this year was up from last year," said Mark Miller, owner of Gypsie, an eclectic retail store on the square in Chambersburg.

Spending has not necessarily increased, Miller said. However, more customers appear to be turning to smaller businesses for greater customer service and selection of unique products.

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Downtown Chambersburg is home to many growing and established small businesses that claim customer service as the foundation that has allowed it to weather the recent financial storm.

"We call it the 'J&B difference,'" said Jim Resh, owner of J&B Bridals and Tuxedos. "It is our philosophy that we cannot do enough for our customers."

After 31 years in Chambersburg, Resh and his wife, Barb, said they have seen difficult economic times come and go.

The key to making it through, he said, is commitment.

"I don't care what your small business is, if you are not willing to work twice as hard and are not truly committed to every facet of your business, you will not make it," Resh said.

Resh said his year has been both fun and profitable, with his total unit sales up significantly over 2008.

The Potomac Bead Company has enjoyed exponential growth since opening in Chambersburg and Hagerstown in 2005, manager Rachel Fox said.

With 10 successful franchises, the store on Main Street in Chambersburg is "doing really well," Fox said.

Like most small businesses in downtown Chambersburg, the Potomac Bead Company has found its niche. Offering beads and handcrafted jewelry, there are few places where customers can come to create their own unique piece of jewelry, Fox said.

Location and an unwavering commitment to quality also has helped small businesses this year, said Gregg Lyons, owner of Lyons & Company Men's Clothiers.

Opened by his grandfather in 1908, the store survived the economic hard times because of its emphasis on customer service, its quality merchandise and its location in the heart of downtown, Lyons said.

The location, which is owned by Lyons, has helped the business maintain level expenses during the latest economic upheaval, he said.

With "big box" stores running major promotions to boost end-of-the-year sales before the January and February retail famine, Miller said he is not worried about his end-of-the-year figures.

"I believe in small businesses and revitalizing downtown," he said. "I travel to Europe for my business and I see all these small thriving downtowns. I think that is where we are headed."

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